Every season finale of New Girl has been about isolation for the sake of self-preservation. At the end of the first season with “See Ya,” the roommates took Nick out to the desert to keep him from moving in with his recently reunited girlfriend Caroline. At the end of “Elaine’s Big Day,” Nick and Jess speed off to Mexico in order to avoid the problems of a new couple living in the same apartment with prodding roommates. At the close of Season Three, “Cruise,” all six of our stars go on a cruise, with Nick and Jess trying to stay apart to keep things from getting awkward for everyone else. Yet while each of the prior finales brought us into a new understanding of this group—friends becoming family, friends becoming lovers—“Cruise” attempts to turn these friends simply back into a group of people having wacky adventures together.
With this choice, New Girl is mostly just isolating itself from its audience.
Between “Dance” and “Cruise,” it feels like New Girl is just trying to bring things back to the status quo, where Nick and Jess were nothing but friends. But how do you do that when Nick has already said he fell in love with Jess the moment he first saw her? The show is basically trying to take these characters back to a time that never actually existed.
With “Cruise,” we find out that Nick and Jess booked a non-refundable cruise before they broke up, so they’ve downgraded their room, and all their friends can now join them on the formerly Grand Romance Package. At first it’s almost as if the show is being coy, now that they’re bringing all these friends along. Nick and Jess take up a romantic series of activities, making towel animals, taking couples massages and romantic photos, and eventually they realize they’ve made a huge mistake. Yet when Nick goes in for a kiss after a day full of activities, Jess flinches, and they both instead realize it would be a mistake for them to be together.
Well, what about Schmidt and Cece then? Maybe they’ll rekindle their romance, since Schmidt has been helping Cece get her GED. He bought her a class ring to celebrate her passing, and then plans on telling her that he’s still in love with her. But when Cece tells Schmidt that she wants to try to make things work with her rarely seen 20-year-old Australian boyfriend Buster, Schmidt decides all he wants is for Cece to be happy.
Later that night, it comes to Winston’s attention that Nick and Jess are actively avoiding each other, so the group makes a plan to get all of them in their single room to work things out and not leave until Nick and Jess are friends again. After a few minutes, they decide that yes, things are going to be weird and that living together is just asking for trouble when new relationships start popping up for them, but they’re okay with it for now. The whole group accidentally gets locked in their small room and remain their for three days. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see whatever insanity turned them into monsters over these days, and we only see a glimpse of their peril. Back on dry land, they all bond over their odd cruise adventure, and Schmidt decides that him and Nick should get bunk beds and share a room now.
This third season has been problematic for many people, and now I can sort of see why. For most of this season, Nick and Jess have been on the typical sitcom path, where friends become lovers, and then the typical first fights and “I love you”-es ensue. Even if you throw Prince into that mix, it still feels a bit been-there-done-that. When the show’s writers decided to throw Nick and Jess’ break up into the mix, it just didn’t feel as natural as it should have. The writers clearly want to get back to the early days of the show, but now that New Girl has created a longing for these two to get together, that has become the main interest to many. It’s not that a show shouldn’t challenge its audience, but this current direction doesn’t feel natural considering what came before it.
That being said, “Cruise” is still quite a funny episode of New Girl, thanks in large part to Coach and Winston, who rarely get the stories that they deserve. I’m fine with Winston becoming much weirder week-to-week and Coach now becoming a permanent member of the show, but it would be great if they were given more to do next season.
Season three of New Girl was mostly a great look at Nick and Jess’ relationship and where their feelings would take them, from the good to the bad. At least with Nick, it seems like there is still more than just friendship lurking around. The twist of these two breaking up has felt more like making an attempt to mix things up in a way that fumbled the end of the season. The first two seasons felt like they had an overall arc for these characters in mind, but that wasn’t as prominent an interest this season. Whether they remain friends or go back to becoming more than that, I hope New Girl in its next season can figure out what story they want to tell with Nick, Jess and everyone else in the cast, because then it’ll return to the compelling stories behind it’s actions it used to have.