If New Girl had ended after its sixth season, the show's legacy likely would have been a positive one despite the inconsistency that plagued the series as it aged and Zooey Deschanel's leading lady went from adorkable to mostly just annoying. The recoupling of Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess in the episode's final moments was a predictable but much-needed period on the end of a rather long run-on sentence. But then Fox renewed the Liz Meriwether-created comedy for an eight-episode final season and the world was left to wonder if this coda would be a fun final adventure with the gang or if it would go the way of How I Met Your Mother's fateful final season.
Well, fans can rest easy, because New Girl's final season is not a mindless timesuck that will all be undone in the span of five minutes in the series finale; Fox screened the first six episodes of the season for critics (the one-hour series finale is being kept under wraps for now) and the most as well as least surprising thing about the show's final season is that it's the exact same uneven series it was the last few seasons.
There's a three-year time jump to open the season, but even though Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone) are now parents to a young daughter, and even though Winston (Lamorne Morris) and Aly (Nasim Pedrad) are married and have their own baby on the way, the show continues to follow the same predictable patterns it's always followed, only this time the characters have a little bit more responsibility. Instead of buying a house, Schmidt and Cece are now trying to find the perfect daycare. Instead of Nick trying to write The Pepperwood Chronicles, he's trying to find his next great story idea. Instead of being a police officer, Winston is now a detective who struggles to answer questions on the stand.
It's all very familiar, and there's something to be said about the comforting feeling this familiarity produces. There's also something interesting about watching these men and women tackle the next stages of adulthood without seemingly maturing overnight or drastically changing who they are; after all, it's a misconception that getting married and having children automatically makes someone an adult or dramatically alters who they are on the inside. But knowing that the cast pleaded with Fox for one more season to wrap up everyone's stories, one has to wonder if this is what they had in mind last year. Specifically, one has to wonder if New Girl was renewed solely to service the final chapter of Nick and Jess' romance since everyone else seems to have already reached the next chapter in their lives.
In the Season 7 premiere, Nick and Jess return from a trip abroad, happy and in love but essentially in the same place they were when we last saw them: not even engaged. Their happily ever after appears to be New Girl's missing puzzle piece, but the comedy has never known what to do with them as a couple; the definition of will they or won't they, Nick and Jess work best in a state of perpetual lust and flirtation. It's why getting together at the end of Season 6 before anyone knew there'd be another season ultimately felt like the right decision. Who they are as a couple has always been a difficult question for the show to answer, and it seems like the writers attempt to minimize the fact they still don't know how what to do with them by avoiding treating them as a couple for most of the final season. Skipping the first three years of their relationship and only returning to tie a bow on it — because let's be honest, there's a wedding coming, right? — allows the writers to cut straight to the finish line. And if that's the only forward progress being made in these final episodes, was it really worth it to return to the loft one final time? It likely depends on how much you enjoy watching these characters be boisterous best friends.
Because it's true that Season 7 does have its highlights: Nick's interactions with Schmidt and Cece's daughter Ruth are comedy gold because — and we say this lovingly — the characters are more or less on the same page when it comes to their maturity levels; there's an entire B-plot about Nick hating Schmidt's hideous mustache that reminds us they might be the true lovebirds at the heart of this wacky series; and Pedrad's Aly continues to be an excellent addition to the cast, nailing every scene she's in. But very little has actually changed since the last time we saw these characters. Ultimately, all that matters now is whether or not the show's well documented issues — its predictability, its unevenness — bother viewers personally. If not, there are still plenty of reasons to laugh in the final season, but if viewers find said problems impossible to overcome, well, there's always Nick Miller compilations on YouTube.
New Girl's final season premieres Tuesday, April 10 at 9:30/8:30c on Fox and ends with a special one-hour series finale Tuesday, May 15 at 9/8c.