For six seasons New Girl made a valiant effort to convince viewers it was the story of Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), an "adorkable" teacher-turned-principal who moved in with three strangers and not only lived to tell the tale, but somehow managed to become best friends with all of them when she was already in her 30s. Do you know how hard it is to make new friends when you're in your 30s? It's hard. Like, insanely hard. Still, that's not the most impressive thing the Fox comedy has ever done. No, that would be fooling viewers into believing this was Jess' story when it was so clearly the love story of Nick (Jake Johnson) and Schmidt (Max Greenfield).
There's honestly plenty of evidence to support this already -- Nick's iconic "got you cookie" speech from Season 2, their 10-year anniversary party, and their heart to heart during Schmidt's bachelor party about how great of a husband he is to Nick all essentially prove this theory -- but if you don't believe us yet, then how do you explain Nick and Schmidt reenacting the emotional climax of the iconic Dawson's Creek episode "Castaways," which finds Joey shaving Pacey's infamously bad goatee and then appreciating the face she finds beneath it, in Tuesday's Season 7 premiere?
When New Girl returned for its final season, it was after a three-year time jump. Nick and Jess had been abroad, and when they return, Nick discovers Schmidt has grown a truly hideous mustache in his absence. Nick rightfully hates it, and he promptly lets Schmidt know this. They eventually end up arguing about why Nick hates what he describes as a "pornstar relief pitcher" mustache, and he admits to Schmidt that there is a deeper level to his hatred: he actually misses Schmidt's upper lip. The episode eventually ends with Schmidt handing Nick a razor and Nick shaving the monstrosity from Schmidt's face.
Do you see where we're going here? Anyone who's spent as much time analyzing the various relationships of Dawson's Creek as we have can clearly see that Nick is the Joey to Schmidt's Pacey. And now they've reenacted one of the iconic couple's most famous scenes. Of course, none of this is to suggest that Schmidt is a Pacey, just that he is Nick's version of a Pacey: someone who will love him, take care of him and be happy just watching him sleep because he loves him so much. And if that's true, then Jess is definitely Nick's Dawson. When you think about New Girl in these terms, all the pieces begin to slot together and it's nearly impossible to see the show through any other lens.
Exhibit A: Jess started out as the oddball heroine of this story -- she is the "titular" character much like how Dawson was the titular character of Dawson's Creek. This conveys that this show is supposed to be about her, but somewhere along the way the story shifted and it was revealed that Jess' friends were all infinitely more interesting than she was.
Exhibit B: Much like Katie Holmes' Joey Potter, Jake Johnson's Nick Miller eventually became the character fans cared the most about -- largely because Nick is a far more relatable person than Jess could ever be. He also has no idea how pretty he truly is.
Exhibit C: New Girl has never known what to do with Nick and Jess as a couple. Joey and Dawson never quite made sense as a couple either. However, both series spend a lot of time talking about them coupling.
Exhibit D: Schmidt quickly became a fan favorite character whose relationship with Nick was revealed to have hidden depths that Nick's relationship with Jess never could. They understood one another on a deeply personal level, and it's just as easy to believe Schmidt would rent Nick a wall as it is to believe Nick would chase Schmidt down as he prepared to set sail for the summer just to tell him he loved him.
Despite all this, New Girl's final season is primed for a Nick and Jess wedding. Nick is already planning to propose, so let's just assume it eventually happens and the series ends with them tying the knot. This deviates from what happened on Dawson's Creek -- Joey ended up with Pacey in the series finale, not Dawson -- but marriage to another person doesn't have to signify the end of Nick and Schmidt's love story. After all, Schmidt is already married to Cece (Hannah Simone) and the two have a daughter together. So although Nick may end up with his Dawson instead of his Pacey, we're pretty sure everything will be okay, because in the end, there's no killing true love.
New Girl airs Tuesdays at 9:30/8:30c on Fox.