As the second season finale of New Girl, “Elaine’s Big Day” has a lot to cover. Like “Winston’s Birthday” before it, there’s a lot of story to get out of the way. Unlike “Winston’s Birthday”, however, parts of this episode feel rushed and skirted over to ensure that we hit all the major plot points required for the show to move forward into what will hopefully be an equally strong third season.
For that to happen, a certain amount of threads need to be tied up by the end of “Elaine’s Big Day” – Cece has to either marry Shivrang or reveal that she still loves Schmidt; Jess and Nick need to face up to how they really feel about each other; and Winston needs to somehow get to grips with his love of pranks. The show needs to do all this in an interesting, funny, and heartfelt way, in 22 minutes. No easy feat.
That the show seems effortless at this point belies the work that the writers and crew put into it. There is a really interesting series of articles on the AV Club (first of five here) detailing the thoughts of show runner Elizabeth Meriwether and select members of the writing staff as they reconsider season 2, a much stronger and more confident season than the debut. What comes through is the constant balancing act between broad comedy and the emotional base that any slapstick needs.
It’s not damning with faint praise to say that this episode gets by on the maximum of slapstick with the absolute minimum of necessary emotion. Most of the stunts are justified, and most of them work in context. Much is made of Winston’s love of pranks, which in conjunction with Schmidt’s conviction that Cece is in love with him and doesn’t really want to marry Shivrang, sets up most of its comedic moments.
Again, we open on the morning after the night before – the day of Cece’s wedding. Bob (Rob Reiner) is sleeping on the air bed between Jess and Nick’s rooms, and the joke here is that Bob still holds resentment towards Nick for sleeping with Jess, attempting to shuffle him out of a group picture. This collapses and most of the cast storm off, leaving Jess to pose and smile enthusiastically for the photo by herself. Cut to credits, and we’re already at the actual wedding. No time wasted.
Jess and Nick having some alone time allows for them to talk out some of the concerns that Jess has that were raised in the last episode, issues that Nick didn’t actually know she had – he knows that she is concerned, but did not realise to what extent and just how specific her concerns are. They spend a decent amount of time together this episode and get to work their way through how they might feel about each other, but also get to spend time with characters they haven’t had much quality time with recently – Nick gets a great scene with Winston, and Schmidt and Jess share some hilariously catty dialogue.
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