A lot of television series struggle to find their footing during their second seasons. The term “sophomore slump” is tossed around quite frequently, and I think that the reason is due to this: it is very easy to launch yourself – your characters, your stories, your sets – head-first into an adventure. That’s what first seasons truly are, if we’re being honest. They’re adventures, they’re explorations, and they’re meant to be that way. We, as audience members, need to be invested within a few episodes of a series, or else we will move on and find something else that will capture our interest. (Chalk it up to our short attention spans.)
So what tends to happen, in my experience as a television viewer, is that series try so hard to pull out all their stops during their first season: they want to make us invested in these characters and their lives so they throw hijinks and shenanigans and drama at the viewers. But many shows nosedive during their second seasons because they simply try too hard and have no idea how to progress, naturally, from the place where they ended their first season. The series becomes more and more about pleasing the audience rather than investing in characters (i.e. why Glee became so erratic as a show, and why the first few episodes of the second season of Community were shaky, in my opinion). The very viewers that the show tried so hard to please during the first season bolt at the uneven writing and/or acting in the second season.
“See Ya” is one of my favorite episodes of New Girl’s freshman year, and it is also the series’ first finale episode. The reason that I loved this episode so much was partially due to the amazing writing and acting, but truly rooted in the not-so-finale vibe that it provided. It ended happily – Nick returned to the loft and the characters had dance parties alone in their respective rooms. It didn’t feel like an ending, really, but a beginning.
I don’t mean to presume that series shouldn’t end on cliffhangers – the first season of Community did, and it was one of those moments where you suck in a breath and don’t exhale until the credits begin to roll. It was THAT good. But what I admired about the first season of New Girl and what I also admire about its second season is that the show doesn’t slam on the brakes at the end of a season and then rev the engine during the premiere of the following season. The transitions are smooth – “See Ya” and “Elaine’s Big Day” both had endings that felt rather organic. But perhaps that’s because they weren’t actually endings at all, but beginnings. These characters have new chances, new choices, and new adventures each day. I think that sometimes television series forget that.
Nevertheless, New Girl technically has ended until September (unless you join in on our #SummerRewatch this summer!), which means that it is time for me to reflect on five of my absolute favorite episodes this season (okay, six, because I am a cop-out). Its sophomore year has been so consistent, hilarious, and heartfelt that it doesn’t resemble anything close to that “sophomore slump” other shows encounter. I feel that this series has managed to avoid that pitfall by focusing more on developing their characters than catering to the audience whims. And that? Well, that combined with the talented writing, brilliant producing, and exceptional acting made this season of New Girl one of the best.
Ready to see which episodes ranked as my favorites? Grab some popcorn and put on your yellow tracksuit, because here are my top five episodes of this season!