New Girl and the Worthiness of Nick Miller

8 May

New Girl tackled the morning after with the confidence that we have seen all year, confidence that Nick Miller is not in possession of by the end of the episode. Last season it was all about Schmidt, season 2 has been about the evolution of Nick but can he get out of his head for long enough to realize that he isn’t the ‘no ambition screw up’ that he fears that he is?

On Twitter last night New Yorker’s TV critic Emily Nussbaum asked “I need people to explain why Nick’s a colossal fuckup. He’s great in bed. He’s funny. He seems like a decent fellow. What am I missing?” This is the inspiration for this piece as I try to examine why Nick is considered to be this way in both his eyes and those around him.

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The moment when we really started to learn who Nick Miller is, beyond the law school quitting, grouchy bar tender was in last season’s excellent episode “Injured” that dealt with his cancer scare. In this episode a drugged up Nick revealed the core of why he doesn’t go for things telling Jess “I can’t just jump into something if I don’t know what’s going to happen, I never have been that guy. I’m the guy that if I don’t know what’s going to happen I don’t do it. Ever. I don’t care how bad I want to do it. I don’t do it.” By the end of this episode Nick acknowledges that this isn’t the way to live and he has to start doing things; Nick has been doing this all year a little bit at a time. The Kiss in “Cooler” was the starting point for Nick doing this and last week’s grand elevator moment continued this un-Nick like approach of going for things without thinking about the “What next?”

It’s the “What’s next?” that doesn’t really happen in last night’s episode as New Girl threw up many obstacles to stop Nick and Jess from having this all important chat and as it’s the finale next week that conversation is definitely coming. Nick spent the day with Jess’ dad Bob (the wonderful Rob Reiner) and after he’d shared such a good day of beer, sandwiches and talking about Yolanda Winston, Nick felt like he had Bob’s approval and revealed that Yolanda is actually Jess. Bob’s instant switcheroo from loving Nick to wanting him away from his daughter is the kind of moment that will stay with Nick; even he denies that Bob’s disapproval has got to him. Nick worried that he is like his own father and when Bob tells him that no, Nick is like him this has just the same impact of making Nick feel unworthy.

Nick isn’t his father though and he isn’t Bob either, even if they have some similar qualities and this feels like Bob imprinting his own failures onto Nick. They showed a different side of Nick when he went home to Chicago; there he is the responsible one who held his family together. He also finished his zombie novel (“Z is for Zombie”) even if it is terrible and contains a word search with no words. Nick is still trying to figure out how to define himself when it comes to his career, law school wasn’t for him and while he might not be the next Ernest Hemingway it’s not a lack of ambition that has him working at the bar. Jake Johnson does a great job of conveying all of Nick’s fears about his life plan (or lack thereof) and it would be a fantastic reflection of his work this season if he gets an Emmy nomination (and sensibly he’s submitted himself in the non-Modern Family crowded Lead Actor category this year).

Nick and Jess

One reason why Nick and Jess are a really great match — other than their chemistry of course — is because they started as friends first. They know what the other fears and have been there for each other when things aren’t going so well. At the start of the season Jess was made redundant from a job that she felt defined her, Nick told her that “Life sucks and then it gets better and then it sucks again and then it just sucks.” Not the most upbeat of advice but what he’s telling her is that she will be fine. In last night’s episode Jess gets an interview to teach children again, or rather she has to sub a class of unruly kids and it looks like Jess will be back in a similar job to the one she had last season.

Jess echoes what Nick said back in that first episode of season 2 by announcing to the kids how the day started out so well but this has quickly changed as “Life’s messy. It kicks you in the ass.” It’s the follow up part that is important as she tells them that the “messy parts are the best parts.” While she doesn’t really get to talk to Nick properly about their situation, what she says to a temporarily bearded Cece (who understandably doesn’t care about Jess’ Nick drama in that moment) is worth noting “I think it might be the start of something really amazing. I don’t want to get my hopes up, it could be something, it could not be something.” The uncertainty about what this could be is what is fuelling both the fear and the desire and it’s Nick’s own insecurities about who he is that magnifies these worries.

One thing that Nick does get to do is give Jess the breakfast he had made her in the morning (grapefruit, pie, eggs), but they are once again interrupted before they can talk things out. One thing is clear, Nick is worthy of Jess he just has to believe that he is.

11 Responses to “New Girl and the Worthiness of Nick Miller”

  1. ashipper2 May 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Nick Miller, most interesting male tv character (comedy) this season. Jake Johnson deserves at least an Emmy nomination for making the role his own. Your right last season was Schmidt but oh boy has Nick glowed this year!

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