If you’re the writers of New Girl and are getting ready to land the biggest blow to the audience’s heart in the series’ history, how would you handle it? Well, you’d probably make like Eli Whitney, chug a bunch of gin with a rousing game of True American to start. But what follows after the fun of drinking as much as possible? The hangover, the inevitable pain that you just can’t shake. In “Mars Landing,” New Girl tries to numb the pain that is to come by the end of the episode, but the after effects are all too great.
“Mars Landing” brings us the end of the Jess and Nick relationship—for now at least—and who better to direct the end than the person who last directed the beginning? The last episode Lynn Shelton helmed was last season’s “First Date,” so it’s only fitting that she concludes this duo’s story at this point. Shelton also brought us another watershed episode, the show’s first great episode, “Injured,” and here she similarly mixes absolutely great jokes and improvisations with powerful character developments and heart-shattering moments.
Nick and Jess are basically stuck in a bottle episode, as while they are hungover they try to put together a toy for Sadie’s son’s first birthday party. This leads them to discuss their own kids and their own future. Jess’ future is idyllic, with shy kids who give themselves their own names as they live in a lake house back in Portland. Yet the only details Nick has on his future is that he’d like to be a long-haul trucker, living on Mars and that his first kid with Jess will be named Reginald VelJohnson (that’s right, Family Matters’ Carl Winslow), due to losing a bet with Schmidt. Literally, Nick and Jess are living on two different planets.
As the frustrations of putting a kid’s toy together mounts, the more their disagreements fly to the surface until the only thing they can agree on is that they love each other. Yet for them, that isn’t enough. They both want each to just be who they are, but they contradict that by Nick wanting Jess to have more faith in him and Jess wanting Nick to have more responsibility. They want them to be themselves, but not quite. They toy with the idea that there’s no way this can be the end, but as they both embrace with tears in their eyes, saying goodbye even though they remain roommates, it feels like the end of a chapter.
Now yes, this all sounds pretty heartbreaking, spending the episode watching a supposedly strong relationship fall apart, but it’s also a very, very funny episode, as evidenced in Schmidt, Winston and Coach’s B-story. Two girls have moved onto their floor, played by Stevie Nelson and Alexandra Daddario, and the three help them move in to try to sleep with Daddario’s Michelle. Their conflicting opinions on what being helpful means allows these three to bounce off each other in hilarious ways. As a very minor plot point, Cece had spent the drunk True American night texting Buster, and now she’s trying to retroactively fix her mistakes. It’s a cute little aside, but serves as little more than to remind the audience that Buster wasn’t a one-and-done episode type of character.
“Mars Landing” is one of the funniest and most emotional episodes of New Girl yet. The minor disagreements and differences in lifestyles that seemed cute this season pay off by blowing up throughout and shaking up the friends’ dynamic once again. It’s a big episode of New Girl, in terms not only of plot, but in just how great this episode can be.
Now let’s all have a good cry and pray that there’s still hope for li’l Reginald VelJohnson.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.