The last few months have been a time of series finales. First it was The Mindy Project. Then it was Scandal. Now, with Tuesday night’s New Girl episode “Engram Pattersky,” it is time to say goodbye to the beloved, sometimes-uneven FOX comedy for good. The season 7 finale had everything fans could expect from the series-ender: a feels-punching walk down memory lane, a Friends-like exit from the series’ central apartment, and, of course, one last game of True American, complete with a flash-forward glimpse of the loft gang playing the purposefully incomprehensible, presidential-themed game with their many children.
As the minutes on “Pattersky” ticked down, it seemed pretty obvious Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), was going to get the fairly romantic, conflict-free ending fellow TV heroines like Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) received before her. Then, the truly unexpected twist arrived in the last 200 seconds of New Girl.
The eviction threat teased at the very beginning of season 7 — remember when an unknown hand slips an alarming note under the loft's door? — finally comes to fruition, driving Jess and new husband Nick Miller (Jake Johnson) to pack up their loft and move. Yet, the whole panic-inducing catastrophe was simply an over-wrought prank, orchestrated by Winston “Bird Shirts” Bishop (Lamorne Morris). It was a prank, I say! They don’t call Winnie The Bish “Prank Sinatra” for nothing (read: in reality, Winston is the only person who calls himself Prank Sinatra, but let him have this). Although the lofties and viewers alike were rightly shocked by Winston's massive, life-changing mess-around, we should have all seen it coming.
So much of “Engram Pattersky,” is dedicated to referencing New Girl’s most prominent storylines, habits, and relationships, and giving them some real closure. That is why Jess, her best friend CeCe Parekh (Hannah Simone), Nick, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Winston all play True American one more time. In a lot of ways, the drinking game came to define the series, with its extremely specific humor, bizarre references, and unabashed, youthful fun.
Even Nick’s weird sink stick, which we all probably forgot about, has a major True American connection. If you go back to season 1 you’ll realize that awful plumbing tool is an integral part of late-in-the-season episode “Normal.” True American just so happens to make its series debut in, you guessed it, “Normal.”
If any New Girl detail has the staying power of True American — other than Nick and Jess’s will they-or-won’t they tension, which itself is officially resolved by their finale wedding — it’s Winston’s pranks. Remember when he ruined CeCe’s wedding by dropping a badger from the ceiling? Or registered Nick as a sex offender? Or pranked himself by marrying a random woman? Winston’s pranks have become a massive hanging threat over every moment of the lofties' lives; one that could strike at literally any moment or pass by like an unnoticed breeze (see: Schmidt’s cereal blueberry). It’s honestly a miracle Winston was too busy worrying about his wife Ally (Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad) giving birth to their son Dan-Bill to ruin Jess and Nick’s wedding.
Since Winston missed his prank chances with the Day-Miller nuptials, it’s obvious fans deserved one more great Prank Sinatra mess-around before New Girl closed its doors forever. “Engram Pattersky” even reminded us of Winston’s love of odd, loft-related pranks by revealing his first-ever mess-around with CeCe, who would go on to be the Chicago native’s low-key best friend. You can’t follow that Chekov’s gun of comedy, which falls on the “too small” side of Winston’s comedy gamut, without a subsequent final prank on the other side of The Bish's jokester spectrum.
Forcing your friends to pack up their whole emotionally-loaded apartment, find a brand new place to live, and likely pay first and last month’s rent for said place does certainly count as a great, over-the-top prank, even if CeCe wasn’t involved.
While Winston’s lark does fit in the specific story of New Girl’s last episode, it also helps illustrate exactly why the sitcom worked so well. The Liz Meriwether-created series essentially functioned as the 2010’s response to iconic hangout comedies like, most specifically, the aforementioned Friends. This show, too, was a network hangout sitcom about people who seriously love each other and seriously spend too much time together at a singular watering hole (Clyde’s Bar, as opposed to Central Perk).
But, New Girl was also much more charmingly strange. Winston’s final prank takes the similarities and tensions between these to comedies to their greatest conclusion by letting New Girl have nearly the exact same final scenes as Friends… before making it super weird. Both friend groups are forced to move out of their unofficial home, but only one of those goodbyes involved doctored eviction notices, anagrams, many silly cameos, and the male lead screaming out of resigned frustration before emotionally accepting his friend. It’s a perfect encapsulation of everything New Girl has strived to be over the last six years.
That’s why, when Jessica muses on her friend’s last prank, and, metaphorically the series as a whole, it’s feels right for the New Girl heroine’s final words to be, “I think it was just right.”
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