As we enter the final episodes of New Girl‘s fourth season, it’s been hard to view this season as a whole because it has often felt disjointed, varying in quality, and generally uneven when it comes to both the characters and the overall tone. There were many false starts, go-nowhere plots (Jess’ entire relationship with Ryan (Julian Morris) was so boring from the beginning that no one cared when he was swiftly kicked out of the picture), and plenty of funny, poignant episodes that were followed by lackluster duds. “Par 5” is an odd little episode, one that feels a bit out of character for the show as it attempts to tackle a relevant and serious topic — the ongoing tension between police officers and black citizens — through its cheery sitcom lens.
To say the inclusion of this plot in was a surprise is an understatement though, in retrospect, with Winston’s recent career switch to become an officer, perhaps I should have seen it coming. But it’s certainly a plot that doesn’t fit into New Girl‘s wheelhouse or established tone — even when the show does get a little more serious, it’s often about the roommates’ relationships (break-ups and unrequited love and such). Still, New Girl should be commended for including this plot and actually doing so in a way that didn’t feel cloying or shoved-in, but rather introduced somewhat naturally. “Par 5,” which was co-written by Larmone Morris, begins in typical New Girl fashion, with Winston trying to get a date. After some terrible flirting with a cute girl at a nearby table (“Shawty, what that thing do?”), Coach steps in and helps facilitate a conversation between Winston and KC (Kiersey Clemons). It’s all going well and Winston even scores a lunch date with KC despite his awkward banter (“Where’s JoJo?”) until KC reveals that she’s going to an anti-police rally.
He doesn’t let on that he’s a cop, not even during their lunch date (where she talks about a kid she knew who got arrested because he “fit a description”) when they run into two of his fellow, uniformed officers. To cover, Winston tells KC that he’s actually a stripper (Hot Cops!). The real meat of the plot occurs later when Winston is wrestling with the dilemma of telling KC the truth, trying to figure out why he just wouldn’t in the first place, and — most importantly — having an internal conflict about being a black person and a police officer in a time when the relationships between blacks and police are more tense and violent than ever. More than just worrying that KC won’t respect him because of his job (though that’s definitely a worry that he expresses), he is trying to figure out the switch that happened and why; as a kid, he used to “run from the police even if I did nothing” but as an adult, he’s become the police — the same police that black kids are running from.
To keep it light, New Girl has Winston have this conversation with Nick, super white Nick, who does a truly awful Eddie Murphy impression. (Nick, by the way, lost the right to talk about race with Winston during the OJ Simpson when he offered such great commentary as “Why does the Bronco have to be white?”) Then, for a second, it looks like Coach might bail him out but instead leaves — but not after doing a pretty flawless Murphy impression. But the point of the conversation is that it’s supposed to be awkward and messy: as a black person, Winston can’t expect Nick to understand how he feels and he’s aware of that; as his white friend, Nick can only do what he can but knows that he can’t relate to Winston and therefore can’t exactly give him the advice that he needs. Nick and Winston — and the rest of the loft — are so often able to help each other out, to dispense wisdom (well, as much wisdom as these kids have), and to provide comfort when necessary but “Par 5” introduces a new limit, a racial barrier that separates Nick and Winston though Nick does, of course, remain ultimately supportive.
The ending is quick, as New Girl endings to be, with Winston alone coming to the decision to tell KC the truth. It goes over well — she is more upset about him lying than she is about him being a cop — and it’s too neat of an ending for such a storyline but it’s just neat enough for New Girl’s attempt to tackle a topic that’s far too big for its 22-minute sitcom episode.
As for the rest of the episode, we get the return of Fawn (Zoe Lister-Jones), Schmidt’s hard-ass girlfriend. To try and get computers for her school, Jess tags along with Fawn to a networking golf event even though Jess isn’t the networking type but more of a “follow a butterfly around for a day” kind of girl. (Another great line: Fawn says Jess “has the confidence of a child that was raised in a basement.”) Fawn gives her some advice — include her job title like it’s the second half of her name (later showing Fawn’s name/job title in Schmidt’s phone is a nice touch), don’t make jokes about murdering Sesame Street puppets, and forgo wearing underwear — and Jess ends up getting the computers she needs. In the C plot, Schmidt is trying to make himself look better for Fawn and enlists the help of Cece, who is not at all subtle about her lingering feelings for Schmidt, and there’s a whole lesson about how Fawn needs to accept Schmidt and we’re basically back at Cece’s storylines revolving solely around Schmidt which is definitely a step back.