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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Gintars (6×10)

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“Gintars” is one of the rare episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that I feel could have used more drama. Normally Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s dramatic episodes are easy to distinguish from its standard comedic efforts, with a clear divide. This has served the show well, and allows the series to really dive deep into more serious subject matter.

Tonight could have been a great opportunity to blend the two types of episodes together, but by staying almost exclusively in the comedic ballpark, it doesn’t take advantage of its premise.

The biggest fault in “Gintars” is Jake’s attempt to get Gintars arrested and deported. Terry himself says that this action is a bit extreme, and considering how thoughtful and kind Jake is on a regular basis, I agree with him. The results are comedic (the spa scene is the perfect excuse to finally use the pixelation allowed on NBC), but it sacrifices Jake’s character to get there.

This could have been solved if the episode took a more serious motivation towards Jake’s decision to get Gintars deported. Jake’s relationship with his father is brought up as an aside when Nikolaj and Gintars play basketball, but instead of just setting up a punchline, this should have been used to set up personal motivation for Jake to get rid of Gintars. Gintars coming out of nowhere to see his abandoned son could have given Jake some flashbacks towards his own less than stellar childhood. Jake harbors enough resentment towards his own father that he once attempted to blackmail him out of a relationship with his mother, so if Jake started to harbor a similar resentment for Gintars (or feared Gintars would hurt his friends in a similar way) it would have been more believable for him to go to such an extreme to protect Nikolaj and Boyle.

This change in motivation would not have changed the plot at all and still allowed us all the same comedic scenes and beats provided by the story; it just would have framed Jake’s actions in a more believable and sympathetic light and would have set up the heart tugging final scene much better.

Boyle actually gets angry at Jake, and for good reason, but because Jake has no real explanation for getting Gintars deported and interfering with Boyle’s life asides from, “You were moaning a lot,” it feels a little cheap that Boyle is so quick to forgive. Quick forgiveness is in character for Boyle, but his sternness with Jake is such a diversion from his normal amicableness that the quick return almost neutralizes its effect. If Jake could have explained to Boyle that he had his own father issues and didn’t want Boyle and Nikolaj to suffer the same fate, that would have provided enough sympathy for Boyle to forgive Jake and yet still allow him to dig into him for interfering. It also would have forced Jake to consider how he deals with his demons, providing him some further character development.

I also feel we could have dove a little deeper into Boyle’s distress than what was on the surface, though I honestly think this has more to do with the tone than the writing. How we view a scene is just as important as what is said in a scene, and a lot of Boyle’s distress, such as his moaning, was played more for laughs than for our empathy. The point of view of the episode is mostly from Jake’s perspective, as well, which works against Boyle. Considering his speech at the end, a little more build up and time with Boyle’s point of view would have been powerful.

A missed opportunity.

The B-Plot this week allows us yet another look into Amy’s less than stellar aspects, which is in no way a bad thing. It’s great to have flawed characters, especially when those flaws create fun conflict. Holt and Amy both have to come to terms with their tendency to let their emotions cloud their judgement (though it takes Holt an extra 30 minutes). It is always a joy to see Amy and Holt bonding and getting along, especially after so many seasons of Amy pining for his respect. Their behind the back fist bump is a great indication of where their relationship is.

Rosa, on the other hand, almost never lets her emotions cloud her rationality. It says a lot about her that she didn’t overly protest to the fly test; she just wanted to confirm its validity because her personal detective work told her the flies were wrong. And yet in the end she gets her perpetrator by using the flies. Great detective work by Rosa.

Terry shaved his eyebrows and beard. The visual sight gags this season (like Rosa’s wigs in “The Crime Scene”) continue to amuse and keep scenes interesting.

In the end, this episode misses an opportunity to be a very strong entry. Is it fair to judge an episode on what it isn’t more so than what it is? Yes. The story was here, and with very little change to the plot could have been elevated. I’m glad Boyle got some spotlight, and his honest conversation about the difficulties being a father who adopted was a highlight moment for the character. It just could have and should have had even more weight behind it.

Other Great Thoughts:

Nikolaj makes his long awaited return. I hadn’t read any descriptions for this episode and thought to myself, “Nikolaj hasn’t been mentioned in forever,” before realizing we were getting an entire episode about him.

Nikolaj is a little Boyle!

Boyle being corrected on the pronunciation of “Nikolaj”  was the perfect sting for making him feel as if he is less of Nikolaj’s father.

Rosa may take her cases more seriously than anyone. Holt, Amy, Terry, Jake, Boyle; they can all get swept away in details, emotions, or star-struckness, but Rosa has no interest in anything else.

Two weeks in a row there has been a great Holt joke that hinges on the editing. “30 Minutes Later” was one of those “unexpected heavy chuckle” moments for me.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – The Therapist (6×11)

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Jake seemingly hasn’t learned a thing regarding respecting his colleagues. Last episode, Boyle became justifiably angry with Jake for interfering with Boyle’s personal life, and yet here we are again with Jake blatantly ignoring Boyle’s wishes. Boyle openly chooses to trust Jake, repeatedly telling him it is the right call to make, and Jake lies right to his face and immediately (and without regret) goes behind Boyle’s back to Dr. Tate’s office.

But Jake’s regression isn’t the problem. People never improve in a straight line, and we all will struggle with the worst parts of ourselves throughout our lives, with old tendencies popping up over time. The Therapist’s real crime is allowing Jake to get away with this behavior without addressing the issues at hand.

This sort of storyline might have been acceptable in season two or three, but Jake has come so far as a detective and friend that it is incredibly discouraging to see this behavior continue to be rewarded within the context of the series. The therapy angle present here would have been a great opportunity to force Jake to confront his behavior and his tendency to only trust himself. Jake’s therapy-at-gunpoint session could have addressed his lack of trust in his friends, which not only would have been relevant to episode, but could have given us a great look at the grey areas in life. Should Jake have listened to Boyle, as the lead on the case? Absolutely. But Jake was right, so didn’t he do the right thing?

Instead, Jake learns that he blames himself for his parents divorce. Of course, this is a huge revelation for anyone, and I don’t want to dismiss the importance of a realization like this, but Jake Peralta is a fictional character. Any breakthrough he has is determined by writers, and in this case I feel a serious addressing of his “solo hero” complex would have made for a better story.

Additionally, Jake’s confusion over whether or not he took the right course of action would have been a stronger catalyst to finally prompt him to see a therapist. As the episode is, Jake only decides to go to therapy because he was forced into a session that helped him. Not many people are lucky enough to be forced into a helpful therapy session at gunpoint, but lots of people struggle to understand their actions and thoughts. It’s great that Jake realized therapy is helpful for him, but it would have been better if he could have helped the audience realize that it can be beneficial for anyone struggling to understand their actions.

This is the second episode in a row that wastes its potential to push Jake to new places.

Elsewhere, Rosa and Holt go through the motions of a classic sitcom trope. Holt doesn’t feel Rosa considers them close, but surprise! Rosa actually considers them close. There isn’t too much to dig into here. We have seen Rosa and Holt grow close over the years through actions like the polar bear plunge and working together to properly breakup with Marcus (remember him?). Six seasons in this feels like an unnecessary retread.

Terry’s storyline was actually a nice parallel to the therapy storyline. Therapy still isn’t normalized in our society, and many people are embarrassed or reluctant to seek counsel because of this. Terry’s fear that the office would think he needs help in bed is a nice reflection of this theme of embarrassment.

I’m not going to comment too thoroughly on the episodes treatment of therapy as a whole. I’m glad they had a second, helpful therapist shown, but Jake’s belief that all therapists are “Hannibals” is so completely false and damaging that it was discouraging to see Dr. Tate turn out to be the murderer because it only reinforces that idea. I’ll just say I don’t feel therapy was given the same respectful look assault was given in He Said, She Said, and that’s a shame.

Other “Great” Thoughts:

  • ANOTHER great Holt edit joke, “What a stupid thing to say.” Three in a row!
  • I don’t understand how the show can be self aware enough to address Jake and Boyle’s levity around murder investigations and still allow Jake to be rewarded for acting so selfishly. If the show can make fun of its own premise, it should be aware enough of its own character arcs and flaws.
  • Scully just doesn’t care. It is kind of admirable

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – The Golden Child (6×09)

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“The Golden Child” is the best balance of quality in the A-Plot to B-Plot so far this season. I wouldn’t go so far to say that either was an all-timer, but this is exactly the kind of episode that brings me coming back to the show.

Amy’s jealously towards her brother David absolutely brings the worst out in Amy. Her attitude towards her brother isn’t out of character, as we know she is competitive and always striving to be the best, but we’ve never seen it pushed to this sort of extreme.

Jake and Amy have been one of the best sitcom couples post-coupling that I can remember. Their relationship hasn’t grown stale because the situations that season six has put them in has given Jake new perspectives on Amy. In “The Golden Child,” Jake sees Amy at her worst. He even questions at one point, “Are you a bad person?” But his love for her is never questioned and no manufactured relationship drama is created. Jake knows who Amy is, and sees her jealously as the result of an unideal upbringing and her competitive nature, and encourages her to not become a better person by joining in her attempts to prove her worth to her mother. A happy, supportive, still hilarious couple? They make it seem so easy.

Seeing Amy at her worst is all the more relevant when we see that she hands her gun off to David to shoot out the tires of the (great looking and great smelling) Brazilian mobsters’ van. Her love for Jake is more powerful than her disdain for her brother, and by extension more powerful than her desire to be the best. This resolution isn’t just a nice cap for the relationship, but to show that sometimes you can find a positive emotion that will trump a negative one and that’s where your energy should go, as Amy similarly states at the end.

Back at the precinct we have Boyle saving the day in a way only Boyle can. Boyle hasn’t had much to do this season; he needed a starring role in a plot. I’m glad it was a plot to prove his adequacy as and not one that makes him the butt of a joke. Boyle’s ability to read Terry and Holt wasn’t just a reflection on how well he knows his superiors, but also on his own self awareness. Boyle didn’t just have to know how they would act in the cell, but how they perceive Boyle himself. He knows his personality can be overbearing, therefore continuing to pull Terry out of the cell over and over again seems like something Terry would believe that Boyle would do. Picking Holt to be the lead despite him being terrible was another believable choice of Boyle’s from Terry’s perspective. The plan hinged on Terry and Holt’s perception of an annoying, less than adequate detective, and Boyle had to have known that. Of all the characters (remaining) on the show, Terry and Holt give Boyle the least amount of respect. Maybe this is because they spend the least amount of time with him.

The B-Plot wouldn’t have worked with Jake or Rosa being played by Boyle. Both of them know Boyle is wiser than he seems, even with his ridiculous methods. Rosa was the perfect choice to get the supplier not just because she’s the best actor, but because she respects Boyle and would trust his plan. Now Holt and Terry should respect him more, too.

Strong, character based plots on each end this week, and each plot was hilarious. I laughed out loud more this episode than any episode so far this season. This felt like classic Brooklyn Nine-Nine to me.

Other Great Thoughts:

  • I thought Scully’s line calling Amy a turd was weak. It felt like the sort of line that crops up in later seasons of sitcoms. But then Holt couldn’t handle talking business in the break room, which was a brilliant character specific piece of humor, and the editing there was perfect.
  • Jake is a great character because he works well as a lead and well as the straight man. He doesn’t feel overused in an episode like “The Crime Scene” and doesn’t feel underused when supporting Amy in her plot lines like tonight. I think this may be because his humor is very basic (not an insult), so it can be applied to almost any situation, but his flaws and layers are complex enough to make him a compelling lead.
  • Hearing Holt describe women is a running joke that never ceases to be funny to me.
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda hit the perfect blend of too perfect but not quite cocky for a “Golden Boy.” I never hated him, but could totally see how a sibling would.
  • The dance off.
  • Jake trying to convince the mobsters that they know him but just forgot may be the funniest cover he ever came up with.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine – He Said, She Said (6×08)

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine takes on the tight rope of humor/drama for the second time this season, and walks across gracefully once again.

As an episode of television, “He Said, She Said” gives us new insight in Amy’s character, a sharp look inside Jake’s head, and provides plenty of legitimate laughs. But of course, when an episode of television tackles such a relevant and serious subject matter, it will and should be judged on more.

I’m glad Brooklyn Nine-Nine is adding to the conversation. This episode on its own handles the subject of assault and sexism well. Keri is given full (and hilarious) characterization, which is necessary to allow the choice of whether or not to continue the investigation to be hers. Her particular character also lends well to the debate that Rosa and Amy have over whether or not taking the hush money would be the most beneficial to Keri. Keri is just as greedy as the men she works with, which gives her decision to not take the money and potentially give up her career more weight. Too often a series brings in “characters” that just act as mechanisms to start a conversation about whatever topic a show is trying to address. This often ends up hurting the cause instead of shedding a realistic light on it, but “He Said, She Said” avoids this issue.

We also get a new insight into Amy and her experience in the police force. This scene was surprisingly dramatic, as even when Nine-Nine gets serious it rarely brings the characters to this level of realism. The tonal shift is necessary and drives more attention to the seriousness of sexism. Jake’s actions during Rosa and Amy’s discussion could have gone without Jake vocally drawing attention to his decision to sit out and become an attentive listener, but it did allow the scene to keep a bit of humor. I felt his personal lack of recognition of the sexism around him was a much better example of the problems and sexism men inadvertently fuel. Jake is a good man and still didn’t notice the sexism directed at Amy, despite that it happened right in front of him. It’s important to show how easily and “innocently” this happens so that Jake, and other men, may actually put some effort into looking and combating everyday sexism instead of only when it is “most obvious” (though if shows, films, the community, and schools continue to discuss the topic, hopefully all acts of sexism will eventually become as obvious as they should be).

I praise Brooklyn Nine-Nine for approaching the topic, allowing the episode to get serious, and for keeping its humorous tone. This is not an easy feat. This is a timely episode, but it would have been a timely episode of television at literally any other point in our history.

It’s hard to complain about the series not having this episode years ago, since I’m glad they did one now. Brooklyn Nine-Nine officially contributed to the #MeToo discussion, but is there a chance they could have started the conversation years ago? Is it fair to ask a comedy series to do this? I just don’t want it to stop here; but I also don’t want to lose the crazy fun the show normally is. Should Nine-Nine dedicate more of itself to addressing topics like assault, sexism, and racism? Or should it contribute what it can without losing its identify as a goofy ensemble series? What is its responsibility?

Other Great Thoughts:

  • Keri idolizes Scrooge McDuck. What a great window into her entire character in a moment.
  • I didn’t even mention the B-Plot with Holt and the Disco Strangler. It was funny. I laughed. It will probably not be as remembered as the A-Plot

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