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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

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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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – Return of the Jimmy Jab Games (7×04)

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine The Jimmy Jab Games II Review

Sequels to popular or eventful sitcom episodes are really difficult. In general, sequels seem to require an upping of the ante. In sitcoms, where the stakes are generally pretty low, the form that upping of the ante often takes is in the form of increasing the absurdity of the situations.

So, all in all, it’s tough to follow up on successful episodes like “The Jimmy Jab Games.”

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has defied all odds with its “Halloween Heist” series, turning the heist episodes into an event each year. These episodes work precisely because these are the episodes where most logic of police work is thrown out the window – literally. In-universe, Halloween has become the day where even Captain Holt is willing to smash through office windows with a chair. The audience can excuse this increase in absurdity due to the combination of the characters themselves being aware of their insanity and the status as an event the Halloween Heists hold.

The Jimmy Jab games don’t possess that status nor do they excuse the characters going all-out, so instead of increasing absurdity “The Jimmy Jab Games II” attempts to increase the external stakes, and the games themselves end up getting a bit lost.

Holt and Rosa start the games off competing most directly against each other as Holt wants the day off to spend with his husband and Rosa wants the day off for an unknown reason. What immediately strikes me as off about this storyline is that the Nine-Nine crew is, by nature, incredibly competitive; there have been literally dozens of episodes in the past (like the Halloween episodes) where characters wanted to win a competition just to be the best.

Rosa’s motivation for wanting the day off so she can deal with her feelings from her recent breakup is believable but not impacted by the games in any way. I’m not even entirely convinced the prize being a day off works here, as I’m not sure why a day off is better than the weekend is, and if it’s something Rosa needs badly for her mental health I find it hard to believe she wouldn’t just take the day off anyway.

Holt’s display of friendship is very sweet, but of course we already know how close Holt is to these people. I would have liked to see this play out differently so we had more time to spend with Holt as Rosa’s friend, for his relationships with the crew are different now that he is no longer their captain. How does his new status allow for closer relationships with his crew? That’s the kind of character exploration I would like to see with this plot change, and I think this is a missed opportunity.

Jake makes a stupid bet with Hitchcock over the games; if Jake wins Hitchcock does his paperwork for a year, if Hitchcock wins Jake gives him his car. Jake makes this bet in front of Amy and Amy takes it way better than I think she should.

It’s one thing if Jake makes a bet like this when they’re dating or married, but when trying to have a child Jake is going to risk a hugely valuable asset and Amy isn’t going to go completely nuts? Jake’s bet here is beyond his regular childishness, and a stretch too far for me. His motivation is decent; he’s afraid he’s becoming boring as an adult, but that could have been an explanation for his desire to play the games without a bet. The bet does nothing.

Hitchcock doping to win through Scully’s pills though, that’s pretty great, as is their final competition where both Jake and Hitchcock are barely holding it together.

My issue with all of this is that these motivations actually lessen the stakes of the games. By nature, the Jimmy Jab games are stupid fun, and by highlighting the characters’ natural competitiveness through them they become a great avenue for some crazy hijinks.

Placing so much significance on these bets or prizes actually devalues the games themselves. The games seem trivial compared to Rosa’s breakup and Jake’s insane potential forfeit of his car.

I imagine a version of this episode where all motivations remain the same, but the competition itself is used as the avenue to express these motivations. Rosa, upset over her breakup, finds a wonderful distraction in the Jimmy Jab games, so she puts her all in trying to win. Someone may ask her if she plans to use the day off with her girlfriend, to which she can reply that she doesn’t care about the day off at all she just wants to win, or maybe she even says nothing but the notion clearly gets to her. Holt notices her demeanor and figures out that Rosa is going through a breakup and offers to stay by her side. Maybe he even lets Rosa win in a similar manner that Jake let Amy win during the first games, revealing that Rosa’s distraction is more important to him than being the victor.

Amy and Terry both leave, and Jake incites the games without them present. Jake’s initially nervous Holt will say something but Holt is excited to participate since he is no longer captain and loves competition. Amy and Terry return, angry that Jake slacked when he was in charge, and he explains to Amy exactly what he does in the current run; that he’s afraid he’s becoming boring and wants to remain fun.

These games should be the platform for which these motivations are explored. “The Jimmy Jab Games II” instead uses the games as a backdrop. Rosa could have fought for a day off in many different plot lines, as could Jake have made a stupid bet. This episode didn’t need to be Jimmy Jab for these storylines, which is why it doesn’t totally work.

Boyle and Debbie, on the other hand, totally work. In both Boyle and Debbie’s cases, the Jimmy Jab games provide them an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have. Boyle gets a chance to be the greatest showman. He relishes the opportunity to lead the games. He doesn’t get the chance to be ring leader often, not on most cases and definitely not during the Halloween Heists, so the Jimmy Jab games are the perfect platform for him to express this side of himself.

Boyle is also the perfect person to get through to Debbie. Boyle doesn’t ignore or look down on anyone, so his desire to bring Debbie into the fold is genuine. His outgoing personality is also a great match for her lack of confidence, and because Boyle is actively practicing what he is preaching this episode, it’s effective.

Debbie gets a chance to step out of her comfort zone, and it leads to her finally taking things into her own hands to go after her sister’s killer (I believe it was her sister’s killer, I apologize if I’m misremembering).

For these two characters the Jimmy Jab Games provide a platform to express themselves. I just wish this was the case for the rest of the cast.

Other Great Thoughts:

  • I started my notes off with an “always great when they compete with each other” note, but sadly this episode didn’t actually turn out to be about the competition.
  • How did Debbie become a police officer? She’s antidextrous and I can’t imagine they went over too well.
  • Debbie’s line reading of “That’s impossible you’re so suave” to Boyle is immaculate.
  • Loved how the score played up Rosa’s monologue about wanting to be accepted by her parents. Music can enhance comedy, too.
  • I was left unaffected by Jake falling out of the ceiling since we’ve seen that happen to Jake before. The joke pays off when the ceiling falls on him, though, so it works, and that I did laugh at.
  • The police are really loose regarding the use of drugs in this episode. I feel this would work better in the Halloween episodes where all logic is thrown to the curb.

Debbie makes the creepiest villain ever. I know she isn’t actually a villain, but there is something really unsettling about her demeanor mixed with doing something super serious. I love this tonal mix – it’s something only Brooklyn Nine-Nine can pull off, and I hope they go all-in on it.

However, I have my concerns because Debbie hasn’t really interacted with anyone outside of Holt and Boyle (a little with Jake, but not much), so the character’s capacity to advance our main characters storylines seems limited. But we’ll see what happens!

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – Return of Pimento! (7×03)

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Pimemento Review

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has its fair share of memorable recurring roles – Doug Judy, the Vulture, and of course Adrian Pimento, who returns in “Pimemento.” Part of what makes a good recurring role is a character (and actor) who can bring something fresh to the series that prompts something new from our standard characters.

“Pimemento” attempts to use Pimento to incite conflict between Jake and Boyle, and while it succeeds in creating that conflict, there is little to no tension that comes from it. Of course, Boyle and Jake’s friendship isn’t truly at stake, not over something as simple as Jake not telling Boyle that he and Amy are trying for a kid. Even Boyle, who would take this secret as an act of betrayal far beyond what most characters in media would, isn’t going to let it seriously threaten his unique and valuable friendship with Jake.

Fortunately, the episode has two weapons that nearly nullify the effect of the lack of real stakes. Firstly, Pimento has become enough of a character in his own right that his presence on the series isn’t necessarily just to incite conflict on the characters around him. I’m invested in Pimento and his health, so the fact that he’s in danger and we don’t know who is after him is enough of a draw to keep the story rolling.

Secondly, a lot of the conflict in Jake and Boyle’s storyline comes not from Jake keeping his secret, but from Jake’s personal struggle with avoiding Boyle and Boyle’s disappointment of not hanging with his best friend.

Boyle’s comment that he’s mostly upset that they haven’t hung out in weeks is the true sting in this storyline, and it’s the sort of issue that real friends go through. By trying to keep Amy happy, Jake accidentally cut Boyle too far out of his life and hurt his friend. Boyle will, of course, forgive Jake, but it’s understandable that Boyle would be hurt by this and want to explain his feelings.

So while this plotline doesn’t soar, it provides an adequate vehicle for the episode and keeps me invested, despite the lack of threat to any relationships.

The B-plot of the episode somewhat mirrors this by having the Nine-Nine devolve into bickering children after a workplace conflict seminar. Everyone has petty grievances with each other – from the way they chew to how often they talk about their children. Again, there are no real stakes here because we know the Nine-Nine isn’t going to let these petty grievances come between each other, and Rosa states as much by the end of the plot.

Yet it dovetails nicely with the A-plot by showing us what sort of grievances we should let go (minor secrets and improperly finishing each other’s sentences), and which issues we need to discuss (when a friend is actively hurting our feelings). I’m not sure how intentional that message is considering the focus of the parallels is on conflict itself and not on the type of conflicts, but it’s still a message I can draw from the episode and I think these plots fit nicely together.

Pimento is a great recurring character who brings a lot of energy to the screen. I’m a little disappointed by how relatively plain this episode is considering a lot of Pimento’s previous appearances, but the “Finding Dory” style memory loss leads to some fantastic moments of what I’m going to call “verbal slapstick,” including Pimento screaming in multiple random locations and forgetting what tables are.

The rescue on the side of the building, however, seems a bit off to me. I’m not a cop and have no training in scaling buildings, but I would assume that everyone gripping arms to shuffle off the side of the building would be bad form because if one of you falls, you all fall, no? There is no narrative link to the physical linking of arms (outside of maybe Boyle and Jake reclaiming their friendship, but it is never really threatened, as stated earlier), so I can’t imagine this is needed from a story standpoint, and it just made me question the intelligence of the move.

All in all, though, “Pimemento” is a fine episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Other Great Thoughts:

  • I was also hoping Pimento’s actual reappearance on screen would be a little more dramatic, especially after his excellent screaming for Jake and Boyle.
  • A seminar that is boring to Amy??? That tells you everything. I always love when a show weighs situations again its characters’ traits. It provides a bar for the audience and keeps the characters feeling alive.
  • Loved Pimento correcting Jake on Nolan’s first film, especially since he has never seen Memento.
  • Obviously, since Jake has been avoiding him, putting Jake and Boyle on a case together is the easiest way to incite conflict into this situation. Using Pimento as the catalyst for the reveal is much more unique, and it very much keeps Jake’s character intact. Jake would never tell someone else before Boyle (Rosa was told by Amy), so Jake feeling free to tell Pimento because of his memory loss allows the conflict to unfold while keeping Jake in character.
  • There is something very creepy about doctors doing harm, even in a show as fun as Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • Love when Boyle gets to be a detective and take out some bad guys.
  • The ending tag is one of my favorite tags of the entire series.

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – Lots of Changes in the Nine-Nine (7×01 & 7×02)

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Manhunter Review

Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns for its seventh season and immediately begins dealing with the fallout from Holt’s demotion at the end of season six. Captain Holt is no longer captain of the Nine-Nine and is working under Jake, and, as expected, this isn’t a smooth transition.

The opening sequences to both premiere episodes, “Manhunter” and “Captain Kim,” are excellent. They both manage to hit that sweet spot of tone where the intensity of police work is present but undercut with the characters’ goofiness.

“Manhunter” features an assassination attempt, prompting Jake to get excited over the chance at hunting down the assassin, and “Captain Kim” opens with the team arresting a criminal while having a casual work conversation about their new captain.

These openings don’t just succeed on a tonal level, but an expositional one. Since Brooklyn Nine-Nine often deals with investigations, exposition is often needed to bring the viewers up to speed with the plot. The briefings the team has are an adequate way to get this information across, but the ways these plots are set up in the openings of these episodes are much more fun than the regular briefing room exposition dump.

“Manhunter” doesn’t quite continue its momentum. An assassination attempt is a very serious situation, and little time is actually afforded to lend it the gravity that it should have. Other episodes such as “Show Me Going” in season five lend serious situations more gravity, and while much of the charm of Brooklyn Nine-Nine comes from making light of intense situations, Terry’s original exclamation of the attempt seemed to dictate an expected level of drama. The fact that the shooter remains active also lends to a sense of urgency that isn’t quite followed up on with the character drama – Holt’s in particular.

Essentially, Holt’s storyline here did not need an assassination attempt to be effective. In fact, I think a lighter plot line would have helped improve this story as Holt’s feelings of uselessness would have been compounded.

“Captain Kim” highlights exactly what I mean with its opening scene. As the crew arrests the criminal, Holt is bored outside trying to shoo a pigeon away. We need no further explanation to his feelings of uselessness than this image, and it’s funny to boot.

“Manhunter” doesn’t accomplish this feat quite as well due to several factors, all stemming from the plot line of the episode.

Jake is frustrated that Holt is overstepping his bounds and taking command of the situation and assigns him with a false lead to get him out of the way. Jake loves the big moment, without a doubt, but seven seasons in we have learned that Jake is willing to sacrifice that moment if it means getting the job done. I can believe that Jake would send Holt on a goose chase during a less intense crime, like a robbery, but Jake has matured too much to risk letting an assassin escape. He knows the value of teamwork and what Holt can bring to the table, so pushing Holt to the side in this particular plot line felt like a major regression for Jake.

I absolutely think this storyline works when surrounded by a smaller plot. Jake would absolutely get jealous of Holt taking his moment and Holt would definitely overstep if it meant feeling he was still in control. I assume the larger plot point is used here to set Jake up for the major hero moment that he so desires, but I believe they could have set that payoff up better if the situation wasn’t so active and dangerous because Jake’s growth is sacrificed here.

However, Hitchcock and Scully to the rescue is great. Of course these two would know every hot dog vendor in New York. I love when character specific traits are used so naturally within a storyline. I didn’t think of either of them when the hot dog cart is mentioned since hot dogs are so common in New York, but their hero moment is natural and deserved, and it’s always fun to see them shine.

Amy and Rosa spend the episode trying to get Amy to take a pregnancy test. This is a fine B-plot, but again, it isn’t dependent on the assassination plot line and could have fit in nearly anywhere. That’s not a criticism of the B-plot, just an observation and statement that I feel this would have fit in nicely with a smaller plot line as well.

“Captain Kim” is the stronger half of the premiere. All of the characters are on display (except Rosa, who took the weekend off) because each of their personalities is reflected at Captain Kim’s party.

Amy finds an organizational genius, Hitchcock and Scully get to sit in great chairs, and Terry has to interview for elementary school while avoiding eating food from a caterer he put into prison for ten years. Great character beats all around, and while it is low stakes, it’s a lot of fun.

My biggest complaint about “Captain Kim” is that Captain Kim is too perfect. She’s unrelatable and doesn’t feel much like a character because of it. She feels designed to make us think she is up to something, but when we learn she isn’t we are just left with a flat character. I felt little sympathy for Captain Kim upon her request to leave the Nine-Nine because she doesn’t feel real (and also because she’s so perfect she’ll definitely land on her feet somewhere).

Captain Kim didn’t need any glaring flaws, just less perfection. She has a dog, and that’s fine, but why does the dog have to have been saved from a fighting ring? That’s just adding more and more sainthood to a character that already proved to be righteous, and it helps to push her into caricature territory.

Holt and Jake’s mutual distaste for their new captain, though – well that’s great Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Their dislike for her stems from different places, each very consistent with their characters. Jake doesn’t trust anyone that seems perfect due to his parents’ divorce and his mother’s subsequent relationships, and Holt feels Captain Kim has taken everything from him.

Holt’s monologue about losing his chosen family is fantastic. It’s another great example of mixing exposition into a script, and while this is super over the top, that’s why it works. The incredible detail that Holt goes into doesn’t just provide us an explanation for his feelings, but tells us something new about Holt. Of course, we already know he feels the Nine-Nine is his family, but we learn here that he has thought about this deeply. This explanation contains the sort of detail and dramaticism that can only be found in our thoughts while looking at the black ceiling in the middle of the night. Poor Holt.

Boyle’s jacket is the final ingredient of “Captain Kim,” and it is probably one of my favorite subplots on the show the last few years. It’s a bit cliche, with the lame guy becoming cool for an episode, but Boyle is always so. . .Boyle, that it’s a lot of fun to see him act like a badass. Joe Lo Truglio actually sort of pulls off the cool vibe. I’m impressed he’s able to do that because I’m so used to seeing him as Boyle instead of Chuck, the badass version.

Overall, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is off to a fine start, if not a particularly impressive one. While Jake’s character seems to have regressed a bit in “Manhunter,” that seems to mostly be due to a mismatch of storyline and plot line instead of any misunderstanding of or poor writing of the character. The second episode proves that each character is still fully intact. Jake’s trust issues and Holt’s pettiness are still integral parts of their characters without becoming overblown, and I look forward to seeing where their new dynamic takes us this season as the power change should show us new facets of each of them.

Other Great Thoughts:

  • I am a little mixed on Debbie. I loved some of her lines and wasn’t sold on others, but in the end I wouldn’t be against her showing up again.
  • Terry being gaslighted by her daughters is a storyline that needs no visual representation to be hilarious.
  • I like that Holt and Jake’s positions are reversed in “Manhunter” with Jake giving orders and Holt disobeying, but I feel the entire focus of an episode should center around that reversal, and this one really didn’t. It splits its focus too much between Holt feeling useless and Jake wanting his moment.
  • I’m not a fan of baby storylines, so I’m sort of dreading Jake and Amy having one. They’ve been a great television couple and despite being literal new life, babies are often the death of interesting storylines.
  • Holt and Jake working together is always more fun than when they are at odds (in my opinion), so “Captain Kim” was a nice way to push them back together after “Manhunter.”
  • I am really disappointed Captain Kim didn’t get more development, because her reasoning for joining the Nine-Nine is believable, relatable, and human. It’s too bad she is so flat as a character because her departure could have been really affecting.

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