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
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Finale Review – “Lights Out” for the Season (7×13)
“Lights Out,” the season finale of Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 7, gives us the birth of the Peralta baby. Jake and Amy get the least amount of development and character exploration out of every other character in this episode – every other character, including the old woman Dottie, the criminal who took out the power, and the firefighter who helped deliver Amy’s baby.
Jake and Amy get the kind of tried and troped out baby plotline that I have feared ever since they first discussed having children in Season 6’s “Casecation.” Jake is desperate to make it to the birth of his child on time, a plot that movies and television shows have been doing for decades, and Amy doesn’t want to go to the hospital right away, another “classic” baby move.
We get nothing out of Amy from this. Amy’s labor completely detracts from the fact that we are seeing Amy in complete charge of the precinct for the first time ever. That’s a huge deal within the context of the show. That’s been Amy’s dream since episode one and the driving force behind so much of her character, from her bossiness and by-the-book methods to her desperate need to be a teacher’s pet. And here, instead of witnessing the true culmination of her seven year journey to this point, we watch her give birth.
The birth complicating her role as the leader isn’t an inherently bad choice; it’s that it doesn’t actually complicate it. Amy does a completely great job with almost no stumbling blocks. The birth doesn’t seem to affect her decision making at all. Maybe that’s the point, maybe the show is trying to say Amy is so unbelievably good at being in charge that even when she’s in labor she’s an incredible leader. That’s fine! That’s a fine message, but “Lights Out” doesn’t focus on that. It focuses on the birth of the child.
There is no “good job, Sarge” from Terry. There is no “well done” by Captain Holt. Amy led the precinct during a crisis, without notice, while in labor, in the dark, and there’s nothing to say about it. Babies draw attention away from the main character arcs and story beats, and this is a prime example of that.
As for Jake, is there an actual character reason for him so badly wanting to be by Amy’s side for the birth outside of “of course he does?” Any father would want to be there for the birth of their child, this isn’t a story about Jake, it’s just a story about some father. Is there not a moment where Jake could express his desire to be there on a personal level, such as the fact that he felt his father was never there for him so he wants to be there for his son the moment that son enters the world? Why isn’t that explored? That’s literally lines of dialogue, no plot changes required.
It doesn’t have to be exactly that; a review shouldn’t be about what I would have preferred an episode to do. A review should be as close to objective as possible while still expressing an opinion (if that’s even possible in such a subjective medium). “Objectively” speaking, Jake’s character is left unchallenged in any specific ways this episode, and part of a television show’s strength comes from how it evaluates its characters, so I believe this to be a fair criticism.
Personally, I would have included some character motivation through dialogue as Jake and Boyle enter the building looking for their perp. We’ve discussed before that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is at its best when it’s mixing humor with its tense moments, but Boyle and Jake’s dialogue in this scene doesn’t create a mix – it completely abolishes all tension that was created. They are searching for someone who theoretically could be armed, and they walk in chatting loudly about their senses, with Boyle sniffing the air. How is that good police work? I normally like the witty banter between characters and the casual chatter during these scenes, but the reason that normally works is because the characters are still great at their jobs. This is just goofy to the point of actively harming the police work, so I believe the dialogue here could have been used better to add some character specificity to Jake’s situation.
Every other character fares better than the parents-to-be. Boyle is, as usual, over the top about the child being born. Boyle’s obsession with Amy and Jake and their love life has been played out for a long while, and it’s no fresher here. However, Boyle having to make amends with Lieutenant Peanut Butter is fresh, and is awesome character work. Boyle’s hatred for the horse is still funny because it’s so against type for Boyle and we know his history with the majestic creature. The fact that he lets it go and gives the horse the glory of getting Jake to Amy in time is inspired, and shows that Boyle’s obsession isn’t as important as Jake and Amy’s happiness. Boyle wants to be Jake’s hero so badly and he gives it up. WHY IS BOYLE GETTING BETTER DEVELOPMENT OUT OF THE BIRTH OF JAKE’S CHILD THAN JAKE IS.
Jake undercuts this moment by claiming that no, actually, Jake’s journey to the baby is more important than Boyle’s reconciliation with Peanut Butter. I disagree. Maybe in real life the birth of a child surpasses the importance of resolving a grudge with a horse, but in television the power of story comes from character motivation and conflict. Boyle’s storyline here has both of those aspects in spades, aspects that were built up in the history of the show. Jake’s motivation is incredibly generic and is completely dependent on the audience’s personal understanding of how father’s should act in the real world and what real world father’s want, with no true character buildup within the universe of the show.
Rosa’s role in all of this is pretty standard “I’m grossed out by baby stuff” fare, and shocker, she puts it aside to help Amy. Hitchcock and Scully put aside their desires for the greater good of Amy as well. These aren’t incredibly deep or unexpected points; we’ve seen Rosa help Amy out all season so I wouldn’t call what happens in “Lights Out” development for her. At least they add something personal by having Rosa desperate to get Amy out of the precinct because she’s grossed out by everything.
The side characters get to shine brighter than Jake and Amy as well, with distinct personalities, making decisions and slip ups that reveal things about their characters. From this episode, I somehow know more about Dottie’s specific opinions of fatherhood than I do Jake’s. The closest we get to Jake’s insight on this is when he puts his son down to watch Captain Holt and Terry dance.
That dance is the best part of the episode, both within the context of the birth of Mac and outside of it. Terry has to work with Holt to keep him calm, just as a leader would do. The humor in that storyline is character specific, as Holt normally wouldn’t do this type of dancing, and the type of dance Terry teaches Holt is different than a dance Rosa or Boyle would teach him. Terry’s positive attitude reflects well off of Holt’s panic, and Holt’s request to Terry to never speak of their dance lessons again is funny because we know Holt. It may be an easy joke, but it’s a believable phrase and means something to the character.
The payoff of doing the dance for Amy is excellent because it shows that Amy’s comfort is more important to Holt than his image is. Is this fresh ground? No. We know this, but at least it’s rooted in specific character context and not just dependent on the broad concept of “be there for your friends.”
As close to objectively speaking as I can be, I don’t feel “Lights Out” is a great episode of television. It’s missing specific character motivation for Jake, doesn’t follow through on a series long arc for Amy, and relies heavily on generic plots such as “I don’t want to admit I’m going through labor” and “I gotta get to my wife for the birth.” On a personal opinion level, I’m extremely disappointed. Amy spent the first three years of this series desperate for approval from her superiors, and spent the next three earning that respect. To have her greatest moment as a Sergeant completely overshadowed by giving birth makes me so, so sad. Jake, ripe with father issues, having no moment of connection with Holt, his truest father-figure, over becoming a father is a major missed opportunity, and I will forever be upset that we didn’t get to see that.
But I can only critique what does happen, not what doesn’t, and what does happen isn’t up to the heights of what Brooklyn Nine-Nine has proved it can be. Hopefully Season 8 spends more time with the wonderful cast of characters at its disposal and doesn’t get distracted by the baby.
Other Great Thoughts:
- I miss Gina Linetti. The “great” in my “Other Great Thoughts” comes from a quote of hers, and I think she would have been quite an asset in this episode, as she could have brought her unique flair to help this standard baby tale stand out.
- The fire department feud went nowhere this episode.
- The women at the bachelorette party seemed to play incredibly close to stereotypes, which is disappointing for Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
- I barely commented on the comedy of this episode, and I’m assuming that’s mostly because I didn’t laugh much. I’m not criticizing the episode for lack of jokes or being unfunny because I may have been so turned off by the plot that I wasn’t in the mood to laugh. However, the extended censor of Amy’s tirade to Hitchcock got me to chuckle.
Someone, please disagree with me and change my mind on this episode and this season. I think this was easily the weakest Nine-Nine season yet, so if anyone can point out the positives to change my mind, please do! I want to end on a positive note, so here we go.
My positives for the year:
- Debbie (though I felt she was dismissed too early and quickly)
- “Trying” a fantastic episode (maybe even a personal series highlight).
- Holt’s speech about Wuntch.
- Holt going after Cheddar’s kidnapper
Thanks to everyone for reading! Especially to those who followed and read along with me throughout the season!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – A Personal Tragedy (7×12)
It’s been a while since I felt anyone was in any real danger on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Of course, I know no one is ever actually in danger, as Brooklyn Nine-Nine is, always has been, and always should be, first and foremost a comedy. However, pushing these characters into dangerous situations is part of the fun of the show and where the tone of the series shines the brightest, and “Ransom” is a fine example of this.
Part of this is because the humor never leaves the show, such as when Jake and the kidnapper bond over video games, or Holt calls Cheddar his “fluffy boy” in the midst of a badass beatdown. It’s also due to the character development that danger forces onto the characters; how they react to these situations tells us who they are and where their priorities lie.
Cheddar’s kidnapping is a success in this way, as it pushes each of the lead trio’s reactions to the forefront. Kevin can’t handle the loss and can barely keep it together, Holt is going overboard looking for revenge, and Jake has to keep a level head to hold everything together. It’s simple but effective, and it leads to multiple bonding moments: Jake helping Kevin relive the morning in the park, Holt revealing a movie was made after one of his adventures in the ’80s, and the three of them working together to have Jake learn Kevin’s mannerisms and speech tendencies. Having Jake unsure of how Kevin would answer the phone and having him do so successfully proves how well Jake’s learned Kevin and is a great touch to the episode.
I am ever so slightly disappointed that Holt’s rampage at the end of the episode isn’t for Jake and is played as just revenge for Cheddar’s kidnapping, as it felt like a great opportunity to reflect Jake’s earlier statement about him meaning something to Captain Holt as well. That’s my own preference, though, and not a knock on the episode by any means, since Holt’s mad dash to the car and subsequent clinging to the rooftop is funny, and as stated before, that’s where Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s priorities should lie.
Amy and Rosa’s story is not quite as funny, though Rosa has some choice lines. The joke of Teddy being boring is, well, boring. We’ve seen it so many times, same as we’ve seen him propose to Amy over and over. It would have been nice to see Teddy develop as a character some as is implied when they first run into him, but the regression into the same old Teddy tropes makes this B-plot weak, as so many of the jokes rely on Teddy’s lameness.
The resolution to the plotline is adequate enough, with Rosa admitting that she bought Amy a stroller that isn’t as fancy as Amy’s standards require, but I think I would have preferred watching Rosa trying to buy the stroller. Regardless, Rosa’s hardcore attitude is a stereotypical opposite of the characters that are normally interested in baby storylines, but there is nothing in her personality to suggest that she wouldn’t be excited to help Amy. I like seeing that explored a bit and having that stereotype shattered.
Boyle and Terry’s plot starts out with some promise but doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s fairly obvious they won’t be successful, so I knew something would go wrong with the broth. The exploding jars are a bit extreme, but it’s fun to watch. Too bad they couldn’t upend expectations and make this new business work. The storyline was filled with potential, as Boyle is the last person you’d expect would be able to help Terry with his post-workout soreness. I think this plot could have taken some notes from the A-plot and had these two bond in a way, whether over their shared failure or just hitting the weights together. Boyle and Terry don’t get many opportunities to get closer, and this is a missed one.
“Ransom” has a strong A-Plot that’s worth the price of admission, and a few solid laughs from both its subplots, even if they don’t reach their full potentials. Always nice to see Cheddar, though!
Other Great Thoughts:
- Hitchcock and Scully took the week off outside the cold open. Why was Jake in the building there, though?
- Nine-Nine is really milking this Wario joke. It’s one of those jokes where if they continue to keep it going, I’ll probably find it funny again, but it’s wearing just a bit thin on me at the moment (though the payoff with the kidnapper is worth it).
- Boyle telling Terry that “you’ll get there” regarding how much Terry lifts is the hardest I’ve laughed all season. I don’t know why this joke is so funny to me but Joe Lo Truglio’s line read and Terry Crew’s reaction are perfect. This is a joke that is funny completely removed from the entire series.
- The GPS tags are great. They are brought in naturally by an overly cautious Kevin and it’s believable that Jake had them on him since they switched clothes. This is a great example of how to use multiple plot points that seem insignificant and pay them off by tying everything together.
- Holt is on point in every way in “Ransom.” I don’t think we’ve ever seen hand-to-hand combat from Holt. Only Nine-Nine can have such a tense, badass, raw fight scene end with the words “fluffy boy.”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – Heist Time! (7×11)
Another Brooklyn Nine-Nine season, another heist episode. The quality of the heist episodes has remained high throughout the show’s run, which is a feat I’ve complimented before. “Valloweaster” isn’t my favorite heist episode, but it doesn’t harm the tradition in any truly significant ways either.
There are two wrinkles to this year’s heist, the first being the team-up aspect of the game. Each previous champion picks a random partner, and they have to be handcuffed to that partner for the duration of the games.
I like this twist because it forces the crew to work together without any betrayals. The betrayals are always a huge blast each year, but changing the dynamic is necessary when you’re seven heist episodes deep.
The episode doesn’t get as much out of this new dynamic as it could, with only Jake and Holt’s team-up truly being explored. Amy and Boyle only have a few lines together and no full plan ever seems to formulate between them. Considering Rosa is with Scully and Holt and Jake are both too prideful to share any plan information, Amy and Boyle are the only team that can provide us with an actual look at teamwork, and they don’t. A bit of a shame, but not too egregious considering how busy the episode is.
The second wrinkle is the jumping date of the heist, as the heist moves from Halloween to Valentine’s Day to Easter. This obviously allows the heist to synchronize with our real life calendar, but also affords the opportunity to explore the shenanigans different holidays can provide for the heist.
Again, I don’t feel the holiday jumps live up to the potential. The flowers for Bill on Valentine’s Day are no different than the handmaids or pizza deliveries of previous years, and the bunny costumes aren’t particular to Easter as costumes are common during Halloween anyway. So once again, I feel the episode misses an opportunity to take advantage of its concept.
And boy, does this episode need to take advantage of those new ideas. We have seven heist episodes now, and “Valloweaster” has the least amount of new ideas despite having a strong final twist. How many times is the crew going to use a crowd of people as a distraction in these episodes? For a moment I considered giving the crowd distractions a pass as a “tradition” of the heist episodes, like Bill or Cheddar. Bill and Cheddar, however, are used in different ways every year; the crowds are not. They are always the same and they feel like an easy crutch to provide a believable distraction. They aren’t inventive in the way the show can be, and if they appear next season I hope that they are used in a different way.
In fact, there didn’t seem to be much other heist work in the episode at all. Outside of the smoke and crowd distractions, most of the heist plans took place before the heist started with each participant trying to outsmart the others in preparation, and for a heist episode, that’s disappointing.
The other aspect that fell slightly flat for me is Rosa’s ability to completely plan everything out. We’re used to seeing the characters predict each other’s moves to an insane degree, and that’s part of the fun of these episodes. I don’t mind Rosa doing the same thing, but how did she get gem duplicates? Did everyone know they were going to be fighting for gems? How did she find out about the fake therapy sessions Jake was having? How did she know they were going to be handcuffed to each other? I’m not sure exactly how Rosa knew every detail she needed to make this heist work, which makes it a bit less satisfying when it all comes together. (Maybe I missed some of the details by my own error, and if so feel free to point that out to me.)
Rosa’s victory, however, is very good. Despite the episode as a whole not capitalizing on the team-ups and holidays, Rosa’s victory does, using both wrinkles to its advantage. She uses the team-up to get herself cuffed to a filing cabinet so she can cut the handle off while keeping the others at a disadvantage, and she uses the multiple heist days to weasel herself into a triple victory.
I like Rosa’s triple victory for a few reasons. First, it makes her awesome stunt to secure the win work. At first, I felt her braggadocio was a bit undeserved as it seemed she cheated and got lucky with the moving dates; the revelation of her full plan, however, makes it all worth it. If any character was going to go this over the top to secure the top place, it’s Rosa. Jake doesn’t have the patience to wait out six months for a victory, and Holt doesn’t have the showmanship. This is a well written win for Rosa.
The other reason the triple victory works is because it’s arguably not a legitimate triple win, which is half the fun of the heists. The fact that no one can agree on who has the most wins and what constitutes a victory is part of the fun every season. It’s the perfect way to start the competition every year because it immediately brings the worst out in the group, and I can’t wait to see someone argue about Rosa’s win count next year (though they all agree that a filing cabinet has more wins than Boyle does).
“Valloweaster” holds up the heist tradition, even if it reuses some stale techniques and doesn’t fully live up to its potential . Its character victory pulls it together in the end, but it isn’t enough to elevate it to the upper half of the heist episodes.
Other Great Thoughts:
- I loved seeing the heist from an outsider’s perspective. Part of me was hoping the whole episode was going to be from that point of view. It really highlights how crazy the crew gets and how distracting it would be trying to work around it.
- I also love Bill’s inclusion in all these heist episodes. He’s such an oddball and fits right in with the madness. His storyline of becoming depressed felt like it was written in because the writers felt they needed to do something more with him, and I can’t say I feel it added much.
- Aladdin and Abu are the ’92 dream team.
- I have to mention again – enough with the crowd distractions. Whatever happened to pigeons in the vents as a diversion? Get creative with it, Nine-Nine!
- Rosa using the filing cabinet to her advantage is great because of the misdirection the initial joke creates. I laughed out loud when I saw Rosa trapped in the men’s bathroom, cuffed to the cabinet instead of Hitchcock, and I dismissed it as a good joke, making the reveal all the more effective.
- Everyone finally points out that neither Jake nor Holt won the crown on their own the first two years, which will perfectly set up next year’s heist as they will both be totally determined to prove their worth as champions.
- Boyle is the only member now to not have a victory. Oh, and Hitchcock.
- Jake totally won the fifth year. We all agree on that, right?
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