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 – Casecation (6×12)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine dips back into serious territory in “Casecation.” Normally the “serious” episodes can be easily singled out, as the topic is often of major consequence to not just our characters, but the larger world. They often try to make a statement or contribute to a larger conversation, and have successfully done this. However, “Casecation” tackles a serious topic that really only has major consequence on our characters, with no “larger” issue to comment on.
I really enjoy this approach, for it allows the episode to blend humor and comedy in a way that provides a unique tone, and allows for a bit more character specific humor. It has more in common with episodes such as “The Box” and “The Crime Scene” than “He Said, She Said.”
It isn’t perfect, though. I find it very hard to believe that Amy never discussed kids with Jake before marriage. I absolutely believe that they had the miscommunication about the water park, which was perfectly in character for both Jake and Amy, but considering Amy’s personality and tendency to get every single last duck in a row, I can’t imagine she would ever consider the subject of engagement without having a thorough and clear conversation about children.
I also don’t feel Rosa would be so quick to take Amy’s side. I believe she wants Amy to have kids, but Rosa is an independent thinker, and she would absolutely understand why someone doesn’t want to have children. And considering how close she is with Jake, I feel she would have taken both sides. It seemed like this was done just to have a balance where Rosa pushes for Amy’s side and Terry pushes for Jake’s, but considering Rosa’s allegiance had no impact on Jake’s decision, she could have taken Amy’s side while also pleading Jake’s case with no consequence on the storyline.
Taking the episode as a whole, however, it was fairly successful. The argument on whether or not to have children is a very real one, and I like that both sides were presented respectfully. Jake may have revealed his “true” reason for not wanting children at the end of the debate, but before admitting he was scared he presented several other very legitimate arguments for not wanting kids, such as having to give up work time. Very few decisions are one dimensional, so I always prefer to see characters presenting ALL their thoughts and motivations for an issue instead of just showing us one single driving force.
The episode also presented a very real take on emotional reason and logic, with Amy presenting her argument as though part of a debate team, and Jake only scribbling down what his heart told him. Jake is an emotional character, and sometimes all the logic and reason in the world doesn’t overcome your feelings. Jake is scared – straight and simple. He knows he may not always be, but right now he is, and he isn’t sure when he will feel better about it, if ever.
Amy isn’t willing to wait, though. She doesn’t want to waste her time if Jake decides he doesn’t want to have kids, and essentially tells Jake he has a month to decide or she’s out. While I loved that Amy was willing to go her separate way to chase what she wants out of life, this would have been way more impactful if it the situation was more believable. This is important enough to Amy that she’d leave her husband for it, yet she didn’t make sure he was on the same page before tying the knot? That is an inconsistency that doesn’t track within the confines of the episode, and it hurts the plot as a whole.
Jake’s conclusion that he wants kids at the end is a little too neat, but considering the sitcom world they live in, it’s a forgivable gripe, especially because he asked if they could wait a while before trying for children. He really did handle the bomb situation well. We’ve seen Jake handle a lot of life or death situations in the past, but most of them are fly by the seat of your pants reactionary situations. Here, Jake couldn’t just “react.” He had to take the time to think, process, and control a situation that could have spiraled out of control. It’s a different type of stress, and definitely one more akin to raising a child than getting in a shootout. Children constantly throw you into situations you aren’t prepared for and that you have to guide your way through, not with force or quick wits, but with composure and understanding. Jake handled Pam beautifully, and therefore I can accept that this gave him the confidence to handle children.
All the other characters (asides from Rosa) were used well in their quick appearances. Terry was my favorite. He loves his kids so much and STILL struggles being a dad. This gives him a unique perspective that if you aren’t ready, DON’T DO IT JAKE. It seemed obvious that Terry would push for Jake to have kids, but it totally tracks that he would be against it if Jake isn’t ready. I love those tiny character twists. It’s just a shame that they didn’t have the same hold on Amy’s character this episode.
As I stated above, the content of the episode provides a unique tone. The humor was balanced well, as always. Holt’s presence in the debate was the perfect gateway to shine some humor on an otherwise very serious conversation without taking away from the gravity of the situation, as was Jake’s bowel twisting metaphor to get Pam to hand over the bomb. I’ve been unsure on whether or not I want Brooklyn Nine-Nine to continue mixing in more serious character beats and throw in some darker humor, but tonight I’ve reached a decision. Six seasons in, this style is keeping the show fresh and forcing the writers to come up with unique ways to bring in humor. I say keep it going.
Other Great Thoughts:
- It’s always nice to see characters who are often the butt of jokes be shown respect and friendship in another setting. Scully exemplified this in the opening.
- We haven’t had many episodes focusing on Jake and Amy’s relationship since their marriage. I think this is a good thing, especially when they can sum up what we’ve missed so beautifully with the top five countdown. It keeps them independent as characters, and yet it’s a well the writers can go to to explore new ground.
- “I can come to the phone right now.”
- Poor Boyle just wants to be included in Jake and Amy’s marriage.
- The cut to the comatose body in the middle of the room was a perfect lean into the darker side of humor. Season six has really been using edits well to create humor. They did it again with Holt moderating. That’s ANOTHER Holt edit joke! What’s that, four in a row now?
- Obviously Jake’s father issues were a major part of his reservations. I can’t believe Amy wouldn’t have asked him about this independently.
- Despite disliking Rosa’s contributions regarding the situation, I loved her entrance. “I think they’re having a fight.” Classic Rosa.
- While I saw the first threat being a distraction, I didn’t see Pam being the bad guy at all. That was a well made twist and allowed for Jake to talk her down, since he already had built a bit of a relationship with the woman.
Glad to have you back after the two week break, Brooklyn Nine-Nine!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – The Therapist (6×11)
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
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Gintars (6×10)
“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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