Grading the Season Finales 2014: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Source: Fox.com

Source: Fox.com

Title Charges and Specs (1.22)

Written By Gabe Liedman & Gil Ozeri

What Happens? Jake is told to stop investigating a prominent community leader who he believes is laundering drug money. The whole team from the 99th precinct comes together to support Jake: Gina, Rosa, Terry, and Boyle advocate for him at his hearing; while Holt and Amy join Jake in an undercover operation at a dance contest to prove that he was right about the money laundering. It’s later revealed that Jake’s investigation could have compromised a larger FBI investigation into a major crime family. He’s asked to go undercover for six months to infiltrate this family, which means he has to make it appear as if he’s been fired from the NYPD.

The uncertainty of the next six months of his life leads Jake to tell Amy that he wishes they could be together—“romantic stylez”—but he knows that’s not possible because she has Teddy and he has to disappear without any contact for six months. Boyle also faces a relationship crossroads as Vivian calls off their engagement, leaving him pathetically heartbroken. Terry and Rosa try to help him cope by offering their best advice (although Rosa admits she’s not often heartbroken because she doesn’t give her heart to nice guys like Boyle), but he seems to find some solace in a drunken hookup with Gina, waking up next to her in the morning as the episode ends.

Game-Changing Moment Jake deciding to take the FBI undercover job didn’t just have huge ramifications for the plot of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it furthered more than one important character-development arc as well. As far as plot progression goes, the show could choose to spend time next season with Jake as he goes undercover, or it could (and I think it will) use the six-month period to keep the show in real-time, picking up just after Jake’s time undercover has ended. But it’s certain that Jake will be a different character and a different detective because of these experiences, and everyone at the 99th precinct will be different after working for six months without Jake.

The real “game-changing” aspect of this plot twist, however, was what it revealed about Jake and Holt’s relationship, as well as it what it led to in terms of Amy and Jake’s relationship. Holt trusted Jake’s abilities enough to encourage him to take the undercover job, and Jake trusted Holt’s judgment enough to do what he was asking of him without knowing any details. The level of trust shown by these two characters towards one another represented a huge step in their relationship, which has steadily and believably developed since the pilot. Jake’s new assignment also forced him to come to terms with his feelings for Amy, whom he won’t be able to see for the next six months. The danger inherent in this assignment made his confession feel as appropriate as it could, and it will be interesting to see how those cards being laid on the table come into play next season.

Finale M.V.P. Every year, there’s always one particular actor who I champion above all others for an Emmy nomination. This year, that actor is Andre Braugher. The character of Captain Holt could have gone terribly wrong had another actor been cast in this role, but Braugher has made Holt one of the most consistently funny characters on television this year. His line delivery is about as flawless as you can get, and in this episode he got to shine in so many different ways. Any episode that puts Braugher and Andy Samberg together for an extended period of time is a winner in my book because those two are perfect comedic foils for one another; Braugher’s deadpan delivery and inherent gravitas are the perfect balance for Samberg’s silliness and more broadly comedic style. For example, the moment when Jake misquoted Friday Night Lights played to both actors’ strengths: Samberg’s overly enthusiastic line readings and Braugher’s ability to mine genuine humor from stoicism. And was there any moment on television this week that was more unexpected and hilarious than Holt charming the judge with a perfectly-delivered, “Wassup?” The only thing that even comes close in my mind was the reveal that Holt is also a fantastic dancer. Of course he is—because why not make one of the best characters on TV right now even more excellent?

Most Memorable Lines
Jake: Eyes closed, head first, can’t lose.
Holt: I don’t think that’s the expression.

What Didn’t Work The only thing about this first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that I didn’t love was Boyle’s obsession with Rosa, and I was happy when the story seemed to move beyond that, even having him own up to his behavior and showing them developing a friendship. Needless to say, I wasn’t completely enthused by Rosa telling Boyle that she doesn’t normally date nice guys like him. If anything was ever going to happen between them, I wanted it to happen very slowly, and I think this admission from her—this hint at the show going down this road sooner rather than later—came about too quickly. I also think it was done mainly to create suspense for the final scene and the revelation of who Boyle slept with. While it made for a satisfying twist when it was revealed to be Gina and not Rosa, I still would have liked the scene at the bar to have been focused more on the friendship between those two characters instead of laying the groundwork for any sort of romance.

What Worked It’s rare that a freshman TV comedy is as good as Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been this year; its well-developed cast of characters and confident tone have made it vastly more entertaining and rewarding for viewers than shows that have been on for years. “Charges and Specs” incorporated nearly all of the things that have made this show stand out over its first season, while pointing to even more opportunities for character growth when the show begins Season Two.

The first thing to know about Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that it’s funny—really, genuinely funny. And this episode had me laughing from start to finish. The flashbacks were a perfect source of comedy—from Holt’s professional end to an eight-year relationship to Terry’s semester abroad. Boyle’s coping mechanisms after his breakup with Vivian were also hilarious—both the shots of him paining his nails black and lying face-first on the ground had me laughing until I was nearly crying. And, as I stated above, everything Braugher did in this episode was comedy gold.

For being its first season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has already established some fun recurring jokes and motifs, and it was nice to see them revisited in this episode—from Jake, Holt, and Amy playing dress-up in the thrift store (complete with Jake’s ridiculous dance moves) to the reviving of the “title of your sex tape” joke, with Amy actually playing along the time.

Beyond its sense of humor, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has endeared itself to me by showing real and earned growth for all of its characters during this first season, and that growth was highlighted here. No matter how much I might have felt Rosa opening up to Boyle was rushed, it showed definite character growth for such an emotionally close-off person. And watching all of the core members of the 99th precinct show up to defend Jake at his hearing reinforced the sense of community that has always made this show feel like Parks and Recreation, in the best possible way.

But the most important character growth that took place in this episode centered around Jake. To see how far his relationship with Holt has come since the pilot was extraordinary, but it has never felt anything less than realistic. They’ve learned to trust and respect each other despite their completely opposite personalities, and I think so much of that comes from the admirable job the writers have done with making Jake silly but still a damn good detective. He’s immature in other areas of his life, but he’s good at his job—and that’s something I’m happy wasn’t sacrificed for the sake of some cheap jokes.

Jake showed real growth not just professionally but also personally in this episode. When he admitted that he wished something romantic could have happened with Amy, it didn’t feel contrived; it felt honest. The situation made such a revelation understandable; Jake should be scared to go undercover with a crime family, so it made sense for him to want to tell Amy how he feels in case something bad happens to him. Samberg’s delivery of that whole confession was excellent; it was a little awkward, but it was also completely sincere. I liked that he acknowledged that it was bad timing and that he never pressured her for a response. (I also loved that she didn’t give him one because her shocked silence felt realistic.) The moment when the sounds of another person leaving the building broke the spell for Jake was so subtly powerful; you can see the moment his happy-go-lucky mask goes back on, but you also know something between them has changed forever. Amy and Jake were a TV couple I never expected to root for as much as I do, but now I am completely invested in their journey together.

Questions that Will Haunt Us All Summer What will Amy do now that she knows how Jake feels? What will happen to Jake during his six months undercover? What’s the fallout going to be (if there’s any) from Gina having sex with Boyle?

Final Grade A. With a winning combination of humor and earned character growth, Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended its first season with a reminder of why it’s one of the strongest new shows on television. If you’re not watching it yet, do yourself a favor and catch up this summer. You’ll be glad you did.

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8 thoughts on “Grading the Season Finales 2014: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

  1. “Braugher’s ability to mine genuine humor from stoicism.” – 100x this! I have worshiped in the temple of Braugher since Homicide debuted on NBC. I have never loved him more than I did this last episode. His every line delivery was sincere and glorious. And Samberg has reluctantly won me over in the process, a) because he is part of the creative vision of the show and he along with the producers were smart enough to tap into this vast range Braugher has and b) Sandberg has found a balance of the goofy and genuine that we saw in that moment at the beginning of the series when he comes out of the tent and pats Captain Holt on the back and proclaims “baby steps captain”. That is what the show has done well, it has built Holt and Jake’s relationship slowly and smartly allowing the demonstrative comedy to rest in the capable hands of the supporting characters. It is why their strongest episode was Holt’s birthday and why even when the show missed it wasn’t detrimental to the overall story and universe they were creating as a whole.

    And yes, the line of the night “Eyes closed, head first, can’t lose.” represents everything that is right with this show. That line in and of itself was hilarious and could have stood alone without retort. That Braugher delivers a perfect counter punch is what I think makes the show special.

    One final note – I had a COMPLETELY different take on Rosa and Boyle’s scene. I saw it very much as a solidifying of their friendship when she said that she doesn’t normally date nice guys like him. He was feeling awful and dejected from his breakup and Rosa for the first time showed him compassion that was demonstrative. She was vulnerable to his vulnerability which I think made him feel as though he wasn’t alone. It wasn’t a pivot for their relationship, so much as it was a grounding that she cares about him, genuinely and has his back. I didn’t take it as anything other than that perhaps because I don’t perceive the show as viably looking to bring them together. Because as you said they did a terrific job of moving them out of Boyle’s obsessive behavior, which Rosa I think embraces. I agree it also served to set up the twist at the end. But again I perceived that as ‘crap we got drunk and things went sideways’. Which is why the fact that it was Gina was a superb turn of events.

    You are right, it is a fun respite in a what was a heavy week and if there was one freshman show I thought people should revisit for the summer, this would be it.

    • I’m so happy you love this show as much as I do, especially because I’m strongly considering adding it to my weekly reviewing lineup next season. 🙂

      I really like your interpretation of Boyle and Rosa’s conversation, and it makes me feel a lot better about that scene and the direction their relationship is taking as a whole.

      If this week in TV is as rough as the last one, I’m going to go back and re-watch the episodes with Holt’s birthday party and Amy and Jake’s date because those were two of my favorite half-hours of TV comedy this season.

  2. thank you thank you thank you. I wish I was able to make a more eloquent response. but … well.. I’m stunned. nothing to add. perfect.

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