A review of tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine coming up just as soon as I’m namechecked in my kindergarten teacher’s suicide note…
Late last season, Brooklyn tried a more serialized storytelling model for a while with the arc about Pimento, Jimmy Figgis, Bob Anderson, and Jake and Holt’s temporary exile in Florida. Those episodes had their charms — “Let’s break into the FBI!”, Jake and Holt’s jailbreak, “BOOST MY BOTTOM!” — but on the whole leaned too heavily into plot for a show that’s generally been at its best when it glosses over the actual policework and the life and death stakes that come with it. It’s not just that complicated plots get in the way of letting this large and talented ensemble be funny, but that the vague illusion of reality the show has crafted around the squad gets weaker the more we’re invited to think about it. Better to treat the ins and outs of the job like Clark Kent’s eyeglasses and just treat it as a fact of life necessary to the stories, and that’s easier to do with standalone episodes than in something like the Figgis arc.
There are exceptions to every rule, though, and CJ Stentley is just funny enough to qualify.
Even by the show’s loose standards of reality, Stentley has been pretty ridiculous. When we’ve met other bumbling cops in the past — including Scully and Hitchcock — there’s usually been a sense that they were either once good at the job, or at least capable of being good if they have to. Stentley, on the other hand, is a complete cartoon. The show even invited Boyle to point out the improbability of his rise to captain back in “Coral Palms, Part 2,” and the more we’ve learned about him — here with him referring to the police academy as “the best nine years of my life,” when, as Jake notes, it’s a six month program — the more ridiculous he’s become.