‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Ends 2017 With An Excellent Double-Header

A review of tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine double-feature coming up just as soon as I continue going through Diane Keaton’s relatives…

These episodes are not only the last Nine-Nine installments of 2017, but the last we may see for several months, as Fox is giving LA to Vegas a Tuesday night audition beginning in early January, in what’s now becoming an annoying annual tradition(*).

(*) Silver lining: whenever the show comes back, it should be without repeats for the rest of the season, where otherwise Fox would be sprinkling the 11 remaining episodes across 20 or 21 weeks. It’s gone for a while this way, but it’s uninterrupted when it’s around.

They make for a good combination showing off various strengths and flavors of the show, with “Game Night” getting a bit more dramatic and personal as Jake helps Rosa come out as bisexual to her parents, and “The Favor” in more of an escalating farce mode as the squad tries to get Captain Holt out from under the thumb of Seamus Murphy.

Of the two, “Game Night” feels more special, because, like the Terry racial profiling episode from last season, it feels very personal in a way the series doesn’t often — Stephanie Beatriz came out as bi not too long ago (and was, like Terry Crews in “Moo Moo,” terrific here) — and because, like the Terry episode, it never attempts to wrap things up neatly. Rosa’s dad (Danny Trejo, excellent in a comic role that turned dramatic in a hurry) eventually comes around, but you can tell he still doesn’t understand who his daughter really is, and Mrs. Diaz is still keeping her distance. Rather than hugs and another Game Night with her parents, Rosa instead has to settle for the squad to come over and play, and for Captain Holt — in an understated moment that oh-so-casually reminds you that when he’s not saying ridiculous phrases like “beefy speeds,” Andre Braugher is one of the best dramatic actors on the planet — offering wisdom and support from his own difficult experience coming out: “Anytime someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better and more interesting place.”

“The Favor” in a way has a higher degree of difficulty, because it’s trying to present a relatively serious plot idea with long-term ramifications for Holt and the series in the context of a mostly silly story where Jake and Charles try to work around the profound stupidity of Murphy’s nephew Kyle (Mike Mitchell, who played one of the many Lerpiss cousins on Parks and Rec). Most of it works, anyway, particularly the subplot about Amy and Rosa trying to untangle a Gordian knot of city paperwork rules and regulations. As last week’s “99” reminded us, Melissa Fumero is usually at her best when Amy is at her highest-strung, and seeing poor Santiago feel disillusioned when her bureaucratic idol turns out to be a slovenly, dyslexic cat lady who doesn’t care about mistakes was a lot of fun, as was the punchline where the two women brought in Hitchcock to deploy the outdated, sexist paperwork they could use to solve the problem. (Hitchcock: “Hi there. I’d like to humiliate some hussies, and I’m in a hurry.” Perhaps the most Hitchcock line of all time.)

Murphy threatening Kevin once he realizes how Holt outmaneuvered him has the series once again edging into darker professional territory than I think generally works for it (see also Jake and Rosa’s incarceration at the start of this season), but so much of these episodes filled me with joy and made me lament how long it’ll be til the 99 gives me that feeling again.

Some other thoughts:

* Both Chelsea Peretti and Gina return from maternity leave. Though Gina’s a very funny character, the show had felt a bit more balanced without her this season (as it probably would have if, say, Terry Crews was off shooting a movie), and I wondered if her arrival would make things feel a bit too crowded again. But even though both of the Gina subplots were primarily about her — as they should have been, given her long absence, along with her very different life situation as a working mom (to a baby named Engima, because of course) — it didn’t feel like she was elbowing other characters out of the way, or like the stories in either episode didn’t have enough time to properly come together. Juggling this huge and gifted cast will always be a high-class problem, but they managed it this week.

* Holt interviewing Gina’s replacement when it looks like she’s quitting does raise the question of exactly who was doing the job while she was away on leave.

* The new running gag about Holt not being able to distinguish between any post-classical music remains a delight, here with him mistaking Kyle’s rapping for the car radio because, “All music after Mahler sounds exactly like that.”

* Rosa thinks the odds are good that we are all living inside a computer simulation. Let’s hope that simulation involves a lot more Brooklyn, and soon.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His new book, Breaking Bad 101, is on sale now.