A review of tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine coming up just as soon as I follow the flan…
When you do a big status quo-altering cliffhanger like Brooklyn ends its seasons with, there are usually two separate but equally important challenges. The first is to undo it, if not all the way, then enough to be able to keep making the version of the show everyone enjoyed pre-cliffhanger. The second is to decide how much impact it should have, if at all, on the stories going forward. And the series has varied both in how long it takes on the first, and how much it worries about the second. Jake’s undercover assignment in the mob was over within minutes of the season two premiere, and was only occasionally referenced after, where Holt was stuck in his PR job for a good chunk of season three, just as the squad was stuck on night shift for a while in season four.
The prison cliffhanger got undone relatively quickly, but “Kicks” suggests that busting Hawkins and exonerating Jake and Rosa hasn’t led to a full push of the reset button — that’s for the other Mike Schur network show, after all — as both of this week’s stories(*) deal with the ex-inmates readjusting to life in the free world.
(*) It’s amazing how the temporary absence of Gina has allowed the show to consistently streamline its storytelling so far this year. There are running gags for everyone, but each episode basically has an A-story centered around Jake and some combination of the other characters, and a B-story featuring everyone else. That’s generally a structure that’s served the show better than trying to squeeze three different stories into 21-odd minutes. I’ll be curious to see how the episodes are built once Chelsea Peretti’s back from maternity leave.
Jake’s PTSD is tricky territory to explore for a goofy sitcom in general, and for this character in particular, since exploring his character’s inner darkness has never played to Andy Samberg’s many strengths. “Kicks” mostly plays it matter-of-factly, though: Jake tries to come back to active duty too soon, Holt suggests he’s not ready, and Holt is ultimately proven right. There’s no big meltdown, and still room for lots of silliness involving squatting and disguising and the threat of Jake turning into a “desk brother” with Scully and Hitchcock, but the story finds a way to acknowledge that this shouldn’t just be the same old Jake after all he went through in prison.
Rosa is, unsurprisingly, less fazed by her time behind bars than by what she realized about her relationship with Pimento during their forced separation. I’m on record as finding Pimento’s brand of crazy to be too much for this show, so I won’t really miss him (especially since Jason Mantzoukas is appearing on half the shows on TV right now, and fitting in better on them than he tends to here), and the prison story provided a good excuse to bring that coupling to a close. Just as Andre Braugher was carrying a lot of the comic load in the Jake plot, this was Terry’s time to shine, whether recalling his Japanese girlfriend’s unfaithfulness, refuting Rosa’s sexism accusations (“Terry loves women! Women be sane!”), or what’s now turned into a running gag about the redundant use of the word “female” (“A female woman? Was it a female woman?!?!”).
I’m ready for the show to get more back to normal, but sending two innocent characters to prison is a big enough deal that it seems fair, and even necessary, to spend some time on that even after they’re free. Nobody needs this show to turn into Rectify: The Sitcom, but there are ideas to explore, and evaluation pants to be worn.
What did everybody else think?