Review: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ gets serious & serialized with ‘Maximum Security’

A review of tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine coming up just as soon as I wear short pants and drink from a jug that says “XXX”…

We’re in the midst of an interesting experiment for the show as we near the end of season 3. Not only is this Pimento arc the most serialized Brooklyn has ever been, but it’s also more dramatic than the series tends to be. It’s not suddenly The Wire (though Jake would love that), but it wants us to believe that Pimento is really in fear for his life, that Diaz is genuinely upset about his absence, and that Santiago could really get hurt during this prison undercover operation.

It’s not the first time Brooklyn has dabbled in more serious crimes – remember, Jake helped Captain Holt get his command back by catching a serial killer – but it creates a really narrow tonal target for the show, which is usually content to just be silly, and I don’t know that “Maximum Security” always hit it. That no one, Rosa included, bothered to look into whether she had arrested anyone in that prison, for instance, didn’t seem plausible, nor did Jake’s constant interventions with Amy. The show doesn’t aspire to documentary-level realism, but when you go out of your way early in an episode to have Jake and Terry talk about how this prison is so much scarier than the ones featured in softcore movies on late-night cable, then you’re priming the audience to expect something much more hardcore than what we actually saw. And, for that matter, Jake turning into an overprotective boyfriend to this degree is the kind of idea that probably would have worked better in a lower-stakes one-off story than in the midst of what the show’s trying with Pimento and Figgis (played by Sopranos alum Aida Turturro).

All that being said, if the episode had just featured Santiago (less than a month before Melissa Fumero gave birth) suggesting that she wasn’t convincing as a pregnant woman – after the show had spent much of the season barely bothering to disguise her condition – dayenu. There was still good material there, including Boyle getting too deep into obstetrician character, and Santiago struggling to break the rules and act tough.

The B-story with the fake funeral was a goldmine of Ray Holt saying things weirdly, whether it was his three rehearsed bits of small talk (“The Bachelor is a television show, Andre Agassi is at it again, I too am avoiding Gluten”), not realizing that Gina had tricked him into calling the dirty FBI agent “Scar Joe,” or becoming surprisingly excited about high-fiving people. And the dramatic material on Rosa’s end continues to work because Stephanie Beatriz has that performance so tight that even small fluctuations in affect suggest deep feelings for Rosa.

What did everybody else think? Are you enjoying this turn towards more of a story arc model, or do you hope that when the show comes back next season, it’ll stick with low-stakes standalones? And where would you place Amy’s disguise on a continuum of sitcoms having to work around pregnant actresses who aren’t playing pregnant characters?