A review of tonight’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” coming up just as soon as you’re what sneezes are…
After a couple of episodes in a row that seemed to be “Brooklyn” leaning too hard into areas where the series tends to struggle, “The Swedes” was the show back in excellent form – and, interestingly, while operating in places that have also been problems in the past.
While the show tends to cast great guest stars, for instance, the regular cast is so big and so good that bringing in outsiders for prominent roles can often through episodes out of balance. But while Riki Lindhome and Anders Holm added some amusing creepiness as the eponymous Swedes, they were there primarily for Jake and Rosa to react to, which still made it a story about our regulars. And Neil deGrasse Tyson’s appearance was kept at the appropriate cameo length, with enough time for some good jokes in both the flashback (“Physics, Terry. Physics.”) and the present (Gina mocking his pet “Spaceship Earth” phrase), but not so much that it took away time being spent on Amy and Terry being endearingly nerdy and awkward in their own right (Amy’s endless mnemonic, the goofy dance number) as they tried everything to teach her about astronomy.
And where “Brooklyn” episodes with three separate stories often feel rushed and leave at least one subplot particularly underdeveloped, none of that was the case here. It helped that there was a small amount of character crossover between the stories – Terry being there for Boyle to vent his anxiety about letting the beast out, Holt occasionally popping back into the A-plot to demonstrate how well he got along with the Swedes – since it connected them in a way that doesn’t often happen in these kinds of episodes. But it was primarily just a great level of harmony in terms of time and tone, so that the Jake and Rosa story had room for a genuine schism in the friendship, but also Jake being grossed out by fish and the Swedes’ closeness; for us to get a brief taste of Boyle trying to restrain himself before he went nuts to the tune of “Wild Side” by Motley Crue; and for Gina to make life extremely difficult for Amy and Terry before revealing that they really did inspire her to study and pass the test. Even the four-act structure thing didn’t get in the way for once, as the diamond case had already resolved itself, allowing the sequence at the bar (including Rosa drinking so many shots, I lost count) to play out at its leisure, and feel like the episode was ending rather than just stopping abruptly.
Nothing fancy here, but a reminder that the show’s many ingredients need to be properly balanced for it to really cook.
Some other thoughts:
* I don’t tend to make note of the cold opens in these reviews, but they’re always these wonderful little comedy shorts. I like the elaborate sense of ceremony to the arrival of the new vending machine, complete with everyone (including Jake) getting dressed up for the occasion.
* This Week’s Best Andre Braugher Line Delivery is a tie between Holt’s description of “Ratatouille” to Kevin (“The rodent chef”) and his dramatic, elongated recitation of “I need you to unleash the beast.”
* I mentioned Amy’s mnemonic earlier, but that was just a wonderfully constructed scene, with Gina being ignorant of “Star Wars,” the joke about Hitchcock being a gas giant, and the mnemonic running so damn long (with Amy occasionally pausing because even she doesn’t automatically remember the whole stupid thing) that Gina could vanish and be replaced by Hitchcock, who of course is accusing the wrong person of the gas giant insult, because that’s obviously what Gina told him.
* How can the BQE be only Jake’s third-favorite New York expressway? It has a Q in the middle of it! At a minimum, it should be second after the Throgs Neck, and ahead of the Van Wyck, the Major Deegan, the Gowanus, the Bruckner, the…
What did everybody else think?