Review: Dennis Haysbert is Andre Braugher’s perfect match on ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’

A review of tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine coming up just as soon as my lint is oblong and blue…

Andre Braugher and Dennis Haysbert haven’t had identical careers, nor are they identical performers, but there’s been a lot of overlap between them. Both had their first breakthrough role in a 1989 movie (Braugher in Glory, Haysbert in Major League). Though Haysbert has leading man looks and charisma, while Braugher is a national acting treasure, neither has gotten much of an opportunity to carry their own movies, and have often wound up being the first among equals in TV ensembles. Both take advantage of rich and powerful voices to play authority figures (though only Haysbert’s played a President), and both tend to work mainly in drama, even though those voices can work comedy magic when given the opportunity.

All of which is to say that, watching the two work together in “The Bureau,” I could very much imagine a circumstance where Dan Goor and Michael Schur had offered the part of Raymond Holt to Haysbert, and Haysbert doing a great job of it. I don’t know that his Holt would be quite as weird as Braugher’s, though the thought of Haysbert having a go at that long monologue about Sex and the City (which is one show, not two) made me smile nearly as much as everything he and Braugher actually got to do throughout the episode. As Holt doppelgangers go, he was tremendous, and if the scene where they kept repeating the same phrase with their version of gusto had run another 10-15 minutes, I can’t imagine anyone would have complained.

That Haysbert’s Bob is so much like Holt is what allows “The Bureau” to get away with its twist at the end. The episode very much telegraphs that Bob is up to more than he seems, first with his willingness to stage the heist, then in the business with the envelope. But it doesn’t much matter if the viewer has figured it out, because it’s completely understandable why Jake, Holt, and Rosa wouldn’t have been able to see past their blinders about Bob being the FBI version of the captain. That the episode ends on a cliffhanger with Bob threatening Holt’s life (and perhaps having already killed his fellow double agent) is pretty dark for this show, but we’ve seen Jake’s life threatened in the past, and the serious moments in this one felt better incorporated into the comedy than parts of last week’s installment.

The Holt/Bob interplay, Jake’s delighted reaction to it, and all the heist prep (including Diaz demonstrating her flexibility at length), were so much fun that the two subplots suffered in comparison, though both had their moments. In particular, it’s amusing to witness a rare occasion where Gina is 100% on the ball in her job, to the point where she can scold Terry for being less than perfect at his, and Boyle’s struggle with his character’s overly Jewish backstory was a nice running gag.

I haven’t seen the finale yet, and while I’m not particularly concerned for Holt’s life – not only would his death bemuch too dark, but no one involved would be dumb enough to eliminate the show’s greatest comic resource – I’m curious to see how they get him and everyone else out of the bind, and whether Pimento (whom I haven’t particularly missed) comes out of hiding at the end of it or continues a life on the lam.

What did everybody else think?