Ed Helms has a special genius for playing characters so pompous they’re actually lovable, which makes him a great fit for Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s extended universe, in which pretty much every peripheral character thinks he or she is more important and more competent than the main characters. (Besides Wuntch, the list currently includes Patton Oswalt’s Fire Marshal Boone, Dean Winters’s Vulture, and even the precinct’s own weekend squad, led by Matt Walsh’s Det. Lohank.) An idiot convinced of the importance of his own horribly unimportant job is well-trod but generally hysterical comic territory, especially in Helms’s capable hands, and his agent Jack Danger (pronounced “Donger … a German word for ‘prudence in financial matters,’” and he really prefers to go by Jackie) is the guest-star highlight of the season so far. I had to pause my DVR to laugh it out when the squad burst in on the Gigglepig dealers at episode’s end with the customary shouts of “NYPD!” followed by Helms’s “Also USPIS! And USPIS!”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine still struggles with balancing its foremost mission as a joke-delivery device (at which it excels) with its necessary tasks of plot motion and consistency in character development (in which it veers wildly). While sometimes flawed, the Gigglepig story line has unquestionably been one of the show’s best efforts to truly build a narrative arc across episodes, reaching a satisfying conclusion here with the cracking of the postal-box delivery system. But it’s also definitive proof that the show needs to figure out something to do with Rosa, whose character was supposed to shine in leading this task force but mostly fulfilled the same standard roles as confidante and/or disapproving-but-still-encouraging friend. I get that part of Rosa’s deal is to be mysterious, but there’s nothing going on with her right now: Boyle’s affections haven’t resumed, she doesn’t have a job goal like Amy or Holt, and her own personal life is a big blank. It’s nice to have a female character on a show whose arc isn’t primarily romantic, but this big arrest felt less like a win for her and more like a save for Jake. Stephanie Beatriz is too good an actress to just fire out a few great lines an episode and occasionally buck up one of the other characters in their time of need. I’d rather the writers sacrifice some of Rosa’s character consistency than continue to make her more or less wallpaper in episode after episode.
While we’re on the subject of character consistency, am I the only one who found Amy’s attempts to give up smoking completely nonsensical? First of all, Amy’s way too much of a goody-two-shoes to be a regular smoker, especially considering that the show has never shown her taking a puff before. (She briefly confessed that “every now and then, I smoke a cigarette” in season one, but that’s a long way off from having an addiction this serious.) I’m certainly not against a sitcom occasionally revealing a hidden secret or depth to a character, but this just doesn’t cohere with Amy’s whole student-council-president personality, and the show didn’t tender an explanation as to how the Nine-Nine’s resident stickler for rules developed a fondness for smokes. And even if I were going to buy that Amy was secretly going through a pack a day this whole time, her travails just aren’t all that fun, since the show has already done the same plotline: Gina, Terry, and Amy going on a group diet, in last season’s “Fancy Brudgom,” which hit a series of near-identical beats. The resolution, with Holt encouraging Amy to be less of a perfectionist (via dangling participle, of all things), also felt muddled. Unquestionably, Amy does need to tone it down, and Holt is the person she’s most likely to listen to. But of all the plotlines B99 could have chosen for that lesson, is deciding not to quit smoking really the one? That’s one arena in which a little perfectionism wouldn’t have gone amiss, and if the show were really being true to Amy’s character, she’d already have had a meticulously researched list of nicotine patches and smoking-cessation pills and hypnotists that she’d been working her way through, rather than quitting cold turkey (which is totally what Peralta would do).
At the end of the day, though, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s pleasures lie in the line-by-line delight of the jokes, and even by the show’s high standards, this episode was a doozy. Charles describing a fax machine as “imagine a letter had unprotected sex with a phone,” USPIS’s reinterpretation of "going postal" as a positive (“Maury went postal and brought in muffins for everyone!”), and Peralta’s hilarious apology to Danger (“I’m sorry I said The Postman was a flop. I’m sorry I said that Forever stamps are a lie, because the Earth will eventually be swallowed by the sun”) were among the many highlights. When it comes to delivering consistent laughs, this episode is proof positive that B99 is better than any Robocop.
- People need to give Joe Lo Truglio more credit for his gifts as a physical comedian. His insistence on busting open the door, then high-fiving the perp after he pulled off the somersault, was absolutely perfect.
- The show really needs to quit going back to the well of Holt’s deadpan, but even I’ll admit watching him laconically play the ponies was pretty hilarious. “Go Razzamatazz. Go Razzamatazz.”
- “He’s the world’s biggest tool! No, tools can be useful. He’s the world’s smallest tool; I’m the world’s biggest tool! Gah, see what he’s doing to me?”
- Andre Braugher’s quads. Holy crap.
- Loved the brief cameo by Fat Terry, who will stop at nothing to enjoy some moo shu pork.
- The worst thing ever is apparently dipping your penis in vinegar. Just so you know.