When Brooklyn Nine-Nine was originally announced as a project, I was admittedly tickled by the idea of Frank Pembleton going toe-to-toe with Andy Samberg, but I wasn’t sure if Braugher could translate his gravitas to actual comedy, or if he’d just be used as a really intense straight man. But not only has he done the comedy part more than adequately (and not just via his deadpan), he’s infused a character that could have been a Mad Libs (gay black stoic police chief with a husband named Kevin Cozner) with a ton of pathos.
Exhibit A: the incredible monologue the writers throw him in “The Mole,” in which he reveals his heartache in cadences that would rival any Shakespearean actor’s. “I am buffeted about by my foes’ enmity, and cast about by the towering waves of cruel fate,” he expounds. Of course, the punch line is that the recipients of this glorious moment are Hitchcock and Scully (who can relate, having had his daughter usurp his favorite chair), but the moment says something about what Braugher has done with this character. In a premise in which he’s set up to be the perennial killjoy, Ray Holt isn’t just as funny as his wacky phalanx of cops — he’s also fully human, richly fleshed-out. It’s good of B99 to give us a glimpse like this of just how deep Braugher’s talent goes.
“The Mole” is dead-set on pushing several different plotlines forward, but it may have bitten off more than it can chew for one episode, as a lot of the jokes this go-round feel tired. (A guy so germophobic, he can’t touch anyone? A “good” kid secretly selling drugs? Wrecking someone’s new car via a powdered doughnut? B99, you can do better.) Even the overall premise is based around a cliché: The “somebody’s been lying and everyone’s under suspicion” episode is a long-standing tradition in sitcom culture, one that’s been yielding diminishing returns in recent years. I’m at least glad the show took a fresher tack with it, using the appearance of Lieutenant Miller of Internal Affairs (played by classic “Hey, It’s That Guy” Dan Bakkedahl, a.k.a. Veep’s profane Roger Furlong) to cement how well all the detectives know each other, instead of the standard hoary parade of accusations that end in everyone learning how to trust. Arguably B99’s greatest strength is how detailed and delightful its friendships are (even Scully and Hitchcock, who are regularly mocked, are unquestionably part of the gang), and ripping them up to serve a one-episode comedic purpose would have been beside the point.
Of course, an episode about secrets and lies has to have some sort of dramatic tension, so I’m glad we got a more enjoyable reveal: The Charles and Gina relationship coming to light. I still don’t entirely get Gina’s headspace here. If the sex was adequate enough to happen 16 1/3 times, why does she (admittedly hilariously) join Jake and Amy’s chorus of “Eww” when it comes to light? If Charles’s hairless legs revolted her, why did she invite him back for another round in matching bathrobes? Nonetheless, the spin as it having broken Charles’s streak of going Full Boyle (“I didn’t even propose to her once!”) was a sweet one, as was Gina’s acknowledgment that the hookup was pretty fun. And it’s definitely refreshing to see two characters hook up and part ways as friends, which is a shade of gray that doesn’t usually show up in network sitcoms. I’ll be interested to see where we go from here, in terms of Charles reigniting his unrequited passion for Rosa, still having some interest in Gina, or some entirely new direction.
While I thought the intertwining of the mole situation and the Boyle-and-Gina situation was smartly done, the C plot, featuring the return of the Gigglepig drug task force, fell pretty flat. Terry and Rosa are unquestionably the two characters the show struggles most to move around the board, and while Terry Crews and Stephanie Beatriz always give it their all, I feel like we get a lot of the same beats from them over and over again. Terry’s anxiety about being a good dad was played out pretty thoroughly last season, and while it’s nice that über-tough Rosa is secretly the entire precinct’s confidante, she doesn’t seem to have a lot to do so far this season besides issuing quips and reassurances in equal measure. We’ve seen different dimensions to Jake, Amy, Charles, Gina, and Holt, but I don’t feel like there’s been a measurable change in how the show portrays these two since the pilot. May I suggest an intense dramatic monologue?
- Wuntch is back! Kyra Sedgwick is clearly signed on for more than just two episodes at this point, and it’ll be fun to see her drop in and out. Crossing my fingers that we also get the return of fire chief Patton Oswalt sometime soon.
- The show is intensely wary about engaging with Brooklyn hipsterism, but it nails it whenever it does. Terry reacting to taking his headphones on and off at the silent disco was hysterical. (“It’s very respectful of the neighbors, except for some lewd acts and vomiting.”)
- This episode was a testament to fancy pajamas. Even if Peralta eventually had to return his guest pajamas, guest slippers, and guest toothbrush.
- Though he got some good news: Holt’s middle name is his first name.
- “If you’re wondering how I’m pulling this off, I’m thinking about the time when I was 8 and Don Mattingly called me a little turd.” “Was he right?” “Yes.”
- We can look forward to respectively electing Terry’s twins as president sometime in the 2060s or 2070s, which might turn out badly if Cagney really is the evil one.
- Floorgasm is dead. Long live Dancy Reagan, the First Ladies of Movement.
- Speaking of which, even by B99 standards, Gina got some great lines in this one. “I would like to remind you about several notable men from my past: the rock-climbing backpacker, the underwear model, the guy who looked like Tywin Lannister.” “It’s Gina’s phone, leave me a voice-mail. I won’t check it, ‘cause it’s not 1993.”