Sunday, December 6, 2015

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake & Rosa's Friendship Changes While Charles Unleashes His Inner Beast in 'The Swedes'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 3.09 "The Swedes"

In an attempt to solve an international case, Jake and Rosa are forced to work with a pair of Swedish cops and things get very competitive, very quickly. Amy and Terry offer to help Gina prepare for a big test. Holt enlists Charles to sub in as his squash partner for an annual tournament.

Episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that feature three stories that never really connect with one another typically lead to underwhelming episodes of the show. It always feels as if each story is missing something because the show is trying to serve multiple aspects of its characters and narrative. Adding important guest stars to the mix can even further detract from the effectiveness of the show when it's at its absolute best. And yet, "The Swedes" doesn't stumble from those typical pitfalls. The guest stars do an effective job at serving the stories but never taking away from the focus on the main characters. Additionally, all three stories feel like they run the right length. They are all complete stories that all feature bits of both humor and character development. Even though the stories never really cross over, there are enough small bits that connect the stories in realistic ways. Overall, this was a very solid episode of the show.

It's fantastic to watch Jake and Rosa investigate a case together again now that Jake is in a serious relationship with Amy. The two have been friends for awhile. And yet, Rosa's disdain for talking about personal information is a source of conflict in that dynamic that hasn't really been explored before. It's a dynamic that plays nicely against guest stars Riki Lindhome and Anders Holm as the Swedish detectives who work the jewelry heist case with Jake and Rosa. Those two are very close. They know every personal detail about their partners' life. They are so close that they are even comfortable holding each other's hand at any moment in time. It's a lifestyle that Jake and Rosa openly mock across the episode. And yet, it also points out the failings in Jake and Rosa's own friendship. Rosa claims that Jake is one of her closest friends. However, he doesn't even know that she and Marcus broke up a month again. It's not as if she is incapable of helping Jake plan his six month anniversary with Amy. She just chooses not to because she doesn't want to get involved in his personal life.

It's a main story that pushes Jake and Rosa apart for a little bit. It makes Jake question whether or not he is actually friends with Rosa or if she's just someone who he works alongside all the time. What used to work in their friendship is no longer capable of sustaining it. They can't just talk about police work all the time. They need to open up to one another - despite how painful that is for Rosa to do. In the end, they are successful in solving the case before the Swedes do. Despite the playful and competitive banter between the two pairs, Jake and Rosa are still able to come together to do the job. They wound up in a dangerous situation and still had each other's backs. This petty fight doesn't change. It does lead to Rosa opening up a little bit. Sure, it takes multiple shots for her to tell Jake the name of her new librarian boyfriend. But she still does it. And that's enough progress to show that these two really are friends who care about each other.

Meanwhile, the story with Holt and Charles becoming squash partners was somewhat predictable but really funny. Charles is recruited to be Holt's partner after Kevin takes on a teaching position for six months in Paris. That's some news that could create some amusing story for Holt in the future. But this story is also funny because Charles is afraid to let his inner beast out. During his squash playing days in college, he lost it on the courts. He doesn't want Holt to see that side of him because he wants to have a more meaningful relationship with the captain. And yet, Holt wants Charles to let the beast out. He cares more about winning than anything because winning would be fun. It leads to a fantastic montage of Charles being dominant and overconfident on the court and really mean to his opponents. It was wonderful to behold to the point where it's disappointing that they can't reunite for next year's tournament - considering Charles' behavior gets them banned from the club.

And lastly, Terry and Amy trying to help Gina study for an astronomy test is hilarious because of all the ways they try and get her to listen and appreciate the subject. The whole scene where Amy tries to teach Gina is fantastic - from Gina not knowing what Star Wars is to calling Hitchcock a gas giant to Amy's ridiculously long mnemonic device. And then, Terry invites Neil deGrasse Tyson to inspire Gina. It's a great cameo because the show keeps it short - with the flashback to Neil showing up Terry at the gym with physics to Gina mocking his "Spaceship Earth" phrase. But the story is also great because Terry and Amy truly did motivate Gina to study and pass her test. However, that realization didn't come until after they performed a one hour teaching dance for her. Overall, this whole story was just one successful comedy scene after another.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Swedes" was written by Matt Murray and directed by Eric Appel.
  • Holt telling Charles to "unleash the beast" and describing Ratatouille to Kevin as "the rodent chef" were some fantastic line readings by Andre Braugher. Another great Holt running joke is his insistance on how long flights to various places in Europe take.
  • Jake and Gina may have solved the case but they missed the chance to go to a party attended by that Swedish guy from True Blood.
  • The characters largely keep to their own stories. But it is fun that Holt is able to connect to the Swedish detectives easier than Jake or Rosa and Terry listens to Charles as he tells him about the beast dormant within him.
  • A night at the library really does seem like the perfect gift to give Amy. Jake really would be lost without the support of his friends.