Tuesday, January 5, 2016

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Charles' Big News is Derailed by the Return of His Ex-Wife in 'Hostage Situation'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 3.11 "Hostage Situation"

Charles and Genevieve want to take their relationship to a new level, but his ex-wife, Eleanor (Kathryn Hahn), steamrolls their plans. Amy asks Terry to write a recommendation letter with disastrous results. Holt and Rosa enlist Gina's help to solve a case.

For three seasons now, Charles has been mentioned his controlling ex-wife, Eleanor. Hearing about her certainly painted a pretty picture. She and Charles got married. And then, they got divorced when Eleanor cheated on him with a hot man named Hercules. Eleanor took so much in the divorce that Charles was forced to stay in a place that she managed and had to pay even more money to her. It's been a terrible situation for him that he's only slowly been able to recover from. His marriage was the happiest he has ever been in a relationship before it turned so bad. Charles has constantly thrown himself into relationships too quickly. He falls in love very easily. And now, he has Genevieve who is his equal in every way imaginable. They are totally committed to each other and constantly gross as well. But it has actually been the best relationship Charles has been in on the show so far. He's ready to take the next step with her. But in trying to do so forces Eleanor to re-enter his life and make her first appearance on the show.

Charles and Genevieve want to have a baby. Even though they've only been dating for a few months, both are committed to starting a family. They are just passing over living together and getting married. Charles just wants a baby who he can parent. It's an experience he really wants. So the episode really doesn't spend a whole lot of time questioning this decision. Jake is concerned to start with but doesn't push too much. He respects his friendship with Charles and this decision that he has made. It's unconventional but that doesn't make it bad. That allows the episode to move on straight to Eleanor entering the picture as the holder of Charles' only viable sperm - considering a tragic accident made him sterile years ago (and which makes for quite the visual when it's seen here).

After years of build up, Kathryn Hahn steps into the role of Eleanor. It's a pretty great casting choice. Hahn is a fantastic actress able to go for the big laughs (like on Parks and Recreation) and find the emotionally honest humanity (like on Transparent). Here, the role is small like must guest parts are considering how strong and wide the ensemble on the show is. But she makes the most of her limited screen time. She fills the role with the type of person to be expected after everything Charles has said about her. Eleanor is a terrible person. She is holding Charles' sperm hostage and wants him to use his badge and gun to get a law suit against her dropped. It's a story that escalates in ridiculousness as its goes along. She hit a man with her car. But it turns out the man is a 90 year old priest who was sitting on a bench when she decided to drive on the sidewalk. That's horrifying. But Eleanor still has this grip on Charles that almost forces him to go through with this plan. He even betrays Jake in order to do it. But at the end of the day, Jake is able to knock some sense into Charles - with the help of a taser.

And yet, that then sets up the final revelation of the episode. As Charles and Genevieve start looking at potential sperm donors, they notice that Jake's father is listed as a possibility. It's something that promptly and rightfully freaks Jake out. He doesn't want his best friend to get more involved with his deadbeat of a father. But it's a prospect that excites Charles. To him, Jake is the coolest person in the world. He wants him to be best friends with his child - not just a cool uncle. If they were to be brothers, that would make it even better. It certainly sets things up to take a weird turn in the future as Jake's dad is poised to return to the show. But it will also need to feature a serious discussion between the two friends regarding their personal feelings on this very sensitive subject. It's complex and equally hilarious which makes for a great final scene. But the show will have to tread very carefully moving forward with this story.

The two subplots of "Hostage Situation" focus on terrible people as well - one purposefully and one simply by accident. Gina and Holt attempt to get a confession out of a punk but he'll only take to Gina. Again, it's amusing to hear about Gina's thoughts on cops given that she works at a police precinct and is actually quite loyal to a number of these people. It's largely a story that focuses on how mean and self-centered she can be. The perp only wanted to talk to her because they went to high school together. It's funny watching Gina do her best to play a cop getting a confession. But that only happens once the perp and Gina are able to bond over how horrible Gina is. A fine resolution to a small sorry. The same is also true of the plot with Amy and Terry. It suggests big things in the future as Amy is accepted as a mentor in a police detective program. It's a scary prospect to her at first. One where she keeps accidentally hurting Terry - which is quite the amusing sight. But it's story largely just setting something up for Amy in the future as she embraces more confidence with her current abilities.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Hostage Situation" was written by Phil Augusta Jackson and directed by Max Winkler.
  • The cold open is quite amusing as Holt gets into a dance battle with a punk on the street and Jake and Charles are unable to record it. Too bad we couldn't get to see more of Holt dancing. The small bit we did see was excellent.
  • Perhaps Jake isn't the best person to be a hostage negotiator. He believes that hostages never get shot as long as long as you keep the person talking and give them the stuff that they want. It's no surprise that Charles' sperm is thrown down the garbage disposal.
  • Another great joke was Jake getting handcuffed to the car. He should have seen it coming too considering that Charles always goes in for the hug instead of just a handshake.
  • Jake seeing Holt dance: "What is happening?"
  • Holt: "Dancing over. Situation diffused."
  • Holt: "There's nothing scarier than the realities of the municipal court system."
  • Charles: "It was the hardest thing I've ever done. And I took three of my grandparents off of life support." Jake: "How are you always in charge of that?"
  • Charles: "My son would be your brother!"