Tuesday, October 11, 2016

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake Struggles to Readjust to Life at the Precinct in 'The Night Shift'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 4.04 "The Night Shift"

As Jake struggles with his first case back at the precinct, he encounters Jess Day, who is visiting New York, and enlists her to help him find his suspect. Holt researches ways to increase office morale. Amy tries to figure out why Rosa keeps taking such long breaks.

Crossovers have become increasingly rare over the years. It used to be a reliable stunt for shows back in the day. It's an effective way to boost ratings. It's a way to connect two shows together in a completely unexpected way. Now, the medium is full of shared cinematic universes. Series that have been spun off from one another and have always had crossover potential. It's a big deal when NBC promotes an epic four part crossover event between the three Chicago shows and Law & Order: SVU. But it's just as common that a character from one show will pop up on another on a weekly basis. This is something that is planned from the creation of the shows. The Marvel series on Netflix are all their own distinct things. And yet, it's still played as a big or important moment whenever characters from one show up on another. It's an unexpected delight that adds value to the overall franchise. But again, it's something that was written into the foundation of the shows.

A crossover between Brooklyn Nine-Nine and New Girl isn't something that was inherently expected. Before "The Night Shift," there was no indication that they existed in the same universe. Jake Peralta and company live in New York City while Jess Day and her gang in the loft reside in Los Angeles. They are two different shows that are paired together on Tuesday nights. And now, FOX is making a point to host crossovers between two shows in October. This event isn't as random as last year's Sleepy Hollow-Bones crossover was. But it's still pretty odd. This isn't one big event where the ensembles of both shows come together for a story that starts on Brooklyn Nine-Nine and concludes on New Girl. Instead, both episodes largely just use the characters from the other show for cameo appearances. The joke is that it's this character from the other show in this particular scene. The big moment with Jess here isn't that surprising or out of tone for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It's a more significant and heightened scene because Jake is in a car with Jess from New Girl. But that could have been a situation with nearly anyone and the outcome and humor would have been the same. The specificity is missing. So this feels less like a big and important crossover and more like a marketing plot to manipulate the audience into watching live.

"The Night Shift" is much more concerned about getting back to the status quo than trying to incorporate the characters from New Girl into the story. It's just one random scene that Jess is in. It's special that Jake gets into her car and totals it while in pursuit of a dangerous criminal. But that's it. The New Girl episode may provide more context with this exchange. Why is Jess in New York? Why did Jess have soup? What will happen to Schmidt's mom's car? Those aren't big concerns for Brooklyn Nine-Nine though. It's just this one amusing moment but it doesn't distract from the episodic plot that it's in the middle of telling. The show gets back to its three story structure in this episode. The start of the season mixed things up a little bit with the extended arc of Jake and Holt in witness protection in Florida hiding from Figgis. And now, that story has been concluded. It was this big and intense thing that had a satisfying resolution. But now, it's just important to have a smooth transition back to the regular and simple life in New York. It's a mode the show is more than capable of being in. It's just not the most exciting thing to do - especially in an episode that has been promoted as a special crossover with New Girl.

Jess doesn't even help Jake at all with his case. She doesn't provide him with the emotional realization he needs to hear right now. He's trying to prove that working the night shift doesn't have to be as bad or boring as it sounds. He's determined to solve a case during his first shift back. His energy is still pumping after taking down Figgis. He wants to get back to normal. Of course, things did change for the precinct. The move to the night shift is the most alienating and disorienting. Things can't happen as efficiently as they do during the day. But it's even more significant that Boyle now has a child. It's a miracle that he's really happy about. He has gotten adjusted to this new life. Jake has not. He still thinks things can go back to the way they were before. That's impossible to do. It's Detective Lohank who gets him to come to that realization. Lohank has popped up a couple of times before to show how horrible the night shift can really be. Now, it's amusing that he is bright and shiny after being transferred to the day shift. It shows how depressing working at night can be. But again, it's so odd that he gets so much importance for the big climatic moment of Jake's plot. After his talk with Lohank, Jake returns to Boyle content with not catching the bad guy and instead choosing to play with Nikolaj. That's progress but it does feel really forced.

Plus, it just seems highly unlikely that the squad will stay assigned to the night shift for very long. Holt is back as captain but CJ's executive decision is still in effect. There is nothing Holt can do except try to find a fun way to lighten everyone's spirits. The night shift has interesting effects on the squad. Gina uses it as a way to reach out to a new group of people on social media. She picks up an Australian accent which is a pretty amusing detail. Meanwhile, Terry just gets sassy because of his lack of sleep. It makes him really snarky which just adds to the delight of his interactions with Holt. But ultimately, this story is about Holt being just as miserable as the rest of the squad is. That's a depressing end to a story. It's a plot that embraces it's miserableness. Everyone worked so hard to get Jake and Holt back at the precinct. And this is the reward. Everything has changed. It's different and not in a good way. It's punishment for the squad going down to Florida. But honestly, it just feels like an amusing concept the show thought it could try out for an episode before finding an easy solution to reset things back to the way they were next week.

And finally, Rosa is stuck waiting around for Pimento to return following Figgis' arrest. It was certainly an open question at the end of the Florida arc last week. The whole Figgis story started when Pimento joined the precinct. He brought this threat to Jake and Holt. He was forced into hiding as well. His just wasn't in any kind of official capacity. He ran and promised Rosa that he would return should Figgis ever be captured. And now, Figgis has been arrested and Pimento is nowhere to be seen. It wouldn't be surprising if the show decided not to bring him back. He was pretty much a hit or miss character. His extreme impulses and outbursts could be really annoying if not calibrated to the right level. His relationship with Rosa was very sudden as well. It was funny because of how graphic and nasty they were. That's still a defining part of this story. It's just hard to tell how the show wants us to feel about Rosa waiting around for Pimento to return. All the comfort Amy can provide is saying there are many reasons why he hasn't come back. Of course, one of those is death. It's a grim moment highlighted by the fact that they are working the night shift. But that's really all this story wants to do. It wants the audience to remember this connection and be curious about it. But not a whole lot of progress is actually made. Amy just decides to be an even better friend to Rosa because she's going though a bit of a hard time without Pimento. That's a situation Amy can clearly relate to.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Night Shift" was written by Matt Murray and directed by Tristram Shapeero.
  • The running joke that Jake doesn't know how to pronounce "Nikolaj" correctly is pretty amusing. It mostly just highlights how Jake still isn't fully connecting to how things have changed in this familiar world.
  • It's great that the show just doesn't forget that Jake was shot last week in the big confrontation with Figgis. He's walking around with a limp and a cane. He should be resting for another week but he just wants to get back to the action on the force. Meanwhile, Holt's injury is completely forgotten about.
  • Holt forcing everyone in the precinct to smile and laugh is a very humorous moment. So is his attempt to get everyone to have a good time at an afterwork party in the briefing room. None of these efforts to boost morale are very effective though, unsurprisingly.
  • Amy not knowing how to react once Rosa starts crying is pretty fantastic. No one is used to seeing Rosa that emotional. Sure, Amy patting Rosa on the head is pretty weird. But how else would anyone react to such a strange and uncharacteristic sight?
  • I've seen the New Girl episode of the crossover as well. It incorporates more of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine characters into its story. But again, they are largely relegated to cameo appearances that ultimately don't add a whole lot to the actual story. And yet, there are some pretty funny moments too.