Tuesday, October 18, 2016

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake, Holt and Amy Compete in the Annual Heist in 'Halloween IV'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 4.05 "Halloween IV"

It's Halloween in the Nine-Nine, which can only mean one thing: heist time. This year, the squad members pull out all the stops in their quest to win the new defending title of "Ultimate Detective Slash Genius." Lines are drawn and plans are made, but there can only be one reigning champion.

The Halloween Heist has become an annual tradition for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It's a highly anticipated event at the start of each season. In the beginning, it was a way for Jake to get a win over Holt. In the years since, it has highlighted the comedic absurdity of the cast and this world. The event has become much more ensemble driven which makes it an even more enjoyable puzzle to crack every year. What started as a war between Jake and Holt has now become something that gets the whole precinct engaged. Sure, the audience has become conditioned to watch very carefully knowing that a big twist is about to occur. It's essentially the same structure every year. The main competitors step forward and spend the episode hatching their plots to steal the prize. And then, a big twist happens in the end to show that not everything was as it originally seemed. But with the full precinct becoming involved in the heist, it opened up a bunch of possibilities for the show where literally anyone could be the big winner.

The heist hasn't had a repeat winner yet. Jake, Holt and Amy have all won once. They see this year's heist as the ultimate tie-breaker to determine who really is the "ultimate detective slash genius." Of course, they all make the same mistake as last year. They divide the precinct up into teams. They see Jake, Holt and Amy as the only ones actually competing. So, it seems they didn't learn their lesson from Amy sneaking in for the victory last year. So that makes it pretty clear right away that history is about to repeat itself. The only question was who in the precinct would surprise with a victory. Any answer would have been satisfying and funny. It would be great if Terry won. It would be funny if Gina won. It would be amazing if Charles won. It would be awesome if Rose won. It would be a little too absurd if either Hitchcock or Scully won. But they remain options as well. The potential is there for any spoiler in this heist which really adds to the overall tension of the plot.

Just because "Halloween IV" follows the same structure as the previous heist installments doesn't mean it's lessoned in value though. This concept still works four seasons in because the show uses it to push the boundaries of absurdism. Jake, Holt and Amy take this heist so seriously. It has become a prize they covet. In the beginning, Holt didn't want to put up with this trivial thing. And yet, he's now just as competitive as Jake and Amy. It's almost startling how serious he takes this heist now. It really ups the comedy for the story though. It treats all of these characters as equals. Yes, a heist on Halloween may be silly. But it fits perfectly in line with the tone of this show. It can still exist just as easily as any story about their jobs as New York detectives. Plus, things are more heightened than ever before. Jake, Holt and Amy have all formed their plans to steal the plaque at the center of the precinct. It's so amusing to watch as they all put their plans in motion and have the plaque for a little bit of time. So much planning goes into this event now. It's crazy to watch all of the strategizing but it only continues to add to the appeal of the story. It's great watching Jake be thrown for a loop when he has to partner with Gina instead of Charles. It's equally great watching Rosa work with Amy and not make fun of any of her detailed plans. It's just a great story of interesting and funny character dynamics.

But again, the actual actions are what really drives the story forward. It's fun to watch as Jake gloats about being able to just walk up to the caboodle and take the plaque while Holt and Amy are locked in their respective rooms. It shows that he put more planning into his strategy than simply hiring a man who looks exactly like Charles. All of the stuff with Bill potentially being a male prostitute isn't that great. But it sure is a striking visual. Plus, it doesn't ruin Jake's plan when he needs Gina to help him instead. It's great that he changed all of the locks and Holt and Amy are helpless to just watch Jake steal the plaque. It's even better that Holt wants it so badly he's willing to destroy government property to get it. Of course, Holt was always planning on Jake or Amy stealing the plaque and hiding in somewhere else in the precinct. He brought his dog, Cheddar, along for the sole purpose of navigating through the vents to steal it from Amy and Rosa. He knows his detectives so well that he knows who has the plaque at all times. He's not falling for any tricks from Jake or Amy this year. Plus, it's just great seeing the big event that Amy stages to get the plaque in the first place. Yes, Jake and Holt are able to figure out that she was the one beyond the chaos of pizza deliveries. But it was still an effectively funny scene that used its erratic nature to completely change the game for the rest of the episode.

Of course, it always seemed likely that either Terry or Gina was up to something. They were the ones who operated outside of the normal traditions of the heist. A lot of attention was directed to Terry. He wanted nothing to do with the heist this year. He proclaimed that "heists are dumb" and then got back to work. Jake, Holt and Amy didn't want to risk it and had Hitchcock and Scully follow him around all day. And yet, the possibility was still there that Terry could have done something. Hitchcock and Scully failed with this simple task of watching Terry. He easily could have taken the plaque in order to prove a point that he should never be discounted in situations like this. He has helped with the heist in the past for other people. This could have been the year he emerged victorious. Meanwhile, Gina is taken out of the game after she seemingly knocks her two front teeth out after running away from Holt. That's what ultimately resets everything after Jake had successfully stolen the plaque. It meant he had to improvise for the rest of the game and not fall into any of his competitors' tricks. Gina could have been taken out of the game to ensure the focus would remain on the important characters. And yet, that isn't the case at all. Because the audience doesn't know what she's up to, it makes it so easy for her to come in at the end with a surprise victory by fooling all of the detectives.

The motivation behind Gina's win is pretty funny and arbitrary. She thought it was discriminatory that only detectives could compete in this heist and win the prize of being called the "ultimate detective slash genius." She wanted to prove that any human could win this heist. The episode ending explanations behind how the victor pulled it all off have always been the best parts of these heist episodes. "Halloween IV" is no exception. Gina knew that Jake, Holt and Amy would be too distracted with each other and their plans to take her seriously as a threat. She removed herself from the picture by staging her accident and her need to see the dentist. She manipulated Jake's inability to remember their shared past. He has no recall of Gina loosing her teeth at a party when they were teenagers. They've been friends for a long time but Jake's memory sucks. He questions if he was even at that party in the first place! But it's an even greater reveal that Gina never actually left the precinct. She was there the whole time just blending into the background with the extras dressed in one of Amy's outfits. It was bland and boring. The perfect disguise for her to go unnoticed. The detectives really only care about themselves. They don't see what's happening elsewhere in the precinct. They are close but don't see what's truly happening around them. Gina saw that and used it to her advantage. She knew they would all look at Terry and thus she could lock them in the interrogation room until the time ran out. It showed that she should be taken just as seriously as the rest of the detectives. It was a fun way to end the heist this year while also establishing that it really could be every man for himself next year.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Halloween IV" was written by Phil Augusta Jackson and directed by Claire Scanlon.
  • Seeing the entire precinct under a black light was perhaps the best visual of the entire episode. It served an important purpose in revealing the plaques Jake, Holt and Amy had weren't the real ones. But it was also horrifying to see just how messy Hitchcock and Scully's desks really are.
  • This will probably be the only time Amy and Rosa are actually friends who are so in sync with one another. Rosa decides to just listen to Amy's plan and help her execute it. It opens a new door of friendship that will never be seen again most likely.
  • Holt became crazy competitive this year. At times, it was a little frightening to see how far he'll go. He's upped his threats to his competitions. Plus, he's willing to destroy anything  just in order to win. Because he doesn't, he'll likely get even more obsessed with the heist next year.
  • I only had time to watch "Halloween IV" once. The demands of there being so much TV on right now. But one can probably go back to those earlier scenes and she Gina blending into the background, right?
  • The way Holt pronounced "caboodle" was funny every single time he said it.
  • Holt to Jake and Amy: "I will slit you both open from mouth to anus and wear you as jackets."
  • Jake reacting to Amy: "I just got it out of the vent to rub it in your faces. Name of your sex tape."
  • Jake: "The Oscar for Best Liar goes to you." Terry: "That's not an Oscar category."