Tuesday, November 22, 2016

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake Tries to Impress Amy's Father During Thanksgiving in 'Mr. Santiago'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 4.07 "Mr. Santiago"

At Amy's intricately planned Thanksgiving dinner, Jake goes "full Santiago" (binder and all) in order to impress her father, a former cop. With Jake and Amy's focus elsewhere, Charles is left on turkey duty and Holt helps Pimento cope after learning he can no longer work for the NYPD.

Over the years, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has introduced a number of family members for its characters. It has helped inform the backstories for all of them. It's always insightful to know what happened to make these people who they are today. The introduction of parents is a good way to do that. It allows the show to amplify the quirks of the characters while also having a lot of fun pushing things to the extreme. Not a whole lot has been mentioned of Amy's family over the years. She's one of the few characters who really hasn't any kind of definition in that area as well. Is Amy the way that she is because of her family or in spite of her family? "Mr. Santiago" introduces her father, Victor Santiago, played by Jimmy Smits. Much like Andre Braugher, Smits has already played an NYPD detective in a dramatic context. It's nice to see him be funny while still also being a cop. It's a humorous guest turn. Plus, it showcases that all of the Santiagos are just like Amy. They are constantly planning. They need every aspect of their lives to be researched and prepared for. Victor takes things to another level. It gets to the point where Amy calls her father uptight. That sets the bar high in the beginning of the episode but what happens next mostly lives up to those expectations.

It's Jake's first time meeting Amy's father when he shows up for Thanksgiving. Jake and Amy's relationship has been stable for awhile now. They've been together for over a year now but it doesn't always feel like that. It's still unclear what the show actually strives for with Jake and Amy as a couple. Right now, it's just one minor detail of their lives. That's appreciated. Relationships don't have to be the only thing that defines them as characters. They are more than capable of carrying stories without mentioning their relationship at all. And yet, there hasn't been any significant momentum with them as a couple in a long time. Before Jake went into witness protection, they were planning on moving in together. Has that happened? This season has seen them struggle to get back on the same page after spending months apart. But that's basically the only thing that has happened between them as a couple. Jake meeting Amy's father is a huge step though. It shows that they are still very serious about each other. The show is perhaps just a little too casual about the whole thing. It takes this as the next logical thing to do without putting too much pressure on it.

And yet, Jake really does want to impress Victor. It's amazing to watch him put in all of this effort to research the man and try to change his entire personality just to impress him. It's not surprising that it all goes horribly awry for him eventually. But again, it highlights how great of a person Jake can be when he actually puts in the work to know what he's doing. Amy and Jake have always been an interesting comedic pairing because she over-plans while he does things spontaneously and irresponsibly. Jake has shown a lot of growth over the course of the series. But Victor doesn't know that. To him, Jake is still the kind of reckless person he was at the beginning of the show. The kind of guy who doesn't deserve to date his daughter. It's funny watching the two of them battle it out over who has the better binder of information. Jake went "full Santiago" but it's not enough when going up against Victor. But it's also rewarding that the show remembers it's ultimately up to Amy to decide how to feel towards the two of them. Victor can't say Jake isn't good enough for Amy. It's Amy's decision to make.

Of course, all of this becomes a little awkward when the episode tries to fit a criminal investigation into the main story. As a bonding exercise, Jake teams up with Victor to try to solve one of his old cases. It's a bank heist where he was never able to catch the guy. It's apparently a case that has haunted him for years. Jake believes he has solved it without doing any research of how many leads Victor pursued. The case tears them apart because it shows how different both of them are. Victor was trying to make a point by embarrassing Jake while Jake tried to prove that he's a better detective. It's not surprising at all that by solving this crime they mend fences a little bit. It's the easy resolution to make. Things can't be that complicated because the show has two other completely separate storylines it needs to service as well. But it's still nice to see Jake and Amy stable as a couple with Jake not completely blowing it with Victor - though the jury is still out on that one.

Elsewhere, there has been some criticism out there that Holt has become too broad of a character this season. It's not completely shocking. As sitcoms age, they tend to go broader and broader with the things that made the characters funny in the first place. They are constantly finding new ways to outdo themselves. Of course, that means they spend less time on the details that made them normal in the first place. Soon, the eccentricities become the entire character. That's something that may be happening with Holt. Now, it's all about whatever outrageous thing he says. His material is about the weird reactions to any random moment. The opening scene is a simple premise with the detectives trying to figure out who has the best Holt impression. But it's ultimately funny because Holt lets out an amusing, high-pitched squeal after eating a marshmallow. It's the unexpected reaction. Similarly, it's funny when he later breaks a beer bottle alongside Pimento to get a bar to turn on the dog show instead of the football game that's in overtime and when he barks upon returning to Amy's apartment out of joy. These oddities are still a ton of fun. Braugher still makes the most of the material and finds the humor in the outrageousness. The show just may be moving too far away from the straight-laced captain Holt was at the start of the series. Development is good over a series run but the show can't lose sight of who Holt was either.

Boyle may be suffering from becoming too broad of a character as well. He has always been extremely serious whenever it comes to food. But here, he buys a live turkey in order to kill it and serve it for Thanksgiving dinner. He comes out dressed in plastic ready to kill the bird with his ax. It's funny to watch as the squad argues back and forth on whether Boyle should do this. Plus, it's great when the tables are turned and the squad is locked in the bathroom afraid of the bird after it's set free. But it is again about the big and over-the-top absurdity that comes from Boyle needing to be the one to finish all of this. Instead, he gets his back scratched up and a seemingly normal and friendly turkey in the middle of the apartment. It's a hilarious visual. Plus, it's great when the episode ends with the bird likely becoming violent yet again after Boyle runs out of treats for it. It's a silly storyline. But it definitely embraces the broader qualities of the characters. Again, that's not inherently bad. It's still incredibly funny because of the situations and the actors. It could just be problematic in the future if there's not enough focus and attention from the creative team.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Mr. Santiago" was written by Neil Campbell and directed by Alex Reid.
  • Pimento will not be returning to the force. The brass didn't like that he disappeared for months. And now, he's trying to figure out what's next. He doesn't want to be a teacher. Holt suggests becoming a private investigator. That could be fun. Plus, all of this will help explain why Pimento will just be a recurring character who can pop up every once in awhile.
  • Of course, it is pretty funny to watch Holt write Pimento a check and then immediately regret it. What did he think would happen? Pimento has never done the responsible thing in any situation. And yet, it somehow all worked out for him in the end.
  • The daughter of the contractor was behind the bank heist. That was a simple solution that suddenly hits Jake and Victor while talking with Amy on the phone. And yet, it's surprising that they never thought to question her before given she didn't have the same alibi as the rest of her family.
  • Jake has a credit score of 100 which he thinks is perfect not knowing that it's out of 850. Again, none of this is particularly surprising given what we know about Jake. But it is still very funny.
  • It's somewhat shocking that Rosa and Gina are the two against Boyle killing the turkey and serving him up for dinner. It makes for an amusing character pairing that doesn't happen a whole lot. But it's also more of a story about Amy and Boyle trying to control everything about this day.