Tuesday, December 13, 2016

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Boyle Tries to Give His Son the Perfect Christmas in 'Captain Latvia'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 4.10 "Captain Latvia"

Charles enlists Jake's help in tracking down his son's favorite toy for Christmas, and the two find themselves accidentally facing off against a Latvian criminal ring as a result. Back at the precinct, the team gears up for their annual Christmas carol competition against their sworn enemy: the MTA.

"Captain Latvia" is a fascinating story of the squad doing whatever it takes to win. The show has always been great when it's focused on the wacky hijinks and oddities of this world. It is capable of being serious and having the characters solve murders and catch serial killers. Those moments show how mature and capable these people are. But it's also just as satisfying and funnier to watch them in some outrageous story. The two stories of this episode are a ton of fun. But more surprisingly, Jake comes across as the most mature person at the precinct. That's a position he is rarely in. The show's basic structure is him being immature on the job and how that clashes with Holt and the other characters who take the job more seriously. But here, everyone seems to be morally flexible with the job. When it comes to Holt's story, it's just a simple caroling competition. He bends the rules and that's surprising. But it's played as a light and silly thing that won't hurt anyone. But with Boyle's story, he's actually being reckless on the job and Jake has to reel him in. That's an interesting and different story about their friendship that is quite funny to watch here.

Fatherhood has changed Boyle this season. It has been a significant new part of his character. He found happiness with Genevieve. And now, they've adopted Nikolaj. It's a family unit that was put together quickly. And yet, Boyle has never been happier. Of course, it's given him a new perspective this season as well. This episode highlights that because he wants to give Nikolaj the best Christmas ever. He's promised that. Boyle loves making extravagant promises. He sees the world at its best. He wants to picture the perfect sentiment. He wants to give Nikolaj the perfect present so he can be seen as a great father. Of course, Boyle is already a great father because he has given Nikolaj a loving home. He has been there for his son when it's truly counted. And yet, he still promptly freaks out during this episode. He promised Nikolaj a special toy and doesn't want to disappoint him on Christmas. He loves raising expectations and then being able to come through in the end. Here, he really struggles to do so because he's so fixated on this toy. It leads to a very active story for Boyle. But it's also one that highlights how having a family is now affecting his police work.

So, the Latvian mob has stolen the box containing Nikolaj's present. They were smuggling in guns and the box got caught up in it all. All it takes is a couple inspiring words from Jake for Boyle to find the strength to track down this Captain Latvia action figure. It's pretty funny watching Boyle be so confident in the world of the Latvian mob. He knows how to joke his way into a club and seduce a woman who doesn't speak English. It's also just great when he keeps smashing cups in his hand and when he takes down a security guard who catches him and Jake. Boyle is quite the badass in those moments. It shows that he is just as capable and clever a detective as Jake is. He has the proper motivation now because of his son. And yet, Boyle refuses to let anything stand in his way of delivering the perfect Christmas. He needs to get Captain Latvia as soon as possible. He's willing to jeopardize his own safety in order to do so. It's in those moments where Jake is the responsible one. He knows they can't just storm a warehouse without knowing what's inside just by themselves. Boyle is willing to go in there without any pants on. He needs to be knocked out in order to be stopped. It's great that Boyle has a friend like Jake to do that for him. Jake tells Boyle how foolish he is being. It's an amusing moment filled with so much heart because Jake reminds Boyle that the greatest gift he can give Nikolaj is being a father. The answer has been inside him all along. That's a message Boyle gets after awhile and it's so nice to see Nikolaj happy even without the Captain Latvia action figure.

The subplot with the rest of the precinct is very interesting as well. It too has a surprising voice of reason. But it's largely an excuse to have this ensemble of great comedic actors bounce off of each other without worrying about the morality of their actions. Again, it would be unheard of for the Captain Holt of earlier seasons to allow a criminal to join the squad for the caroling competition. Similarly, it's odd that Amy is the one who gets the man drunk just so he can sing in front of a crowd. It shows that those two are now more willing to throw the rulebook out the window when the situation calls for it. They want to win more than anything else and won't let anything stand in their way. It's allowed them to be a bit more fun and reckless. Amy believes she needs to do this because she's not a good singer at all. Meanwhile, Holt is motivated by the need to beat the MTA in this competition. Of course, it's not surprising at all that everything doesn't work out for the precinct. They blindly put their trust in a man arrested for public intoxication and peeing on a man. That was never going to end well. It ends with the man making a fool of himself on stage and then falling off of it. It's the kind of embarrassment they needed in this moment.

But again, this story is building to a sentimental ending where the squad realizes that the need to win is not what the Christmas season is about. Scully is the one who reminds them of that. That's a surprising move. Scully isn't often the voice of reason. He and Hitchcock are usually good for a couple of laughs in each episode about how gross they are. And yet, it's wise that Scully is the one to speak up because he has an established history with singing. The squad knows that as well. So why doesn't anyone think to have him as the soloist and leave the drunk alone? That's likely because it doesn't immediately create an interesting or funny story. Plus, Scully's singing is still a vital part of the ultimate performance. But it's much more important when Scully makes his big speech and the squad then joins him in singing Christmas songs through the streets. They are not good at all. But it's ultimately about being together and celebrating each other than it is about being great singers or winning a silly competition. Plus, it means the squad gets to spend the final minutes of the episode all together even though Jake and Charles have had nothing to do with the rest of the characters.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Captain Latvia" was written by Matt Lawton and directed by Jaffar Mahmood.
  • Even though they now have Nikolaj, that really hasn't changed Boyle and Genevieve's relationship at all. They are still incredibly sexual and graphic with one another. They say things that just gross Jake out. But it's still great that they have each other.
  • The running joke about Jake asking people if his undercover shirt is offensive wasn't that great. It was largely just a way for him to have some comedic antics as well even though most of the episode is about him being the responsible and smart police detective.
  • At one point, Jake and Boyle get into a fight and Boyle mentions that Jake will never be a father. It's a harsh statement to make that Boyle takes back later on. But it definitely starts something that could become an important plot point later on this season. Does Jake want to be a father? If so, would he be a good one?
  • Though it is amusing that Gina thinks she's the one who has discovered Hamilton. She bailed on the caroling competition because she had tickets. She had them not knowing anything about the cultural impact of the musical. That just shows how self-involved she is.
  • Once again, that cold open is fantastic. Of course, Jake would foolishly buy the inflatable Christmas tree that is too big for the briefing room. But it's really great once Terry is trapped inside and has to jump through a window in order to escape. That's just a wonderful visual.
  • Boyle: "Well, danger is my maiden name."
  • Boyle: "5683. Fifth most common pass code this year. It spells love."
  • Hitchcock: "My rapping is still on the table." Holt: "It's not even in the dining room."