Sunday, January 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake and Amy Make a Bet While Chasing Convicts in 'The Fugitive, Pt. 1 & 2'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episodes 4.11 "The Fugitive, Pt. 1" & 4.12 "The Fugitive, Pt. 2"

A mass escape of convicts from a prison van in the streets of Brooklyn sends the entire squad on a manhunt. Jake and Amy place a bet on who can bring in the most escaped convicts - and the loser has to move into the winner's apartment. Then, with only one fugitive still on the loose, Jake enlists a surprising ally.

This has been a really strong season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine so far. It's been on a hot streak ever since the annual Halloween heist episode. Some subplots have been questionable. But overall, this may be one of the best stretch of episodes the show has ever been on. So, it's a little disappointing that FOX is putting the show on hiatus for a little while to program new comedies. It will be back in the spring - though the precise date still hasn't been announced. But more importantly, the show wraps a strong run of episodes with an epic two-parter. Even though these two episodes are connected via story and are airing as an hourlong event, they are two distinct episodes of the show. Both of them have their own unique plot setups. Both of them are funny for distinct reasons as well. They do take on a serious case of escaped convicts. The show has taken a turn to the serious elements of the characters' jobs before. It's more comfortable showing the wacky office hijinks of the precinct. But it's capable of doing actual police work as well as Jake, Holt and Amy hunt down nine criminals.

In fact, the show turns this manhunt into a competition for Jake and Amy. That's a fun way to break up the serious tension and add an element of fun to the proceedings. They are competing to decide whose apartment they should move into as a couple. It's the show finally remembering that the two of them made those plans before Jake had to go into witness protection. That was their big moment of momentum as a couple at the end of last season. The show is just now paying off with it. But that's fine because it leads to a very funny main story. It's not much of a competition over whose apartment is better. There's no reasonable explanation for the two of them to move into Jake's apartment. It's a running joke that it's horrible. He only has one towel. It came with the apartment and never fully dries. Everyone comments on Jake's place being the worst of the two options. So, it's a bit of a stretch that Terry so willingly sides with Jake in this competition. Even Jake points out the hypocrisy. Terry misses his space for his art but fighting for Jake to keep that means advocating for nothing more to change in his relationship - which isn't something anyone really expects. It's all just to make this an even fight with even stakes even though the outcome is pretty clear right away.

And yet, it's just a fun story of Jake and Amy one-upping each other with technology to catch the escaped convicts. It's amusing that Charles sides with Amy but for selfish reasons that relate to Jake. He simply wants Jake to live closer to him which Amy's apartment would provide. Plus, Charles' continued obsession with Amy's ovulation cycle is a weird, gross and unexpectedly funny running bit. Perhaps it's foreshadowing to something in the future. Right now, it just shows how gross and distracting he can be. However, he and Amy are an effective team in the field. So are Jake and Terry. These characters are good at their jobs - even though Jake isn't as scared as he should be when Terry's life is in danger. But this story is building to a big romantic resolution than a rousing capture of all the convicts. That's the focus of this entire plot. Getting the convicts back to jail is important and the job but Jake and Amy did it to win a bet. They tie in the end by getting to the final convict at the same time. It's in that moment where Jake realizes that Amy is a wonderful person. They truly understand each other. This is a relationship that has grown over time. They've changed because of the other. That change has been good too. Jake has started reading Harry Potter while Amy knows Jake will think about the Ninja Turtles when he goes down into the sewer. So, this story became less about the competition and more about the two of them coming to their senses and finally making this step together. As such, it was very rewarding.

Of course, there was a final twist with the actual escaped convict story as well. It wasn't just an accident. It was staged to get one person out. The one murderer orchestrated it and is still at large. The focus of the second episode comes from Jake once again teaming up with Doug Judy, aka The Pontiac Bandit. Craig Robinson's guest spots have become an annual tradition of sorts on the show. He always shows up at the midway point of the season. His episodes are always a ton of fun between of the relationship between Jake and Judy. They have similar personalities but one chose to become a cop and the other chose a life of crime. They work well together. But ultimately, Judy is always destined to slip away even though he wishes Jake all the happiness in the world. It's a formula that has largely been the same for most of his episodes so far. This one changes it up a little bit. This time Judy is actually helping the police catch this murderer because they used to be foster brothers. He hates him because he burned down the family house and stole his prized vinyls. It's a story that works because Jake promises full immunity to Judy for all of his crimes. An action that Holt doesn't agree with but goes along with anyway.

Holt is right to be skeptical of Judy. Every single time he has appeared on the show, he has posed as a friend but ultimately betrays Jake and the other squad members. Holt understands the severity of the situation and doesn't want to be running around fooled by two criminals. Jake doesn't take things as seriously. He's fine just performing a new theme song for the buddy cop story he's now in with Judy. It's a delightful musical moment that covers quite a journey throughout the episode - especially with the talking dog bit. And always, it's nice to see Holt be a bit petty and weird as well. His own love for his car is brought into this story as well. He loves it for the sentimental value but also believes it's worth much more than it is. He's blind to how much of a clunker it is to someone who steals cars for a living. It's absolutely devastating to Holt when his beloved car gets stolen and is later torn apart right in front of him. It's also frustrating for him when he finds the murderer and Judy helps him escape capture. To him, it feels like everything has gone awry because of the decisions that Jake made. Of course, the big surprise is that Judy really is helping the NYPD. There isn't a big twist this time that shows him going against his word. He does what Jake and Holt want him to do in order to get that immunity. He sees it as an opportunity to now change his life. Of course, he probably won't change at all. He'll go back to a life of stealing cars. But the thought of something better is nice too.

Everything is neatly wrapped in the end and then things end on a shocking cliffhanger. It's clear the creative team knew it would be having this hiatus in the middle of the season and wanted to end on a pretty shocking note. It's such a weird and unexpected ending too. Gina is hit by a bus while crossing the street. She's answering a text message from Charles and then it happens. It's the end of a pretty innocent and amusing subplot. Charles found out he wasn't included in a number of text chains amongst the precinct. The squad has a good reason for excluding him. He likes to send dozens of texts that get annoying after just a few seconds. The story that follows is Gina and Amy teaching him how to be a reasonable and respectable texter. It's a simple story that doesn't take up too much screentime. Most of his progress happens offscreen. He proves that he learns something in the end. That was the big resolution. That's honestly what most subplots like this get on this show. It didn't need anything more than that. And then, that ending occurred with Gina. There's no reason to be worried about her dying from that accident. It looked serious but this isn't a show that would just casually kill off one of its characters. So, it should be interesting to see what the show is intending to do with this story. We'll just have to wait until sometime in the spring to find out.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Fugitive, Pt. 1" was written by Carol Kolb and directed by Rebecca Asher.
  • "The Fugitive, Pt. 2" was written by Justin Noble & Jessica Polonsky and directed by Ryan Case.
  • Marshawn Lynch is one of two eyewitness to the crash of the prison van. He also happens to be a hero of Rosa's because he doesn't like to talk to the press. And yet, it's very funny that here he just says every random thought that comes into his head - even though he ultimately didn't see anything important to the case.
  • Jake gets into the manhunt right away not because he's concerned about escaped convicts ruining his city but because it allows him to quote The Fugitive. That moment is made even better by Holt having absolutely no idea what Jake is doing.
  • Terry and Rosa are at least trying to help Jake and Holt catch the final convict in the second episode unlike Amy and Charles. But they too quickly get distracted with their own subplot. Terry's fears of now being an old man are quite amusing. He learns to embrace them in the end even though those glasses are a bit ridiculous.
  • Judy replaces Holt's car for him. It's a gesture to prove he's a good guy but Holt immediately thinks Judy stole the car. But again, it's not that expensive or desirable a car.
  • Terry: "The march towards the closet starts with a single step."
  • Holt: "Look at this map of the world." Rosa: "You just keep one of those on you?" Holt: "Of course, in case I ever need to prove my point in an argument."
  • Charles: "One thing is certain. Charles Boyle is off the chains."