Tuesday, May 2, 2017

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Terry Faces Police Corruption and Struggles in the Aftermath in 'Moo Moo'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 4.16 "Moo Moo"

Terry is stopped by a fellow police officer while off-duty in his own neighborhood. When the incident escalates, Terry wants to file an official complaint against him, but Captain Holt has other ideas. Jake and Amy get a glimpse into the difficulties of parenthood and answer some tough questions when they babysit Terry's kids.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always had one of the best comedic ensembles on all of television. All of the actors have been terrific and funny to watch across all four seasons. This may actually be the strongest and funniest season of the show to date. The ensemble is also one of the most diverse in all of television. It has two Latina women and two black men - one of whom plays a gay man in a loving relationship. That casting has never really been commented on before in the actual story. It's simply a strong representation of what a police precinct in Brooklyn would look like. It was just something to accept as no big deal at the start of the series. But that diversity has new importance in "Moo Moo" where the show uses its platform and voice to comment on a very topical and important subject: police corruption in regards to race. These characters are all police officers who solve various crimes in most episodes. It's a very silly show but it has made the transition to serious stories before - like when hunting a serial killer or going into witness protection. This episode feels different because it's about a crime that happens to one of the characters. The reaction to that is this deeply profound thing that shows that the series put a lot of thought into what it wanted to say.

Terry is this seemingly tough and imposing guy. That comes from his stature and built. He can be really intimidating when he wants to be. And yet, the character is actually this really loving and caring guy. He's sweet and looks out for the other detectives at the precinct. They all appreciate the help that Terry brings to all of their cases. He is an exceptional police officer. He's also a family man who loves his kids and would do anything for them. The series even started with him fearing his safety on the job because he was a father. He's always been a fantastic character to watch. That's what makes it so defeating when another officer tries to arrest him in his own neighborhood. He was simply outside his home looking for the blanket that his daughter needs to sleep. When the other officer arrived, he made a snap judgment. He saw Terry as a scary black man and nothing more. He treated him like a criminal when he was doing absolutely nothing wrong. He was simply being a good dad. He was punished for simply existing in that moment. It didn't have any serious consequences because he was a cop. But it was a profound moment of ugly prejudice as well. Everyone at the precinct sees it as the unacceptable horror that it is. But it's still up to Terry to decide what to do about it.

Terry has worked hard to get to where he is in his life right now. He's very happy but would also like to take on even more responsibilities. He wants to do more to help the community around him. That shows how great of a police officer he is. It's also so loving to watch as the rest of the squad has his back in this endeavor. They are willing to support him no matter what he ultimately decides to do. Rosa is fine with slashing some tires while Jake and Amy are more than willing to watch Cagney and Lacey for a couple of nights. That support means so much. It highlights the good in police work. These people love and support each other. They all have strong moral compasses and are willing to stand up for what they believe in. And yet, corruption still exists. The Nine-Nine has improved but this incident still happened. Terry was still profiled for being a black man. Progress is good but it still hasn't been enough to truly change the world.

The show does such a fascinating job in examining how to deal with this issue. It rightfully brings the focus to Terry and Holt's relationship. They have both been strong leaders of this precinct. They are great friends. And yet, they've had different experiences of the world. Holt became a captain despite all the discrimination and prejudice he faced as a gay black man. He worked his way up the system in order to one day change it. He toiled away for years in the hopes of one day getting his own precinct. He was rewarded for all of that hard work. But now, he's passing the same advice down to Terry. He shouldn't make a big deal about this because it could ultimately hurt his career. It's a surprising moment at first but it carries a significant amount of weight and understanding to it as well. This is the world as Holt has experienced it. He had to do things this way because he had no allies in the force. But things are different for Terry. He has the support of an entire precinct who value his integrity no matter what he does. This issue means a lot to him because it's so personal. He wants to do something to address this corruption now. He wants to make a difference in the world. He wants his daughters to go out as adults and not have to worry about the cops pulling them over. He wants to be a part of the solution no matter what damage it may do to his career. In the moment, it plays as the right thing to do. Holt ultimately gives his support as well realizing he has the power to change things like he wanted to when he was a young officer. It still comes with a price. But Holt and Terry are able to celebrate because they did the right thing in the hopes of making a better future.

This is a very important and moving story to tell. It's also interesting to see how Jake and Amy incorporate into it. They are tasked with babysitting Cagney and Lacey. At first, it seems like a way to give this episode some comedic breathing room from a difficult and complex main story. But instead, it's just as important and poignant. Yes, it gives Boyle several opportunities to be very inappropriate in saying that Jake and Amy should start trying to make a baby. They both push him away every time he talks about it. But Jake and Amy are also tasked with talking Terry's daughters through this difficult time. It's up to them to explain the prejudices of the world. It's a subject that both want to avoid for as long as possible. They succeed at first by distracting them with cake and movies. But that gets old quickly and the questions still persist. They can't avoid the conversation. What they say is messy, complicated and awkward but also feels human too. How do people talk to young children about the harsh realities of the world? Jake and Amy barely know what to do with children. But now, they find themselves in this moment. They are strong and reassuring while not completely sugarcoating the issue either. It wasn't easy but it was rewarding for them to do this. It shows that they have Terry's back. It's not just words. It is actually actions. And that is very rewarding in the end.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Moo Moo" was written by Phil Augusta Jackson and directed by Maggie Carey.
  • The importance of this episode being written by a black man is also strong. Series creators Mike Schur and Dan Good have crafted a strong series. But they also correctly recognized that the more personal this episode was the better it would be. 
  • The cold open is very Terry-centric as well. He and Boyle show up wearing the exact same outfit. Boyle immediately demands and then loses a "who wore it best" contest. He is simply no Terry no matter how hard he tries.
  • At times, it does feel like this episode is building to a big reveal with Amy being pregnant. That's not the case though. Boyle's frequent inappropriate mentions of it were simply showing how invested he is in them as a couple. 
  • It's fun that Scully is the one who has all the good ideas this week. Yes, he doesn't really understand what happened to Terry. But he gives Jake a couple of good ideas while babysitting the kids. 
  • The seriousness of Terry and Holt's conversation about police corruption is broken up nicely with the funny awfulness of Margo. Holt simply has no patience for her and her excitement from her recent trip to Scarsdale. Plus, Terry can't storm out because of her. That's very amusing.
  • The end reveal of Gina and Rosa babysitting the kids is hilarious. And yet, why doesn't Terry get Jake and Amy to do it again? They proved how reliable they could be. They didn't say they'd never do it again. So, it instead plays as a simple joke that can't withstand too much scrutiny.