Tuesday, May 16, 2017

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake Meets Holt's Mom and His Idol on the Force in 'Your Honor' & 'The Slaughterhouse'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episodes 4.19 "Your Honor" and 4.20 "The Slaughterhouse"

Captain Holt's mom seeks support from the precinct after her house is robbed. Terry, Rosa and Boyle remodel the break room. Amy teaches Gina how to change her own car tire. Jake and Rosa try to earn the respect of their idol, Lieutenant Melanie Hawkins. Charles, Terry and Gina test different parenting methods to resolve a conflict between Scully and Hitchcock.

Both "Your Honor" and "The Slaughterhouse" are very effective and funny episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And yet, they are very different as well. Yes, they are both three story episodes where the main plot outshines the two subplots. However, "Your Honor" focuses on a fun case-of-the-week adventure that brings in a strong guest star while "The Slaughterhouse" sets up a new ongoing story that features a strong guest star as well. Guest stars don't always stand out on this show because of the limited amount of screen time they get. In three story episodes, the ensemble is already stretched to its limits. So, throwing a guest star into only one of those story can often feel like the show not giving that actor enough to do. And yes, that element is still apparent here. But both L. Scott Caldwell and Gina Gershon are a ton of fun. Holt's mom is funny while being distinctive as a human being while Lieutenant Hawkins is the perfect summation of everything Jake and Rosa want in a boss. Both are fun concepts that make for amusing episodes. They present interesting complications for the main character dynamics as well. Jake pairs well with both Holt and Rosa. So, these episodes were actually great to watch together despite their differences.

In "Your Honor," family issues are fully on display. It's familiar storytelling territory for the show. It has introduced plenty of family members and relationships for these characters over the years. Even though Holt is a very private person, the show has already introduced his husband and sister. And now, his mother shows up for the main story of the episode. It's a fun story too. The Jake-Holt dynamic is just so strong. It has evolved so much over the course of the series. Sometimes Holt can entertain and support Jake's wildest impulses. Other times though, he simply has no time for them. He gives this case to Jake largely because Amy makes a mistake right away due to the pressure of meeting Laverne. As a character, Laverne is very similar to Holt. But she's very different as well because she bonds with Jake immediately. It's still largely a professional friendship. But she shares with him that she has been seeing a man for two years. That forces the Holt family to actually sit down and talk. Jake's advice is actually the right thing to do. He's the one mending families when his is still so traumatic for him. That's very nice to see. Plus, Jake doesn't get in the way of this big moment of talking either. He's trapped in the interrogation room with them but is able to stay quiet for the duration of their conversation. That's unexpected but shows a little more maturity from Jake as well. The case itself isn't all that special. It's most irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. But this story still works amazingly well.

And of course, the two subplots suffer because not enough time is spent on them and the stories don't go that deep. The break room redesign is the more effective one because it incorporates more of the characters. It's fun seeing Terry, Rosa and Boyle think they've absolutely nailed it when it's actually not functional at all. It's up to Hitchcock and Scully to set them straight. That's always an amusing moment when those two happen to be right in the conversation. That's been happening a lot in the back half of this season. It still works though to great effect. Meanwhile, the Amy-Gina story about learning how to change a tire just felt too predictable. It's a story that has happened on other sitcoms in similar ways. Of course, the true surprise comes when Amy slashes someone else's tire and then immediately regrets it and freaks out. The visual is strong - as well as seeing Amy's vehicle without its tires on. But overall it was just a little too lackluster to be all that effective. It's still building to that inevitable moment of Gina changing the tire by herself. Of course, she looked it up online instead of remembering anything that Amy taught her earlier in the day though.

Meanwhile in "The Slaughterhouse," it's fun to see Jake and Rosa get competitive with each other. That dynamic is so strong because it comes out of professional respect for each other. They are both capable of being badasses at this job. They admire that about each other. But they also have some embarrassing personal details as well. Rosa is closed off as an individual. Her life outside of work is still largely a mystery. But Jake knows enough about her to sabotage her in this case. They both want to impress their idol on the force in order to win a spot on her elite task force. It's a job both of them want because it would include tackling the biggest crimes in the city. Of course, both of them have been at the center of some pretty big cases in the past. They've stopped a lot of crime in New York City. That's why Lt. Hawkins is impressed even when they mess up the undercover operation she's been working on for months. She is able to utilize their skills to catch the drug dealer in the hopes that he'll lead them to a gang of robbers. Jake and Rosa spend all their time fighting with each other for the spot. But they are incredibly loyal and respectful of each other as well. That's what makes it a victory when they both join the task force. And yet, it's also what makes it so crushing in the end when Jake learns that Lt. Hawkins is actually a corrupt cop who is in on all of this.

One of the subplots in this episode has a strong Hitchcock and Scully story as well. It really is becoming a trend. It's actually hilarious to watch as they go from being friends to enemies. They are almost always paired together on this show. They simply go together because they are both so disgusting. But here, they use that against each other. It's all because Scully has a new girlfriend. It's great that the show is continuing that simple love he found in "Cop Con." He could be really happy but it's getting in the way of spending time with his best friend. The resolution is pretty funny as well. Both Terry and Boyle want to prove how great they are as fathers who can deal with unruly children. That's how they see this fight. And yet, they fail and Gina succeeds. She does it by treating them as animals who need to be rewarded with food. It's not a surprising resolution but it is pretty funny in the moment. Elsewhere, the other subplot involves Amy needing to tell off her commanding officer. It's amusing to watch as Holt has to bait her into getting angry at him. She doesn't want to displease or get upset with him. But when all of her anger inevitably comes out, she can barely control it. She isn't just mad about the pen. She's upset about his loud classical music as well. This could be a huge moment of growth for this relationship. And yet, it seems likely that she'll go back to needing his approval at all times by the next episode.

"Your Honor": B+
"The Slaughterhouse": B

Some more thoughts:
  • "Your Honor" was written by David Phillips & Carly Hallam Tosh and directed by Michael McDonald.
  • "The Slaughterhouse" was written by Neil Campbell and directed by Victor Nelli, Jr.
  • Terry, Rosa and Boyle all wanting to be on an HGTV show now sounds fantastic. The poster that they described is funny while also being a biting commentary on how network promotion only sees the broad elements of a given series. 
  • Can't a break room be functional without it being disgusting? That montage of Hitchcock and Scully destroying the couch is funny. But it's very disgusting and gross as well. They seem to be ruining a perfectly fine couch. 
  • How could Gina have practiced changing a tire four times and got it right on the fifth try in the time it took Amy to find the owner of the vehicle? Gina must have been working fast. Something she can do with the proper motivation. 
  • It's rare that the joke from the cold open becomes important later on in the main story - when the cold open isn't inherently connected to it. But it's fantastic to see Jake freak out in the interrogation room after getting locked inside by a broken handle. And then, it comes back when he's there with Holt and Laverne.
  • The running joke about Jake being forced to drink eight glasses of water a day by Amy is amusing as well. It doesn't have as much depth as some of the other recurring bits over the years. But him being disgusted by water and wanting to drink anything else is a very fitting reaction from him.
  • Plus, Rosa is able to sabotage the water in order to stop Jake from finding the criminal before she does. She is able to add caffeine to anything which leads to Jake becoming incredibly wired throughout this hunt. And yet, that doesn't stop him in the end.
  • It's fascinating to see Gina just go from story to story in "The Slaughterhouse." She plays a part in all of them. Usually, each week limits the characters to their particular story for the episode - outside of the cold open. But here, Gina is able to interact and help everyone in her own unique way.