Tuesday, May 23, 2017

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake and Rosa Are Put on Trial in 'The Bank Job' and 'Crime & Punishment'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episodes 4.21 "The Bank Job" and 4.22 "Crime & Punishment" 

As Jake and Rosa continue their search for a bank-robbing operation with Lt. Hawkins, they realize there's more to her team than meets the eye. After discovering a dangerous secret, they call for back-up from Holt and Pimento. Boyle objects to Gina's new boyfriend. Then, Jake and Rosa are framed for a crime they didn't commit, it's up to the Nine-Nine to find a way to bust them out.

Every season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine so far has ended on an ominous note that leaves the future of the precinct in question. It started simply enough with Jake first getting an undercover mission in the mob and Holt bring transferred out as captain. Then, things started to get more intense and uncertain. Last year Jake and Holt had to enter the witness protection program. And now, Jake and Rosa have been found guilty of robbing a bank. It's a tense way to close things out for the season. And yet, it's become a pattern as well. The audience has grown to expect some cliffhanger to happen at the end of each season. It will then be fixed with everything returning to normal early on in the next one. It's something the show has done every year. And thus, it is starting to lose its power because it's expected. What does a finale of Brooklyn Nine-Nine look like without a cliffhanger ending? I'm sure we'll find out eventually when the show one day ends. But will a series finale be the only one that closes with that kind of resolution? It's uncertain. It's a question for the future. Right now, all that can be done is analyzing this finale and how the twist compares to what's been done in the past. 

It's been said a lot in the reviews this year but this season of the show was really strong. Yes, some episodes didn't quite work. But the overall year was consistently great compared to the other three seasons. Early on, there were concerns that the characters were starting to get too broad. That was especially true with Holt as it seemed every week was just trying to get him to say the craziest thing possible. But those criticisms went away as the season went along. It was no broader this year than it has been in the past. The strength of the episodes themselves helped the show from falling into a slump. They were just so good even though the problems that have always plagued the show still plagued it this year. The last few weeks have focused on the differences between the two episodes that aired together as well. It was a quirk of FOX's schedule. Plus, the differences weren't all that stark either. This show knows how to tell stories in a way that can be funny even when the material is serious. These final two episodes of the season compliment each other though because it is once again ending on a serialized note.

The efforts to do serialized stories on Brooklyn Nine-Nine haven't always worked out. The most ambitious of which was last year's sting with the mob that included Adrian Pimento. It was a perfectly fine story that probably took too much time. Plus, Pimento can be an extremely funny character but he can be very annoying as well. The balance has to be just right with him in order for it to work. This year, the final serialized story only covers three episodes. It started in last week's second episode when Jake and Rosa joined an elite task force headed by their idol on the force, Lt. Hawkins. And now, she has been revealed to be a dirty cop. All efforts to take her down are compromised as well because she really is a skilled and respected member of the force. So, she's a very capable enemy for Jake and Rosa to face in these episodes. Both of them follow a similar pattern of Jake and Rosa thinking they finally got one over on her only for her to prove them wrong. It was a pattern that did get tiring after awhile as it built to that formulaic conclusion of Jake and Rosa being found guilty of the crime that Hawkins and her crew are actually responsible for. 

"The Bank Job" centers around Jake and Rosa's efforts to take down these corrupt officers while "Crime & Punishment" sees them on trial for these crimes. In the beginning, Jake and Rosa think they are being covert. They wanted to be a part of this task force. But now, that means having to prove that they don't play by the rules sometimes. It's amusing because it leads to the return of Pimento. He hasn't been seen since the Thanksgiving episode where Holt encouraged him to become a private investigator. It's not surprising that that job isn't going so well for him. Even Holt knows what the problems are immediately. But Pimento is still engaged to Rosa and wants to help with this investigation. That leads to Jake and Rosa beating him up and him enjoying it. Later on, he also tries teaching Jake and Rosa how to snort cocaine without actually doing it and failing miserably. He spends the rest of the episode even more crazy and paranoid than usual. It's perhaps a little too much - especially when he shows up outside the bank in the end. That just seemed to be taking a solid joke too far with diminishing returns.

Plus, it's meaningful that Jake and Rosa were essentially being played the entire time. They stumbled onto this crew and Hawkins used them as scapegoats to get away with these crimes. It was a risk to bring them on. But she has very carefully handled the situation. She knows that Jake and Rosa's loyalties are to the Nine-Nine. But she's confident that no one there will be able to help them out of this mess. Jake and Rosa find themselves in pretty deep too. Despite having alibis for the first two robberies and no money in their accounts, Hawkins still has everything figured out. The other members of the busted crew are testifying against them. Fake accounts with all the stolen money are discovered. Even a surprise, special witness turns out to be working for Hawkins. Jake and Rosa's confidence diminishes throughout the finale. Both are tempted to flee the country with their loved ones just to avoid punishment. And yet, they chose to stay out of loyalty and trust to their family at the Nine-Nine. Holt, Amy, Boyle, Terry and Gina will probably get them out of this mess eventually. But Jake and Rosa are still convicted of the crime and will spend the hiatus in jail. That's something that Jake isn't well-equipped to handle at all and it shows immediately. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Bank Job" was written by Carol Kolb and directed by Matthew Nodella.
  • "Crime & Punishment" was written by Justin Noble & Jessica Polonsky and directed by Dan Goor.
  • It's revealed that Gina is pregnant. It's an odd reveal. It's likely because Chelsea Peretti is pregnant in real life. And yet, the show was doing a fine job hiding her bump. So, this reveal didn't seem necessary or all that important in the larger scope of the finale.
  • Of course, the reveal of Gina's baby daddy is fantastic. The black sheep of the Boyle family turns out to be a really attractive guy who Gina actually likes. Charles hates him but Milton seems sweet and pairs well with Gina. He's played by Ryan Phillippe and I don't know how frequently he'll appear on the show - hopefully as much as Merrin Dungey, Marc Evan Jackson and Mary Lynn Rajskub do. 
  • The joke of Charles' hair all turning white out of fear of Jake going to jail didn't work at all. It was so obviously a wig and a distractingly bad one too. It just felt like a lame way to bring humor to the story. Plus, too much of it was about Jake when Charles has a strong dynamic with Rosa too.
  • Rosa having to give an alibi would seem like the worst possible thing for her to do because she hates sharing personal details to anyone. And yet, she has to reveal that she was at a La La Land singalong during one of the bank robberies.
  • This week in cold opens: Jake, Holt and Rosa go jazzercising which immediately wears Jake out and later pizza rat dies. The first is very effective because it's the main characters in an unexpected environment. The second is just so delightfully random and weird. Plus, not even the local news can find a lot of information about Rosa.
  • And that's it for this season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Again, it was a terrific fourth season. Plus, the show will return in the fall with new episodes - though will be facing off with another Mike Schur show. But I can't wait to see more absurd hijinks from these characters.