October 7, 2016

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: "Coral Palms, Part 3"

Since the beginning, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been a solid comedy. Last season, the show had a lot of work to do to keep its central will-they-or-won't-they couple Jake and Amy interesting after they, well, did. All while maintaining the show's slapstick wit and giving the rest of the ensemble cast enough to do.

Terry, Rosa, Boyle, Scully and Hitchcock join Jake and Holt in Coral Palms.
The gang is back together!
Source: imdb.com
Throughout Season 3, creative obstacles were devised to sidetrack Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy's (Melissa Fumero) budding romance, but none so extreme as the finale - which landed both Jake and Andre Braugher's Captain Holt in witness protection in Florida. This is where Season 4 picked up, with a three-part episode titled "Coral Palms." Part 3 aired this week, and it was a doozy.

A clever cold open spoofed a local news report (the sort of classic Michael Schur touch Parks and Rec fans will spot.) The ensemble shines brightest when on a mission, and by Part 3, the squad was together again at last, and they were more than ready to take down the head of a crime syndicate. Jim O'Heir's guest appearance as a local sheriff was a welcome surprise in Part 2, and I was glad to see him again. Against the backdrop of an Arcade/Go-Kart Course, the members of the precinct successfully battle the bad guys, even if both Holt and Jake are rather seriously injured in the process.

Clever writing is another of the show's strengths. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is seldom blatantly political. (It wouldn't want to alienate its audience in an election year.) But it does wink (or at least blink while staring blankly) at political issues. In "Coral Palms," nods to the ubiquity of guns, like Gina's line about where she got hers - "Vending machine at a rest stop" - are either subtle critiques of gun laws, or at least easy punchlines about Florida. Then there was Jake's great one-liner: "Something about lead being in the air and water and ground." Acerbically timely, no?

Jake and Amy's awkward reunion kiss is interrupted by Boyle.
Not exactly love at first reunion.
Source: imdb.com
Part 3 also saw Jake and Amy struggling to get back into the swing of being together, and by the end of the episode, they claimed to be in sync again. Still, I can't help feeling that this episode would have worked better as a set up to a break up. Jake and Amy just aren't working. Lately, when Boyle interrupts them, it doesn't seem like he's interrupting anything at all. I can't pinpoint if it's the fault of the writing, the acting, or the directing, but I don't buy that the two of them are in love. The cliche of breaking them up to renew the romantic tension might be the show's best bet. This strategy seems to be working for New Girl's Nick and Jess, another couple who didn't shine as brightly together as they do when you so desperately want them to be together. Alternatively, the writers could give Jake and Amy a realistic couple problem (other than a lumpy mattress or six months in witness protection.) That worked for Jim and Pam, who were great when they were doing well, but even more heartwarming when they overcame authentic relationship adversity. When Jake and Amy were pining for one another, the tension led to some of the show's greatest moments of sincerity.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs that sincerity to sustain the workaday episodes of this workplace comedy. If not with Jake and Amy, perhaps another office romance? Speaking of which, whatever happened to the unrequited love Charles had for Rosa? That thread was still strong at the end of Season 2, when Charles designed a perfect birthday dinner for Rosa's then-boyfriend to present to her. If that's not selfless love, I don't know what is. But somewhere in Season 3, Charles went from being a bumbling buffoon with a heart of gold to being a bumbling buffoon utterly clueless to the ways of the heart. I'd like the old Charles back, especially if that meant Rosa would get him back, too. All in all, "Coral Palms" was good, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine can do better.

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