Welcome back to my weekly review and recap of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” To catch up on previous coverage, click here.
At the end of season three we were left with yet another cliff-hanger as Jake and Captain Holt were shipped down to Florida, placed under witness protection once they learned that Jimmy “The Butcher” Figgis was coming after them. Obviously we know that they can’t be living under the guises of Greg and Larry for too long, considering the nature of the show, but fans will be pleased to learn that it at least isn’t a one and done storyline as the end of the premier reveals. We’ll at least be spending two episodes in the sun bleached and dried out town of Coral Palms, where both Holt and Jake are slowing growing stir crazy.
We’re instantly thrown into their new world with new identities as they’ve fully immersed themselves in their Greg and Larry personas-well, or at least Holt has. Jake has spent many of their months there moping about being so far away from his job, his city and Amy. Holt on the other hand has a job (hilariously) at the Fun Zone, an arcade and water park, and has joined a morning walking group, adopting the image of a womanizer. He’s about ready for a promotion just as Jake finally enters civilization with a job selling ATV’s (and sporting some blonde tips). Of course it doesn’t take long for Holt to realize something is off with Jake and after they’re told by their handler (a scene stealing Maya Rudolph) that they’ll be in Florida indefinitely, he finds Jake at an abandoned warehouse trying to find the location of Figgis, possibly putting their lives in jeopardy. After Jake retaliates after Holt steals his files by taking the assistant manager position at the Fun Zone, the two are caught on tape while involved in shenanigans involving a corn dog costume and are forced to put aside their frustrations and work together to keep their identity secret.
What works so wonderfully in the season opener is that, in a sense, we’ve brought these two characters back to their starting points with Jake being impulsive and immature and Holt being a stick in the mud and the two butting heads about it. What’s different of course is that both their relationship as characters has changed along with our understanding of them. Jake’s impulsive need to work and go home isn’t just an aggravating, man-child disposition but a workman attitude that we’ve come to expect from him. And while Holt is at first a block for that, we understand and agree with his assessment of Jake being selfish and we’re never put in a position to pick sides. These are who these characters are but under extreme circumstances and watching them once again put aside their differences to be the expert detectives that they are is always a rewarding bit of storytelling, especially when it highlights just how similar these characters are and why they make such a great team. I’m fully of the mindset that every few episodes should just be Holt and Jake geared because of their character’s interplay and development and Andy Samberg pulling faces to Andre Braugher’s stone face will never not break a laugh out of me.
Both Samberg and Braugher excel in the episode with both the physical comedy and (slight) touches of drama. Braugher proves again why he’s a gift to television with his angry power walking cutaway, while Samberg proves that his face is more elastic than we might have previously guessed. The comedic elements are greatly aided by some clever direction that doesn’t just let the actors perform their lines but adds to the humor. And this is a broad episode where Holt speeds away on an ATV and Jake runs down a hallway wailing with a snake in his hands, so it easily could have turned into slapstick. Instead, we’re treated to scenes where the camera finds new ways to capture Jake bumping away on his ATV as hilarious, or Holt evading Jake’s questions about his tattoos as the camera jumps between the two of them. The script dabbles in bigger comedy but with the skill on hand it ends up being just clever enough to not tread into “dumb” comedy.
But, as I mentioned before, what also helps is that there is an air of seriousness in the episode. After the video footage of them is taken and threatened to be released online, Jake bribes the perpetrator with $15,000, much to Holt’s chagrin when he realizes Jake is faking the money by tying a few $20.00 bills around corn dog coupons under the assumption that the woman in question won’t count. Of course Jake’s rouse is found out and Holt looses his temper telling Jake that he’s half-assed everything since they’ve arrived and now they’ll likely have to be re-stationed and that Holt is going to request that they be put in different cities. Jake, chastised, responds by saying that he managed to steal the incriminating phone and that his plan worked.
I’m a fan of Samberg’s wilder antics, but seeing him reign it in also allows for the narrative punch needed to bring us into the end of the episode.
Holt realizes that he was wrong and goes to apologize to Jake but also realizes that he too can no longer be content living in Coral Palms. He tells Jake that they’re going to catch Figgis by leading him straight too them, safety be damned.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine continues to be one of the greater sitcoms on television and still holds the mantle as having easily the best comedic cast on television. “Coral Palms Pt. 1” is a nice reminder of both the talents of the two actors leading the charge but also everything that the show does right that puts them in a place beyond their contemporaries. Their characters are progressive (Jake’s commentary of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective being overtly trans-phobic was a fantastic touch), the dialogue is whip smart but the script isn’t just a joke machine as the series best asset has been its ability to build it’s characters out of their sitcom archetypes. Be it Jake going from man child to goofy sweetheart, Terry subverting the tough guy trope or Diaz taking the role of the bad-ass enigma that would typically be given to a male character. “Coral Palms Pt.1 ” proves that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is as good as ever and welcomed half-hour reprieve from the real world.