This wasn’t a funny episode, which isn’t to say I never laughed. Has anyone ever noticed that Jake has been kind of sad in season two? Ever since season one ended with Jake going undercover instead of dealing with his feelings for Amy, there has been an undercurrent of melancholy with his character. It certainly isn’t in your face (this is a half-hour sitcom) and the show still makes sure to give Jake some of the more outrageous comedy beats, but there’s been a lot of small moments where loneliness is mentioned. And now, with this week’s episode showing a return of Chris Parnell’s coke fiend character from a few episode’s ago, we’re brought as close to we can to Jake’s abandonment and trust issues without Brooklyn Nine-Nine adopting an unfamiliar tone.
I think I liked it.
It wasn’t the best episode the show has had but it continues the “Jake’s sad” character arc that’s been subtlety played throughout season two thus far. Amy and Rosa get to play real cops, following guidelines and protocols after Jake’s drug test come out positive with traces of meth and cocaine. Boyle once again gets to play the straight man to Hitchcock and Scully’s more ridiculous character attributes and Andre Braugher gets to deliver the best line of the night with “sarcasm…the cowards lie”. There are a lot of great bits in an episode that’s tone gets a little warped three quarters in.
Here is some stuff I laughed at first, though. I loved Boyle’s exasperation and the reveal that Hitchcock and Scully are competent detectives, they just don’t want to have to do more work than necessary. They’re lazy, not inherently dumb. Also, like Charlie on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Gene recently on Bobs Burgers I always enjoy it when the more eccentric character gets to play the voice of reason and Joe Lo Truglio plays Boyle hilariously wide eyed by the other twos antics.
Terry Crews and Braugher also get some great moments to play off of one another after Terry confesses to lying to Gina about the two of them missing out on her dance performance the night before. Captain Holt is (unsurprisingly) against lying, and when Gina finds out the truth, she, in typical Gina fashion, makes the dramatic declaration that’s she’ll no longer dance and takes to simply wheeling around the office. Holt finally see’s the error in how he called dancing a hobby and the two reconcile by the episodes end.
Jake doesn’t actually take up too much screentime this week with the three plots being more evenly split than usual but his is the A plot storyline nonetheless with his being framed by Geoffrey (Parnell). Jake refuses to let Amy and Rosa get any of their work done without his supervision, unable to trust that they truly have his back. He ditches them and is soon picked up and held hostage by Geoffrey. Parnell is funny but I don’t know if his style of humor matches the show. If you’re acting in broader comedic strokes than Andy Samberg it may be time to tone it down.
Regardless, this does allow for some decently insightful glances into Peralta’s psyche when he tells Geoffrey that no one’s coming for him. It’s nicely played by Samberg and again, like most of the more serious moments on the show, is quickly pushed aside when Jake gets his badass action hero moment of falling out of the ice cream truck. Of course he doesn’t make it far and it ends up being Amy and Rosa saving him, showing him their loyalty.
Then, of course, there is the flippant line Jake delivers about how he should have trusted them, saying how he probably has abandonment issues because of his dad and should probably be in therapy for it but who has the time to spend an hour on that?
There’s a bit of an awkward pause after that. I commend the show for allowing their characters to experience realistic, complex, and human emotions on the show and not let the trademark definition of what a sitcom is confine them and the expectations with the show and personally, I love it. The idea of a lonely Jake is a fascinating one for me when it’s juxtaposed with the bravado he displays in most avenues of his life. The emotional beats are also something Mike Schur shows have excelled at in the past for some of The Office, most of Parks and Recreation and now it would seem maybe Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The show easily had the most confident beginning than any of the others but it’s also played on the funnier more upbeat side as well. They don’t have a Jim and Pam (yet-Amy and Jake are just as cute) and they don’t have Amy Poehler’s effortless charisma that made us all fall in love with Leslie Knope. But it does have some fantastic writing, a confident and lived in ensemble (notice how no moment ever feels out of character for any of the actors). Maybe they won’t actually tackle Jake’s issues and maybe it was supposed to be a punchline (if an odd one). Whatever the show chooses to do I’m sure it will turn out enjoyable, sweet and hilarious, even if they fumble a tad while getting there.