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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Charges And Specs”

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For a show that’s strength was its ensemble from the very beginning, Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended its first season near-perfectly. Every character in its considerably deep arsenal was used exactly how they should have been, with each character getting a chance to show off before the show goes on hiatus for the summer. Not only did each character get the proper hiatus send-off and “Charges And Specs” have real stakes, but the show also set up the second season on a trajectory for a strong start for what’s to come.

Last week, I said that Brooklyn Nine-Nine was at its best when it focused on itself as a cop show, rather than as a workplace comedy. If there’s one shining example of that, it should be “Charges And Specs.” There are no other arenas where a plot like “Charges And Specs” could happen. Any sitcom could fit a ballroom dancing sequence or a thrift store costume change into its proceedings with enough fancifulness, but few other shows could pull that off with the knowledge that its main character’s job, and the incarceration of a criminal, were on the line.

But as much as “Charges And Specs” was an episode about those aforementioned stakes, it was mostly an episode about the unity of the precinct. Peralta is on the trail of noted philanthropist Lucas Wint (Ian Roberts) who allegedly launders drug money under the guise of charity. Commissioner Podolski (James Michael Connor), who remembers Peralta from his son’s penis-tagging days, commands Peralta to beg off the case, as does Holt. So what does that mean? Everyone rallies around Peralta. Santiago disobeys Holt (“We’re both off-roading it here, Sir. My internal GPS has been recalculating for weeks!”) in order uncover the least threatening drug dealer of all time (aw, hey Joe Mande!). Holt puts trust in his detective and stoops to seducing a judge (“Wassup,” possibly my favorite joke throughout the entire first season) and kills it at the ballroom dancing competition (“Now spin”). Even Diaz, Terry, Gina, and a mourning Boyle do their part to help their friend. On the whole, the episode was about the effectiveness of Holt, whose goal as a superior throughout the entire episode was getting the Nine-Nine to act as a functional team, rather than as separate elements with Peralta as the most-irritating of lone wolves. By the end of the season, the precinct has achieved that team goal, although in particular Nine-Nine fashion. Namely, with thrift store costume changes.

What really impressed me about “Charges And Specs” were the expectations that were never fulfilled: Boyle never made it to the altar, and Peralta may have expressed his affection for Santiago but not in a way that could be acted upon. The general expectation I had for the episode was to end like most comedies since before our homeslice William Shakespeare took over: in a wedding (whether that wedding was successful or not) or, at least, in the union of couples. But the romantic aspects of the show, which have felt like the more forced plot elements over the larger season, felt naturally attained. Boyle and Vivian were having problems about relocation. Their break-up was a product of long-term disagreement, rather than an episodically-based obstacle. And, perhaps most importantly, it wasn’t because of Boyle’s unrequited love for Diaz. Similarly, Peralta confesses his affinity for Santiago not in some grandiose, only-on-television way, complete with a forced fireworks-inducing kiss, but because he’s unsure about his future, and he feels like he has to or he’ll regret it. It was a masterful way to cap off some of the first season’s more awkward plot developments, allowing each character to grow for the next season without giving them an unhealthy push.

Just as each character was given a reason to move on with their romantic connection, even the season finale was given a purpose: Peralta goes undercover with the FBI to take down a crime family (“That’s one of the best crime families!”). “Charges And Specs” was a strong ending to an incredibly assured first season. Now, let’s get this undercover business over with so we can start with the next.

Stray Observations:

  • Fun fact: In college, I lived blocks, mere blocks, away from where Peralta’s Bar Mitzvah rival lives.
  • I could have used a tad more Hitchcock and Scully to get the whole unity thing going full speed (or any Hitchcock at all for that matter), although Scully’s line was a doozy: “I haven’t had that many break-ups, but my children won’t speak to me anymore!” I look forward to the return of their unfailing positivity in the face of their own incompetence.
  • Totally cracked up over Gina’s emoji speech: “Break-ups are a cartoony thumbs down. They make people feel face with exes for the eyes.” “Boyle need a little rebound nookie. Eggplant emoji.” “The fact that you have him on trial is Home Alone face. I’ve known him forever. Our friends is little boy holding little girl’s hand.”
  • That being said, I hope we never speak of the terrifying prospect of Gina and Boyle together ever again.
  • Joe Mande speaks the truth: “Dude, drugs don’t need pushing. They push themselves. People love drugs.” Aw, it was his dream job too.
  • “There’s something I do whenever I… feel. Burn. Everything.”
  • During the thrift store scene: “Jake, the overwhelming time pressure.”