If you’re playing Boyle Bingo: Thanksgiving Edition at home, you might be a little bit upset that he hits the “turkey day” center square a little too much in this episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. If you’re not playing it, then you have no stake in this at all and are probably a real Amy about things this time around.
“Lockdown” is the second season’s Thanksgiving episode, but that’s really only based on circumstances like the time of the year. It’s mostly a bottle episode, locking the team (sans Holt and Terry) inside the precinct due to a foreign white powder, and teaching Jake lessons about leadership and listening. There’s a very minor subplot about Gina’s Last Will and Testament and a too small runner about Rosa’s love of the 2003 romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give, but the only thing that really happens independent of the A-plot is the Tiny Terry/Holt The Dolt (a nickname Wuntch surprisingly didn’t say first) plot in the outside world.
For those lucky shows that are able to make it past the first season, holiday and sequel episodes tend to have an inherent comparison to those similarly-themed episodes that came before. When I was reviewing Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s “Halloween II,” I compared it to season one’s “Halloween,” and any and all future installments of the Jimmy Jab Games (of which there are hopefully many) will be compared to “The Jimmy Jab Games.” However, with television, there is a lot more optimism and anticipation that an episode sequel will be as good if not better than the original. The goodwill might be squandered, but at least there tends to be goodwill going into such a situation.
In “Thanksgiving” last season, Jake learned all about making a new family and new traditions. “Lockdown” is more of an episode about co-workers working together, almost completely lacking the familial bond between these people that the show displays in practically every other episode. While “Thanksgiving” was an episode all about the power of friendship and Terry’s temperamental tummy, “Lockdown” is an episode that surprisingly doesn’t even have the core cast (well, except for Gina) having the mental breakdown that everyone else in the precinct has. It doesn’t really have them react at all to it, actually. If “Thanksgiving” was an episode that worked well to define the characters of a brand new television series, “Lockdown” is one that momentarily turns them into loosely drawn sketches of those characters.
The biggest victim of all of this is Amy, who is relegated to early-season-one-wet-blanket status. Her entire purpose here is as that of the buzzkill who has to pester Jake into behaving like an actual adult and leader when he’s put in charge of the precinct for the day (which is only a technicality in the first place). Jake’s attempts to be the cool boss and put out fires as they come up are funny—being funny has never really a problem when it comes to Brooklyn Nine-Nine—but it’s also at the expense of Amy being part of the gang (as well as the gang really having anything to do). At the beginning of the episode, Amy mentions how she’s supposed to be spending Thanksgiving with Teddy, but that’s dropped once the lockdown storyline plot is effect. In fact, everyone’s motivations to get out of the precinct really fall to the wayside as soon as it becomes a lockdown.
To those viewers who have been finding season two of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to be weaker than season one, “Lockdown” might actually be the perfect example of that dip. Throughout the entire episode, there’s just constant shallow characterization—which is extremely uncharacteristic at this point in the series—that takes Brooklyn Nine-Nine to a dark place, quality-wise. That’s because it takes it to The Jake Peralta Show. Jake Peralta is a good character, and I’ve sung his praises in most (if not all) of these reviews, but when the show makes him the sole focus and only relies him, with everyone else as nothing more than his sounding boards, the downshift in quality is palpable. It’s too much Peralta and too much Samberg. “Halloween II” was an episode that was “too much” of a lot of things (including Peralta) but at no point in that episode did the over-the-top nature throw the other characters under the bus (for lack of a much better term) in order to get its point across. “Lockdown,” unfortunately, falls into that trap. The ensemble really is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s greatest strength, and sadly, an episode about Thanksgiving (of all holidays) almost goes out of its way to cripple that strength.
Comparing this all to another episode, my quibbles with last week’s “Jake And Sophia” stemmed from the fact that the episode was a more subtle approach to the show than usual, but even in all of that, nothing about the characters felt off. It wasn’t one-note characterization. It wasn’t Boyle doing the “Single Ladies” dance in 2014 (as amazingly fluid as he is doing it) and giving me mild Glee-related PTSD. It wasn’t Amy nagging Jake about every little thing instead of just taking charge herself. It wasn’t Rosa, Boyle, and Gina barely having anything to do.
On the flip side, Terry and Holt remain safe from this affliction, as Terry’s brother-in-law Zeke infiltrates Tiny Terry’s Hobbit Hole. There is just something too beautiful about Holt bouncing on that ball for most of the episode.
At the risk of this falling on deaf ears: None of this keeps the episode from being funny. That’s the kicker about weaker episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. There’s always something funny, even if it’s not up to par with the rest of the series’ work, and as usual, there are quotes for days. Did I enjoy “Lockdown”? Of course—I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine without enjoying it. I find laughter to be a sign of weakness, but I still appreciate the humor. However, it’s really lacking as an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I’m still thankful for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, even if this episode has decided to leave me nothing in its will.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Rosa Reviews Rom-Coms, Dummy. “Great idea, great movie.”
- By the way, that’s Burning Love’s Morgan Walsh as the prostitute who demands heat. As for Lenny the lawyer, that’s Jeff Lewis from The Guild.
- Part of my initial viewing of the episode involved me being distracted by the beautiful song I’ve had in my head all day: “Hollywood Facts.”
- Gina: “I’m 23, I’m a celebrity, and today, I’m gonna die!”
Rosa: “Not one word of that is true.”
- Gina: “Okay, I have finished my Last Will and Testament. To Rosa, I leave you nothing.”
Gina: “You can’t pass on me leaving you nothing.”
Rosa: “Just did.”
Gina: “Not today, Rosa.”
- The sight gag of Peralta wearing that fur coat made it all worth it. Well, that and the Captain Phillips revelation between Jake and Amy.
- Holt: “What an idiotic thing to say. What’s a Thanksgiving gift?…I’m just getting in the zone.” I love how Holt can really let his hair down when he interacts with Terry. If only Terry could do the same.
- Boyle: “What did you say to him, Amy?! You’ve been after my job this whole time!” Boyle had murder in his eyes when he said that line. Watch out for that one.
- Scully running outside to hug Hitchcock in the aftermath of it all almost warmed my cold heart.
- I wonder how Gina and Boyle’s parents are doing right now. I’m talking about sexually.
- Jake literally almost burns the whole precinct down with his incompetence here, making this episode the ultimate example of why everyone in this precinct should hate Jake and company.