How do you solve a problem like Gina? In a precinct full of office eccentrics, since day one, Gina has taken the total weirdo cake. But is she a marvel of psychological study, or a secret genius that has it all together? “The Apartment” uses Gina’s eccentricities as a way for Peralta to realize his own immaturity. Everyone has it together, even Gina. It’s an acceptable lens for Jake to view his own evolution, or lack thereof, through. Characters, especially on sitcoms, take time to mature themselves. Michael Scott at the beginning of The Office was a very different guy from who he was even by the time the second season started. It’s one of the accepted growing pains of a sitcom.
One of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s initial strengths was that it featured an ensemble that felt relatively-formed from the get-go. But as the season progressed, Gina started to fluctuate. Between episodes, Gina has ricocheted between barely being able to care for herself to running the precinct in such a way that it has made her Holt’s right-hand man. The wild fluctuations in her character are particularly egregious in “The Apartment.” I was initially excited about the Chelsea Peretti-Andy Samberg pairing, especially because it played off their real childhood friendship. Gina volunteers to help Peralta out with the finances regarding the apartment he’s been living in rent-controlled after his Nana died. When it’s clear that Peralta will have to move, Gina offers to buy the apartment and act as Jake’s landlord. She’s scrimped and saved and can afford the down payment on a near half-million dollar spot. At one point, Peralta points out Gina’s characterization problems himself, while flabbergasted that she has enough cash to buy his grandmother’s old apartment: “You’re Gina. Your life-long dream is to be on Wife Swap. You call gum the dentist. You think Ray J is a national treasure.” Her response―“Yeah, so what? I’m eclectic”―doesn’t really cut it. She’s not eclectic; she’s just not a fully-formed character yet. There are signs that the writers are getting there, like giving Gina and Peralta a mutual back-story, even if it’s just so conveniently never been mentioned before, but they’re not there yet.
Maybe the Gina fluctuations wouldn’t have been as noticeable if the other characters hadn’t participated in plots that only highlighted their already well-worn tropes. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has eschewed the natural fallback of police work that characterized the season’s earlier episodes to instead focus on the inter-office relationships of its characters. These plots could have really happened on any other show. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s an interesting choice in a genre—cop shows—that can go beyond the traditional occupational sitcom because in that setting, the work is more interesting than, say, selling paper. Holt and Terry are caught up in having the staff evaluate themselves (“Scully and I have a combined 14 arrests. It would have been 20, but we only have 14.” “That’s not enough arrests.” “Who asked you? It’s a self evaluation.”), leaving Santiago to retread on her incessant need to please, even if that means admitting to a shame cigarette every now and again. It’s delightful watching Melissa Fumero meltdown in front of Holt in an effort to please him, but we’ve seen her do this on a consistent basis, and hopefully, her revelation to Holt at the end of the episode—that she could use a little more of the flippant confidence that makes Peralta such a pain—to become an even better cop will characterize her going forward. Otherwise, she, like Peralta’s immaturity, will be stuck in a loop that never moves her forward. Santiago, unlike Gina, is well-established, yet her shtick is on the verge of getting old.
Meanwhile, Diaz and Boyle help expand the world of the Nine-Nine by introducing the weekend squad, featuring Det. Lohank (the great Matt Walsh). Diaz and Boyle decide to prank Lohank for his at-desk shaving habits only to learn that, well, his life really blows. Walsh has a penchant for playing the saddest of the sacks (see: Veep), but this time, he was in great contrast to Joe Lo Truglio’s Boyle, who may slip up and call his cougar fiancée mom sometimes, but he’s just so damn positive about it. Ironically, one of the best parts of the episode involved a character moving away from her established premise. Diaz may not be a wholly three-dimensional character, but it was fun to watch her get excited, rather than HULK SMASH, about scheming with Boyle. Unlike Gina, Diaz, while not wholly three-dimensional yet, is so much more established than Gina that it’s acceptable for her to move out of her established tropes. Hopefully, Gina will get there too.
- “Nana made me the intelligent, sensuous woman that I am today.”
- “Here are her notes so far: empanadas, Atlantic City, birth control.” “No, that’s my travel journal. I haven’t started on the notes yet.”
- “Next time I catch him shaving him, I’m going to punch him so hard he bites his own heart.”
- “Call an ambulance, I’m about to do stuff to him.”
- “Is there a reason you’re interrupting me mid-soup?”