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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “The Tagger”

Illustration for article titled Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “The Tagger”
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That, my friends, is how you do a dick joke classily.

While the initial idea of a tagger who is spray painting cock and balls on various squad cars is good for a juvenile laugh, the real payoff happens when Peralta and Holt race up in their squad car to arrest perpetrator Trevor Pedalsky, the son of the deputy commissioner. On the side of their squad car is the courtesy-of-Trevor genitals. While I’ve smirked at other lines throughout the first two episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it was this sight gag that killed me. The initial joke was worth a smile, but the payoff was worth a guffaw.

It’s Peralta’s job to investigate who is behind the obscene tagging. To further teach him a lesson, Holt joins him as babysitter. While there’s a plot function for why Holt gets in the car with Peralta, it also allows for further interaction between Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, the show’s strongest character pairing. While Braugher’s uber-dry style so perfectly counteracts Samberg’s laid back goofiness, they wouldn't be so great without their particular brand of characterization. While they bristle against each other, these two characters don’t hate each other. Malice between the two would be easy, but it goes deeper than that. They respect each other; it’s their differing styles that causes tension. While I’d rather not constantly compare Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Parks and Recreation, that thread of nice humor is so clearly present throughout creators Michael Schur and Dan Goor’s work.

That inherent niceness bleeds into Holt’s lesson of the week: He rides Peralta because he cares about him. Without consequences, Trevor Pedalsky will forever be a screw up, but because Peralta has someone looking out for him (even if it’s for Holt’s game), he’ll grow as a cop. But Peralta doesn’t really want to grow, not at first, anyway. He fills out the report, complete with a picture of himself on the cover (loved that detail) to annoy Holt rather than to placate him. Peralta, like Trevor, is good at what he does. Peralta solves crimes while Trevor is off to Duke for lacrosse. But Peralta will be the better for having his father figure give him shit for showing up three minutes late. The importance of “The Tagger” is that it gives the Nine-Nine its first real villain in the form of Deputy Commissioner Pedalsky. He vows to keep an eye on Holt and Peralta for arresting his son. It's an interesting first villain. It's not the criminals who pose the biggest threat, but bureaucracy and authority.

In other parts of the precinct, Boyle, Santiago, and Diaz are sent to the apartment of a drug dealer who they think is stashing kilos. Before they head out, they meet Carlene (the always welcome Artemis Pedani), a friend of Gina’s who is psychic but can also get you a great deal on women’s designer shoes. She gives ambiguous hints about where the drugs may be hidden and prophesies that Santiago will never love Boyle. I wasn’t so into this plotline. It had its moments, such as Boyle explaining how his grandmother foresaw her own death and died two years later, but it only reinforced Boyle’s unrequited love for Diaz, a point already hammered home in the pilot, without expanding on it. While the cast felt like a well-lived-in ensemble even in the pilot, Carlene was a distraction. Maybe it’s just because I know what Pedani can do, especially as her namesake character in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but she felt wasted in her sole scene. I hope they bring her back for more psychic possibilities.

One carry-over from the pilot I’m still on the fence about is the reliance of the short flashback, denoted by a the white noise of a walkie-talkie, a cute touch. It’s certainly not an uncommon device, especially for a single-camera sitcom. But the flashbacks have to be worth it. I liked the aforementioned view of Boyle and his not-close-to-dead grandma, but the gag about former Captain McGinley was a pilot retread; rather than fire extinguisher-racing, this time, Peralta is tasering a cantaloupe. These flashbacks could be used to great effect in future episodes, but as of right now (and I know there aren’t that many instances to consider at this point, which is why I’m hedging my bets), it’s feeling on the lazy side.


Stray observations:

  • Can we just discuss the range of Terry Crews’ face? He’s such a big guy, but his face is so malleable, turning from sweet to snarling so quickly.
  • “Here are two pictures. One is your locker, the other is a garbage dump in the Phillipines. Can you tell which is which?” “That one’s the dump.” “They’re both your locker.” “Gosh, I should have guessed that. He’s good!”
  • “So basically, everyone’s first eight guesses in Hangman.”
  • “Oh, you’re alone. Oh, you’re alone for life.”
  • “Normally, I would believe you, but I’ve been pretty detail-oriented for the last few hours.”
  • “Terry loves yogurt.”