There’s something to be said for an episode of television that just hits all of your buttons right when you’re watching it, as though it is a sentient being with the ability to read you mind. Television shows are obviously not made with one particular person in mind, but every so often, they can feel like they are, for better or worse. It’s a bond that can’t be broken or even truly explained.
I’m not saying for certain that “Windbreaker City” is the season two Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode that I have been waiting for or even necessarily the answer to my criticisms about the season so far and the show as a whole. What I’m saying is, the experience of watching “Windbreaker City,” was one where every second of the episode felt like it was tailor-made and written for me. As a viewer and, to a lesser extent in this case, a critic, I obviously have my own bit of wishful thinking for how the show “should” be or how an episode can go. “Windbreaker City” follows through on all of my second-by-second wishful thinking and then some. That’s not to say that the episode is predictable or a letdown—far from it, actually—but instead to say that it is a fulfilling episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
It’s also another piece of evidence in the case for a future Melissa Fumero Emmy nomination, but that’s practically every episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine at this point.
“Windbreaker City” is an excellent title for an episode, as it’s the name of my imaginary crime novel about crooked cops and the men and women who love them. At least, that’s the first thing that popped into my mind upon reading the episode title, not that it would be out of the realm of possibilities for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Instead, the episode is more of an indirect sequel to season one’s “Tactical Village,” a fun romp with good clean competition and sportsmanship. The same can be said about “Windbreaker City,” except, just like in “Tactical Village,” that’s only the intended course of action (that falls through).
Terry calls an “emergency meeting” about the squad being invited to the Department of Homeland Security’s multi-agency (thus the windbreakers) counter-terrorist drill as subs for another agency (and because of their “stellar scores” at Tactical Village), and that rush of excitement and pride is immediately taken away by the presence of Homeland Security Agent Kendrick (the perfectly cast Nick Kroll) and the superiority of the feds. While every agency is given something cool to do, the NYPD are given the task of being hostages.
Knowing Jake Peralta’s intense love of the Die Hard franchise, you can obviously see where this is going, and it’s amazing, all the way through.
Despite the fact that Brooklyn Nine-Nine just so happens to be a workplace comedy in which the workplace is a police department, there never seems to be enough praise for the show’s action sequences. This season, especially, it’s such an integral part of the show and a casual reminder that these characters are actually very good cops (and Scully and Hitchcock), to the point where such praise can’t continue to be withheld. The balance between the workplace and the comedy hasn’t always been level, but the show is good enough that it can still endure that; plus, it is only two seasons in, with room to perfect the balance. Part of why “Windbreaker City” succeeds as an episode is that the action and the competent police work are also very much in service of the humor. After all, paintball is inherently funny, right?
“Windbreaker City” is funny from minute one, opening up with the now classic Boyle creepiness. At this point, the type of humor is almost leaning more toward secret serial killer than just odd cop, but it somehow works. In fact, an understated part of how funny this episode is how much the show (or at least Joe Lo Truglio) is leaning into how bizarre Boyle is.
Gina: “I was hoping to wow my professor with a genuine psycho, like Amy or Hitchcock,* or Charles would be great.”
However, this episode is a reminder that his eccentricities never outweigh his ability to be a great friend, another testament to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s ability to create a balance. This is an episode with an undercurrent of sadness played for laughs for the most part (until the end), and while Boyle’s creepiness hits the mark every time it comes up, the episode itself also hits the mark on Boyle simply going all in on taking his best friend’s mind off of a difficult break-up. His (and Terry’s) decision to turn catharsis into an upsetting verb (“cathart” just sounds wrong, especially the more you say it) is one of the sweetest things to happen in the series, as is the follow through of him convincing Jake and the rest of the squad to become the “terrorists.” That last part sounds strange out of context, but it’s really beautiful.
Meanwhile, the strange terrorism exercise also allows Rosa and Amy to have a competition over most “kills” so they can figure out which one of them has to work on Saturday. I know I sound like a broken record singing the praises of Melissa Fumero and the Amy Santiago character, but it’s difficult to do anything other than that when she’s getting upset over no one participating in her “Nine-Nine!” calls or overexplaining why Rosa is Pinocchio or doing “power poses” to show her assertiveness. It speaks a lot to Melissa Fumero’s acting ability that she has not made the character “too much” or over-the-top (since there’s a lot of stuff going on with the character at any given moment of time).
As for the Holt/Gina storyline, this is perhaps the episode’s ultimate example of hitting the right buttons for me, as my initial reaction to seeing Gina in the emergency meeting was to wonder when the next time her job would even be mentioned. So of course it happens, and the episode delivers a solid and much-appreciated Holt/Gina plot. It’s an easy plot, with the very much in control Holt not understanding how he can’t control a certain shared psychological classification with Gina (that would be the I9C3G6 classification), and it’s another plot that works because of how different the two personalities are. Watching Holt unravel—in a way different from all things Wuntch—is a joy to see, because it’s still very much the same Holt as the audience is used to seeing. His personality and inflection remain the same, and the most immature behavior he shows comes in the form of purchasing “assorted sweet treats.” Holt is obviously often played as a foil to Jake’s spastic slacker, but it’s different when it’s in the form of Gina. She has the laid back demeanor too, but her approach to “too cool for school” doesn’t come in the form of going over-the-top to prove that. She’s not a “basic bitch,” and Holt doesn’t quite know how to deal with her. That’s a well the show should go to more often, especially since she works directly beneath him.
All of this is of course a hilarious distraction (for both Jake and the audience) from the heartbreak that Jake is feeling over Sophia. Even as Jake obsesses over Sophia not texting him back, it’s played mostly for laughs over how ridiculous he’s being in this situation. There’s no exaggerated weeping, there’s no singing along to “Closer To Fine,” there’s no out of character behavior—he’s not over Sophia, he acknowledges that, and he’s going to dwell on the one thing that isn’t too much out of his control, someone responding to his text. That’s why the episode tag is a bit of a gut punch, with Jake deciding to just drop off his Sophia box, only to bump into her. Obviously Eva Longoria is not staying on the show, and Jake and Sophia aren’t getting back together (at least not now, if ever), but it speaks a lot to Jake’s resolve that he doesn’t use this meeting to beg her to take him back. Instead, the scene lingers with unspoken tension, as Jake attempts to make the encounter less awkward than it already is.
Even with all of the “catharting,” that doesn’t stop him from wanting her to longingly look back at him as she walks away from him. Brooklyn Nine-Nine earns its emotional moments by making characters you can really care about (much like Parks And Recreation and The Office before it), and that moment—and this episode—is a shining example of that. Honestly, this episode is truly a shining example of Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a whole.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Amy Santiago, going to TED Talks.
- * Because as we all know, Amy is the girl version of Hitchock.
- This was the episode in which I realized that Brian Huskey’s character from Selfie and Boyle would make the best of friends. Even better friends than Boyle and Dave Rose, mostly because Boyle got too weird for that imaginary friendship around the first time he mentioned hair washing.
- Also, speaking of Happy Endings and cancelled shows in general, hey ATF Agent Seth Morris!
- Boyle: “Whatcha got there? A candle? Perfume? Bra? Someone’s dropping off a carepackage for mom.”
- Holt: “But the last time you worked a Saturday, you watched cartoons the entire time.”
Scully: “Well that’s when they’re on.”
- Amy: “I have tickets to a TED Talk on power poses and getting what you want by using your body. Uh oh. I hope it doesn’t get too sexual.”
Jake: “I Hope It Doesn’t Get Too Sexual: title of your sex tape. But seriously, what is taking so long? Also the title of your sex tape.”
- Gina (re: Holt): “It’s crazy how much he flirts with me.” That’s that plot in a nutshell.
- Rosa: “It’s very embarrassing having feelings.” It is, but that’s mostly the case when you have feelings for someone as non-descript as Marcus.
- Jake: “Jake and Sophia. Enemies for life.”
Sophia: “McClane and Gruber.
Jake & Sophia: “You’re the Gruber.”