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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It’s a “Manhunt” (and Traveling Pants situation) to start Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s seventh season

Illustration for article titled It’s a “Manhunt” (and iTraveling Pants/i situation) to start iBrooklyn Nine-Nine/i’s seventh season
Graphic: NBC
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“Manhunt”

With six seasons and a network change under its belt, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has to do a lot of hard work to stay fresh and interesting—to avoid spinning its wheels when it comes to its storytelling. Staying funny has never been the series’ problem, so in that sense, that’s the easiest part. But staying funny while also upping the stakes in a workplace comedy where the workplace is a police precinct has arguably been Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s biggest struggle. With each season, the finale cliffhangers have gotten bigger and more difficult for the squad of the Nine-Nine to get out of—guys, Jake and Rosa went to prison—with it being even more difficult for the writers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to create a satisfactory solution to these issues, one that won’t be too much of an easy way out.

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Which is why the Season 6 finale was such a breath of fresh air. The cliffhanger came in the form of Madeline Wuntch getting Captain Holt demoted back to uniformed officer for a year, a plot point with enough repercussions on the squad to make things interesting, without creating too much of a narrative issue for the new season. It honestly made sense for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to go with bigger and bigger cliffhangers each season, but it also made it so that, eventually, there would be no bigger place to go. In scaling things back on this front, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is able to use a different but potentially even more effective approach to its status quo-shifting scenarios. It’s also able to mine pretty great comedy out of such a simple concept. Plus, as far as Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s approach to conflicts and stakes go, it’s for the best that it went with this particular punishment for Captain Holt. It’s temporary—a year, which can be far quicker with the power of television magic or just a bit of writing—and doesn’t completely rock the team to its core in a way where any lives are on the line. Instead, the team is rocked by internal politics, and “Manhunt” reveals just how fun of a dynamic that creates.

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One thing Season 6 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was tasked with was acclimating new people to the show, due to the network shift. With Season 7, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is now comfortably an NBC show, and that table setting is no longer a necessity or an expectation. It jumps right into the action to get to the moment we’ve all been waiting for: uniformed Officer Raymond Holt. The premiere’s not bogged down by having to unload a bunch of information or undo a big blow to the Nine-Nine, and with that freedom, it’s allowed to just be a very good, very comfortable Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode to kick things off.

It makes sense that Brooklyn Nine-Nine would start its new season with a big case (a manhunt after an assassination attempt on a councilman), but the execution of the episode—written by David Phillips and directed by Cortney Carrillo—is also classic Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in that it makes what is supposedly a big case feel like anything but. As Jake (who’s heading the manhunt), Boyle, and Holt actually work the case, the episode excels in having all hands on deck and everyone technically involved. But Amy (in charge of perimeter control) has personal issues to focus on, and the five-hour crunch time that they have to find the shooter (who ends up being the one guy they talk to) is a non-factor. The fact that Amy rushes at an armed and dangerous man is a hilarious sight to see but also amazingly dangerous (especially as she thinks she might be pregnant) and another moment of this episode not even attempting to really make us worry about that goof, despite the assassination attempt and kidnapping.

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Luckily, the episode is truly strong enough on the comedy and character fronts to make the lack of investment in the case worth it. Amy’s possible pregnancy is more interesting than the manhunt, as is the new dynamic at play with Jake and Holt this season.

It’s clear from this episode that there will be plenty of humor to mine out of this new position for Holt, especially as we start with the obvious issue: the new power dynamics. Holt is now at the bottom of the squad, technically inferior to even Hitchcock and Scully (aka the “Weiner Warriors”). His tale of woe about the lack of respect he now receives from even Cheddar the dog—“Now, he only poops for Kevin.”—sets the stage for the rest of the episode and the chip on his shoulder moving forward. This demotion also allows us to witness “bad boy” Holt, which is a lot like regular Holt, only with the aforementioned lack of respect and power. And pairing him with someone as chipper as Officer Debbie Fogle (Vanessa Bayer) makes it the embodiment of Hell on Earth for Holt, which is exactly what Wuntch would want.

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Jake having trouble giving his “Dad,” Holt, orders is a logical starting point for this episode, as is Holt’s overstepping in the manhunt. If Holt were still in his Captain’s position, he would easily give Jake the respect and power he deserves during this case, but “Manhunt” is clear on how this is all an issue of Holt trying to regain some semblance of respect and power himself. It’s an extremely understandable dilemma, with Holt struggling to let go and simply do his new job. Which is what eventually leads to the even more understandable—and realistic—moment where a frustrated Jake finally takes Holt off the case. Brooklyn Nine-Nine can obviously do wacky—and does it in this very episode, especially in the Amy/Rosa/Terry plot—but it can also pull off the grounded moments too. It proves that at this moment but also in the final scene, when Jake and Amy decide they’re going to start trying for a baby now.

It’s an especially earnest moment after an episode of Amy being completely over-the-top in her efforts to even find out if she’s pregnant (and to pee). While the Amy/Rosa/Terry plot takes place “at” the manhunt, it’s one that’s solely committed to the personal life and the comedy, in the middle of what should be a stressful situation. (In Terry’s defense, every time he storms into a scene, he seems like he’s been having a very stressful time during this manhunt.) The Rosa/Amy friendship is a dynamic that pretty much always yields impressive results for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but it especially works here with Rosa in full-on best friend mode. From awkwardly dabbing in solidarity with Amy (“Totes.”) to getting the bodega pregnancy tests to making the sound of a babbling brook, Rosa is there for Amy. The inclusion of Terry’s interruptions is a necessary flourish on the story, especially as his insecurity causes him to believe they’re gaslighting him and that the awkwardness is all about him, a man who supposedly looks “like a giant triangle.” The comedic work of Melissa Fumero, Stephanie Beatriz, and Terry Crews in this plot marks a truly great return for the series.

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“You’re a very good friend, I’m glad you’re here,” Amy tells Rosa, after a moment that’s both a joke and good advice. When it comes to the return of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it makes sense that a major thing that would be highlighted to kick things off is the strong friendships within Nine-Nine, even through changes. [That friendship theme also extends to Boyle’s turn as the “Boyhunter” to Jake’s “Manhunter,” especially come “Boyhunter (Remix).”]

Grade: A-


“Captain Kim”

As mentioned, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is its seventh season. The key is to avoid repeating the same stories again and again, but if you are going to tell the same stories again and again, it’s also key to at least have fun with it. That’s what Brooklyn Nine-Nine does with “Captain Kim,” a refreshing change from the typical status quo changes at the Nine-Nine. As relatively static as these characters remain—as sitcom characters, after all—they still learn and grow and advance, which is the driving force of this entire episode. It’s that Brooklyn Nine-Nine/Nine-Nine status quo and the desire to keep it from being disrupted, at all costs and through disruption of its own making.

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Nicole Bilderback, who plays Captain Julie Kim, played enough film/TV mean girls in the ‘90s and early 2000s for me to immediately buy that she had an ulterior motive for coming to the Nine-Nine. Of course, the show also wants us to believe that, as pretty much everyone who isn’t part of the squad is either corrupt or incompetent (or simply lame). And since Ken Marino’s CJ already filled the incompetent role as Captain, it seemed Kim would have to really be as “too good to be true” as Jake insists she is throughout this episode. Her party with “something great” for everyone on the squad also lends credence to the theory that she’s got something shifty going. That she ends up truly being just that good of a person is the rare subversion of that particular concept for the show.

Unfortunately, there’s really no place to go with Captain Kim after this episode, so it only makes sense for the character to head for hills after the squad’s particular brand of chaos ruins her party. Yes, it’s predictable for a new authority figure in the Nine-Nine to get to stepping just as quickly as they arrive. At the same time, there’s also no conflict if the Nine-Nine has a replacement Captain who really is looking out for their best interests and isn’t planning to get in Holt’s way once he’s finally able to return to his post. It really is nice while it lasts though, and Captain Kim’s perfection is a nice twist on the typical Nine-Nine interloper story.

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Her perfection also allows for stepdaddy issues Jake and petty Holt to work together as the “horny adults” in this episode, after “Manhunt” had them at odds and as everyone else is so taken by their new boss and the things she offers them. A Jake/Holt team-up also means the beauty that is undercover Holt, which leads to the hilarious gag of his two small public “scenes,” followed by the big one of him throwing himself down the stairs. (Holt throwing himself down the stairs only gets funnier every time you watch it. Trust me.) Captain Holt being demoted to Officer Holt doesn’t change the fact that he is still Jake’s mentor and father figure, which means we’ll still get episodes like this, where Jake leads the charge in trying to get rid of the person who tries to be his “new dad” (just like Trevor did). It’s childish—due to actual childhood issues—but it’s also based on the past of the Nine-Nine and the fact that Wuntch is not to be trusted. Plus, again, Captain Kim is literally perfect, with Carol Kolb’s script just laying it on thick with every passing scene. That’s just not normal.

But neither is the squad of the Nine-Nine, from N.A.R.C. (Nationally Accredited and Registered Chaperone) Amy to “Chuck Boyle, Office Badass” (aka “Cool Charles”) to… Actually, Terry has a pretty normal response—fear of being poisoned by Ronald Palmer (Marcus Folmar), an ex-convict that he arrested and put in prison for 10 years—in this episode. Terry’s plots in both of these episodes rely on him being off to the fringe, away from the action but still technically in it. It works better in “Manhunt,” though, with his presumed (and totally off the mark) gaslighting. Here, the plot is pretty easy to predict (in terms of Palmer not actually being a threat), but it’s the reasonable explanation of why Palmer’s tone is so creepy (talking to nothing but a cinderblock wall for 10 years in a row) that allows the plot to stick the landing. That and the way Captain Kim’s dog destroys his hors d’oeuvres-filled jacket pockets.

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The lack of Rosa in this episode would also be a disappointment if not for the fact that it gives way to: 1. Jake going forth on the plan to get Captain Kim gone by Monday, even though that ends up backfiring… by actually working, and 2. “Chuck Boyle, Office Badass.” The actual Office Badass being out of the picture for the weekend allows Boyle to successfully reinvent himself for the new Captain, as Rosa’s jacket does, in fact, have Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants powers. Or, if you believe Amy, the confidence was inside Boyle (and that sad guy who ends up with the jacket) the whole time. It truly is a magical moment in time for Boyle, as he’s got product in his hair, he’s finally able to hear how bad certain things sound, and hes suddenly the alpha in his and Jake’s relationship. Surprisingly, the episode doesn’t go down some road where Boyle gets too cool and ends up alienating the rest of the Nine-Nine, instead having him simply attempt to pay the power of the traveling jacket forward. He succeeds, but at what cost? The cost of playing poker with Broadway stars and celebrity chefs.

Despite being paired up, “Manhunt” and “Captain Kim” were always meant as standalone episodes, not a two-parter. In fact, “Captain Kim” could have easily served as the Season 7 premiere instead. While, unlike “Manhunt,” it doesn’t focus on a case, but there is a “murder;” and the way that Luke Del Tredici directs the aftermath of the dog’s attack on the party is a thing of beauty. It also focuses on the concept of Officer Holt and the fact that he’s being replaced, which was the big cliffhanger coming out of Season 6. Sure, it lacks Rosa, but it even makes up for that with “Cool Charles,” something that Joe Lo Truglio pulls off while still being just as unnerving as Jake says it is. Like “Manhunt,” “Captain Kim” is a great showcase for both Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg, as well as their back and forth. But unlike the premiere, there’s nothing surrounding it (like the manhunt itself) that isn’t getting enough attention or weight. Really, it’s just a great sign that the first two episodes of this season are as strong as they are at all. Especially seven seasons into a show.

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Grade: A


Stray observations

  • Alright: Who would win a fight if the squad couldn’t use their arms? My immediate response was “Rosa.” My follow-up response was, “Who is Mark?” You see, The pairings on the board were Amy/Rosa, Terry/Hitchcock, Jake/Charles, and Scully/Mark. Who. Is. Mark?
  • Jake: “I’m gonna be on the news. I’m gonna look straight into the camera and say, ‘If the shooter is watching, I hope you like living between St. Charles Place and Connecticut Avenue.’”
    Amy: “...I don’t get it.”
    Jake: “It’s from Monopoly. That’s where jail is. Whatever, it was a good line. Keep briefing.” Hey, the line ended up working for Officer Dad. I mean, Officer Holt.
  • Amy: “This is for teens—that’s dark.” The teen pregnancy test is pretty dark, but I’m really curious about the pregnancy test made of gummies.
  • Rosa (as a babbling brook): “Glub. Glub. Glub.”
  • Rosa: “It’s just us, man. You don’t have to pretend to care about Debbie.”
    Terry: “Rosa!”
    Rosa: “What? We barely know her and she’s annoying. She’s always trying to get me to be friends with her on that weird app for pedicures.”
  • Debbie: “We get cone duty?! Yes! Best birthday yet.”
    Jake: “It’s your birthday?” The entirety of Debbie’s lameness is pretty great, but the best part is her backstory of becoming a cop to find her twin sister’s killer. Knowing that retroactively makes her desire not to do any of the dangerous cop stuff funnier than it is on its own.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done a great job when it comes to the execution of the Jake/Amy relationship in making it both believable and funny. I am, however, anxious about the decision to try for a baby now, ahead of schedule. Especially since they’re both two pretty driven cops.
  • Speaking of being a pretty driven cop: Is Captain Kim’s job offer for Jake to become NYPD Liaison to the FBI still on the table?
  • Jake: “Taking down the bad guys without breaking up our convo. That’s how we do it in the Nine-Nine.”
    Amy: “You’re going the wrong direction.”
    Jake: “Dammit! All these hallways look the same. That was such a cool walk-off.”
  • Terry: “Did you know The Rock’s character in Fast And The Furious was based on her? Hobbs! Or Shaw!”
    Jake: “She’s not a Hobbs or a Shaw. If anything, she’s a Trevor.”
  • Holt: “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
    Amy: “Please. Look at your shoes. You only wear sneakers for their literal purpose: sneaking.”
    Jake: “That’s crazy. He’s wearing perfectly normal—”
    Holt: “No, she’s right. The clown shoes gave me away.”
  • Jake: “Spelling is never cool.”
    Holt: “Wrong. That was extremely cool. Now I understand why you’re into her.”
    Jake: “Now you understand? You officiated our wedding.”
  • Holt: “It’s like there’s something great at this party for everyone—even me. She’s serving my favorite dessert: carrots.”
  • Petty Holt is out in full force in “Captain Kim,” but his focus on the new boss doesn’t stop him from throwing in a vampiric jab at Wuntch, even when she’s not around. The man knows how to multi-task.
  • Hitchcock should’ve let Scully beat Jake up for being responsible for the death of the love of his life, “the chair.”
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.

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