Image: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC)
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This is a rare episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that centers the actual case in a very deliberate way with much less attention given to subplots and office shenanigans. In fact, we don’t really spend any time at the office, most of the episode unfolding at the scene of the crime where a man has been murdered with very few leads. It’s also a rare episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that centers Jake and Rosa’s dynamic, one of the rarer duos to get a lot of focus. Everyone else becomes peripheral, and it’s much less of an ensemble production than usual. Instead, it’s all about Jake and Rosa and their emotional investment in solving this case. Both of those choices—to focus intensely on the actual process of solving the case and also intensely on the relationship between Rosa and Jake—end up being very rewarding, compelling choices that unearth solid character development.

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For starters, it’s just nice to watch Jake and Rosa work so well together. This is a show that celebrates its characters successes and strengths, and solving complicated cases is a definitely strength of both Jake and Rosa. They’re good detectives, and they’re good together. It’s genuinely charming to see them both say “Jake and Rosa’s first impressions” in unison. Their work partnership feels as sturdy as their friendship, and both relationship dynamics interplay throughout the episode, especially as they both become emotionally invested.

First, it’s Jake who obsesses over the case. The victim’s mother reminds him as his mom, and Jake’s mommy issues as well as daddy issues have been very established throughout the series. He slips up and calls the victim’s mom “mom” at one point—not unlike the time he accidentally called Captain Holt dad. Jake has some serious boundary issues as a result of his parents’ actions, and the way they surface in “The Crime Scene” feels organic and meaningful. Brooklyn Nine-Nine sharply injects this very straightforward plotline with emotional depth like that throughout. His colleagues mock his rookie mistake, but Jake’s promise to the victim’s mother comes from a real place for the character. He messed up, but he did so in a way that doesn’t undercut who he is and what he stands for but rather celebrates it.

The joke heightening that happens with the episode’s runners works well, too. Rosa’s hairstyles get increasingly ridiculous, making for a very fun visual gag. But even that bit has something sweet underneath it. The fact that Rosa is so willing to let her girlfriend mess with her hair is cute. It’s rewarding in and of itself to hear Rosa talking about her girlfriend Jocelyn, especially since things seem to be going well. She’s even planning on meeting her parents. And here, Brooklyn Nine-Nine also poignantly seizes the opportunity to delve back into some of the character development around Rosa’s sexuality and her coming out process with her parents. While she’s meeting Jocelyn’s parents, she isn’t ready to introduce her to her own parents, because she hasn’t heard from them since she came out as bi. She says outright that it sucks, and it’s moving to see this more vulnerable side of Rosa. The fact that she’s opening up so much to Jake is indicative of their friendship’s weight, too.

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Some joke heightening also happens with the sheer lengths that Jake goes to to solve the case. His spiral into, frankly, insanity happens quickly and believably. Eventually, he hits a point where he thinks the room is talking to him. Andy Samberg unsurprisingly plays this hysteria very well with perfect line readings. His conversation with a version of Rosa made out of olives is equal parts hilarious and disturbing.

The moment of Jake having to tell the victim’s mother than they can’t solve the case is very well written, too, and quite serious. Brooklyn Nine-Nine balances its screwball comedy with these more serious moments impressively, and “The Crime Scene” often blends those two sides of the show’s voice with great results. Rosa accompanies Jake to tell the mother because he was there when she came out to her parents, so she wants to return the favor of supporting him through a hard conversation. It’s a significant and touching reach back into the show’s history that rings true for both characters and their relationship to one another. And then suddenly, Rosa’s the one becoming emotionally involved.

Again, her serious breakdown—which involves a lot of crying—is heartfelt, meaningful character work. The way the episode weaves Rosa’s struggles to reconnect with her family as well as Jake’s abandonment issues into the central narrative is really smart and effective. It makes you root for them to solve it not just because of the mystery but because of the emotional investment they’re bringing to the table, which is much more compelling. And the episode ends with Rosa reconnecting with her mom, but it’s left somewhat up in the air as to exactly what their conversation ends up being, which feels real, too. Solving this particular tension is unlikely to happen overnight. But just seeing her mother willing to show up for her is hopeful.

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Stray observations

  • I’m just stepping in for the week for your regularly scheduled Nine-Nine reviewer LaToya. It was fun! This show has a special place in my heart.
  • Michael Mosley makes a very fun guest appearance as CSI agent Franco McCoy, who uses very terrible and overwrought metaphors and plays on words for everything. “Just talk normal!” - Jake
  • The high delivery man is also very funny. “There’s blood on the fish!”
  • Jake remembering that they are numb to disturbing images is, indeed, disturbing.
  • The exchange about Jake’s former algebra teacher is one of the best delivered moments of the episode.
  • I will never tire of hearing the words “Rosa’s bi!”

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