Graphic: John P Fleenor (FOX)

Despite working a stripped down version of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “The Box” was an episode that featured an excellent balance of humor and a more police-centric, serious tone. “Show Me Going” goes for a similar approach too—in terms of the balance—albeit doing so with the help of the entire ensemble this time. And while “Show Me Going” doesn’t quite hit the highs of “The Box,” it is rather exciting to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine go back to this creative well again relatively soon. It’s also pretty tense, to be perfectly honest. In fact, according to Brooklyn Nine-Nine showrunner Dan Goor, this episode was somewhat of a puzzle for the writers room to solve, especially as they worked to make sure it was “funny, but still impactful.” I’d say they succeeded in that mission.

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After a short but very sweet cold open and set-up for what appear to be this week’s plots, the tone shifts completely from standard Brooklyn Nine-Nine fare as soon as the dispatch calls start coming in on the police scanner. It’s only for a moment, as the show returns to comedy in the face of tragedy right after, but it’s also like a car suddenly stopping when the squad gather around to listen to the news of the active shooter situation. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has varying levels of success when it comes to creating stakes, and even if you don’t believe anything bad will happen to Rosa in this episode, this initial “show me going” moment still works to provide some tension. The combination of the cast’s performances—nothing big at all—with the real cop lingo and the introduction of a truly violent crime create that tension in just a short amount of time.

At the same time, “Show Me Going” isn’t so much about the serious, life-threatening cop stuff as it is the squad’s reactions to this stuff—particularly when it involves someone they care about. This episode isn’t about the shooters. We don’t learn who they are, what they want. We don’t see anything from the scene of the crime at all, and the squad barely even knows how many shooters there are for most of the time. Instead, it focuses on how to act when you can’t do the one action you really want to (save the day and save your loved one). Amy and Gina, for example, choose to stay relatively optimistic and keep busy by doing something nice for when (really hoping not “if”) Rosa gets back to the Nine-Nine. Terry worries about his family and making sure they’re taken care of if he dies on the job. (Or should scaffolding take his life.) Boyle is a ball of anxiety that keeps waiting for any type of update on the situation. Jake goes with his broken home approach of compartmentalizing and keeping his emotions inside… which is not the best plan.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine tells a comedic story about helplessness with “Show Me Going,” but like with “The Box” it hits the drama beats quite well. Especially during Jake and Holt’s argument outside the precinct, where expectations of a simple lesson learned are shattered by a stubborn Jake. After dismissing Holt in such a cold way, it’s genuinely surprising that Jake has the revelation that Holt is right offscreen. There’s no flashback to him turning around or having an aha moment, just an earned instance of maturity on Jake’s end. Jake and Holt’s argument is actually a shining example of the difference between a seasons-long character development (when things are done right) and a series’ first season, as it’s easy to imagine an early series version of this story where Jake’s insubordination is nothing but an immature desire to be the hotshot cop in the Nine-Nine. While Holt’s side of the argument addresses Jake’s theatrical maverick aspirations, it’s clear that Jake’s behavior is truly coming from that place of helplessness and a desire to help someone he considers family. Like Jake says, he wants to do something “valuable” when Rosa is possibly fighting for her life, and to him, physically being there is the only way.

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But when it comes to the lesson Jake has to learn, it means a lot that Holt—as robotic as he may be—sees the value in communicating and being that emotional rock for the squad, even if he himself can’t do it properly. His attempt to do so with Terry only stresses Terry out more, and that just tends to be the case whenever Holt tries to be the reassuring mentor. Holt’s just not good at this, especially not the way Jake can be with a couple of pizzas and a casual conversation.

With such gems as toilet water Amy, Speed Racer Boyle, and the Hitchcock/Scully “penis punch 69,” it’s impressive just how well this episode balances an absurd tone stemming from such a grounded predicament. However, that isn’t quite the case when it comes to the parts of the episode prior to the dispatch call. While the intention is to treat things as though this is any ordinary Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode—one with Jake/Boyle trying to crack a case before Jake’s rival does, Amy trying to juggle her new and old turf, and Rosa trying to get Gina to do her job—in comparison to the rest of the episode, the set-up is almost too broad. It at least helps that the episode doesn’t actually mean to dwell on these things—so they can technically be whatever they want to be—but the Brett Booth (Akiva Schaffer) stuff especially feels like it’s from a different episode completely, both in terms of its wackiness in such a short period and the dead-end nature of the story. In a way, it highlights how little seemingly important things—like a super cool task force—can matter in the grand scheme of things, but once the episode makes the shift to what it’s really about, it’s hard to remember and believe this is part of the episode at all.

And while the task force concept technically introduces the particular brand of movie style “lawlessness” Jake aims for in the episode, it alternates between feeling like a hanging plot thread and simply being forgettable after the dispatch call. Despite how big it is (in terms of the humor) compared to the rest of the episode. Also, Insecure’s Natasha Rothwell kills in her one scene appearance as Delia Alvarado, one of Amy’s officers, which sets up the toilet issue but also clues the audience into some tension between detectives and uniformed officers. (Hopefully the latter will matter in the long run.) Both the Booth and Alvarado characters could easily show up again, presumably in episodes where they won’t feel superfluous or fade deep into the background.

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So even though it’s never the focus of the episode, the gravity of the active shooter situation provides this episode with the difficult task of not having the plots springing from it feel trivial. You have Terry’s life insurance/stress level plot, but you also have an Amy/Gina team-up; and while the former is truly understandable given the situation, the latter sounds iffy out of context and could easily have been that way in context. Just to acknowledge how episode synopses can really underwhelm, this week’s synopsis features this: “Gina and Amy try to make themselves useful by fixing Rosa’s broken toilet.” Out of context, that sounds really weak.

Within the episode, while it’s a classic sitcom plot (gone berserk), the importance of this seemingly inconsequential plot can’t be ignored. Just this one thing to make Rosa eventually feel better and to keep their minds on something other than the possibility that Rosa’s not okay means something. That’s why Amy doesn’t stop working on the toilet, even as she fails miserably. That’s also why Gina doesn’t give her too much flack for failing miserably in the first place. Because as long as they keep working on the toilet—even if they have no business doing so—it means they keep believing Rosa is going to come back in one piece. And while Gina doesn’t get her hands dirty, this is a story where her desire to support of Amy (and ultimately help Rosa out, in some small way) works. This isn’t Gina humorously beating Amy down, not even when she admits she’s gaining some amusement from Amy versus the toilet. Because the rest of us are also getting amusement from that. Amy ends up completely covered in toilet water and stealing a toilet seat from Barnes & Noble, after all.

So while the guys eventually have the cathartic moment of talking through their feelings, Amy and Gina get theirs just by having Rosa show back up at the Nine-Nine and see the mess they’ve made. While Jake’s personal story and growth is important to this episode, that it all ends with Rosa genuinely accepting and smiling through a group hug with Amy and Gina (whose “YAY!” is a joyful note to end on) is the right choice. It’s how the episode makes clear that the wrap-up isn’t about Jake, it’s about Rosa, even though we’ll most likely never actually know what went down during the active shooter situation or just how badass she truly was. But that’s really not the point here.

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Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: A Wacky Races reboot of sorts, starring Boyle’s Speed Racer.
  • Holt: “Fine! I was trying something and it didn’t work!” And that’s it. That’s the cold open. After Raymond in a Kangol hat, it appears the only possible way to put an end to this hat cycle is Raymond in a bowler hat. It does not work.
  • Holt: (re: The Fast & The Furious franchise) “Don’t those movies glorify lawlessness?”
    Jake: “No. They glorify family and loyalty and big hard boobs on both men and women.” Jake is right.
  • Amy: “And it’s Rosa, right? She’s a badass. She’s the toughest of all of us. No offense, guys.”
    Terry: “No, that’s accurate.”
    Jake: “Very fair.”
    Hitchcock: “I could take her. What? I’m wily.”
  • Subway girl / Getting all the looks / Holding onto your / Big pile of books / Yeah you—” It’s no Addams Family rap, but I think Gina might be onto something. She has a pantomime to go with “Big pile of books!”
  • Note to self: Don’t Google “toilet videos,” “person fixing broken toilet,” or “instructional video from a plumber on how to fix an actual toilet.” All porn.
  • Boyle: (as Captain Holt) “I’m Captain Holt.”
    Hitchcock: “He sounds too white. Let me do it—” Thankfully, the Captain Holt soundboard strikes again. “GET SOME.”
  • Boyle: “Oh. My. God. They’re in a penis punch 69!” Certainly the most unexpected line to ever come from this show.
  • Gina: “Dear Beyoncé, Solange, Rihanna, someone cool that’s white, Cardi B—please bless this flush. A-woman.”
  • Rosa: “Felt like walking, so I took the stairs. Also, I thought it’d be funny to mess with you guys.”
    Jake: “Rosa, you know I hate pranks.”
    Rosa: “You love pranks.”
    Jake: “I do. I really do. You did it so good.”
  • Holt: “You know what would make a great movie? One where the hero sits with his friends and they talk about their emotions.”
    Jake: “I know that you’re just being nice right now, but that would be a terrible movie. I mean, what would the poster even be? Just a bunch of people’s faces?” I appreciate a good Ghost Protocol as much as the next person, but Jake needs to expand his cinematic horizons. And drink more than eight glasses of water a month.
  • For the second week in a row, Brooklyn Nine-Nine mentions Family Matters. It’s also the second time in recent memory that a character has explained a TGIF show to Amy, even though she gets it. (The first time was Jake explaining Full House in “DFW.”) It’s also pretty appropriate as the Amy/Gina plot has the concept of a TGIF plot, only without the happy ending of actually fixing the toilet and learning a lesson about self-worth through plumbing.
  • Also, apologies on the review delay. Gotta love a good old-fashioned ISP outage.

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