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Sunday, March 30, 2014

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE "Charges" Into Season Finale

Article first published as BROOKLYN NINE-NINE "Charges" Into Season Finale on TheTVKing.

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine has proven to be a very entertaining series, a conclusion that does not lessen going into the final episode of its freshman run, "Charges and Specs." Despite starting the story at the end, a terribly overused TV trope in recent years, this installment manages to tell a surprising and compelling story, taking several of our characters in new directions while allowing their fun, bumbling energy to come out along the way.

As "Charges and Specs" begins, Jake (Andy Samberg) is being pressured by his boss's boss, Deputy Commissioner Podolski (James Michael Connor), to stop investigating a rich donor. Jake continues anyway, even after Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) orders him not to. When Jake finds some evidence to support his theory, Holt and Santiago (Melissa Fumero) get on board. That is, until Holt asks Jake to trust him and get himself fired.

We all know what a great detective Jake is, in spite of his lackadaisical personality. If he says the man is dirty, he's dirty. And Jake continuing to pursue his case long after he's threatened only proves even more how dedicated he is to the badge. It's not a new thing for a hero cop to go off book and doggedly follow his leads, but this is a pure comedy, not the drama most police shows are made up of, and it's still integral to the character.

Holt likely thinks that Jake is right from the start, but as captain, has to play the politics of the department. As the man in charge, he can't just buck his superiors at will or none of the officers under his command would have jobs. To Holt's credit, he doesn't turn a blind eye when Jake brings him actionable evidence. But he's a sympathetic man, balancing the responsibilities of the job with justice.

Any annoyance at Holt for not getting behind Jake sooner is tossed out as soon as the trio go undercover at a dance competition. "Charges and Specs" gives Holt a chance to show his lighter side, something glimpsed occasionally on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but never more so than in this episode. I do think if Holt were allowed to come out like this more often, the novelty would soon wear off and it wouldn't be half as amusing, so as much as I love this, it's good the writers dole it out in dribbles, rather than letting it flow.

In the end, their work takes them across an FBI case and Jake must get fired in order to go undercover for the feds. Holt does the right thing by not telling Jake the full story ahead of time, as Jake can be his own worst enemy, and could have spoiled a rich opportunity. It's telling how well Jake and Holt have come to know and trust each other when this plays out exactly the way it should, and it's gratifying they will have that bond going forward, their dynamic a centerpiece of the program.

Santiago gets to show a different side, too, bucking the rules to help Jake. Is it because she has feelings for him, as he does for her? Or does it just feel good for once to get caught up in the mission, forgetting about the rule book she usually worships? Whatever the reason, this version of Santiago feels a little awkward, as she hasn't been developed yet, but really works.

Jake confesses his feelings for Santiago in a very appropriate way just before he leaves. Setting aside Jake's public discussions of covert affairs, which is dumb, the scene between the two is sweet and perfect. Samberg doesn't abandon who Jake is, finding his own unique way to say what he wants to say, not going over the top or getting too gushy. And Amy is fittingly shocked, giving them both plenty of time to mull this confession over.

Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) has love troubles of his own. Dumped by Vivian (Marilu Henner), he settles into a Matrix costume and consumes only eggs for sustenance. It's pathetic, and it's a shame; the couple is so good together. However, they found one another at the wrong time in their lives, professional considerations pulling them apart.

Boyle's co-workers do their best to cheer him up, especially Terry (Terry Crews), Gina (Chelsea Peretti), and Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz). They don't make much headway, none quite getting the depth of what Charles is going through, but at least they offer companionship and drinks. I think that's all friends can really do in such a situation. Boyle needs time to heal.

One suggestion brought up repeatedly is that Boyle should engage in some meaningless sex to bounce back. For a time, it looks like Rosa is being encouraged to step up, but Boyle's emotions towards Rosa will come back, and it would be a shame to waste them now. Besides, Rosa has definitely developed some real compassion for the man, which could lead to her wanting something real, too, besides a one night fling. So Gina boinks Boyle.

As long as Gina and Boyle are one-and-done, this works. It will cause tension and an obstacle between Rosa and Boyle making a go of things, but it also serves the purpose for now. Gina isn't girlfriend material for someone as earnest as Boyle. Overall, the romance on Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been handled with care, not allowing Rosa to fall into stereotypical jealousy when Boyle is happy with Vivian, either. I'm impressed by the nuance in what is, on the surface, a broad comedy.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has exceeded expectations. It's a whacky group of players, to be sure, but also a complex gang. It does the unexpected from time to time, and somehow puts forth a layer of authenticity over the goofball antics. A stellar cast and terrific writing combine to create a series I look forward to watching for years to come.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been renewed and will return on FOX next fall.

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