Law and Order, in all of its iterations, is a comforting show to watch, despite its sometimes gruesome subject matter. In its heyday, Detective Lenny Briscoe (or his lesser replacements) and his shiny partner would always catch the guy, then throw him to Jack McCoy who, despite a red herring or two, would get his man. For the most part. Law and Order could go on and on and on, and switch precincts and coasts because the investigations by the police and the D.A.’s office fueled the episode. It works for a show like Law and Order and many of the procedurals before and since because it’s an uncomplicated route to get to the part where good triumphs over evil.
Despite my affection for some of the writing of this episode (by Luke Del Tredici, who wrote one of my fave latter day 30 Rocks, “Leap Day”), there are patterns beginning to emerge in Brooklyn Nine-Nine that feel less comforting, a la Law and Order and the other procedurals that it lovingly mocks, and are beginning to border on rote. Jake Peralta, despite persistent bravado, screws something up only to have his precinct rally around him. When that falls short, Peralta’s insanely intuitive mind saves the day. Because Peralta couldn’t have done it without the team (and because Holt’s team-building lesson would have been for naught), the pattern becomes a good way to keep the rest of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s excellent ensemble involved in the proceedings while retaining Peralta as the core, main character. After a while, Peralta’s cries of genius ring false. Peralta is a pretty shitty detective even when he gets his man.
In the case of “48 Hours,” that need to keep Peralta as the central figure overshadows two potentially interesting subplots in favor of an investigation that doesn’t have enough action to drive the episode. In any other young sitcom, the formula to keep the main character at the center would be completely necessary as the rest of the ensemble finds its footing and its place. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s cast was so naturally tight right out of the gate that they don’t need these formulas remain interesting. Normally, we would need to stay with the ostensible main character so we would like ensemble. The cast is already there; the show needs to give them something else to do, other than back-up Peralta.
Maybe the conundrum of Peralta being a terrible detective bothered me more acutely in this episode because he arrested a perp with little evidence. Guys, I’m not a lawyer or anything, but I do know that’s, like, super illegal. Not just a little illegal. Not-even-funny illegal. The rest of the precinct gets roped into working the weekend to cover Peralta’s constantly in jeopardy ass. In the process, Rosa and Gina get into a fight about the quality of pies that serves little purpose other than to shoehorn Gina back into a plot she’s not required to be in. It might have fit into another episode—the notion that Boyle learns to be himself to impress, the Rosa-Gina pairing—but it felt tossed in here. Terry’s plot, about his giant brother-in-law (no, seriously, I thought there was some kind of camera trick involved to make that man look so terrifyingly huge), could have been something but was underdeveloped. That man was crazy big. Just the image of him standing next to Terry was hilarious.
Despite the structural elements that are as much a season-wide issue (and remember, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is only seven episodes in at this point) as an episodic one, “48 Hours” was packed with genuine laugh lines. In addition, it highlighted the physical comedy of two players that I’ve mentioned before: Terry and Santiago. Terry’s sleep chin ups and episode-ending fall onto Holt’s couch were great, but his physicality is not a surprise. Melissa Fumero does most of her acting in her face, and it’s quite fun to watch, whether she’s trying to get smokey eye tips from an incarcerated prostitute only to discover said lady of the night has an STD rash or she’s reacting to the idea of a man whose soul patch tingles for her. Santiago is one of many characters who can can be funny, even without revolving around Peralta.
- The salt water taffy in Cape May, New Jersey is for real (Fralinger's). I’d be sad too, Scully.
- Peralta makes fun of Santiago’s poor sight, wondering why there hasn’t been a TV movie about a blind cop. Because Steven Bochco made a TV series out of it. It was called Blind Justice, and it starred Ron Eldard, and I watched every glorious stupid episode.
- Holt didn’t do much this episode, but he had two of my favorite lines: “I know you’re mad at Detective Peralta for ruining your weekend.” “And? “That was it. I was just demonstrating what a fact is.” And, of course: “What are you talking about? My hair is a mess.”