Heart. That’s what the overriding taste that “Fancy Brudgom” left in my mouth (or, mouth-feel, if you will) as a viewer. Man, this show has heart. It’s a rather ambiguous quality, heart. It’s not undefinable in the I’ll-know-it-when-I-see-it sense of pornography, or the have-it-or-you-don’t tenets of charisma, but it certainly is a subjective quality. For as much as this squishy element of emotional resonance can ultimately affect my critical perception, I have a low bullshit tolerance when it comes to heart. But in each episode, Brooklyn Nine-Nine hits that “heart” factor just right. Take how I initially felt about “Fancy Brudgom”: It was good, but I wasn’t thrilled. Still, the more I thought about it, the more my affection grew. I can sit here and nitpick and fault Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but when it all comes down to it, I leave each episode feeling that warm and fuzzy feeling that exists when a show hits the sweet spot being trying too hard, miring itself in treacle territory, and when it elevates laughs to the point where it’s cold and unfeeling. Each portion of the episode had this perfectly measured-out quality of heart.
The best example of this heart quality happens in “Fancy Brudgom’s” earlier moments. Boyle asks Peralta to be his best man by putting a bowtie in his beer. Rather than shirk off the duties, as would be in his eternally immature character and even as Santiago references, Peralta not only acquiesces but does with gusto. He’s going to read that titular Danish wedding magazine (brudgom actually means bridegroom in Danish, I looked it up) and he’ll taste all of the spicy wedding cake even if it kills him. Peralta does it because he and Boyle are best friends, just as he takes a billy club to Boyle’s knee to get him to talk to Vivian about his move to suburban Ottawa (not even Ottawa proper!). It’s one of the cracks that’s emerging in the Boyle-Vivian relationship. Their love story, as much as I enjoy Marilu Henner, most likely will not last (although it will go on for at least the next couple of episodes), but I like that there are reasons their marriage won’t work beyond Boyle’s unrequited love for Diaz. This development gives Vivian and Boyle’s relationship more depth, and allows Boyle as a character to be less of a dick than the guy who lead his fiancée on only to leave her at the altar because of an unresolved crush.
The quality of heart persists even throughout the subplots, which should seem slight in comparison to the central story, yet have their own oh-so-sweet moments. Initially, it didn’t make sense for Terry to try the fad diet with Santiago and Gina, even if it meant team building. But it totally jives with his character that he would subsist on paper thin pieces of cantaloupe just to make his wife feel better about her body, despite his declarations of her beauty. Terry Crews can play sweet, and has done so in past roles, that’s no secret. The comedic effect is generated because it’s so at odds with his physicality. But it’s to Crews and the writers’ credit that his support of his wife is so naturally a part of Sergeant Jeffords’ being. Yet, there were ways to undercut the sentimentality, like Santiago’s hypoglycemic rage (“I hope you drown in a tub! I hope you have aneurysm, after aneurysm, after aneurysm!”) And, of course, there’s always flatulence to keep things hilarious. Seriously, that fart face? Wonderful.
Despite fart faces, though, my favorite aspect of the episode was Diaz and Holt’s scenes together. Diaz comes from a place where when you screw up, you get chastised and mocked until you figure it out. But Holt, always the father figure, tells her that’s not how good captains run their ship. Just as he sees the good cop behind the goofy smile in Peralta, Holt sees the leader underneath Diaz’s surly demeanor. And, like Peralta, Holt plays off their similarities (“Did he fill it out in crayon?” “No, but he did use a green pen, which seems crazy to me.”) to teach Diaz her episodic lesson. Their sorry-off was perfect in both timing and execution. It was also great to see Diaz outside of the context of love interest. She’s certainly had her own, non-Boyle affiliated plots before (such as “Sal’s Pizza”), but she has largely been viewed in the context of Boyle’s romantic feelings toward her. It’s a testament to the show that she’s given episodes to be something other than the object of affection. The same can be said about Santiago and her relationship with Peralta. These women are given plots of their own that don’t revolve around who has a crush on them, and that’s exceedingly important to building a truly deep show.
Was this the funniest Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode of all time? Not really. It had its great laugh lines, but others have been more guffaw-worthy. Can a show live by heart alone? Sure, but its effects lessen over time. Look at the latter seasons of Parks and Recreation, which is still enjoyable but not the comedic force it once was. But for now, it’s one of the more wonderful aspects of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and I have no problem aww-ing my way through several more episodes.
- For those who missed the news, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was renewed for a second season. Whut, whut.
- I love ’70s Hitchcock and Scully: “Actually, I was in a coma, but when I woke up, I had so much mail!”