Let’s just be honest with each other upfront, okay? I’m predisposed to like anything with Stacy Keach in it (seriously, you shoulda seen me when he showed up in 30 Rock’s “Murphy Brown Lied to Us,” parodying those Clint Eastwood Super Bowl ads). Cast him as a hard-bitten Jimmy Breslin-type with a penchant for a scotch and rose-tinted view of the “good ol’ days,” and I’m totally sold. There’s a gruffness that Keach has that feels entirely retro. Even our most rough and tumble actors have a certain sheen to them that Keach does not possess. He’s the perfect guy to play this part, because when Keach goes to the bar, I believe he orders two bottles of scotch. And doesn’t share. But Stacy Keach isn’t the only reason “Old School” was great. Sure, he’s a big part of it, but it’s also the way Jake Peralta, Amy Santiago, and Ray Holt interact with Keach’s Jimmy Brogan that make this episode what it is.
Last week, I talked about Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Peralta Problem. He did terrible detective work, overshadowing two potentially interesting subplots in the service of being the main character when every other character seemed more interesting and worthy of the episode’s focus. Peralta’s cheekiness was becoming grating, and he wasn’t deserving of his main character status. But Peralta redeems himself in “Old School,” not just as a detective but also as a human being.
The lesson of the episode is the classic tale of faltering heroes. Peralta is psyched to meet his idol, Brogan, the author of The Squad, a book on the NYPD of the ’70s (when the mustaches were juicy and the clothes were orange and flammable), a group of hard-drinking men who regularly got their heads kicked in fighting the evil mafia tide and decried the “hair bags” (seriously, hair bags? What does that even mean?) who sat behind their desks all day. But crime in Brooklyn is no longer about cracking mafioso skulls; it’s about guys behind their computers selling stolen credit card numbers. The criminals themselves have become hair bags. Holt tries to warn him Peralta can’t hang, trash-talking Holt for his rules. To a guy like Brogan, Holt is the hair bag, the guy who cares about clerical errors and wearing ties, But, then, Peralta redeems himself, solving the case and standing up for his captain, not because he has to, but because he wants to. It’s not the ’70s anymore, and it’s not acceptable to flip off every Puerto Rican in the place with your shot off finger, because that Puerto Rican may be your partner. Peralta earns his position as the central figure of the episode and, if he continues like this, the series.
Meanwhile, Boyle and Terry give Diaz a crash course on how to appear before a jury. Diaz is a tough character, not only because of her demeanor but because her main character trait is that she’s incredibly closed off. So it’s always a pleasant surprise when she’s an MVP character. Stephanie Beatriz just kills it here with her physicality (the crazy person smile, the uncontrollable eye-blinking). But it also gave Joe Lo Truglia something to do other than play puppy love. Like Diaz, Boyle could be one note. He’s the office punching bag and perceived weakling. He has skills as a police officer, too. They might not be the same investigative strengths as everyone else, but damn if he can’t charm a jury.
“Old School” wasn’t just funny in the big, broad moments, but in the smaller ones too. The facial reactions in this episode were exemplary, especially from Andre Braugher and Amy Fumero. The former didn’t play a large part in the episode, but he did what he could in the subtle moments when the viewer is supposed to be paying attention to the joke. The camera work in this episode was also particularly fun, especially in the beginning: the close-up of Boyle in full on bomb squad gear as he, looking absolutely terrified, tries to take Scully’s shoes, or the quick pan from Peralta to Santiago after Boyle comments on Peralta’s quick virginity loss story. It’s sign of great maturation of the series, and I hope it continues on this path.
- It’s a testament to this episode that Gina wasn’t in it, and I still loved it.
- It was quite the banner episode for Hitchcock. His coke binge flashback was great.
- Facial reactions were at their pinnacle this episode.
- “I once saw Gaminksy choke a hippie to death with his own ponytail.”
- “You go through doors normally, and everyone calls you ‘Pineapples.’”
- “My entire body has dry mouth.”
- “You should drink it all. For your guns.”