Brooklyn Nine-Nine is not a show that’s subtle about its episodic themes. “The Vulture” is a prime example. An episode about teamwork is resolved when the team works together. It’s a simple concept. The theme this week isn’t best illustrated by its storyline, though. Instead, it's the actual practice that works. Peralta, Boyle, Diaz, Santiago (and Hitchcock and Scully, but, losers? Amirite?) work together to solve their case, but in the end, their ensemble creates the most satisfying episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine in its short run so far.
Peralta is almost finished solving the case of a bigwig who was almost definitely murdered by his wife when Major Case Detective Pembroke steals the thunder that Peralta had so desperately tried to protect for himself. Pembroke is the titular Vulture, swooping in a when a case is close to completion so he can take credit for it (or taking a free cup of coffee. Paid for with a gift card, no less). Dean Winters, who plays Pembroke, is so good at playing notable assholes (see: King, Beeper) that his mere presence makes him a worthy adversary to Peralta. The irony is that Peralta and Pembroke want the same thing: to receive sole credit for solving the murder. Fueled by cocktails and a taste for revenge, Peralta suggests to his team, whom he had previously ignored in order to achieve total glory, that they vulture the case themselves.
What works about this storyline is how well the team works together. Not as detectives, but as actors. It’s so incredibly rare for a sitcom so young to have an ensemble that seamlessly blends this early on. While some pairings work better than others (Andre Braugher and Andy Samberg in particular), “The Vulture” brought everyone into play and used each one extremely well, from Diaz’s gruff sweetness to Boyle’s constant second fiddle to Santiago and Peralta’s love-hate relationship. Each character worked, and each actor got his or her chance to to show off, specifically in the scene where the characters tipsily replay the murder. Maybe that’s why this week Brooklyn Nine-Nine felt more like a workplace comedy, and less like a police procedural parody. It was comforting in a way. Here the characters are talking about their oldest bag (the cold opens are killing it, but I think Boyle’s admission to cougar-lovin’ is my favorite so far); here they are shooting the shit in the bar. Last week, I noted that Diaz’s character was rockier than the others. Sometimes, she’s an uber-bitch, and sometimes, she's compulsively helpful, but this episode certainly worked to smooth over those elements, and Stephanie Beatriz is working all of her angles well. She feels more like part of the team, and less like the scary one no one wants to be friends with.
Not only has the ensemble matured, but the beats of Brooklyn Nine-Nine are starting to really gel as well. “The Tagger,” the series’ second episode, had some of those beats, like the flashbacks to the pre-Holt captain, but they felt like retreads. Callbacks in “The Vulture”—like the questioning of weirdo suspects throughout the victim’s building, or the flashback to Terry’s incident—didn’t feel stale or overused.
“The Vulture” is also the first episode where both the A and B plots were equally funny. Holt needs Terry back in the field, so he tricks him into taking him to a gun range so he can be re-certified for the field. While Holt and Gina don’t seem like a duo that could pull off such a clever ruse, their odd coupledom is never once questioned as if it would be anything but normal. Holt asks procedural questions about his shooting stance, while Gina holds the gun sideways like she’s an extra in a gangsta rap video. They’re both such different characters, but Chelsea Peretti and and Braugher use their differing beats and chemistry to make it work. Terry Crews tempers them both. He should be the butt of the jokes, the cop who can’t make it out in the field, but he’s not. He’s actually so good that Holt wants him back in the field as soon as possible. It was sweet, really, the lengths that Holt would go to help a a fellow cop out. That’s what teamwork is all about, isn’t it?
- Terry Crews was actually a football player before he was an actor. He didn’t just play at Syracuse (actually Western Michigan University). He played for seven years in the NFL.
- Aw, Andy Richter! It makes me happy that his TBS schedule allows him to do these funny weirdo guest spots (RIP Happy Endings), but I will still pour one out for Andy Richter Controls the Universe.
- “The last two percent is the hardest to get. That’s why they leave it in the milk.”
- “What? You can hate people and still think they’re hot. Case in point: Manual Noriega.” Maybe there's hope for Boyle and Diaz yet, considering she has the worst taste in men. Possibly of all time.
- “Do you carry a hair dryer in your purse?” “I’m not an animal.”
- “Stay foxy” “Die lonely”
- “Dr. Jacob Peralta who has a PhD in slow jam studies from Funktown University.”
- “You can join my dance troupe Floorgasm.”
- The look on Andre Braugher’s face after Terry says he needs to go home and hug his kids.