Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: "Halloween"

Illustration for article titled Brooklyn Nine-Nine: "Halloween"

Looks like Brooklyn Nine-Nine is on a bit of a roll. What’s really amazing about this episode is that each plot is derived from the sitcom handbook, but it all came together in a way that didn’t feel contrived. Written by former Girls staffer Lesley Arfin, “Halloween” is a holiday-themed episode, which ostensibly dooms it to cliche from the start. Then other layers of overdone are packed into the plot: distaste for a holiday that leads to learning the lesson of said holiday, the co-worker with a secret, challenges accepted. But “Halloween” all worked in a way that on paper it really shouldn’t have, in part because the main plot could have happened during any episode, holiday-themed or not. It was augmented by the Halloween backdrop, but it certainly wasn’t dependent on it.

Before we parse anything further, let’s talk about the genius of that cold opening. Last week, I claimed "The Vulture" contained my favorite cold opening. I should have waited. The scant minutes before the opening credits served to set up the entire episode, including running gags—namely the titles of Santiago’s sex tape—and plotlines. I like these cold opens so much because they bring each of the cast members together efficiently. As my affinity for the “The Vulture” attests, I like it when Brooklyn Nine-Nine plays to its strengths as an ensemble comedy, where everyone works together, not just on a case but for the greater comedic good. This show is blessed with an ensemble that works well together early on in its run, and the cold opens are an effective showcase of that. This cold open felt like it was jumping writing into the plot, rather than showcasing a non sequitur moment, but it continued on, giving the episode an ensemble, everyone-is-in-this-together feel, when it wasn't until the end that the cast reunited to help Peralta.

I loved the elaborate scheme that named Peralta the victor, what I really liked about this plot is that it simultaneously gave Peralta the win without making him the hero. For the previous episodes, Holt has been the all-knowing, always victorious leader. No matter how many times Peralta bristled against his authority, Holt always came out on top but he lost a round in “Halloween.” Subversion of authority usually goes hand-in-hand with loss of dignity for the authoritative, but “Halloween” allowed Holt to fail without losing that sense of authority. Part of that may be on Braugher who is so commanding that even the image of him in short-shorts after work wouldn’t subvert that. Peralta’s purpose was to win, to beat Holt. He couldn’t achieve that through his own force of motivation, so he gets the gang together by giving them what they want. While Holt is stuck doing all the paperwork, he still get to teach Peralta a lesson: motivate the team, work together, get a W.

The B-plots didn’t hold the same appeal as the Peralta’s rouse but they each served their own purpose. The Santiago-Boyle plotline was the more contrived of the holiday episode tropes, but it was still so sweet. Boyle’s enthusiasm coupled nicely with Santiago’s cynicism, but she recants for Boyle, giving him his own little mark in the win column. And if there’s one character who needed a win, it was Boyle. Terry and Diaz was also an interesting pairing. Both characters subverts their gender role and physicality—Diaz is tough as nails, while Terry is too sensitive. Playing off of each other could make them bad caricatures, but instead, the writing and actors kept their scenes together low-key. It also further expanded on Diaz’s character. She may have been a ballerina but she’ll be damned if she lets a perp get away without a closeline to the neck.

Stray observations:

  • Let’s all celebrate Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s back-end order! So you guys can stop talking about how this show is going to get cancelled in the comments for at least one week.

    I would like to point out this amazing, Halloween episode-related tweet by the New Yorker’s Ben Greenman.

    Halloween episodes of sitcoms are redundant: everyone is already dressing up as someone else and asking to be rewarded.

    — Ben Greenman (@bengreenman) October 23, 2013

    I’m not a huge fan of the flashes to other scenes throughout the show, but they worked particularly well in “Halloween.” (“Eat the bread! Eat the bread!”)

    The costumes that each arrestee wore was pretty great: Royal baby, the Hillary Clinton-Kim Jong Un makeout sesh, the giant baked potato, sexy robot.

    When are we going to see a full performance of Gina's dance team? That's going to need to happen at some point. My prediction: It will be glorious.

    Honestly, if I did quotes in stray observations this week, it would be the majority of the episode. My favorite: “Beware of the backdraft!”

    Okay, second favorite: “Maybe, if we’re talking about who’s winning our bet. But if we’re talking about who is holding more birds, I’m winning. For nothing.

    Okay, third: “What does your skin taste like?” “Dina Lohan. I’m wearing her face lotion.”

    Okay, fourth: “You know Natasha?” “Her dog has lupus.”