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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine meets sibling (and actor) rivalry with “The Golden Child”

Illustration for article titled Brooklyn Nine-Nine meets sibling (and actor) rivalry with “The Golden Child”
Graphic: Ron Batzdorff (NBC)
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After working an impressive balance between light comedy and serious real-life issues in last week’s “He Said, She Said,” Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns to straight up silliness with this week’s “The Golden Child.” Sure, this week’s A-plot comes from a real place as well—sibling rivalry, parental favoritism, being framed by dirty cops and kidnapped by beautiful Brazilians—but there’s no denying it’s ultimately all about the comedy.


In fact, “The Golden Child” doesn’t so much rely on Amy’s relatable feelings of inferiority as it leans into her absolute pettiness over and resentment of (both portrayed as absurdly childish and possibly villainous) her “perfect” brother David (Lin-Manuel Miranda). This drives the inappropriate joy she feels during that fleeting moment when it’s possible David will no longer be the golden child of the Santiago family. While it’s not supposed to be a flattering portrayal of Amy, it’s hard not to find amusement in her joy, considering how much of a blowhard David is. And that’s not even taking into account his repeated mentioning that he doesn’t “follow pop culture,” as the kind of character who makes sure everyone knows he doesn’t even own a TV.

Melissa Fumero again steals the show, with Jake’s role as Amy’s “hype man” quickly turning into Andy Samberg playing Fumero’s straight man, which leads to a great line (and line reading) like “Are you… a bad person?” Considering the situation—her family member getting busted with a bunch of cocaine in his desk—it’s harsh. But it’s also funny just how much Amy finds it funny and how untoward Jake finds that. This season has been pretty good about showing what married life is like both personally and professionally for Jake and Amy, and one thing it’s really been focused on (whether it works or not) is the idea of Jake also being the straight man to Amy’s wackiness, not just the other way around. It’s a necessary component to the characters’ relationship working in a larger sense—in terms of them making sense for the series—as it avoids the tired concept of Amy as the put-upon wife who just has to deal and go along with Jake’s immaturity. Both of these characters can be immature, because they’re written as human, and sometimes the immature one isn’t the one you’d expect. Again, while it comes from a place of pettiness, Amy’s “Aww, thanks for not trying to make me a better person. I love you.” isn’t just a funny reaction to Jake’s fake choking plan, it’s an acknowledgment that these characters know when they should go along with each other’s childish plans.

As for David Santiago, the dance-off is really the one scene where Miranda really gets to earn his keep in terms of laugh out loud material. He and Fumero actually bring new meaning to “bad dancing,” even if they can do body rolls, which are really hard. But this episode definitely knows what it’s doing by essentially having Miranda play a character that’s very similar to the image of him plenty of people have in their head. Not in terms of the anti-pop culture stance—though Miranda has said this is one of only four television shows he watches—the overachieving, constantly bragging, and golden child perception. It’s pretty much as if Neil Campbell and the rest of the Brooklyn NIne-Nine writers took that perception of Lin-Manuel Miranda, made it a cop, and then made sure to take away any potential rapping scenarios.

Mrs. Santiago: “He’s everyone’s role model. That’s why he’s on the mantel.”

However, Mrs. Santiago’s (Bertila Damas) presence in the dinner scenes is what creates a problem with the Amy/David story, as she’s the bigger antagonist in this scenario—even though David has no problem playing into the narrative—and Amy doesn’t get to confront that part of it all. Amy and David’s relationship isn’t framed by a perceived Santiago family favoritism, it’s an actual favoritism. And that ends up being part of why Amy’s reconciliation with David feels so hollow. The fact that David ultimately does end up being “perfect”—even though Amy gets one win as “The Golden Girl”—and their mother continues to reinforce that and the idea of ranking her children is a frustrating end to this story. The moral victory is supposed to be Amy simply accepting the status quo and not trying to compete (in addition to Jake’s snapping at Mrs. Santiago), and while the second part of that is a good lesson, the first part not so much. It’s a shame Amy doesn’t get to tell off her mother, even though Jake standing up for his wife in this scenario is absolutely the right thing to do, especially after seeing what this David situation has done to Amy. But at least Amy won the dance-off.

Meanwhile, the B-plot marks the return of a very important part of the series’ mythology: Captain Holt’s attempts at presenting himself as a heterosexual man by discussing, at length, “heavy breasts.” (It also provides a fun spin on its police work, whereas the actual investigation in the A-plot is a very low-energy version of a high stakes situation.) Both stories in this episode can be maddening at times—with David’s humble brags and Boyle’s role as Director Boyle—but the latter gets to a point where it could make anyone snap the way Terry does in holding. Director Boyle is honestly funny, as is the very concept of turning this small undercover assignment into a high school theatre experience. Not only does it lead to the return of heterosexual Holt (in the role of “Maxwell Blaze”), but there’s also Scully’s interpretation of the character (with a boombox, gold chain, and football jersey), and the fact Terry is the obvious choice… which makes it even funnier when Holt gets the role.

Where the “maddening” part comes in is when Boyle tags Terry in (as “Tyrone McCallister”) and then keeps interfering and eventually blowing his cover. At first, it comes across like delusional Boyle being far too in his own world where Terry is a scrub compared to him (“You needed to be rejected by me, a man you admire so much.”), and that particular quirk seems to easily blow him this case he came to Terry and Holt for help on in the first place.


But the Rosa reveal (her playing Ricki Sheetz, “DJ by night, smuggler by later night”) as the final twist saves the plot from Boyle falling into absolute doofus territory, as it proves there is an actual method to his madness. (In theory, Rosa could have just gone in first and been fine, but the episode makes clear that it’s the failed Holt and Terry attempts that primed Boyle’s perp to sing about everything that happened that night and more.) Rosa is the golden child in this case when it comes to acting, though Terry isn’t exactly bad, he’s just driven to the edge by Boyle. The final twist also plays off Holt’s thoughts on acting and the established characterization of Rosa:

Holt: “Or—I could do it.”
Terry: “What? You hate theatre. You always say acting is just professional lying.”

Boyle: “She’s the only good actor here.”
Terry: “She is?”
Rosa: “Yeah. You know nothing about my real life. I’m always acting.”


If there’s one thing that remains true and constant in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s that Rosa is the best actor on the squad, by far. It’s honestly not even a competition. It’s been established for the audience just how little the squad actually knows about Rosa, but while she lets certain things slip out to them, it’s always Boyle she allows to know the most about her (and the fact that no one knows anything about her). So of course he knew she was the only good actor/professional liar in the bunch. It certainly isn’t Amy, as everyone could very clearly see from her reactions to her brother getting arrested for drug possession.

The A-plot in “The Golden Child” is definitely Melissa Fumero’s vehicle, but the B-plot gives everyone involved something truly great to play with. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s role as a special guest star thankfully doesn’t overpower the episode—again, it only makes Fumero stronger—but I’ll also say this: David Santiago is no Doug Judy.


Stray observations

  • Amy: “Meanwhile, my picture gathers dust on the piano.”
    Rosa: “The piano’s not that bad.”
    Amy: “Nobody in the family plays, Rosa! At least people use the stairs!”
  • Hitchcock: “Ooh, does this David have a sister?”
    Jake: “Yes! Amy is his sister.”
    Hitchcock: “And what’s her deal?”
    Jake: “You were at the wedding, Hitchcock!”
  • Holt going from wanting to try the unconventional concept of talking work in the break room, immediately finding it foolish, then making them move things to his office is an excellent way to begin the B-plot.
  • Scully (on his hairstyle): “Put mousse in it while it’s wet, then I watch a scary movie.”
  • Rosa: “What is wrong with her?”
    Jake: “Her brother David got arrested.”
    Amy: “He’s a coke head!”
    Rosa: “And you’re happy about this? That’s savage. I love it.”
  • Terry: “No offense, but Holt was so unconvincing! He kept referring to his childhood as a soot-covered street urchin.”
    Holt: “Yes, I gave myself a Dickensian backstory. Which, apparently, made quite the impression.”
  • Rosa: “This is so stupid, Boyle. You can’t manipulate somebody like that and expect them to get on board, right, Sarge?”
    Terry: “‘Sarge’? My name’s Tyrone. Tyrone McGallagher.”
    Boyle: “McCallister.”
    Terry: “McCallister.”
  • Amy calls herself “The Golden Girl,” which begs the question: Which Golden Girl is each member of the Nine-Nine?

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.