Since Jake and Rosa’s return to the precinct, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has worked hard to solidly remind the audience just how strong the bonds of the Nine-Nine are, whether they’re tested in competition, relapse, business ventures, Butt-lympics, or even pastry-based mysteries. “Return To Skyfire,” however, is something of an outlier to all of these episodes. It doesn’t quite belong, and compared to the episodes before it, it lacks the same solid reminder of how strong the Nine-Nine is together. Or Brooklyn Nine-Nine is at all.
Both an underwhelming follow-up to last season’s Skyfire episode and to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s current string of episodes, “Return To Skyfire” even feels like it was plopped into this season without having any other place to go. (I looked into it after watching, and this episode originally came before “Two Turkeys” in the production order.*) I wrote that the predictability and “expected” nature of DC Parlov’s character in the original Skyfire episode didn’t deter from the episode itself, because predictable can work as long as it’s executed well. That’s one of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s strengths as a sitcom, after all. But part of that predictability with Parlov stems from the fact that he’s one thing, one joke, and it’s never going to change or surprise you. One of the best bits that comes from Parlov’s return doesn’t even feature Parlov himself, in the scene where Jake and Terry reveal to possible suspect Miles Moorgil (Todd Aaron Brotze) that his wife cheated on him with both Parlov and Landon Lawson (Rob Huebel). Specifically once the kid comes in to ask if his parents are getting divorced, with Jake and Terry’s never-ending “Uhh” and the subsequent “Oof. Okay, that was a rough 70 minutes.” from Jake.
“Return To Skyfire” suggests that DC Parlov is something of an inverse Doug Judy or Halloween Heist for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. (The same could be said for The Vulture by this point, though his continued existence at least makes sense in the world of this series.) But while Fred Melamed is great, he’s not exactly given anything great to do with the character, especially not in this episode. Parlov is a lecherous slime that Terry unfortunately reveres; so the only difference between now and last season is that now Jake is on Terry’s level. As for Rob Huebel’s Lawson, with his early 2000s hairstyle and role as a hack writer, at least he properly pronounces “Smaug.” And in comparing Parlov to Doug Judy, that also comes right down to the downright giddiness these characters inspire in Terry (for Parlov) and Jake (for Judy and now also Parlov). But where Doug Judy and the Halloween Heist thrive on the concept of how their appearances will one-up themselves, there’s clearly no such thinking required with Parlov and his stories. That’s fine for a one-off, but to realize that’s how it is in the character’s return, disappointment follows.
As for the LegendCon setting and how that shapes the story, Jake and Terry go on about how great these genre books are and how it’s all actually cool, but everything here is depicted as absurdly shallow. This works in the immediate bit about the diversity panel being nothing but white men—the realest moment of this episode—and Jake being aware about the root of Parlov and Lawson’s sexual appeal, but there’s a strange dichotomy in watching these characters get excited about something while literally everything surrounding it saying they probably shouldn’t be so excited. It’s almost like the episode itself is on “skeptical” Rosa’s side, even though it ends with her accepting genre fiction into her life.
Even stranger is how Jake’s tangents about The Jerky Boys, Carly Rae Jepsen, Sheryl Crow, and even his bizarre (but instantly catchy) Addams Family song all come across as more genuine (as in, not just regurgit than his excitement over the Skyfire series. His prison explanation for reading it all in the first place rings true, since he revealed to Amy that he had been reading a lot in prison. But in actual practice? The recurring bit of Jake and Terry reciting the same nerdy thoughts at each other—instead of just having a back and forth—is not as endearing as the episode either thinks it is or wants it to be. And that’s a true disappointment, because an episode were Jake and Terry share a common joy and want to spread that joy should be a slam dunk.
As for the B-story, while its focus on Amy/Holt/Boyle initially inspires some good will outside of the A-story, the episode doesn’t quite capitalize on this trio either. Not only is Amy and Holt’s “Amy and Holt-ness” mostly relegated to their first scene—before any of the action happens—they are unfortunately working in service of a character who doesn’t evolve past the level of “Forensics Guy.” That choice makes a promising storyline not live up to that promise, especially when the end result is it not mattering at all. As Holt tells Boyle, if the Nine-Nine gets the board certification from the forensic sciences course, they can get a grant for a field lab in the precinct. We know just how much the Nine-Nine both wants and needs to be considered an invaluable precinct. Whether it’s budget cuts or people in positions of authority who are simply out to get the Nine-Nine, they need a true win and not just to figure out a way to get up from under a loss. Instead, this plot takes that concept and ignores it for another reminder of how annoying Boyle and his family stories can be. Holt’s last minute attempt to get them certified based on the simple concept of honesty is a nice touch—as is the initial moment of Amy and Holt’s panic-turned-kidnapping—but it’s simply a solid moment in a weak story. Which is the norm for “Return To Skyfire,” unfortunately: There are quite a few funny moments here, but they occur within an otherwise thin and slowly-paced plot. And they’re just moments.
Going back to that first scene though, at least it gave us this exchange:
Amy: “He revolutionized the field of forensic entomology. He is a rockstar.”
Holt: “Oh, please. Rockstars wish they were he. The man can tell how long a corpse has been decomposing just by studying the maggots inside. I’d like to see Barbra Streisand do that.”
Amy: “Not sure Barbra Streisand counts as a rockstar, sir.”
Holt: “She sings in English. That’s rock music.”
This is the first Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode in a while that just feels “inconsequential.” That’s not to criticize it for just being a sitcom, because not everything about the series has to be part of a major story arc. But not only are both plots here frustratingly isolated—the fact that the A-plot returns to the precinct numerous times and there’s absolutely no interaction between that and the precinct-contained B-plot sticks out—they’re not even doing much with the groups they separate these characters into. Rosa mocking something Jake and Terry love, only to grow to appreciate it. Holt and Amy being embarrassed by Boyle being Boyle, only to grow to appreciate it (and after they plastered his face and kidnapped him first). Parlov and Lawson don’t contribute too much here, despite the talent behind them. Jake giving Terry a pep talk about his writing and getting better is a nice character moment, but it’s one that would work even better in a stronger episode. So perhaps “unmemorable” is a better word for “Return To Skyfire.” Leading into such a big episode for the series (the 99th episode), it would already be so easy for this to be forgotten. But it shouldn’t be this easy.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: I’m sure the rest of the “Diversity in Fantasy Writing” panel—with DC Parlov, Landon Lawson, Thomas Houser, Travis Gates, Kurt Weidmann—has something to offer. Also, I wonder if fantasy writer Travis Gates is related to Brooklyn Nine-Nine producer Travis E. Gates...
- *It appears at least one scene was cut from the episode: Based on a promotional picture I saw for this episode and assuming Fox didn’t just miscategorize it, the cold open from “Bad Beat” (where Boyle becomes Jake’s Best Man) was originally for this episode. That would also explain why this week’s cold open is so directly related to the plot.
- Terry: “Hey, Jake. Guess who just called me.”
Jake: “The Jerky Boys. They’re back!”
Terry: “No. What? No!”
- Rosa: “Why are you so excited? You don’t care about those stupid books.”
Jake: “I actually did read all of them in prison. They are the greatest books I’ve ever read. And I’ve read Cujo.”
- Jake: “Rosa, I think if you just gave it a chance, you would get hooked. I mean, what is it that you do in your free time that’s so cool? ”
Rosa: “Fix up old cars and sell them to celebrities. It’s why I’m friends with Tom Hardy.”
Jake: “Right. So we agree that we’re all equally cool.”
- Jake: “You know I’ve always wanted to write a book myself. But all I know about is cops, and there are literally no more cop stories to tell. Zero.” Hehe, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Hehe.
- Terry: “Everyone has back muscles, Jake.”
Jake: “Nuh uh. My back looks like the inside of a spoon.” Going to have to side with Jake on this one. Terry’s back muscles are not that of a normal human.
- Upon entering Parlov’s hotel room, there really is green paint everywhere. It’s not just lazily painted across the room either: It’s strategically placed. Set design is an art form, y’all.
- Coincidentally, last week’s Fresh Off The Boat also did the “character’s novel sucks” plot. Though, as bad as Terry’s book apparently was, it still sounds better than Jessica Huang’s A Case Of A Knife To The Brain. By the way, why would Jake randomly make a reference to Terry’s book for any situation when he hated the book? Who does that? Why wouldn’t he just reference another Skyfire thing? Other than because it moves the plot along?
- Jake and Terry are in agreement that Moorgil’s kid looks “exactly like Parlov,” but… he doesn’t? I could maybe see them saying Lawson because of the hair, but they go with Parlov for some reason.
- Jake: “Being wrong never felt so right / With the Addams Family / Staying up all night … Well they stole their own books / It’s plain to see / But who’s on the case? / The Addams Family … Terry is Gomez / I’m Cousin Itt / You are Wednesday / Let’s do this—” When he gets to the Cousin Itt line, he puts his Ka’lar wig in front of his face. Nice touch.
- Speaking of Ka’lar, I’m fairly certain the costume competition ends up being a bust, because literally every Ka’lar is wearing the same terrible wig (except for Jake, whose wig is on point), mask, and cloak.
- The CW passed on the Skyfire television series. Good, because The CW can obviously do better.
- Since Neil Campbell is the credited writer for this episode, if only Rob Huebel could’ve appeared as Mike Detective... Alas, this episode is just like the second half of Hamlet’s dilemma: not to be. (I’m sorry.)
- Rosa’s role as the contrarian is also a relatively one-dimensional part for her to play here—there’s being cool and then there’s just unnecessarily calling your friends’ interest “garbage” and “trash,” you know—right down to the ending of her getting interested in genre novels because the character on the cover of the book looks like her. That is a very literal moment of a character feeling representation in media. While that sentiment is a good one, this episode is not telling a story about that and it’s just another moment in an episode of moments.