If the last couple Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes have taught us anything, it’s that this show does comedy remarkably well. We already knew this. We’ve known for years. But the brilliant thing about this ensemble comedy is it’s admirable capacity to shift the tone of an entire episode into something darker, something much more serious, while also maintaining comedic touches that remind us that this show has never been anything other than incredibly great.
It’s enviable. The amount of talent necessary to pull off such a change as well as Brooklyn does is only achievable if the entire cast and crew are capable of doing everything well. And they really are.
Tension and nerves run high at the 99th precinct this week when Rosa responds to an active shooter in a Brooklyn hotel and the squad is left to deal with not knowing whether she is safe or not. Amy and Gina try to fix a broken toilet in hopes it will make Rosa’s mood better when —if— she comes back, and Jake has to learn to manage his concern without breaking the rules.
Inspired by a real-life shooting in a Brooklyn hospital, “Show Me Going” is not only the perfect representation of the dangers of American gun policy and the reality of day-to-day shootings, but also one of the most sincere reflections on life when tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone.
SHOW ME GOING
Without a doubt, the episode’s most exceptional trait is its astoundingly well-managed tonal shift that differentiates it from the rest of the season’s overall chirpy and hilarious spirit. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always distinguished itself for being a very self-aware comedy that deals with and talks about those issues that are troublesome and problematic in society, and its season finales have always taken a darker, more intense mood to highlight the dramatic importance of those storylines, but it has rarely done so when a normal episode is involved. It has raised awareness of LGBT problems, and it has tackled racism and gun control before, but it’s never done so with the honesty and the tension “Show Me Going” had embedded in its narrative.
It was, by far, one of the show’s most nerve-wracking plot lines. And it was refreshing to see these otherwise happy-go-lucky characters work through angst, fear, and panic for once. Despite never actually fearing for Rosa’s life —we know she make it to the finale— it was able to instill a deep-rooted insecurity in the audience’s perception of the story fueled by the shocking severity of the situation, instilled in the hearts of so many by the actual, real life occurrences we’ve been forced to witness in the past few years.
It hit really close to home.
And, in a very meta-esque resolve, the characters had to channel that same gut-wrenching feeling that had settled in the audience’s hearts with double the stakes, and double the emotional implications. We were worried about one of television’s best characters, but they were worried about their colleague, about one of their best friends. And the acting was up to the challenge. It isn’t a likely occurrence that a show that usually relies so much on the cast’s comedic talents can deliver an equally brilliantly played dramatic episode with the superlative ease with which Brooklyn did this week. It’s a testament to the actors’s performance skills and Emmy-award-winning strengths.
And the episode’s attempt to keep the audience laughing every so often, to take the edge off of the situation at hand, was the perfect metaphor for what the characters were going through. While the severity of the shooting was constantly looming over our characters and over us, the audience, they were trying to keep each other distracted, they were trying to keep us distracted so as to not loose hope. As if it was trying to remind us that this was still a comedy, “Show Me Going” was that friend who is always trying to lighten the mood when the ambiance is otherwise gloomy. It cracked a few simple yet effective jokes, it managed to make us crack a small smile even while our minds were focused on Rosa’s safety. It managed to distract us briefly until we —the audience, the characters— were unable to cope with the uncertainty and were forced to face the music.
Sure, the cold open this week ranks among the show’s best —surpassed only by the “I want it that way” one a few weeks ago and maybe a couple other— but it was the show’s way of telling us to take a breath and ready ourselves for what was coming. Akiva Schaffer’s brief but slapstick-filled cameo was the calm before the storm much in the same way Rosa telling Amy the bathroom was broken was. It was exposition, it was setting up storylines for our characters to keep busy while they were physically unable to help Rosa, but exposition has never been boring on this show. Quite on the contrary, it’s often been the source of some of its best material.
The episode did pull off something rather unlikely for television that is also worth mentioning. Instead of placing the center of attention on Rosa and her action-packed promising scenario, it focused on the human aspect of it. It focused on what everyone else is allowed to do while a shooting takes place. It’s perhaps one of the hardest things to handle: impotence.
It is no longer about how this affects the people who are actively responding to the shooting.
It is also about how it affects everyone else who isn’t.
Essentially, it took what the majority of the population is able to do during these events —sit down and watch, pray, check the news constantly— and placed it in the front lines. The main focus was never to highlight a cop’s physical training or police-like skills. It was to portray the heart behind it, the millions of people sitting there, hoping for the best. It was the human factor.
For a network show, it was a gamble with high stakes. It went against what would otherwise be considered story relevant.
But then again, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never been a standard, over-the-counter show.
ALL YOU CAN DO IS LOVE THEM
Jake Peralta’s character development has been the steady motor of the show ever since the pilot, where Jake first learned about the importance of wearing a badge and how that affects team morale and teamwork. Over the course of five years, there is little left of that cocky, arrogant detective we first met at the beginning of the show’s run, and it’s episodes like this that really manage to embrace a character’s nature and their growth.
There is something so quintessential about Jake and Amy’s briefly intimate scene in which they assure each other that Rosa’s going to be fine and exchange “I love you”s that immediately speaks volumes about what’s really lurking underneath. The scene is no more about their concern for Rosa’s safety than it is about the immediate realization that either of them could be in the same situation any day. They’ve been in dire situations before, they’ve been shot at, and they’ve gone undercover. Jake’s been to jail, for crying out loud. But there’s something different about this, there’s something so disturbingly usual about day-to-day shootings that reinforce the idea that no one is safe, that they have no real future granted, especially in their line of work.
They never say they’re worried about each other, they never try to protect each other. But in that simple exchange there is a world, a universe, of subtext that foreshadows so clearly Jake’s later confession to Terry that immediately it sticks with the audience. In a uniquely wise moment of clarity, Jake takes the maturity upper ground to admit he is uncertain as to how to handle the danger of their job, but that the only thing they can do is let the people they love known that they care about them. Which is exactly what he and Amy do a few scenes before.
Jake’s journey —which he actually mentions in the episode, and is this a Community storyline?— is marked by his concern for Rosa, whose badge number he has memorized, and is based on a personal fear for his and Amy’s safety. It’s heart-warming to watch how reckless he becomes when Rosa’s life is put in jeopardy because it intensifies how much he really cares for and loves his squad. But it’s also frightening, because his recklessness can put everything he holds dear in peril.
Thankfully, Captain Holt is there to knock some sense into him —as always— and make him understand the graveness of the situation and the immaturity of his reaction —despite how natural and human it may be.
And in its final scenes, the show proves, yet again, why it is deserving not only of a sixth season, but also of every award out there. It proves that communication, openness and sincerity can be a moving device in a story and that a character’s development and a show’s evolution can come not from secrecy and bottled up emotions and feelings, but from honesty and trust and mutual understanding.
From a family that can rely on each other and depend on each other in every possible way.
And there’s really nothing more we can ask from it, is there?
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sundays at 8.30/7.30c on FOX.