‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ 5×12 Review: Let’s Talk About Kevin

Brooklyn Nine-Nine returned last night with its twelfth episode after three long, agonizing months of hiatus. Arguably not the best set-up for any show to return to air. In those months, fans had time to speculate, guess, and hypothesize as to what our favorite squad would be up to when it came back to our screens, and playing against a fan’s expectations is a hard game to win. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine returned last night with a banger. Boy, oh boy, did “Safe House” deliver.

When we last saw the squad last year, Captain Holt’s husband Kevin had been threatened by mob boss Seamus Murphy after the squad had thwarted one of his evil plans. Before the mid-season finale finished, Murphy made sure Holt knew he was going to stop at nothing to end his husband’s life. Ominous? Sure. Actually threatening? Maybe not that much.

But Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never been a show about baddies. It has never prided itself in how intricately thought-out their crime-related storylines were. It’s never been, nor has it tried to be, a procedural, and cases always fall second in virtue of gags and actually character-driven plot lines. It’s never about the cases. It’s always about the people who solve them. That’s when the show, and the comedy, is at its best. And that’s exactly what “Safe House” brought us.

We pick up immediately after where we left off last year, and the first thing we see is the squad taking action and cleverly helping Kevin get to a safe house. Of course, Jake, who feels guilty about his situation – Holt did strike up a deal with Murphy to save Jake and Rosa from prison after all – and could not be a worse companion for Kevin is set up to be his housemate and guard for the next who-knows-how-many weeks until they take down Murphy. And in the twenty minutes that follow, we get an episode jammed-pack with clever jokes, hilarious slapstick-like physical comedy, and some actually touching character scenes.

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I was afraid the episode was going to mirror last season’s premiere, where Holt and Jake were hiding in Florida, separated from the squad, unable to contact them, aka share scenes with them, for way too many episodes than were, writing-wise, strictly necessary. Those weren’t the show’s strongest moments, and while we’re used to seeing the squad broken up into different pairings throughout the episodes, one of the show’s strong suits is how versatile the character combinations can be, and how they practically always work, there was a chance this ‘no outside connection’ rule was going to implicate a similar scenario. Thankfully, it looks like the writers learned their lesson, because despite the similar premise, the show completely avoided all the mistakes they’d written in “Coral Palms”.

Everybody Loves Raymond

So, while the squad tries to figure out a way to find Seamus Murphy, (special shout-out to Stephanie Beatriz for owning that accent, that attitude, and that haircut), Jake and Kevin spend months hidden away in a secret location with nothing but a very small square of floor they can actually stand in during the day, a bunch of terrible Nicholas ‘Nic’ Cage movies that of course Jake loves and Kevin loathes, and pizza pockets. It’s hilarious to watch two characters who are opposite in every possible way being forced to interact while certain danger hovers over them, but perhaps more hilarious still is Holt’s reaction to all of it.

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His no-nonsense personality, and the odd times there’s even the slightest crack in that demeanor, has always been the butt of many of the jokes concerning him, but his OCD is put to extremes when his husband is in danger. Essentially, we get to see what a paranoid Holt looks like, and it does not disappoint in the least. His measures to keep Kevin safe are extreme to any human being, overwhelming and depriving of any freedom at all, but ultimately the comedy heart of the episode.

Because this is, at its core, a Holt character episode. We learn so much about him, about his priorities, about how much Kevin means to him and about how their marriage works in a very true, very sincere, and yet incredibly funny way. There are practically no signs of affection between them, not in the way we’re used to, anyway, but you feel for the characters. They show affection in their own special way, in that “a dirtbag is actually a compliment” twisted and deliciously weird kind of way that has us contently sighing when they are finally safely reunited. The mid-season premiere serves as a perfect incursion into Holt and Kevin’s relationship —something the show should’ve done since the moment we learned about their marriage.

Safe House” had heart-warming moments, albeit covered in comedy (every time someone left the room, even after an argument, rolling on the floor, I was in hysterics). It stayed true to the  show’s strengths: tinting character development with comedy, and because of it, also had episode-pausing, laugh-out-loud moments that are some of the best of this season. Captain Holt signing off his texts to Jake? An instant classic. Don’t even get me started on library perverts Jake and Kevin.

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And yes, maybe Rosa’s hair was a bit too much, and filling a room with shredded remains was a bit over-the-top. But that’s what the show’s been selling to us since the pilot.

Get it renewed, now!

Essentially, “Safe House” proved why Brooklyn Nine-Nine deserves a season six renewal. Although perhaps this fifth season hasn’t been the show’s strongest, it does contain some great episodes: “HalloVeen” is one we will all remember for the ages— and the writing has always been consistently funny. The jokes are still on point, count me on board for all the Kevin jokes in last night’s episode, and the characters are treated fairly, and have developed steadily and healthily in beautiful ways. And, maybe more importantly, it still tackles topics we need to address: racism, feminism, homophobia…with an amusing grace that’s, unfortunately, still hard to come by in shows nowadays.

The show has started an exciting second half of the season, which includes, amongst other things, one of the most anticipated events of the year: Jake and Amy’s much awaited and much deserved wedding. But with the way things are going, despite all of the show’s strong points, it seems its continuation is still hanging in the balance. Here are the bad news, kids: the show may have entered renewal danger territory, although last night’s episode was trending topic on Twitter throughout its airing and the hours after.

But with such a strong cast, led by such comedically talented leads —Samberg and Braugher never, ever fail— it’s hard to imagine that, were Fox stupid enough not to give the show the sixth season it rightfully deserves, another network or channel wouldn’t pick it up. And if they don’t, well then they’re going to be missing out on one of the best things on our televisions right now. I’m not saying it would be naïve and foolish not to keep this show going, but, actually, it would be incredibly naïve and foolish not to keep this show going. So we’ll see what this second half of the season has in store for us, but so far, it looks promising, exciting, and hilarious.

Nine-Nine! 

Brooklyn Nine Nine airs Sundays at 8:30/7:30c on Fox.

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