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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Hits at Police Unions and Struggles Through Parenthood

After last week, I was curious to see what direction Brooklyn Nine-Nine would take its exploration of bad policing in America. While sitcoms will rarely really carry the burden of in-depth exploration of social issues, there is no avoiding the police issue for this specific show. This week’s double episodes established the main sub-issue they will focus on. They are going to hit the unions, and they are going to hit them hard.

Oh, and I guess Jake and Amy’s baby adventure is kind of cute, too.

This week’s first episode, “The Blue Flu,” is an unabashed opening salvo against police unions. After last week’s “The Good Ones” had another police captain tell us all the corruption discouraging action against the bad members of the force, this episode focused on how union bosses manufacture controversies to perpetuate the idea that police are at war with the streets they are meant to protect. An officer claims a restaurant put a rat in his burrito, leading to a strike leaving the Nine-Nine shorthanded, and everyone sets out to investigate the incident, which leads to trying to prove the incident was faked.

It is an interesting angle to tackle this problem from. There is no question that police unions in America wield far too much power, and nothing will change until said power is curbed. This specific scheme, where officers fake incidents where the community spits in their food or something similar, has happened plenty of times.

However, Brooklyn Nine-Nine does risk further perpetuating the idea that the unions are the only problem, not policing itself. I am nowhere near ready to make judgements on the idea, but it is something to watch moving forward, since O’Sullivan has pretty obviously been established as the villain of this final season. It is a delicate balance between an easy bogeyman that fails to properly portray the problem and a necessary accusation towards one of the biggest problems.

Yes, O’Sullivan is representative of the corruption and power that police unions wield to further bad policing in America. However, he is ultimately protecting bad cops who already existed, and hopefully those bad cops are not ignored.

That being said, it helps when the episode is also funny. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a sitcom first, after all, and “The Blue Flu” was a fun episode to watch.

Captain Ray Holt frustrated in Brooklyn Nine-NIne

I also really like the solution Holt decides on to break the union strike. He uses the positive results of the lessened police presence in his precinct to argue that he does not need the striking officers, forcing O’Sullivan into a lose-lose situation and getting those officers back to work. It is definitely a progressive view of the situation, and one I highly appreciated and agree with.

The second episode this week, “Balancing,” was much like last week’s “The Lake House” in that it largely left the issue of policing behind to instead focus on interpersonal relationships. Holt and Kevin’s rocky marriage returns in the form of emailed genitalia and complicated data graphs, but most of the episode focuses on Jake and Amy’s attempts to balance work with being parents. Jake’s archnemesis Johnny Franzia returns and Amy needs to prepare for an important presentation, but both are curtailed by a lack of supervision for their son, requiring them to bring him into work.

Now, I must admit that these two as parents have never interested me much. There was nothing they could do here that has not been done one-thousand times in every other sitcom ever made. They did okay here, but the whole plot was not nearly as interesting to me as the first episode, or even the brief Holt/Rosa B-plot.

Still, I like the character growth involved in Jake willingly letting Boyle go bust Franzia so Amy could do her presentation.

Jake’s love for complicated Hollywood-style cases is well-established, as is his love for murder cases and obsession with archnemeses. Time and again we have seen Jake act selfishly to put his own work desires ahead of everyone and everything else. He has risked or ruined cases and nearly lost friends in pursuit of the action hero high. There was a point where he would have done the same here and caused a serious problem with Amy.

I can appreciate what this means for Jake Peralta, even if I am still underwhelmed by the storyline. It doesn’t help that the episode overall was a clear step down from “The Blue Flu.” Rosa and Holt trying to delete Holt’s “digital phallus portrait” was certainly entertaining, though I wish we saw more of them as roommates.

But it was definitely not as funny as Terry’s stomach bug, Holt’s petard, the trident/fork/trident, Boyle’s wheel of cheese, Holt’s tattoo, and the myriad of other funny jokes running throughout the entire of this week’s first episode. When your main storyline issue isn’t as interesting, you have to try and make it up with jokes, and “Balancing” didn’t quite manage it. Not that it was bad, but it all could have been better.

I suppose Brooklyn Nine-Nine will try to balance all of this here in season 8. They want to treat the issue of policing corruption with respect, but I’m sure they want to avoid doing so in every single episode. Sometimes they will want to give characters these episodes showing just how far their characters have come here in these final episodes, even if it isn’t as inherently interesting as Rosa investigating police violence or Holt waging war against the police union.

Maybe they won’t all be winners, but average Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still a fun watch, and I’ll take one good episode alongside one average episode.

Line of the Week: “The petard…it just won’t stop hoisting.”

Images Courtesy of NBC

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  • Bo relaxes after long days of staring at computers by staring at computers some more, and feels slightly guilty over his love for Villanelle.

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