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“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” review: “Christmas”

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“Psychologists are just people who weren’t smart enough to be psychics.” – Gina

In Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s first, of which I’m sure Fox hopes isn’t the last, Christmas episode, we get a main story involving a giddy Peralta assigned to protect an unamused Holt from a would-be killer after the latter receives a death threat. Not the most original story, but this is a comedy and the premise is simply a starting point. At one point, Peralta handcuffs himself to Holt, and jump-shoots the key down an air vent (Jordan!) to keep him from leaving the safe house he tricked Holt into entering. I groaned at this, assuming they’d spend the rest of the episode in this stale, sitcom predicament (especially after the bumbling Boyle handcuffs himself to the pair), but my headbanging (not the fun kind) was, thankfully, short-lived.

In fact, the entire episode was fairly decent, if not overly Christmas-y (seriously, how many X-mas episodes can one write that don’t involve gift exchanges, office parties, airport hijinks, Santa outfits, loneliness, last minute shopping etc?). Once the ever-eager Santiago’s six-gift gesture for Holt is undone, she and Gina spend most of the episode trying to get the smile-challenged Rosa to crack one for a Christmas card. There are a few very funny supporting actors on this show (a B-plot involves Terry needing to pass a psych evaluation to return to the street beat, where even the simplest phrases end with unstable thoughts of guns and pillow crushing), but none are funnier than Stephanie Beatriz. Rosa can toy with pushover Santiago’s smile-capturing attempts in one scene and finally show slight emotion toward the singles cruise-missing Boyle in the next, after he literally takes a bullet in the ass for her in another.

The gun it was fired from belonged to the Freestyle Killer (named due to his swimming prowess), a guy Holt gloatingly locked up back in the early ’80s. This gave us another funny opportunity to see the young, mustached Holt, complete with cheesy cop dialogue. In a lot of the Peralta/Holt scenes, the best laughs in this and almost every episode are provided by straight man Andre Braugher’s Holt. The humor in Peralta’s overzealousness at protecting Holt (including attempts to accompany him to the bathroom and craft a text to Holt’s husband) wore thin quickly. We’re supposed to be amused by Peralta’s unconventional methods, narcissism and smart-alecky wisecracks, but in the end I’m consistently underwhelmed. Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher play off each other well, but mostly because of Braugher’s subtle style that evens out Samberg’s mostly broader, physical approach.

The characters’ relationship, in fact, is very much that of the father and son, with Peralta wanting Holt’s (the father’s) respect. Holt’s guilt over motivating the Freestyle Killer as a cocky, young afroed cop and his desire to handle the situation solo is what drives Peralta (and then the whole team) to protect him and finally catch the guy who’s threatening his life. Peralta’s efforts keep the closest thing he’s had to a dad alive, and it even gets Holt to do a little arm worm dance in the end. It’s actually very Christmas-y after all.

What did you think?