Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: "The Slump" (Episode 1.03)
The cold open of “The Slump” features a discussion that is ostensibly a setup for punchline that carries us into the titles. Technically this could describe most sitcom cold opens, but in this case, the topic of conversation is more than just a hook: the detectives’ debate about the best cop movie works both to build character and, just as importantly, it establishes the writers’ fluency with the genre. Det. Santiago’s selection of Training Day, for example, as the greatest cop movie of all time is ludicrous (that ending, I mean, seriously), but it falls in line with her other picks of Lethal Weapon and Fargo, all three of which contain perhaps the finest individual performances of the genre. This defines her character inasmuch as she strives for greatness but in a totally self-serious way that Det. Peralta does not. This falls in line with his pick of Die Hard, which highlights the self-awareness of his lone-wolf act’s absurdity. The other selections seem to emphasize the cartoonishness of each supporting character—Boyle picks Turner and Hooch, Gina picks Bad Boys, Diaz picks Robocop and Terry picks Breathless—but each serves as the seed of character development to be expanded upon throughout the episode.
Breathless anticipates future comic asides from Terry Crews’ Sgt. Jeffords, including the introduction of his lineup-filling persona “Scary Terry,” who says what regular Terry is thinking (“This is taking too long! I’m gonna miss the farmers’ market!”) and his temper tantrum while building a fairy princess castle for his daughter (“What kind of castle has wheels?”). The writers deploy Jeffords in a similar way to Grizz and Dotcom on 30 Rock by zagging against physical and racial stereotypes, but thus far the humor hasn’t been quite as effective because it lacks subtlety.
Elsewhere in the office, Santiago has enlisted the help of Diaz to lead a troubled youth outreach program. When both their approaches fail to cut through the angst of adolescence (Santiago’s too straitlaced; Diaz’s laughably badass), the detectives begrudgingly enlist the help of Gina, whose irreverent attitude toward just about everything (“That’s true in all cases. Cops are the worst.”) finally reaches the kids. When Cpt. Holt congratulates Santiago and Diaz for successfully signing up, they both defer credit to Gina, whom, despite her whiny protestations, Holt chooses to be his personal assistant.
The meat of the episode deals with Peralta’s case-clearance slump, for which Holt acts as zen master by stealthily guiding his struggling detective toward success. Peralta’s o-fer has allowed Santiago to vault ahead of him in their competition, and he begins to accept that he is cursed. Holt plays into Peralta’s superstition and relegates him to data entry, where his affliction cannot spread to other detectives and gives him a rabbit’s foot to help reverse the curse. As it turns out, this was simply a ploy on Holt’s part to allow Peralta’s brain to reset and bust his slump. Incidentally, Holt did not pick a favorite cop movie, but it’s probably The Untouchables: “Here endeth the lesson.”
“The Slump” is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s best episode yet: The laughs finally matched the talent, and the characters are growing at a satisfying pace.