The return of Brooklyn Nine-Nine from its holiday break was a largely uneventful and unimpressive one. Or so it seems for the duration of the episode until, at the end, you realize that the eponymous criminal (played delightfully by Craig Robinson) is the first to have bested Jake Peralta. Unfortunately, Robinson’s Doug “The Pontiac Bandit” Judy is the lone bright spot in an otherwise flat episode.”
In “Pontiac Bandit,” Jake and Rosa track a serial car thief who has been eluding Jake for some time. This premise primarily serves as a vehicle for Samberg’s and Robinson’s goofs and Rosa’s subsequent displeasure. (“I love getting to know people. It’s m’jam.”) While Jake and Rosa are out on the case, the rest of the detectives are station-bound for Boyle’s return from injury. This half of the episode is largely filler; it isn’t bad so much as it’s a vaguely pleasant background noise. The joke here is that Boyle returns to work but is still highly dependent on other people to bring him coffee and fish highlighters from his butt cast. It’s not a situation entirely without merit—there’s a solid “If the bullet had been…” recurring joke that lampoons that particular cop/medical drama cliché—but, by and large, it relies on old character gags that the show returns to far too frequently.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s writers fall back on Boyle’s foodiness and Holt’s permanent stoicism with such frequency that these traits, which were at first charming, have engulfed the entire character. Rarely does an episode go by (two of the past six episodes) in which Boyle does not insufferably prattle on about his favorite eateries or foodstuffs. This is a shame because Boyle was and still can be a genuinely interesting character, but as it is, all his subtlety is overwhelmed by the thick sauce of stale humor. In Holt’s case, it seems to be a problem of antics. “How funny would it be if Captain Holt carried two puppies for the entire episode?” His deader-than-deadpan air works well with Peralta’s zaniness, but it doesn’t play reasonably in regular contexts. Some animation when saying (of Gina) “She live-tweets everything. She ruined Downton Abbey for me.” wouldn’t totally obliterate his character. And again, Holt is a far more complex character than this one-note joke allows, but the pervasiveness of this trait is robbing the show of humor.
“Pontiac Bandit,” despite the presence of the great Craig Robinson, is one of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s weakest episodes. The best-case scenario is that, because of Peralta’s lone failure, Doug Judy will become a recurring character whose sole purpose is to torment Peralta with his flirtatious bromantic ways and elusiveness.