Death threats? Actual (sorta) detective work? An officer shot in the line of duty? What is this, Law and Order?
“Christmas” began with a Santa brawl set to the Greatest Christmas Song of All Time and Boyle advising Peralta to “hit him in his fat cherry cheeks!” This is otherwise known as standard Brooklyn Nine-Nine fare. But it ended with police-procedural dramatics that involved the entire squad hunting down Collin Haimes, a recently released serial killer Holt locked up as a brash youth. The premise is set when “The Freestyle Killer,” as Haimes is known—he killed all four members of a swim relay team—starts sending anonymous death threats to Holt, and, per police protocol, he must be protected 24/7 until the person sending the threats is apprehended. Holt, in his first real character-judgment misstep, selects Peralta to be his bodyguard with the expectation that Peralta will eschew the rules when Holt reveals that it is merely a hoax.
Holt somehow overlooks, however, that this detail allows Peralta complete control of all of Holt’s actions, which of course is far more tempting than simply shirking the assignment. In the course of what follows, Peralta takes Holt to a safe house wherein he handcuffs the two of them together, and very tame hijinks ensue. Unfortunately, this accounts for the meat of the episode, and it is largely unentertaining save for a few scattered Sambergisms and Braugherisms. It is true that the uncapitalized-upon potential in this scenario is a minor failure by the writers, but more significantly it shows how much the success of the series thus far has come to rely on the supporting cast. Where “Thanksgiving” excelled by placing the entire cast together in one room, “Christmas” fails by separating the detectives of the nine-nine into three separate arcs.
While Peralta and Holt (and eventually Boyle) are chained together, Jeffords undergoes a psych evaluation to determine his field-readiness, and Santiago attempts to make the perfect Christmas card for Captain Holt, which involves photographing a smiling Diaz. Both these secondary arcs are pretty uninspired—despite Gina’s best efforts: “Psychologists are just people who weren’t smart enough to be psychics.”—by Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s humor standards, but it turns out that both situations are slow-played for a decent payoff at the end of the episode, when all three arcs converge. When Peralta convinces Holt to investigate the death threats, and Holt subsequently realizes that they are the dastardly work of The Freestyle Killer, the entire precinct works to track him down and arrest him. This culminates in a shootout in which Terry, after clearing himself for duty, tackles Haimes just before he is able to exact revenge, but not before he shoots Charles, who saves Rosa’s life.
The minor takeaway from the episode is that Holt’s lessons to Peralta about teamwork have taken root, and, in fact, that Holt accepts that he does not need to be a lone wolf, either. The major development, other than the slow drift toward police procedural, is the renewed will-they, won’t-they between Charles and Rosa. What at first seemed like another instance of an unfortunate staple of popular comedy—Joe Lo Truglio is 10 years older than Stephanie Beatriz and nebbish—has blossomed into a relationship of mutual respect. Despite her repeated rejections early in the episode, it’s clear Rosa continues to revise her opinion of Charles as he demonstrates how great a person he actually is. Whether a romantic relationship ever comes to fruition or not, Boyle’s continued courtship gives viewers another good reason to watch the series week-in and week-out.