We now break our usual third-person omniscient mode in service to a desperate first-person plea: Can somebody please make me a pair of .gifs of Rosa’s and Holt’s amazing mid-episode reaction shots during their ill-fated double date with Marcus and Kevin? Stephanie Beatriz and Andre Braugher are both great at wry humor and articulating hilarity through facial tics, so seeing their talents in action isn’t “new,” per se. But in “AC/DC,” Rosa’s petrified response to Kevin’s innocuously prying personal questions, and Holt’s uncharacteristically bug-eyed reply to her pregnancy scare might rank among their best work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine to date (which is saying quite a lot).
But that just speaks to how great “AC/DC” is on the whole. While Rosa and Holt find themselves in a hilarious pickle, their contretemps plays as a side dish to the episode’s equally hilarious A-plot, in which Jake acts stubborn and causes problems for Terry. (Obviously.) If you’ve been missing Brooklyn Nine-Nine these past few weeks, and if you feel that the show’s second season hasn’t been as consistent as its first, then “AC/DC” will come as a huge relief. In fact, from story to punchlines, it might be the strongest outing that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has output in its sophomore go-round, right up there with “Captain Peralta,” “Stakeout,” and “The Pontiac Bandit Returns.” In fairness, absence does make the heart grow fonder, but “AC/DC” would be outstanding even without the month-long hiatus.
The episode divides the cast into two separate camps. In the first we have Jake, Boyle, and Terry, with the latter two doing their damndest to keep Jake out of the office and off the job after he sustains an injury during a bitchin’ foot chase on New York City’s gridlocked streets. In the second we have Holt and Rosa, forced to endure non-work interaction, courtesy of their respective significant others’ dinner party machinations; we also have Amy and Gina, whom Holt invites to the soiree as social buffers. In both scenarios, we’re witness to these characters’ inability to divorce themselves from their careers. Jake tricks Boyle into a jaunt to Atlantic City under the pretense of catching some R&R, but he drags his partner to New Jersey to apprehend the perp we see them tailing in the episode’s opening sequence. Holt and Rosa, on the other hand, scheme and toil to talk about anything but themselves when in private company.
The primary reason “AC/DC” succeeds is its humor. The script is sharp and packed to the gunwales with so much funny material that the set-ups constantly bleed into one another. Trying to find a moment to catch a breath is tricky, but that’s a pretty good problem to have with a show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, where there’s no such thing as “too much laughter.” From Boyle’s weakness for a great nickname (“AC/DC” either stands for Atlantic City Dude’s Club or Atlantic City Detective’s Club, depending on which detective you ask), to Amy’s admirable attempts at being super chill, to Rosa’s outstanding Spider-Man reference, there’s never a dull moment here. Even Hitchcock shows up for an amazing one-liner after being AWOL for “AC/DC”s duration.
Beneath the gags, though, there’s great character stuff. We see Jake learn lessons all the time, but unlike “Sabotage,” the point where we left off before Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s brief intermission, the moral of “AC/DC” isn’t given the brush-off. Even better, that moral is rooted in Jake’s history, which gives us a little more insight into who he is as a person (which seems to be the overarching mission of this season). We know Terry and Boyle are true, loyal friends (though if Terry Crews threatens to break your body, you know he means it), but willingness to tolerate Jake’s BS occasionally stretches belief, which is why the reasoning behind his obstinacy is so important. It makes Jake, as well as Terry’s and Boyle’s continued support, palatable.
On the other side of things we have Robocops Rosa and Holt, bonding through their shared reticence. Neither of them changes much, but in remaining unchanged they wind up evolving. Expecting either to suddenly open up and make themselves vulnerable is asking a bit too much, but the short, sincere acknowledgement they make to each other as “AC/DC” comes to a close is wonderfully sweet. If the ball gets dropped in any meaningful way, it’s in how easily Rosa’s anxieties over possibly being knocked up resolve themselves, but we must grant that Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t The Wire, and thus plays by a different, cleaner set of rules than more dramatic cop shows. In context with its sitcom trappings, “AC/DC” satisfies in grand fashion. We can’t ask for more than that.
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing about film for the web since 2009, and has been contributing to Paste Magazine since 2013. He also writes for Screen Rant and Movie Mezzanine. You can follow him on Twitter. Currently, he has given up on shaving.