Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: “Captain Peralta”

(Episode 2.18)

TV Reviews Brooklyn Nine-Nine
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<i>Brooklyn Nine-Nine</i> Review: &#8220;Captain Peralta&#8221;

How good is Brooklyn Nine-Nine when it comes to nailing guest casting? Sure, fine, Nick Cannon hasn’t really made much of a splash in the daily adventures of the Nine-Nine squad, but that might be a case of the writers not quite knowing how to use him, or a sign that his big moment is yet to come. But look! Look at how well the series has done in wrangling terrific actors for cameos and mini-arcs in its second season alone: Ed Helms, Eva Longoria, Kyra Sedgwick, Craig Robinson, Chris Parnell, and most recently Stephen Root and Sandra Bernhard. They all serve perfectly in their respective capacities, and most of all they each manage to mesh seamlessly with the rest of the cast. They feel like they belong.

Now we can add Bradley Whitford to that growing and distinguished number, here playing Jake’s estranged dad in “Captain Peralta.” Whoever thought to call on Whitford’s talent must be some kind of genius; on the page, he doesn’t strike as the “Andy Samberg’s screen father” type, but in action they bear an unexpected family resemblance. They both have a nervous bravado, which in Jake manifests as aggressive overconfidence and a relentless need to make everyone like him. In Papa Peralta, it instead reflects in his galling, monumental selfishness. Jake has his foibles but nobody would ever characterize him as a bad dude. Too bad the same can’t be said of his own sire.

We’re at first led to believe that Roger Peralta, a regional airline pilot, has flown into New York to catch up with his son. When the lovably loyal Boyle’s “lying scumbag” detector starts going off before Whitford is even introduced, we all know right away that the Captain is bad news, and lo, no sooner do father and child head out to an ill-fated dinner (apparently consisting solely of piles of Hungarian sausage) than the truth comes out: Roger is in a heap of trouble after getting caught sneaking drugs out of Quebec. (They’re potent Canadian ED pills, according to Hitchcock, who routinely pops up throughout the episode to deliver devastating punchlines. This is truly Dirk Blocker’s finest half-hour.)

Well, what’s a lad pining for his dad’s affection to do? The A-plot takes Jake to the frozen northlands with Boyle and Scully in tow. (Just like his partner, Joel McKinnon Miller is pretty incredible here. You almost feel bad that he’s ultimately left behind at the airport.) Obviously, Jake can’t accept the idea that his father is a drug smuggler. He can’t even accept that he’s a bad parent. So Boyle does damage control, or tries to, as Jake struggles to solve the case. Meanwhile, Holt has the rest of the department held in his thrall over a brain teaser challenge, whose victor will receive Beyoncé tickets. In comparison to the primary story thread, this little character pair-off exercise feels rather fluffy, but when your B-plot demands Terry Crews stuff his mouth with doughnut holes, you can get away with being just a tad frivolous. (Plus, c’mon, Chelsea Peretti and Stephanie Beatriz make for a duo of frightening comic efficacy.)

Mostly, “Captain Peralta” is about Jake trying to clear Roger’s name. There’s an obvious solution to Holt’s puzzle, and not a whole lot of character building goes on in the lead up to that big, climactic reveal.  This, of course, is fine, because keeping Rosa, Amy, Terry, and Gina busy with Holt’s conundrum provides a wealth of diversion and amusement.  Gina acts like Gina, Rosa acts like Rosa, and Terry Crews steals the spotlight with his physical comedy prowess.There’s a lot to like about “Captain Peralta,” but above all else it may well be the single funniest installment of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s second season.

But all the emotional tugging and pulling that goes on with Jake is compelling on its own, and leaves the character just a little bit more fleshed out than he was before. At least now we have a better idea of why Jake is so recklessly eager to make everybody happy and be their best friend. Dude has some major rejection issues. (Nice capstone moment: Holt giving Jake an attaboy just before credits roll. If our hero’s biological dad sucks, at least he has a damn good surrogate father figure to lean on instead.) But who cares about hugging and feelings when there’s this much hilarity on display? Whether it’s Gina’s #nerdfail campaign against Amy, Terry flexing his brain, or Jake failing to understand father/son relationships, “Captain Peralta” is a highlight in the show’s sophomore go-round.

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.

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