Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Defense Rests”

TV Reviews brooklyn nine-nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Defense Rests”

After a brief absence and a criminally unfunny opening sequence, “Defense Rests” gets Brooklyn Nine-Nine on the right track, with a trio of overarching plot developments… but man is that opener a letdown. Seriously, ants? That’s what we get after skipping a Sunday in the dead of winter? Ants? What, are rodent infestations just too much of a New York City cliché1? Granted, not every intro can reach the euphoric heights of “hot damn” or “no regrets,” because reasonably speaking not every intro can lean on Andre Braugher’s superhuman wryness, which he may have gained after being directly exposed to cosmic rays on a space mission gone awry.

But if Defense Rests kicks off with a series-worst anterior gag, the rest of the episode’s thematic “stuff” makes up for that shortcoming. There’s a lot to take stock of here; Braugher and Wuntch square off once again, Gina mercilessly interrogates Papa Boyle, and Jake’s relationship with Eva Longoria’s Sophia comes to a head. (Also: Chris Parnell shows up in a guest role that’s perfectly suited to his brand of cool, alpha male sleaze.) The sheer amount of drama that unfolds here is, in a word, staggering. It’s also a testament to how many bowling pins Brooklyn Nine-Nine has juggled throughout its second season, from the innocuous (Gina’s pending step-sisterhood to Boyle), to the serious (Braugher’s sparring with Wuntch).

Unsurprisingly, both of these take a backseat to Jake’s lady troubles. If anyone needs reminding, Andy Samberg is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s ostensible star, and his perhaps ill-advised amour with Sophia is, by extension, a Big Deal in the series’ hierarchy. Remember that sleeping dogs have not been allowed to simply lie, and that Jake’s crush on Amy hasn’t fully abated. Trouble in paradise with Sophia lends Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s future installments a predictive element, which is sort of a double-edged sword; the conflict of “Defense Rests” will invariably shape the rest of the season, but we might be better able to guess what that shape may look like. Frankly, Jake’s interactions with Parnell’s gambling man defense attorney feel like a richer vein of farce, and if Brooklyn Nine-Nine has any sense it’ll keep revisiting their bonding and head-butting. Parnell and Samberg are a great pair.

At the same time, it is so like Jake to torpedo his chances with Sophia by just caring too damn much. Their back and forth provides a nice foil to the b-plots in “Defense Rests”; Holt can’t decide how best to respond to Wuntch’s request for a recommendation, while Gina is in DEFCON 1 over her mom’s budding affair with Boyle’s dad. Strictly speaking, Holt and Jake don’t serve themselves well through their actions—sometimes doing the right thing, whether fighting for your gal’s affection or stepping in to help a prickly colleague, blows up in your face—but Gina’s forthright demeanor feels like a huge step in a plot thread that’s otherwise intimate and personal in nature. We’re so accustomed to Gina’s willful strangeness that her blatant honesty is kind of scary (though nowhere near as scary as Terry’s phoniest smile). She and Boyle are Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s two odd children, and it’s great to see them get a chance to riff off of one another in a story worthy of their skills as comic actors.

Amazingly, “Defense Rests” never feels overstuffed or bloated by sheer weight of material; each segment is also rife with great one-liners and visual gags, and best of all, we finally learn how tall Terry is in egg rolls. (Twenty five.) Asses are sexier than snakes, no one can savor a moment like Holt, Terry just can’t read the vibe, defense attorneys are savage jerks (even when they’re being nice), and the best revenge is sabotaging your enemy’s auto-correct. (Wuntch to “butt.” Sophia to “butt.” The hilarity is endless.) And best of all, three oft-revisited narratives get pushed ahead to new places, moving Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a show ahead with them.

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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