Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Halloween III”

(Episode 3.06)

TV Reviews brooklyn nine-nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Halloween III”

The worst thing about “Halloween III” is that it’s predictable. The best thing is that the predictability doesn’t matter. In this, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s third annual All Hallow’s Eve showdown between Jake and Holt, the episode’s madcap essence is what matters most, though there’s plenty worth cheering about as regards the substance of the story, too. After “Halloween II,” the series’ considerably less successful sequel to Season One’s “Halloween,” “Halloween III” builds off of what made Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s original holiday outing work so well—instead of merely repeating the formula. Bits and pieces of its predecessors make their way into the plot here, but the hijinx have purpose. In other words, this is not about hijinx for hijinx’s sake.

But the hijinx are relevant, and if you’re going to shut down a police station in the name of staging a prank war, the pranks had better be worth the dereliction of duty. They must deliver, and deliver they do. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, as anybody who has kept up with the show from the beginning can attest, isn’t a traditionally dramatic cop yarn. It’s a cop comedy. Police work is less the point than character work and comedy, which often means that seeing these people solve cases is kind of a rare treat.

In that sense, “Halloween III” benefits enormously from episode order. Unlike “Halloween II,” which aired after a pair of episodes that had little-to-nothing to do with the characters actually doing cop stuff, the newest campaign waged by our favorite ace goofball detective and our favorite, gloriously reinstated stoic captain happens to fall immediately after “The Oolong Slayer,” where Jake, Holt, and even Gina teamed up to actually put a criminal behind bars (a serial killer, no less). “Halloween III,” in other words, feels like a better earned respite from the rigors of the job. More importantly, it addresses one of the only major criticisms worth bringing against Brooklyn Nine-Nine this season, namely the repeated sidelining of Amy and Rosa. There’s literally no reason why either of them can’t be front and center in a juicy A-plot every now and again, after all.

Even in telling a winky meta-joke to acknowledge how Rosa’s peers and the show’s writers alike underestimate her, she still ends up with little to do after acting like a total badass. (As Rosa typically does.) Amy, on the other hand, gets to show up her boyfriend and her boss, reminding both of them, as well as the rest of her coworkers, that she’s a sharp detective who isn’t to be underestimated or screwed around with. As “Halloween III” opens, Jake and Holt pick teams to help them steal a crown, the night’s prize and a material symbol of the winning man’s investigatorial supremacy. Jake takes Boyle and Rosa; Holt nabs Terry and Gina. Makes sense, but that leaves us with one person (two, if you include Scully and Hitchcock, and who would?) unchosen. Hence: Conflict™.

Anybody who knows the sting of being picked last for softball in elementary school, middle school, high school, and their company’s annual employee picnic knows exactly how Amy feels when she’s left teamless at the end of the ceremony. Jake doesn’t trust her not to spy on him for Holt. Holt doesn’t trust her not to spy on him for Jake. When she interrupts their caper to express how much their casual meanness hurt her feelings, each assumes the other has persuaded her to play sleeper agent and do some field reconnaissance on his competition. They chase her off by yelling at her chest, because, of course, she must have a mic in there, which feels like a ridiculous presumption until Andre Braugher explains why cleavage makes a natural hiding spot for recording equipment.

But all that Jake and Holt manage to do by turning Amy away is engineer their joint defeat. “Halloween III” doesn’t really care about surprising us with its resolution, so the sheer obviousness feels sensible. Jake and Holt are too wrapped up in the contest to pick up on clear signals that they’ve been had; that’s a great comment on who they are as people, dedicated detectives who occasionally let their pride and ego get in their way. It’s a better comment on Amy, who won’t let the boys disrespect her talents for plotting, scheming, and subterfuge. And when you roll every aspect of “Halloween III” together, you wind up with a joyfully hilarious half hour of television that ends by coronating one of its underappreciated female leads. Maybe her lip reading could use some work (idea: Bad Lip Reading: Amy Santiago edition), but that’s about it. She can sleuth and spoof with the best of them, and even if we’re just talking about a holiday lark episode, it’s about time Brooklyn Nine-Nine reminded us of her invaluability.

Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing online about film since 2009, and has been scribbling for Paste Magazine since 2013. He also contributes to Screen Rant, Movie Mezzanine, and Birth.Movies.Death. You can follow him on Twitter. He is composed of roughly 65% craft brews.

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