This week: The 9-9’s mission to bring down Jimmy Figgis goes half-steam. Also, Adrian Pimento gets a fake funeral, Jake learns a valuable lesson about sexism and Amy finally, finally gets to prove that she’s a badass.
Weirdly, this melody sounds like cacophony in practice when it reads as ever-so-pleasing on paper. Maybe that’s just an inevitability. Following up “Paranoia” would be a tough act for just about any episode, but now that we’re in full-on serialized mode, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has precious little time for screwing around and spinning wheels. “Maximum Security” does too much of both, and regresses its character development just a smidge in the process. It isn’t a bad episode—lord knows the show hasn’t had one of those since around about “Into the Woods,” which isn’t “bad” as much as it is “below standard”—but it is surprisingly inert. This is all about set-up, or more accurately setting up the set-up.
“Maximum Security” continues to indulge our Gareth Evans/Brooklyn Nine-Nine crossover fantasy, this time by putting Rosa in the slammer to get close to Maura (Aida Turturro, of The Sopranos fame), Figgis’ sister. Maura knows about her brother’s dealings inside and out, which makes her a valuable resource for the precinct, but there’s one problem: Rosa gets made within, oh, five seconds of her incarceration, and so Holt pulls her out and replaces her with, of all people, Santiago, who must pose as a pregnant inmate in a Texas penitentiary and become Maura’s new best (psycho) friend.
There are a few things about this scenario that aren’t explained in the text, but are you really going to worry about how Holt managed to finagle an interstate prisoner transfer without causing any bureaucratic noise? Check off the “Not Me” box next to “Who cares? box on the Brooklyn Nine-Nine customer satisfaction questionnaire. The reality is that “Maximum Security” is dogged by other issues, notably that instead of actually letting Santiago go through with her assignment, it decides to find an excuse for her and Jake to argue. Jake, unsurprisingly, is sent along to Texas as her handler. Even more unsurprisingly, he’s a huge pain in the ass about it, because he cannot for one second bring himself to trust in Santiago’s abilities as a cop. He is petrified that she is going to get hurt.
In the abstract, we get Jake’s concern. Amy has outwitted Holt and Jake (see: “Halloween III”) in the past, and that, on top of her general braininess, means that her gifts for deduction and logic are without flaw. But trading a Rosa for an Amy in a situation that demands toughness is sort of like losing a dollar and finding a nickel. Jake’s apprehension is understandable, especially because Maura is immediately, obviously nasty. The problem here is that we should be well past the point in their professional and personal relationship where this matters to him. He knows she’s a capable cop. There really doesn’t have to be a conversation here. If there must be, then maybe that conversation can be safely kept in the margins, where they can talk amongst themselves without staying the plot.
Jake, quite frankly, is better than this, and so is Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s nice to see him grow up and commit to being better, but we’ve already seen him do both throughout the series (and its third season especially). In short, their back and forth here is an unnecessary misstep. More successful is Pimento’s fake funeral, which Holt uses as an opportunity to try and lure Figgis’ man in the FBI out into the open, and which Terry uses as an opportunity to be there for Rosa as much as she’ll let him. Rosa doesn’t do well with feelings. This is well known. But as in “Paranoia,” we get to see the real Rosa as she eulogizes her fallen disappeared fiancé. (We also get to see the real Rosa when she squeezes out a tear with a vigor usually reserved for forcing a shit, which may be the episode’s funniest moment.)
Holt’s plan doesn’t work, but it does give him plenty of chances to Holt Out, possibly to make up for his absence in “Paranoia.” (“All this sneaking around is exhilarating,” he tells Terry after the funeral. “I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my body. Coursing.” This is prime Holt, and the prime competitor to Rosa’s fake tear for “episode’s funniest moment.”) The success of the B-plot nearly makes up for the shortcomings of the A-plot, which, let’s face it, is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s attempt at handling Melissa Fumero’s real-life pregnancy head-on. Given that that thread ends with Santiago getting the job done and striking up an alliance with Maura, it’s fine to call her ordeal a success as well, but we’re still left feeling as though we haven’t gotten anywhere. Worse, we’re left feeling like the show has slid down a slight incline. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is so consistently good that this is only a minor disappointment, but it’s puzzling as to why we needed to be disappointed at all.
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, and Birth.Movies.Death. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.