Before any discussion of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s mid-season finale (an over exaggeration in terms, if there ever was one) can be broached, I must begin this review by saying “oops.” In all things Kyra Sedgwick, I have been proven false time and again; when it looked like her total appearances on the show would add to two, “Lockdown” came along and made me look foolish. Now, with “The Stakeout,” she enjoys one brief moment of facetime before being gloriously, stentoriously burned by Andre Braugher, once again demonstrating his talent for stealing the spotlight in any pre-credits beat by doing little more than acting out of character.
So: mea culpa. Mea maxima culpa. Wuntch doesn’t do much for “The Stakeout,” but she opens the door for Braugher hilarity, which gets things started off on the right foot. “HOT damn!” has now met its match.
“The Stakeout” isn’t at all about Wuntch and Holt, though. Instead it’s about the departmental relationships between the guys and gals of the Nine-Nine. This is emphasized foremost in the A-plot, in which Jake and Charles team up to observe and report on a trendy little up-and-coming mafia for eight days straight; it’s a demonstration of Odd Couple Syndrome, and a fireworks display of their respective idiosyncrasies. (The “no-no list” may be one of the show’s greatest sight gags. It’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s cantina scene. One glance at that wall will only let you pick out so many of the no-nos at a time.)
Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Gina and Amy react in totally different ways after reading a children’s book Terry has composed for his daughters; and Diaz winds up crushing on Holt’s nephew, Marcus (Nick Cannon), with limited but awkward consequences. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has really nailed it in the guest cast department this season, and using Cannon as a charming, charismatic foil to Braugher’s stonier persona sounds like a slam-dunk on paper. But Marcus is barely used at all, and so most of the throughline here is about Diaz and Holt trying to navigate the muddied waters of their personal and professional relationships. In and of itself, this is hilarious—Beatriz and Braugher do great work deadpanning off of one another—but the conflict doesn’t really go anywhere dramatic. (Could be that we’ll see this expand in the future. Cannon has an alleged multi-episode arc, though I won’t hazard a guess as to how long it’ll last.)
Gina and Amy have a bit more to do (though it is both weird and refreshing that the show is dancing around the “Jake and Amy” stuff so much by keeping them apart), and it’s nice to be reminded that Terry is basically the greatest dad in the history of all the dads. How many big, burly dudes with muscles on their muscles would dive into writing a story for their daughters with Terry’s gusto? He’s a great icon of masculinity, and his sweet gesture allows for a good bit of character examination with Gina, and most of all with Amy, who has benefitted from big swaths of personal development throughout the season. (Gina, likely, will always be Gina. She’s static. She’s off in her own world, and we love her for that, because she’s amazing.) If Amy’s going to rise up in the ranks, after all, she’s going to have to learn how to be less of a pushover, though maybe that means more than just angrily throwing pots of coffee into the trash.
But “The Stakeout” is, naturally, about Jake and Charles snipping at each other in their hidey-hole. These guys are such super best buds that watching their camaraderie break down with such breathtaking speed is alarming; they’ve been super pals since forever, and the very suggestion that their friendship could actually dissolve hurts. That’s part of what makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine so great, of course—the characters matter, even though this is a goofy cop sitcom. We know that the end of “The Stakeout” means that the fracas will resolve (though, wouldn’t it be great if the second half of the season hinged, if only somewhat, on Peralta repairing his bond with Boyle?), but that doesn’t make the tension any less real.
If there’s any question worth asking here, it’s about timing; “The Stakeout” makes for a weird halfway point in the season, given that nothing major and lasting happens outside of Diaz’s flirtations with Marcus. (Walk-off moment of the episode: Marc Evan Jackson’s reaction to Braugher stammering his way through breakfast.) Maybe it’s a critique not worth making though; “The Stakeout” works, and works well, whether because of Braugher or the no-no list (“no Kwazy Cupcakes”), which means that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s recent groove remains undisrupted.
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.