Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “The Chopper”

(Episode 2.22)

TV Reviews brooklyn nine-nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “The Chopper”

ake Peralta learned everything he knows about police work from watching movies. This is a nonessential component of Peralta’s character, compared to meatier personal details—his relationship with his dad, for example, or the cardinal failures of his career. But the guy loves action flicks, particularly Die Hard. Frankly, if Brooklyn Nine-Nine owes a debt to any one cop film, it’s Hot Fuzz and its adrenalized ridiculousness. One of the principles in that movie dreams about two-fisting a pair of pistols while pirouetting through the air. He has been weaned on Bad Boys and Point Break. Peralta’s personal hero is John McClane, but he and Danny Butterman would get on famously nonetheless.

In the penultimate episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s second season, Jake gets to (sort of) live out a series of policing fantasies: He gets to take on a big ticket case that involves murder and moolah, and in pursuit of solving that case he gets to fly in a chopper. The realization of Jake’s reveries comes at a cost, of course, because Madeline Wuntch makes no offers without strings attached. Her reappearance is a bad omen, and Holt knows it. So our favorite phlegmatic captain assigns himself to Jake’s detail with Boyle, and the trio sets out to solve the mysterious deaths of the Fulton Street Four, an infamous gang responsible for the theft of $21 million and whose members are currently dropping like flies.

Jake immediately concludes that one of the crooks is knocking off the others to stake sole claim over the cash. He’s right, naturally, and we know he’s right from the very start because he’s Jake Peralta. Holt’s protestations are easy to push aside. (Boyle, for the most part, does little here but prove how bad he is at taking photos on a smartphone, which in the grand scheme of things, is plenty.) But we know the truth to Holt and his doubting—he suspects, also rightly, that Wuntch is up to something. That something ends up being rather meaningful in ways that Brooklyn Nine-Nine rarely engages with, which isn’t a complaint but an observation of type. This is a sitcom. Sitcoms don’t generally need huge shake-ups to be vital. They just need to focus on characters, set-ups, and punchlines.

All the same, the conclusion of “The Chopper” is a big deal for Holt, for the department, and for next week’s “John and Dora.” And that’s a good thing. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s sophomore go-round has been stymied at turns by inconsistent writing and an over-emphasis on triteness. Yes, sitcoms generally fall under the category of “light viewing,” but they still need stakes, and “The Chopper” introduces both in a pretty big, gut-punch moment. If you ever needed to be convinced that Andre Braugher is one of the show’s MVPs (and if you’re a dedicated fan, you don’t), then the moment where Wuntch reveals her ploy should get you there. This is a Holt defeated, something we’re not accustomed to seeing. Holt has struggled to get where he is and Wuntch knows it, which makes her scheme all the more insidious. Holt’s inability to let go of his rivalry with Wuntch has long colored him in an unflattering light, but her final riposte here is beyond the pale.

Thankfully the A-plot of “The Chopper” is funny outside of its gravitas, so not all is doom and gloom. Braugher gets one of his best line reads ever (plus the greatest codename in the history of everything forever), the story’s three leading men get to slow-mo walk while “Ante Up” blares in the background (in sharp contrast to a fast-mo dove that takes Peralta by surprise in a barn). And all the while Peralta revels in the sheer awesomeness of the scenario as Boyle continuously tries (and fails) to document him from the sidelines. It’s good stuff, so good that the B-plot feels superfluous, which would be true even if the it’d bothered to be interesting. Terry has invited a class from a magnet school for a field trip to the precinct; he’s trying to impress the admissions counselor to grease the wheels on his girls’ applications, so he enlists the rest of the Nine-Nine to help him out. The results are slight, but they provide a tickle or two. Gina hones in on the visiting children’s most dramatic members, Amy tries to relate to the kids based on her own magnet school experiences, and Rosa campaigns to show a bag of hands and pictures of crime scenes to impressionable youth.

Turns out Rosa has the right idea (we should listen to her all the time about everything), but the narrative feels fluffy next to the Fulton investigation. In last Sunday’s “Det. Dave Majors,” we found Terry struggling with his professional life; instead of resolving that thread neat and clean, it might have been more satisfying to see it continue in “The Chopper.” If nothing else, it would have served as a strong foil to Holt’s own woes. Maybe the lack of poise in the B-plot is a good thing, though. If interoffice feuding gives “The Chopper” its engine, exemplary fatherhood is its anchor.

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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