Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “The Oolong Slayer”

(Episode 3.04)

TV Reviews brooklyn nine-nine
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “The Oolong Slayer”

f you’ve felt that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s third season has underused Amy Santiago and Rosa Diaz, now we know why: They’re too busy passing their juicier cases on to Major Crimes and putting together The Vulture’s social events for him. The former ignominy, at least, is one the entire squad suffers, but “The Oolong Slayer” treats the task of putting together Dean Winters’ birthday bash as a far more soul-crushing disgrace. They’re detectives, and good detectives at that. They aren’t party planners. And yet in “The Oolong Slayer,” their investigative skills are pushed aside at the whim of a narcissistic misogynist, which has the minor benefit of providing an excuse for their lack of involvement in anything more serious than romance plots.

In fairness to Amy, relationship matters made up the core of the season’s first couple of episodes, which gave her plenty to do outside of police work. Rosa, on the other hand, has been practically invisible since the show returned to air last month. Here, she has the chance to exact a little vengeance on The Vulture and bond with Amy, but The Vulture is too much of a dickhead to realize he’s been punked, and we’ve seen Rosa gel with Amy in the past (see: “Windbreaker City” and “Sabotage” from season two). The point made in “The Oolong Slayer” is that they make a good team, even if they’re working on an assignment that falls about a thousand miles outside their job descriptions. That’s great, and maybe we’ll see more Amy/Rosa odd-couple hijinx in the future that match up as well as this week’s for pure hilarity.

In the meantime, the reminder that they can cooperate with one another isn’t really necessary, other than to reinforce the overarching theme of “The Oolong Slayer”’s A-and-B-plots: Good triumphing over evil. Well, maybe not exactly that. Sort of that. It’s more like “good triumphing over stupid,” really, as the ladies thwart The Vulture’s attempt at delegating his self-aggrandizement, while Jake and Captain Holt covertly follow leads on a case involving a serial killer, the titular Oolong slayer. (Apparently, the man has a serious tea fetish, so he leaves a packet of Chinese tea in his victims’ maws and sets up a tableau of creepy dolls having a tea party. If this is meant to be a riff on Hannibal or True Detective, it’s well-played and totally disturbing.)

There’s a lot to like about the basic structure here. For one, Andre Braugher gets to hang with Andy Samberg, or, more accurately, Andy Samberg gets to hang with Andre Braugher. Braugher is such a massive talent that he will invariably pair well with anyone in Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s supporting and primary casts (à la Joe Lo Truglio in “The Road Trip”), but just as invariably he’ll end up by Samberg’s side more than anyone else’s. It’s been a while (okay, three episodes) since we really got to see Jake get into any kind of mischief with Holt, and in “The Oolong Slayer,” their mischief has a righteous edge to it: They’re both being purposefully mismanaged at their jobs, they’re fed up, they’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it.

Watching them solve crimes is exciting. Watching anybody solve crimes on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is exciting, but “The Oolong Slayer” tends to feel more like a cop show parody, than a parody cop show: It lampoons its genre by fully embodying that genre, instead of poking fun at it from the outside. So we get to see Holt feign a fist fight with Jake in a tea shop while Gina, earning her police officer bona fides, sneaks data off of the cash register, and we get to see Jake stalk the slayer through a mannequin factory, gun drawn and ready to go. There’s real upside to the way the show uses its dramatic elements, notably the effect the drama has on the delivery of comedy. It isn’t an accident that “The Oolong Slayer” is the funniest episode of the season so far, whether we’re watching Holt, Jake, and Gina hunt for the slayer, or watching Rosa and Amy scheme up ways to prank The Vulture at his own soiree.

Even the C-plot is exceptionally, funny despite the fact that it exists only to mark the passage of time. It’s a month until The Vulture’s birthday, you see, and in that month-long span, Boyle has unintentionally gotten Terry hooked on cacao nibs, which has turned Terry into Fat Terry. Weeks go by as Terry packs on pounds. There really isn’t much else to the bit, but Crews has a great line about Boyle’s male gaze that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Really, we’re here to see Rosa and Amy self-validate, Jake live out his dream of catching a serial killer, and Holt have his own dream—of running the 99—resuscitated. It’s possible that Holt’s return to the 99 comes too soon, and with too little fanfare; even though he and Gina have come back to the precinct in quintessential Holt and Gina fashion (he with a stoic line read, she with a burst of confetti), “The Oolong Slayer” misses opportunities to show up Wuntch and The Vulture one last time. But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe all that matters is that all is back to normal at the 99 once again.

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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