“Boyle’s Hunch” and “The Oolong Slayer,” both balanced, dynamic episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, are a reminder of the way the show has created the world of the NYPD. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show about police detectives the way The Office was about the difficulties of the paper business and the way New Girl is about teaching: tangentially, as a story framework device. There’s always a glimmer of truth in Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s New York City cops, just enough grounded policework to justify the story framework, but it doesn’t usually address real-world police issues. It’s a workplace comedy, where the workplace just happens to be dealing with crime in New York City.
That’s why “Boyle’s Hunch,” the third episode of the season, was so surprising. One of the stories involved Captain Holt discussing a new marketing campaign for the NYPD in response to the image problem the police department as a whole has had. Amy, brought in by Holt to be the new face of the campaign, name-checks some police issues, including stop-and-frisk: it’s a small moment in a side story, but it makes an impact. It’s not only that the show is addressing some real-world issues, though, but it’s also the fact that a Black and Latina cop are addressing these issues. Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t have to be a comedy that addresses police brutality, corruption and racism, but it also seems like the right place to do it. The show has built a squad that resembles New York City, in all its diversity, and has spent three seasons expanding on its characters and its world. To separate the reality of Black and Brown people from the characters who reflect those groups in the show seems wrong, cheapens the characters and their identities.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has done so much with explaining Captain Holt’s backstory in the NYPD, and the homophobia and harassment he’s experienced as a gay man, admirably critiquing the police and their history as an institution. It’s hard not to wonder what the show would look like addressing the murders of young Black and Brown men, taking the story in “Boyle’s Hunch” a step further. What would Captain Holt have to say, as the head of PR? What would Terry and Rosa and Amy say, as people of color who are a part of a profession perpetrating these acts? Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t have to be a comedy that addresses these things; it works well as a silly, poignant character study of friends in a workplace. But just like Parks and Recreation commented smartly on politics and the government, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has the opportunity to say something meaningful about the current attitudes and beliefs around the police. Maybe “Boyle’s Hunch” is just a one-off episode, but hopefully it leads to a bigger conversation on the show about identity, race and policework.
While “Boyle’s Hunch” deals with the NYPD’s image problem as well as Rosa’s anger and Boyle’s potential new love interest, “The Oolong Slayer” is an instant classic episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, teaming up Gina, Captain Holt and Jake to solve a serial killer case under the noses of Wunch and The Vulture. Gina, Captain Holt and Jake are the dream team, meeting in secret alleyways and fighting off people in scary mannequin factories. The episode plays around with time, jumping days and weeks in between scenes, but it doesn’t feel too disjointed. “The Oolong Slayer” also teams up Amy and Rosa to plan The Vulture’s birthday party, pairing up Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz, who don’t get nearly enough stories together. Before Gina Rodriguez and the cast of Jane the Virgin brightly came to the television landscape, Fumero and Beatriz were holding down the fort, playing non-stereotypical Latinas on network television. It’s still so powerful to see them both on screen together, funny and smart and playing off of each other so well.
“The Oolong Slayer” also serves to close the “Captain Holt and Gina in the PR department” arc of the first part of the season, as Jake’s crafty maneuvering after solving the serial killer case gives Holt back his job in the 9-9. Overall, “Boyle’s Hunch” and “The Oolong Slayer” are solid episodes that give every character a part to play in the story, and while it might seem a tad repetitive to keep saying Brooklyn Nine-Nine is having a great third season, it’s still true, four episodes in.
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