“Halloween III” is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s third in a series of Halloween episodes that pit Captain Holt and Jake against each other to see who truly is the best detective slash genius. The Halloween episodes have usually been Brooklyn Nine-Nine at its most silly and fun, a low-stakes way to bring the cast together for office hijinks. They’re reminiscent of The Office’s “Office Olympics,” except with an espionage bent, where everyone teams up with either Captain Holt or Jake to help them steal an item from the other. This time, they decide to steal the same item, a crown Jake most definitely got from the Dollar Tree, and whoever is in possession of it at midnight will be crowned the King of the 9-9.
“Halloween III” is a great showcase for the main cast and guest stars alike (hey, Merrin Dungey, I see you!), as Gina, Rosa, Terry and Boyle each have a part to play in Jake and Captain Holt’s plans to steal the crown. The episode has the best time with Rosa, giving her the chance to shine as a cool, collected badass, as she somersaults through windows and carries very large knives. If ever someone needs a new lead for their action movie franchise, Rosa Diaz has got them covered. While all of this is going on, Boyle also tries to set Gina up on a date with a friend of his, giving Chelsea Peretti the chance to throw out some choice Gina-isms while wearing really cute dresses.
But really, let’s talk about Amy Santiago.
Melissa Fumero has been having a hell of a year playing Amy, between last season and the first five episodes of Season 3. Amy Santiago could have been a hard character to make work, someone so focused on following the rules she drained the fun out of Jake and the cast’s more zany character qualities. Somehow, through writing and confidence and the magical power of Fumero’s acting, Amy is consistently the strongest character in the ensemble. There’s a joy in her neurosis, a messiness in her impossible quest for perfection, something so relatable about the way she goes into things one hundred percent, no matter what they are. Amy is a good detective, and has a clear and strong sense of right and wrong, and she also gets to be a little bit bonkers when things don’t work out the way she wants. Fumero imbues Amy with vulnerability and owns all these different qualities, and Amy’s vulnerability is what elevates “Halloween III” as the best of the trilogy of Halloween episodes.
Amy, after not being picked on Captain Holt’s team because of her romantic relationship with Jake, and not being picked for Jake’s team because of her responsibility to obey Captain Holt as her supervisor, quietly lets Jake know that he hurt her feelings by not picking her. Her honesty isn’t played for laughs; Jake doesn’t tell her she’s being dramatic or too sensitive. She’s clearly upset, and the show lets her be upset by feeling left out. Jake ruins the moment by thinking she’s lying and simply a spy for the other side, but there’s something to the fact that Brooklyn Nine-Nine gives Amy a moment to acknowledge how Jake’s treatment of her makes her feel. It also leads to Amy’s total dominance over Jake and Captain Holt, as she outwits them and steals the crown herself, ultimately becoming the Queen of the 9-9 for the night.
What Amy Santiago’s win also reveals is Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s commitment as a show to celebrating women and their strength. Amy states during her victory speech that she is more than Jake’s girlfriend and Captain Holt’s subordinate, she’s a damn good detective, and her win is only one of many examples of that truth. In so many other shows and films about cops, women are relegated to the sidelines, girlfriends or wives in trouble as men solve crimes and save their cities. Women are bystanders and men are heroes. And consistently, Brooklyn Nine-Nine refuses to buy into that narrative, through the way it treats its female characters. In “Haloween III,” both Amy and Rosa get to be heroes: Rosa as the action star and Amy as the intelligent detective. They are successful because they’re good at their jobs, and in Amy’s case, her feelings inform her success, not hinder it. “Halloween III” is a highly entertaining episode, interspersed with high-quality Andre Braugher line readings and a quick-paced story, but it’s Amy Santiago and her victory that stand out. It’s the way the show honors her feelings, and not only chooses her to win but outlines why she deserves to win over Jake and Captain Holt. Yes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a comedy, but more and more that’s meaning that in-between the laughs it is deciding to say something worth listening to, even in small ways: the fact that women are strong and capable in their jobs, the fact that there are problems with the NYPD and their policies, the fact that diversity can exist in a show without stereotypes and tokenism. Hopefully the rest of television is listening, too.
Photo Courtesy of FOX