Brooklyn Nine-Nine is, at its core, a goofy workplace sitcom. It’s full of big personalities and office hijinks, and the characters only tangentially seem to be solving crimes. “Hostage Situation,” the show’s first episode back from the holidays, is big on sperm jokes, physical gags and not much else. (If you enjoy watching Terry Crews get repeatedly accidentally injured by Melissa Fumero, this is the episode for you.) “Hostage Situation” isn’t necessarily a bad episode of the show, but it fails to put new layers on to the well-worn relationships the show has established, especially in comparison to earlier episodes. Those earlier episodes introduced new dynamics that the show quickly and seamlessly integrated, like Amy and Jake’s romance, and proved how well Brooklyn Nine-Nine can create change without damaging the essence of the show. The issue is that those quick and seamless changes have now returned the show to status quo, and without conversations on stop and frisk or elaborate homages to Die Hard, Brooklyn Nine-Nine can feel stagnant. The show is a goofy workplace sitcom set in a police precinct, yes, but it can and has been more than that.
That’s why episodes like “Hostage Situation” are frustrating, because the show can do better. Boyle’s storyline with his ex-wife Eleanor, a character who has been present in horrifying reputation only up until this episode, seems a rushed idea to give Boyle something more to do than be Amy and Jake’s relationship cheerleader. Boyle and his current partner Genevieve decide they want to have a baby together, but to do that Boyle and Jake have to steal back Boyle’s sperm samples from Eleanor. The show cleverly frames Boyle and Jake’s mission as a hostage situation, avoiding the same beats from the holiday-themed “Yippie Kayak.” While Kathryn Hahn is at her best as the pathologically awful Eleanor, the way Brooklyn Nine-Nine so quickly jumped from Genevieve and Boyle dating to Genevieve and Boyle planning on having a baby leaves no room for the story to grow. Boyle has been characterized as a guy who jumps recklessly into relationships, but this time it feels like the show is using that characterization to cut narrative corners. Genevieve and Boyle deciding to have a child would have had more weight if the show had invested more time in their pairing, the same issues that plagued Rosa’s relationship and subsequent break-up with Marcus earlier this season.
Boyle’s seemingly rushed plot and Genevieve and Eleanor’s minimal presence on the show gets at a larger problem within Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s storytelling. While the show’s characters and their traits are strongly defined, most other things on the show aren’t. Love interests, like Genevieve, Marcus, and even Teddy and Sophia, to an extent, are usually underdeveloped. Antagonists, like The Vulture and Madeline Wunch, have more development as they are created in opposition to a member of the squad, but are some of the very few recurring characters who are developed. It’s hard not to compare Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Parks and Recreation, and find some of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s vagueness around the world the show inhabits lacking in comparison. Parks and Recreation was seeped in so much narrative continuity and world-building that it could have spent whole episodes focusing on Perd Hapley’s various news spin-off shows, or the adventures of the animal control department, without complaint. Not every show needs to be or should be Parks and Recreation, but there is something admirable and ambitious about the way the show built Pawnee around the characters it established. New York City and the police precinct aren’t Pawnee, but three seasons in, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s ensemble is as tight as it can be. Perhaps it’s time to start expanding the show beyond the relationships between the squad, experimenting more with stories, situations and New York City as a place. “Hostage Situation” was not that episode, but the show has grown and changed before, and can again, if it spends time investing in more than just its characters. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a long 22-episode season ahead of it, with plenty of time to continue to create the show beyond the office walls of the 9-9.
Photo Courtesy of FOX