“The Swedes” and “Yippie Kayak,” two inventive episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, close out the first half of the season, a season that has seen more change thus far than most sitcoms have in four seasons. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s willingness to play with formula, like setting up a whole episode as an homage to Die Hard, keeps it creative, even as the dynamics of the characters are clearly defined by the third season. “The Swedes” explores Rosa and Jake’s dynamic as old partners, playing Jake’s silliness against Rosa’s stoicness, and both of them finding a common hatred for visiting Swedish detectives. “Yippie Kayak” is a true ensemble piece, where Boyle, Jake and Gina are trapped in a store on Christmas, trying to evade robbers and save hostages without any weapons. Both episodes are centered around relationships: in “The Swedes,” it’s Rosa’s lack of communication with Jake despite their long history; and in “Yippie Kayak,” it’s Jake’s failure to buy Boyle a Christmas gift and his desire not to hurt their friendship because of it.
Relationships, in the end, make Brooklyn Nine-Nine a stronger comedy than straightforward joke machines. In its third season, the show has followed the characters through huge events: a dead captain, Amy and Jake’s relationship, Captain Holt and Gina in a different office, Terry’s new baby. And yet there is no sign of wavering affection from the members of the squad. Terry even says, at the end of “Yippie Kayak” that they’re family. The show is cut from the same feel-good cloth as Parks and Recreation, and while every team has their Jerry (or in Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s case, two Jerrys), both shows are excellent at demonstrating how working alongside people for years and years creates strong, sometimes eerily intimate relationships. This intimacy is everywhere, in main and side plots. Terry and Amy make up an entire interpretive dance for Gina just to help her study for her astronomy test in “The Swedes.” The second Amy sees Jake’s texts that he is trapped in the store and there’s a hostage situation in “Yippie Kayak,” she, Rosa and Captain Holt stop what they’re doing and rush to the scene.
There are so many examples, not only from “The Swedes” and “Yippie Kayak,” but from the whole season, of ways that the squad shows up for one another. Comedies, like fine wines and television shows cancelled by Fox, get richer as time passes, as the connections between characters are deepened by years of stories and experiences. Not every episode from this first half of the season has been deeply funny: “The Swedes” is a great example of the show thinking silly accents will save a so-so plot about international jewel heists; but despite this it has still been a deeply satisfying season. Exploring stories that come out of the passing of time, like Amy and Jake’s romance or the squad’s sadness over losing Captain Holt, make for a richer experience when watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
“Yippie Kayak” especially feels like a celebration of all the show’s accomplished, as the squad supports Jake, Gina and Boyle, trapped in a hostage situation with no weapons on Christmas. It’s hard not to echo Jake’s childlike glee at getting to act out Die Hard, as the episode is chock-full of lovingly delivered jokes, the biggest laugh coming from Boyle’s butchering of McClane’s signature catchphrase when dropping down from an air vent. Without a familiarity with Die Hard, the episode is still a blast, seeing Jake and Boyle actively fighting criminals instead of pushing paperwork or playing office pranks. Gina, too, gets her moment of glory with a flamethrower made with hairspray and a lighter. In the end, what’s more representative of the holidays than people gathered around one another, not necessarily people who have chosen one another, but people who have grown to love each other all the same, watching their friend terrorize a criminal with a homemade flamethrower? “Yippie Kayak” continues to strengthen the bond between these Brooklyn weirdos who still, somehow, manage to solve crimes. It’s a high note for this first half of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to end on, as it delivers a pitch-perfect homage to one of the best Christmas movies. Yippie kayak, other buckets, and a happy new year!
Photo Courtesy of FOX