Brooklyn Nine Nine
S1, E2: ‘Tagger’
On the soft tyranny of low expectations
Brooklyn Nine Nine’s second instalment restates its pilot’s major themes, for a charming but unambitious twenty-odd minutes. However, it gives us an interesting potential villain.
The A-plot has Peralta and Holt team up to catch the ‘tagger’ – someone who has been spray-painting obscene graffiti on police vehicles. Peralta has been butting heads again with Holt – for showing up late and for sloppy paperwork. The captain insists that he’s going to ‘babysit’ Peralta until he demonstrates that he can do his job as an adult. Peralta rolls his eyes and goes along with it, but insists on making an enormous production of it to show exactly how pettifogging and ridiculous the rules are.
So far, it’s well-executed but retreading old ground. We have the already-reliable chemistry between Samberg and Braugher as they go undercover in Terry’s minivan. Peralta shows up in a middle-parting, khaki shorts and ‘man-sandals’ for his undercover character – a decision he regrets the instant that he needs to pursue the suspect on foot. Whereas Holt has shown up in character as ‘angry captain’ – a role he is nailing. We see Peralta’s attempts to needle his Captain: asking Terry for glitter, asking Gina to look up humidity and moon cycles and including an about the author segment with a portrait of himself in a turtleneck (Hee!). ‘If I’m going to do it his way, I’m going to do it my way.’
So I am just waiting for the case to hinge on some aspect of paperwork at which Peralta had previously scoffed, that could turn out to save the day. Something that will teach Peralta the value of attention to detail. And then the show does a slight, but interesting, side-step.
The ‘tagger’ is the son of Deputy Commissioner Podolski, a high-ranking police officer who peremptorily orders Peralta to drop the case – with the clear assumption that Podolski could ruin his career if he doesn’t. Holt, behind his impassive mask, sympathises with Peralta, but lets slip the key to the episode: have some pity for the kid whose father cares so little for him that he never lets him face the consequences of his actions. And there it is: it isn’t about attention to detail, so much as the expectation that Peralta will function well and as an adult.
Peralta and Holt suit up and arrest Podolski Minor. Papa Podolski throws a sneering threat Peralta’s way. And Holt intervenes, reminding the Deputy Commissioner that he’s been facing enemies all his career. Podolski Minor may not have a Papa who cares enough to teach him a lesson, but Peralta does.
The secondary plot doesn’t work nearly as well. Gina has a psychic friend (Artemis Pebdani) who throws out spectacularly vague hints about a drugs case, and a much more specific prediction about Charles’s love-life; Rosa will never love him back. When the drugs-related predictions all seem to fail, Charles is relieved, but Gina reverse-engineers the predictions with the dexterity of a lifetime of rationalising bullshit. Charles is crestfallen until Rosa pulls him together with a well-timed punch to the arm. Charles lives to moon another day, and I roll my eyes.
Odds and sods
- ‘These are two pictures. One is your locker, and the other is a garbage dump in the Philippines. Can you guess which is which?’ [Pointing out one] ‘That one is the garbage dump.’ ‘They’re both your locker.’ ‘Gah, I should’ve guessed that. He’s good!’
- ‘So, basically every person’s first eight guesses in ‘Hangman’.’
- [To the purported psychic, with a wide smile] ‘Thank you, Carlene. Your entire life is garbage.’
- ‘Well, my career is over. See you at the bottom, Hitchcock. No offence.’ ‘No, none taken.’
- Terry loves yogurt. I don’t know why, but this is exactly the sort of small, highly specific detail that makes the universe of this show feel already so lived-in.