As you may have noticed, this is called Filmology, but sometimes we talk about television as well, because as a medium, it has grown to be just as important as cinema today (thanks to HBO?). Last week, the second season of my currently favourite sitcom ended in the US (though there are still three or four episodes left to be shown in the UK) and since I am still going crazy about it, I figured I’d write a post about it here on the blog. The show is Brooklyn Nine-Nine (duh), and, if you don’t know the basic plot, it is set around the 99th police precinct in Brooklyn, and it follows the commanding officer, Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), sergeant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), the detectives Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), Amy Santiago(Melissa Fumero), Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz), Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Scully (Joe McKinnon Miller), and administrative assistant Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti). It’s all about the hijinks the ensue in the precinct, the crimes the detectives have to solve, and the relationships between the different characters. It’s an ensemble show in the best way possible, like whenever Friends wasn’t in Ross-and-Rachel-land or the beginning of How I Met Your Mother, or Parks and Rec.
In fact, it is because of Parks and Rec, I think, that the show has evolved so brilliantly from seasons one to two. B99 was created by Michael Schur, who also created Parks and Rec while working in The Office, and Dan Goor, who was one of the writers in Parks and Rec. In Parks, it took some time for the characters to truly become the awesome people they were by the end of the show, but in B99, they grew faster, because the writers knew better. They knew what worked and what didn’t, and they played off and subverted stereotypes in order to create humour (like Gina who is the shallow narcissist is actually really good with money and was looking to investing in real estate, or Terry who is a beefy hunk who is super in love with his wife and is a really sweet dad to his “baby girls” — and who loves yoghurt… Terry looves yoghurt,) so that all through season one they straightened out the kinks of the show, and by season two they were a well-oiled machine, creating hilarious situations with the various different pairings the show’s large ensemble allows.
And while all that is great, I am actually here to talk about the show’s season 2 finale, “Johnny and Dora.” It was perhaps the best episode in the season in terms of how the cast played off each other, and also it sent my shipper heart to unimaginable heights. I was soaring by the end of it. I’ve seen it like five times since it aired. I am in love.
So here’s the basic plot: an identity thief is about to hand a laptop with stolen identities to a mobster from China, so Jake is going to tail him with the help of the team assigned to him by Holt: Amy, Boyle and Rosa. It is awkward for Jake because he still has feelings for Amy, but she told him two episodes before that she didn’t want to date cops anymore, after she was asked out by Detective Majors. He tells her it’s awkward for him because of his feelings, but that she respects her wishes and won’t do anything about it. Then in the Boyle-Rosa front, it’s Rosa’s birthday, which she hates, and Boyle has a not-so-secret party planned with her boyfriend Marcus that Rosa is angry about, even though Boyle said she’ll like it because she knows her well. They spend the episode arguing over how well he knows her, and it’s just really fun to see them being friends because they have such opposite personalities. Then back in the precinct, Holt is being forced into a promotion that will take him out of the 99 because his arch-nemesis Wuntch hates him, so he enlists Gina and Terry to help him retrieve a letter to blackmailing Wuntch into letting him stay. However, it doesn’t work, and he has to leave the 99.
This episode was so successful for me because it played with the best pairings the ensemble has to offer, Holt-Gina-Terry, Rosa-Boyle, and Jake-Amy. And they work in very different ways.
Let’s begin with the Rosa-Boyle dynamic. For the better part of season one, Boyle was in love with Rosa in what was an unnecessary romantic subplot. While it didn’t bother me in the same way that Andy/Erin bothered me in The Office, it was still sort of pointless because Rosa was firm in that she didn’t feel the same way. But they soon got rid of that when Boyle fell in love with an older woman, Vivian, in Holt’s birthday party. But when they broke up in the end of season one, it could have been a way for him to go back to Rosa or to have Rosa finally fall for him, but no! He actually slept with Gina in a disturbing sexual affair that lasted for the time Jake was undercover. So the romantic Rosa-Boyle pairing was done with. Yes! And from then onwards, they have been depicted as really good friends — Boyle even helps Rosa with her boyfriend Marcus multiple times, because she struggles with feelings and he’s all about that business. And it’s not in a oh-they’re-best-friends-but-actually-this-will-evolve-into-something-else way, I don’t think. It seems more like proper buddy-cop stuff, where cop friends help each other out in relationships and in life in general. “Johnny and Dora” is a perfect example of this because it shows that they really know each other well, like partners would in a buddy cop capacity, and that Boyle is willing to help out his partner’s boyfriend give her a nice special evening because he wants her to be happy. In the Back In the Field podcast about the episode they talk about how Marcus isn’t well-developed in the same way that girlfriends and wives in buddy-cop dramas aren’t really developed because they are secondary to the friendship. I thought that was really cool, and it definitely resonated to how they are playing out the Rosa-Boyle dynamic.
Moving on to Holt-Gina-Terry, who are the administrative heart of the precinct, no matter how much Gina doesn’t care about her job. Which we see is total bullcrap in this episode, because she even turns her phone on airplane mode in order to help Captain Holt defeat his nemesis. Gina is a really interesting character because, while some might say she hasn’t developed much since the beginning of the show, she actually developed a lot. She is more open and “friendly” with Amy and more willing to do her work. In fact, from the very beginning, she has been protective of Holt, and in this episode, as Holt is leaving, she stands up and goes with him, cementing her as his proverbial right-hand-man. And it’s always fun to see Gina’s antics with Terry, especially as they celebrate Holt throwing shade at Wuntch together from the other side of the two-way mirror. It’s a wonderful friendship that grows from Gina simply flirting with him to them actually working as team many times, and to Terry caring about Gina as a really good friend. Terry is one of the sweetest characters in the show, he cares about all his squad deeply, is a wonderful father, and has the biggest heart. And he has endless respect for Captain Holt, which is why he tries to hard to help him stay. And Holt is in top shape in this episode. Andre Braugher is always amazing, but the stoic-ness of the captain mixed with the petty hatred between him and Wuntch are wonderful and uncomfortable to look at, and they have been elevated times a thousand in “Johnny and Dora”, as Wuntch pats Holt down for wires for like ten minutes. As a gay, black officer in the NYPD, Holt has struggled a lot to get to the position of Commanding Officer, and he does what it takes in this episode to get Wuntch to let him be, but in the end it is all fruitless, because either he leaves, or Wuntch scatters his team all around other precincts, separating what is a perfectly functioning engine and selling it for parts. It’s a hard decision for him to make, but he decided to leave and keep the team together, and his speech at the end of the episode is incredibly moving, especially when his usually monotone voice cracks. Even Jake is shocked and asks for the robot captain to come back, to which the captain replied “meep morp,” a callback to the pilot.
But the piece-de-resistance of the entire episode is the A-plot: Jake and Amy. Throughout the season, the show has been toying with the idea of them together, from Amy confessing her feelings and breaking up with her boyfriend Teddy to Jake letting her win the office games because he likes her. But it hasn’t been like Jim and Pam (or even Tim and Dawn from the original Office, who only finally get together in the Christmas special) where they like each other in secret, because they’ve been surprisingly open about how they feel, it’s just that the timing hasn’t been right. TV Over Mind wrote a great article on the romance between Jake and Amy, and this quotation sums up what it is that is so effective about Jake and Amy (and Jim/Pam, Leslie/Ben, Andy/April from The Office and Parks):
“Unlike many romances in pop culture today, which try to depend too much on solely flirtation or sexual attraction, Jake and Amy’s connection is born out of friendship and respect. Sure, the two of them can bicker and crack jokes about one another, but as we’ve seen countless time throughout Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s two seasons, the bond between them is real and strong. There’s an admiration and appreciation that each of them has for the other that has developed over their years of working together; the two of them care for each other as co-workers and friends, not as some type of lustful conquest.”
They’ve been friends the whole way here, and that’s what’s most important. Jake respects Amy, not only as a woman, but as his friends, and the same goes to Amy. And the way the writers handled Jake this whole time has been perfect. He is an established feminist character, super respectful of women, not resentful of successful women, never cracking jokes at them because they are women (in fact, all main male characters of the show are pretty much like that.) He respects Amy’s decision and even says “I can’t make a woman’s choice for her” when Rosa suggests he sabotages Amy’s date with Majors. He is a nice guy, but isn’t the Nice Guy. He doesn’t feel entitled to her love because he helps her and is nice to her. He earns Amy’s respect and friendship, and their mutual love (shall I even call it that at this point? ah, to hell with it, I read fanfiction, I get to call it love) is well-deserved through a lot of flirty banter, sexual tension, and unwavering friendship.
In “Johnny and Dora” we see the denouement of all that. As primary and secondary in the case, Jake and Amy have to tail the suspect together, and, because TV Trope, they end up having to pretend they are engaged (Amy’s idea) and finally kiss in order to throw the guy off their scent. It’s a classic TV/fanfic trope (fake couple undercover – kiss not to be found out – actually have feelings for one another) that is pout into work here, not in order to make them see that they have mutual feelings (we already know that), but as a build up to up the ante of their relationship thus far. This is the point of no return, not matter how much they try to get past it by claiming it was “SUCH A NORMAL TIME,” like Amy does. But still, they are at work, and those kisses can’t get in the way of that, and that’s where the show gets different, because they are professional beyond all else, especially Amy. They must keep at the mission because it’s their job, and it’s all about the job. They even shake hands and call each other “detective” after the first kiss. And after the second, Jake again apologises for all the awkwardness, and they continue to be friendly at work, even though it a bit weird, still. It’s where their relationship differs from all others, and I think that was very well handled by the writers.
Because of all that, their final, non-case-related, proper kiss feels really earned. They are in the evidence lockup, sad about Holt leaving, realising that even though at first they said they didn’t want anything to change, everything is changing, and there’s no way around that. Jake looks at Amy’s lips, and in a split second, they are kissing again, only it’s sweeter, it’s quieter, it’s real. (And I totally didn’t shriek when it happened. That didn’t happen at all.)
So, the Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 2 finale was amazing, hitting all the right buttons and leaving us excited about what’s coming next. I really can’t wait to see what will happen to Holt and Gina in the Public Relations office, and how Jake and Amy will deal with their evolving relationship. But all in five month’s time. For now I’ll just watch “Johnny and Dora” again for the sixth time…
post by Mariana Duarte