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Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Game Night / The Favour (Winter Finale) - Double Roundtable Review

18 Dec 2017

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Bradley Adams: Another back-to-back airing! Given that we'd never had one this time last year and now this is the fifth, I shouldn't be quite so excited by the prospect, and yet I am.

Laura Markus: Yep, since they waited until January 1st for the two-part mid-season finale of Season 4, this was our first one and I don't think it disappointed at all, did you?
Bradley: It did not, and once again, the two episodes had little connection. Let's start with the first, the 100th - not a landmark in the weird world of Brooklyn Nine-Nine - and I would say far and away the best of the two. It was a superb follow-up to the 99th both in tone and story.

Laura: I would argue that it was even better than the 99th, quality wise? It may not have been the ensemble piece of its predecessor, but everything about it worked for me.

Bradley: That's fair and I'd probably agree to an extent. I think the 99th takes it purely because of that ensemble interaction and how well it dealt with the characters and their journeys over the four and a bit years. But, certainly, this was one of the best episodes the show has produced - and that is a list rapidly expanding in length.

Laura: Fair enough. And yes, I'm so happy that "Game Night" exists. Let's start with the cold open - Jake going full-Sherlock. That was pretty hilarious to me, as was the ending when Holt and the squad thought it would be best if they redraw without Jake included. But one noteworthy thing I noticed about this is that Holt's doing a Secret Santa at all. If you can recall, in Season 1, whatever the occasion was, Holt REFUSED to accept presents of any kind. And now, here he is helping organize a Secret Santa. How gosh darn adorable.

Bradley: I hadn't thought of it from the Holt perspective there, but it says plenty about his growth, and that's no bad thing. It's nice to see again, too, that Jake's detective work is absurdly good whenever he applies himself like that. Given how much better the show is when it doesn't focus too much on plot, I often forget how skilled he is at his job. This was a hilarious reminder.

Laura: Indeed. I also like how they remembered that Rosa usually hates partaking in these kinds of events - she made her gifter return their gift for her the last time they did a Secret Santa. Every time this show gets something right on the nose re: continuity, an angel gets its wings.

Bradley: So, let's talk about Rosa, since I know you're chomping at the bit to do so. Last week, she came out to Boyle. Here, she revealed her truth to the squad and then her parents. I was surprised at how bluntly it came with the squad, and how early in the episode it was.

Laura: That entire scene was everything I wanted it to be and more. Starting with the "Hot Perp Alert", which pretty much revealed the entire squad to be bisexual, then Rosa came right out and said it, and fielded questions for a minute. There's so much to unpack here - the way Boyle almost spoiled the secret, Rosa knowing this about herself for decades, Hitchcock holding back a distasteful comment. I'm so happy she had the squad to be here for her, which I will no doubt touch on later. The way Holt reassured her that this will go better for her than it did for him was bittersweet. So bittersweet.

Bradley: It was a very touching moment, and very Rosa, I felt. In Holt's comment, we had some foreshadowing, in a way, because coming out to her parents proved a much tougher task. The contrast was really good and I felt like having both in the same episode worked much better than if they had separated the two.

Laura: Very true. It's even more heartbreaking knowing that they were finally getting close with her, after the whole prison ordeal, only to have them push away from her again only because she chose to share her truth.

A lot of people are wondering if it would've been a more effective bit if her scenes with her parents were done by Holt, and while I could see that I am happy it was Jake, because we got the scene of him "straight-splaining" how to come out to her parents. I mean, that was no straight person saying that, and there's no way Jake thought of all that off the top of the dome piece, but I digress. I do wish Holt's scenes with Rosa were longer, but I'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Bradley: Having Jake go was a much better plan than sending Holt. Obviously, Holt has experience with this sort of thing but it would have felt, to me, too on the nose to have him accompany her. She and Jake have a friendship back to the Academy and so he is the ideal person to have gone. But I'd have to disagree with Rosa - Jake definitely should change career and be an actor; more specifically, he should change career and actually play Sherlock Holmes.

Laura: Well, now I'm disagreeing with you because that wasn't acting in my eyes. That was literally the work of a man who has done that exact thing before and it was based on his experiences.

Anyway, let's get more into the scenes with her parents. God, how heartbreaking. As Rosa said, they would be happier thinking that Rosa was someone's mistress then if she was dating a woman. Knowing that some parents' biggest fears are their children being LGBTQ+ is not only absurd, but utterly painful. And it all came to a head in their Game Night. The writers of the episode really knew what they were doing when it came to the charades - straight people will literally assume two girls are owners of a chocolate shops before they would guess that they were romantically involved. It's also important to note that, in Rosa's beautiful speech, she mentions that she can marry and have kids with a man or a woman. The choice is hers. Doesn't mean she's straight if she's with a man, or gay if she's with a woman. She's bi no matter who she ends up with. So, so much praise I must give to Stephanie Beatriz. I could feel the emotions emanating from that room.

Bradley: That was awful to watch, in the best way. I liked the fact that her parents were so against it because it gave the arc much more emotional heft than it would have had if the reveal had been easy for them to accept. The game night scene was the highlight of the episode; Beatriz was spectacular throughout, but particularly in that scene, carrying the weight of the tension in a way that was as deep as, if not even deeper than, the emotional stakes we so often see on this show.

Laura: Definitely. It was some of the most compelling acting ever displayed on the show. I actually found many-a parallel between Rosa's story here and Terry's story in "Moo Moo". Both of them attended dinners where nothing got accomplished, faced inner turmoil, had someone by their side for help and advice, and, most somber of all, ended on an inconclusive, not entirely happy end. Rosa's dad might have come around, but her mom is going to need time. Game night was called off indefinitely. This is a permanent change in her family dynamic and it's going to change the way her parents see her going forward. Much like how Terry filed that complaint and changed the way he would approach situations like that one going forward. Nothing changed, but everything changed. I think this is where the show thrives. I know, I'm a sucker for a happy ending, or even a BRUTAL one like the one in "The Favour". But these ambiguous ones give the show a heightened sense of realism and quality, I find.

Bradley: The one thing I'd say is that I felt the resolution of her dad accepting Rosa for this was a touch hurried, and that it perhaps needed just another scene of something - I have no idea what - in between game night and the scene on the roof. That being said, this is a 22-minute comedy and it's a very minor criticism of a superb episode. I am glad, though, that we got him accepting her, because that would have been really rough to end on without seeing his U-turn.

Laura: I'm not sure it was hurried, because he did seem like the person, of the two of her parents, who would see and understand it. He didn't think bisexuality even existed, but Rosa explained it to them and plead her case. He nodded a bit, if I could recall. Her mom, though, couldn't even look her in the eye.

I think the ending scene might've been my favourite though. I could talk here for hours about how, in another life, Rosa/Gina would've been a "hot ass couple", but nobody wants to see that. I'm elated that Jake came to her, along with the rest of the squad, to carry on a game night. It was so f*cking beautiful and made Rosa realize that this really is her family, just like Holt reminded her about right before she contemplated running away in "Crime & Punishment". I wanted her scene with Holt to be longer, sure, but there was still so much to love about it. His words come from a worse experience, he had nobody there to tell him that it was all going to be okay. Everyone was against him. But he wants different for Rosa. He wants to show her that things have gotten better, and they will continue to get better. And him initiating the hug was everything. E v e r y t h i n g.

Bradley: That's true, and I hadn't noticed that. But yes, the ending was once again wonderful, particularly after last week's episode. This group of characters is a very tight-knit one, and their coming together for the new game night was a reminder of how great it is to see them all together.

There's probably more I could and should say on the next thing, but I'll just open with this: Gina's back!

Laura: Yep! I really liked how they wrote her for this episode. If you can remember, I was not very keen about how they just shoehorned in her pregnancy in the finale, but this was good. She was contemplating leaving the 9-9 to focus on motherhood, and her own business, but the squad convinced her to come back. And she came back, alright. She got them their internets back!

Do I even have to mention how on fire Andre Braugher was here, with his babbling on the only things he knows about electronics?

Bradley: That was an odd decision, but it's panned out rather nicely both here and in the second episode of the night. The computer problems B-plot was a rather irrelevant thing in the grand scheme of the episode but enjoyable nonetheless - and, yes, Braugher was on fine form once again, but that's no surprise, is it?

Laura: Only one thing in life is certain: Andre Braugher will always be on fine form.

Some people also regarded that her scenes with Terry in "The Favour" were a bit irrelevant but I found a lot of depth to be had. They shared scenes as two parents and it was very touching and real. I loved the computer plots for the sheer silliness and what it added to Gina's character, but her scenes in the second outing had a lot more depth. It was really surprising too, and her dynamic with Terry is truly fascinating.

Bradley: Well, let's move onto "The Favour". I'd suggest that Gina's involvement in that episode was much better than her role in the first because of that development. If the show is going with the baby storyline, which it obviously has, something like this is essential to make it worthwhile. They're understandable fears, and it's good to see her open up a little as well, particularly to Terry.

Laura: Indeed.

I wonder what your thoughts were on Amy and Rosa's plot. I, for one, loved it all. Melissa Fumero really got to flex some impeccable skills, beats that are usually given to Andre; the memorization of random letters and numbers. Also, when she went in that circle about the form I was dying from laughter. I was wondering how long they were going to go on with that, and I think they stretched it out perfectly.

Bradley: Anything that involves Amy being able to get her geek on, as it were, is a-okay with me. Fumero is great at capturing her overenthusiastic spirit towards the most mundane things, and it's part of what makes her such a strong character. Rosa's apathy towards it for the first half before coming around to it in the second worked nicely, too.

Laura: Yeah. I also really adored the paralleling scenes of their kickass assignment and the preparation involved in getting ready for it. I love these two together.

Bradley: More of their interactions would not go amiss. Now, to the A-plot, with Jake and Boyle undercover trying to find out info on Seamus Murphy, who was back. First off, it was good to see him back now as opposed to further down the line; after Holt put his name in the ring for the commissioner job, bringing back Murphy now was a smart way to keep him relevant to that story. The undercover operation was enjoyable and in a very short space of time they made Kyle both funny and a character I cared about enough to accept Jake going out of his way to save him.

Laura: Yes, I too feel satisfied with the Murphy plots coming up now. I will say that this entire plot was pretty expository, but it didn’t diminish my feelings about the episode very much. I instantly recognized the actor playing Kyle from a ScreenJunkies video (funnily enough, it was the Simpsons one), so it was nice to see him here again. I loved the silly street fair plot leading to Amy and Rosa needing the permit. And I need to talk about the ending soon before it eats me up, but I’ll let you retort first.

Bradley: I didn't recognize him at all. This was very expository but there was enough comedy in there that it got away with it. So let's discuss the ending. I thought it was a really strong way to round out the year and set things up in a very dramatic way heading into 2018.

Laura: It was strong and hurtful and felt like an attack on me, personally. I often wished that 2017 be the year of Kevin, but it looks like I was a year off! I mean DAMN, just think about this for a second. Think about Holt, he must’ve gotten threats like this to himself all the time. So much so that the death threat back in Season 1 was of no issue to him. But a threat to Kevin? And a serious one like this? This was enough to change his entire demeanour. You’d think that threats to his husband would happen before, but have any of them been as serious as the Murphy crime family taking an interest in him? Ooh. The whole thing sends shivers down my spine.

Bradley: That new nature of this threat is part of what makes it so compelling. I don't think Holt expected this is quite how it would go when he made a deal with Murphy earlier in the season and I'm very interested to see how this pans out. Kevin will be fine, I'm sure.

Laura: You sound so convincing.

Well, if the opposite happens, Mr. Goor, the writers, and MEJ will be hearing from my lawyer.

This makes me wonder what’s in store for the rest of the season. I know they’re trying to think of who to cast for Rosa’s girlfriend (people want Gina Rodgriguez, and I’m not against that, but I always pictured Gabrielle Ruiz) but I’m also wondering if this is the impetus to give Holt and Kevin their dream wedding we’ve only been teased with for three years? One can only hope.

Bradley: Plenty of excellence, I'd suggest.

Anything else to discuss?

Laura: The darkness of the second cold open is a nice reminder that this season has not been afraid to tackle darker content. And I think the show has been so much better for it. This was easily one of the greatest years of TV for B99 in 2017. Easily the show that saved my life, and my number one of the year. Not much else I can say about that, other than Thank You. Thanks for doing these roundtables with me, Bradley. And thank you, readers, for sticking around this season.

Bradley: Oh, yes, the second cold open. Not only did we get the brilliance of Holt pausing Murphy's intense demand by saying his adversary didn't give him the correct order, but then Braugher saying hole "way too much," according to Boyle. I'm with Holt: that's concerning.

But yes, this has been a magnificent year for the show, the best to date, and I'm truly excited to see what comes next.

What did YOU think of "Game Night" & "The Favour"? As always, feel free to sound off in the comments below. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you with our reviews again whenever this hell-atus ends!