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Brooklyn Nine-Nine - The Box - Roundtable Review

5 Apr 2018

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Laura Markus: Isn't it surprising that it took Brooklyn this long to pay homage to Homicide? And in such a reverent way?

Bradley Adams: In a way, it is, but this is also a show with a strong formula for being terrific, so breaking that in such a massive way shouldn't have been something that came too early. Either way, what an episode.

Laura: What an episode indeed. It had all the ingredients to make it a guaranteed success - but, as this Vox article states, sharp editing helped take it over the top and cemented it as one of the all-time-greats of television history.

Bradley: The editing was very out of character for both Brooklyn Nine-Nine and what I'd expect to see on most shows, but it really worked. Good editing controls the pace of the video production and this was masterfully done.

Laura: Slick direction and the assured fantastic acting really anchored this outing to a whole new level for Brooklyn. I know you're clamouring to talk about one actor, in particular, so let's discuss how you think he did with this kooky character.

Bradley: I don't think there's another actor that could face up against Andre Braugher as well as Sterling K. Brown did. This was an utterly brilliant performance from him, one that had subtle range while maintaining a persona throughout. It was smart that the entire episode focused on him because not fully using him would have been a terrible mistake.

Laura: Oh, I think Brooklyn knew that too. Their Twitter account went full fangirl over this, and for good reason. I think it's really amazing how Sterling thanked Andre in his Emmy awards acceptance speech, and then here they are acting together. Man, what it must've been like on set those days. I wish I could've been there.

You really can pick up on so many subtleties in that portrayal. I guess this is why he swept every award last year. And I think this is a testament to the writing of the episode too. Something that was mentioned earlier on, like how Philip is a "meticulous person", turns out to be his undoing. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Bradley: The writing is truly impressive, blending the comedy elements that make Brooklyn so good with the dramatic elements that make cop shows so gripping. This was very much a drama with comedy as opposed to the other way around. So yes, clues like the point about him being meticulous play into that a lot. I'll admit, too, that I was surprised at how the confession actually transpired; I was initially expecting Jake to lie about the cabin and that to work, but what we actually got was far better.

Laura: Absolutely. And this almost felt like a parody of shows like Homicide while also paying their respects to it all at once? Like, "Three Men and Adena" is so powerful that they show it to real police officers in their training. It basically reinvented good cop/bad cop. The part where Holt and Jake sit close to Philip was one of the best scenes from "Three Men and Adena". It was hilarious, sure, but it was also beautifully done. This is what makes Brooklyn so amazing.

Also, the callbacks! Like Jake and his screaming guitar stroking, Holt talking to Kevin and spelling out his own name for him to retrieve the tickets, and, of course, Jake ultimately wanting to impress him. Part of me wondered how Holt couldn't see that was what Jake was pining for all along, then again, when you're in the thick of an interrogation like this you probably start to lose your mind a little.

Bradley: The important thing with employing those tactics was to ensure they had a joke payoff, so the personal space bit ending with Jake annoyed that he has to go to the dentist enhances the whole scene. The guitar scene was probably the funniest moment of the episode; even a second time using it, the absurdity of it is pure genius. I'd agree with you on Holt not seeing Jake's aim but then again, Holt was the one who decided to stick around and so there's clearly scope for him to have missed it.

Laura: The quick cuts and transitions are no stranger to Brooklyn, but they felt masterfully employed here. In fact, the entire case was so well thought out and the jokes landed perfectly. My favourite moment was probably Holt's rant about PhD holders not getting respect as doctors. I theorized that maybe he's sick and tired of Dr. Kevin Cozner, PhD, not getting the respect he deserves? I mean, they did mention Kevin at the beginning and end of the episode, which I also loved. Jake's stupid joke at the end was perfect. The whole thing was beautiful. I don't know what else there is to say.

Bradley: The PhD scene joins "Bone" in scenes where I wish we'd seen the Holt rage that was cut out. But it's a touch ironic that an episode about a murderer who is so meticulous was inch perfect in its writing.

Laura: I love me some irony. Some people think that they concluded it a bit too quickly, but I bought the entire thing. Just rewatch the episode! Like we said, there are many facets of Philip's character that are hinted at earlier on in the episode that help lead to his downfall later. It didn't feel rushed at all to me. Obviously, he wouldn't listen to his lawyer telling him to shut up — he's being undermined by the very same guy who feels undermined by his own boss! It was expertly laid out like this. As was Jake trying to break the glass with his chair and having it bounce back to hit him in the face. He has very bad experience with that glass.

Bradley: I'd agree, it didn't feel rushed at all. Certainly, the only thing you could make an argument for being rushed is Jake figuring it out, because everything that happened after fit perfectly with what you'd expect from Philip. And even then, Jake is such a good detective that I'm happy to go with it. Perhaps his next investigation should be into why that glass is so indestructible.

Laura: What else do we even talk about? Gina being "herself"? Holt continuing to be proud of Jake? Philip's last straw being utterly incredible to watch? Jake's Addams' Family rap-vows? Or that scene where Jake kept asking Philip to say Robert's name in various ways? This episode should've been called "Three Men and Robert". So good. I don't even know how else to analyze this thing! I just want to personally shake the hands of everyone involved in crafting this masterpiece!

Bradley: Jake and Philip's speedy question and answer was another of my favourites. Samberg was so great in rushing through them in his dumb cop mentality and Brown was equally impressive in responding. It caught me off-guard; I wasn't expecting him to answer them all, but I was so glad he did. I didn't even hear all of the questions because I thought the rush would just be the end of it.

Laura: I loved how Jake tried to sneak in "Did you kill him?" wherever he could, like a true detective would. Ha, I'm a poet and I didn't even know I was rhyming those words.

One more thing before I forget — I greatly enjoyed how Brooklyn seemed to course correct themselves this week with the tasteful jokes. Jake spoke nicely about those suffering from addiction, which was done tastefully, as opposed to the jokes from last week.

Bradley: Yes, that was a nice touch. There seemed a real thoughtfulness and standard consideration to everything that took place in the episode, as you'd expect.

Laura: I'm surprised they didn't take a racial angle towards this case, though they already did most of that in "Moo Moo" so I was okay with it. Actually, it was refreshing in a way that they didn't do that. I was just sort of expecting them to in some way. Like when Holt mentioned to Philip why he would trust him more. Oh well.

Anything else to add? Like, anything at all? I'm at a real loss. I had sky-high expectations for this offering and it delivered everything I wanted and more. What else can there even be said?

Bradley: There wasn't really a whole lot of need for it. Like you say, they've done that before; that isn't to say it wouldn't be required again, but there was so much to love about this as it was.

A few odd bits I picked up on. This was the second consecutive week of the credits happening after the end of the episode, which I can't say I expected, and I'm intrigued as to how much longer that will go on. Holt not knowing Amy Adams was a stroke of genius. And let it be known that I'm fully in agreement with Jake's anger over how long it took Daenerys to get from Dragonstone to north of the Wall. It just doesn't make sense!

Laura: I'm the most surprised that it took you this long to mention that bit. The first time I watched it I didn't even notice it. Now I will never be able to forget it. Between this and what Rick and Morty did, I'm so happy my shows are starting to smack talk that one. Knock it down a few pegs. Knock it down into the dang ground!

Loved that bit with Amy Adams. And there's an upcoming episode with Gina trying to teach Holt about social media. I am so excited about this.

And one more thing to add - I'm so happy that Holt got to express what he misses the most about being a detective, and that he got to experience it again. I'm definitely nominating Andre for Performer of the Month. Now, the only question left is: do I also nominate Andy and Sterling?

Bradley: There is only one answer to the question, "Should I nominate Sterling K. Brown for Performer of the Month?"

Laura: Well, if I have an all-Brooklyn nominating month I wouldn't be mad. They're all deserving of the title.