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Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Blue Flu & Balancing - Review


A little late, but after a few weeks of vacation I'm all charged up and ready to see what my favourite precinct has been up to! Let's dive in!

Blue Flu

Much like the season premiere, this episode deals with police corruption. This time, officers have staged, as O'Sullivan calls it, "an act of political violence" against one of their own by putting a mouse in a burrito. By doing so, they hope to gain sympathy from the public and more hazard pay. Holt sees right through this ploy and instructs our favourite detectives to investigate the incident. Jake and Charles head out to question the doctor who signed the sick notes, Amy and Terry need to keep crime down, and Rosa is tasked with proving the officers faked the mouse in the burrito. 

One of the highlights of this episode was the Jake and Charles storyline. Their friendship has been a central aspect of the show since the start, and I'm glad the writers decided to give them a storyline together in the final season. During Jake and Charles' investigation, the doctor gives Charles a serious health scare. For a few scenes, Charles' worries about potentially having cancer are played for laughs. But when Jake confronts Charles about it and tells him to open up about his fears, the tone changes into a much more serious one. Charles gives a long monologue about what he fears he will miss out on in life as the camera slowly zooms in on him. It's a fantastic performance from Joe Lo Truglio and one of the best scenes in the episode.

Later, in yet another of my favourite Blue Flu scenes, Jake offers to help Charles cross off one item on his bucket list. He begins listing things he knows Charles would like to do in life, and Charles gets emotional because Jake knows him so well. It often feels like the show puts more emphasis on how well Charles knows Jake than the other way around, so scenes like this where they show Jake knows Charles just as well are extra sweet and rewarding to watch. With the show ending soon, I'm glad the writers decided to make this Jake and Charles storyline about how well Jake knows Charles and how much he cares about him, and not just the other way around. 

While the Jake and Charles storyline was certainly a strong one, I think the best storyline of the episode was Holt's. The fight to change the NYPD is a difficult and often fruitless one. This is reflected in Holt's fight against Sullivan through Operation Trident. His plans almost constantly end in dead ends. So much so that he has to turn a three pronged trident into a five pronged one, as Jake suggested in the opening scene to Holt's annoyance. The constant losses get to Holt so much that he outright cusses out O'Sullivan instead of insulting him in a more "thinky" way, as Jake puts it. But just as Holt thinks he can't make any positive change in the NYPD, Charles gives him the inspiration to look at the problem in a different way. 

After an episode full of plans constantly getting no lasting results, it's very rewarding to watch Holt turn things around on O'Sullivan and throw the fact that the police didn't make the community less safe in the past week in his face. At the end of the episode, Holt also declares that he will use what he learned this week to change the way the NYPD polices the streets. Hopefully, this means that Holt will eventually be able to make some lasting changes in the NYPD. Either way, it was nice to see Holt get that win. And after a whole episode of watching Amy and Terry be so concerned with having less cops on the streets, I'm glad the message the writers ended up sending was that less cops doesn't have to mean the streets are less safe, and that many in fact contribute to creating a more hostile environment. 

My only disappointment with this episode was that we didn't get to see Holt's tattoo. I can appreciate what the writers were going for and how it's more fun to keep the tattoo a mystery since a reveal may never live up to our expectations, but, like Jake, I just really wanted to know at the end of the episode. Kudos to the writers for managing to create such a frustrating yet funny cliffhanger, though!

Balancing

Jake's idea of being a cop has always been heavily inspired by films like Die Hard, and that's once again very evident in this episode. Jake's arch nemesis Johnny Franzia resurfaces, and Jake's excited to finally have another chance at catching him. But while Jake is hoping for a movie-like chase, the universe has other plans for him. In the cold open, Terry already points out to Jake that the only reason Jake has an arch nemesis is because he doesn't solve all his crimes. The scene works as a funny cold open, but also as the first reality check for Jake.

Throughout the episode, Jake and Amy struggle with balancing their work with caring for Mac. Both of them have a work assignment that means a lot to them, but they can't find anyone to take care of Mac. Initially, they try to have it all by taking Mac to work with them. But that quickly backfires, as Jake keeps getting distracted from work by Mac. However, that does lead to a hilarious interrogation scene, in which Charles repeats everything Jake says about Mac, thinking he's still being fed lines for the interrogation. Eventually, Jake and Amy both have to leave the precinct at the same time and don't have anyone to take care of Mac. That's the moment they realise that, no matter how hard they try, they can't find the right balance in their lives by trying to have it all. 

It's a testament to Jake's immense growth over the series that he decides to stay behind. Amy's presentation is more important than his own glory or living out his movie cop dreams. At home, Jake is rewarded for his decision by being there when Mac finally pulls himself up. The look on Jake's face was the sweetest moment of the episode and absolutely made my heart melt. Finding balance in their lives will continue to be something Jake and Amy struggle with, most likely, but these moments with Mac make it all worth it. Another thing that I liked was that the episode acknowledged that while Jake and Amy both had fulfilling moments that day, missing out on other moments that they wanted to witness so badly still sucked. It felt important to acknowledge, and I'm glad the writers did so. 

Speaking of things that are important to acknowledge, I really like how this season has been handling the subject of police reform so far. Blue Flu was more heavily focussed on it than Balancing, but it was still present through Amy's presentation in this episode. Amy and Terry made sure that their pilot program got funded, which is an important step in trying to change how the officers in the NYPD are deployed. I like that the writers are consistently bringing that storyline back, even when it's not the focus of the episode. It's nice to see it being given the importance that it deserves.

Lastly, Holt temporarily moves in with Rosa. He and Kevin are still working on their marital problems, and couples therapy isn't going well. Through his many rants to Rosa, we get the sense that Holt may be the main reason why those sessions aren't going well. But most of all, we see how much he misses Kevin. And through a drunkenly sent digital phallus portrait, we learn that Kevin misses Holt too. It feels a bit like a repeat of the lesson Holt learned in 8x02, as Rosa encourages him to just be honest with Kevin and tell him that he misses him. Once again, we end the episode with Holt and Kevin on better terms, as Holt's flirting is immediately reciprocated. But while it may seem repetitive, Holt needing a reminder to be emotionally vulnerable also feels very true to his character. Hopefully, he won't need another one. 

What did you think of Blue Flue and Balancing? Let us know in the comments!

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