In recent years, television shows — in particular comedies — have tried to make the most of their season finales by making them two episodes with one cohesive storyline. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” doesn’t go quite that far with “The Chopper,” but it’s clear by the end of the episode that this has all been set up for next week’s season finale. Thankfully, it’s an incredibly entertaining set-up.
The main plot of the episode revolves around Jake’s (Andy Samberg) opportunity to solve an “epic” case. As we know, Jake loves cop and action movies and wants every case to be as exciting as the movies. This time, he doesn’t need much help on that front because the case involves a group of robbers named the Fulton Street Four, who stole $21 million from an armored car depot 25 years ago. Although the group got caught, the cops never found the money, and now, after getting out of prison, the robbers are getting killed off one by one.
Jake, of course, assumes that the case has to do with the money, and though Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) urges caution before jumping to conclusions, it only makes sense that it turns out Jake is right. Holt is still worried Jake will do something rash, partially because Jake fantasizes about making the arrest after jumping out of a chopper with a knife in his mouth and a machine gun in his hands — but mostly because Madeline Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick) is back.
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has featured Wuntch many times over the course of the second season, but the last time was way back in the January episode “Defense Rests,” where she tricked Holt into helping her get a promotion. Because I’ve always enjoyed the Wuntch-Holt hijinks, I was excited to see her return in “The Chopper,” though she gets only a little screentime.
Although Holt tells Jake that Wuntch will probably take the case away from them after the second murder, Wuntch does the exact opposite and becomes as accommodating as possible, even granting Jake’s request for a chopper to fly to upstate New York and chase down the presumed killer. Of course, this only makes Holt worry more — which forces Jake to assign him the call name “Wet Blanket” — because he assumes Wuntch wants the Nine-Nine to fail.
And fail they do. When Jake, Holt and Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) arrive at the suspect’s house, he’s dead, and they realize the last man standing of the Fulton Street Four, whom they talked to earlier in the episode, is the real killer.
One of the issues “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has faced by reusing the fraught relationship between Holt and Wuntch for drama is that it often tells the same story over again. In fact, “The Chopper” falls into a similar pattern as “Defense Rests” by including in both episodes the elements of Holt trying to one-up Wuntch and Wuntch flipping that on its head. However, in “The Chopper,” Jake calls Holt out, telling him he’s been too wrapped up in the Wuntch politics to think clearly. In this way, the episode attempts to breathe fresh air into the plot and later, Holt’s character by having Holt admit to Jake that one of the reasons he wanted to come to the Nine-Nine was to do good police work again instead of being stuck behind a public relations desk. He realizes the case of the Fulton Street Four was his chance to do that, but he didn’t get the chance to enjoy it because of Wuntch.
After that, Holt throws himself into the case with a fervor that excites Jake — Holt rechristens himself “Velvet Thunder” — and matches the Holt we’ve seen in flashbacks from past episodes. By working together, they find the killer and the money, which should be a win for the Nine-Nine. But of course, Wuntch has a trick up her sleeve. Though I like that neither Holt nor Wuntch can really get the upper hand, Wuntch’s past few appearances have ended in her turning the tables on Holt, even after he thinks he has her motivations worked out. This may work for comedic effect, but this formula is getting old.
At this point, Wuntch is less of a real character and more Holt’s vilified personification of her: the “devil toad.” And in his interactions with her, Holt becomes an obsessive man, unable to see beyond what’s right in front of him. When Wuntch first appeared, her ability to discombobulate Holt was fresh and interesting, but if she’s going to stay around, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” needs to find a way to reinvigorate a now-tired storyline.
In “The Chopper,” Holt figures out at the end of the episode that Wuntch’s plan all along was to have the Nine-Nine succeed in closing the case of the Fulton Street Four because it would allow her to promote Holt to head of Public Relations. Considering this would put him back in a desk job, which we learned was the one thing he hated more than anything, it’s a major blow to Holt — and also to the Nine-Nine, although the show leaves the fallout to next week’s episode.
The press release’s summary for that episode indicates someone will “say goodbye” to the precinct, and with what happened in “The Chopper,” the clear answer to who that person will be is Holt. However, after years of television-watching experience, I know it’s not good to put too much stock in episode summaries because their goal is to get you to watch and not necessarily tell you the truth. Then again, I may be in denial because I don’t want Holt to leave.
The subplot of “The Chopper” is far less interesting than its main plot and is more than a little reminiscent of the Amy (Melissa Fumero), Gina (Chelsea Peretti) and Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) plot of season one’s “The Slump” where Amy and Rosa couldn’t figure out how to talk to a group of at-risk teenagers.
“The Chopper” changes it up a little by adding Terry (Terry Crews) into the mix because he wants to convince the principal of a magnet school that she should accept his twins into their preschool program, but the outcome is still the same: Neither Amy nor Rosa can get through to the kids without resorting to ill-advised tactics (in “The Slump,” Gina’s dancing, while here it’s showing the kids pictures of dead bodies).
Luckily for Terry, their tactics taught the kids something — what Luminol is used for and the fact that enucleation is “when someone pops your eyeball out” — and the principal moves his twins off of the waitlist for the program. It’s a nice win for Terry and the Nine-Nine, particularly since Wuntch ousting Holt is such a loss, and because the main plot is so good, the subplot’s problems don’t stand out too much, making this a good lead-in for next week’s season finale.
Rating: 4.5 stars