A few weeks before Brooklyn Nine-Nine first premiered, Andy Samberg appeared on the Comedy Central Roast for James Franco. Bill Hader, dressed up in a red tracksuit as the president of Hollywood, joked that evening about the lack of potential for a sitcom set in the more serious world of law enforcement. “What’s going to happen when you run out of funny crimes like graffiti and pickpockets?” Hader asked, rather sordidly. “Can’t wait to see episode 10 when Brooklyn Nine-Nine has to deal with a rape.”
Despite its stellar one-and-a-half year run, one of the sole complaints one should give Brooklyn Nine-Nine is how infrequently it deals with serious criminal activity. Usually, the series eases away from more brutal subject matter by viewing at quirky ex-convicts and their petty actions against the law. That Dan Goor and Michael Schur’s comedy can keep its spirit and laugh count high when dealing with potentially deranged subject matter is a bit of a small miracle. At a few instances, though, the comedy has seemed a bit too outlandish – especially for a show designed to take place in a conservative, disciplined, hard-knocks kind of workplace. “Defense Rests,” while continuing with the high laugh quotient expected of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, felt too over-the-top, even by the show’s peppy standards.
The episode starts off with one of the poorer cold opens in a while – one that heightens the broad shtick without really making a lot of sense. The thought of ants infesting the precinct has potential – especially when it gets personal as the insects invade Terry’s yogurt – but the 9-9’s overwhelmed reaction to open the windows and let blizzard weather in to quell the ant population was too much. It felt a bit absurd that writers Prentice Penny and Matt O’Brien had to go so big to get laughs, resulting in a rather weak kick-off.
The rest of “Defense Rests” had its moments, yet was crammed with so many recurring guest stars, that it felt like an episode designed only to catch up on (or retire) several plot strands that had gone unexplored for a few weeks. Kyra Sedgwick’s Madeline Wuntch returned to Cpt. Holt’s office, hoping he can put the past away so their tribulations don’t stain her resume for Boston’s chief of police. Eva Longoria’s Sophia Perez returned after a few weeks off, as Jake tried his best to make their relationship work, and also back on the show after a lengthy absence was Stephen Root as Boyle’s father, Lynn, hoping that Gina can grant permission for him to marry her mother.
The key to making all of these very disparate plots work was to let the comedy flow and give each story equal time. However, since so much of the episode focused on Jake and Terry’s infiltration of a dinner for public defenders, the rest of the subplots felt rushed. To run through certain comedic stories is to force high-strung moments for laughter when they don’t feel natural. The story with Gina, Boyle and Amy had its overwrought moments that took one out of the reality, such as Gina’s milkshake dumping, her later indecisiveness with the rules on Boyle’s contract and Amy sniffing her ‘conflict resolution’ binder. These gags could have been fresher if the subplot had a bit more time to breathe; instead, the comic timing was compressed to the point that too much of the routine felt shrill. Thankfully, the heartfelt conversation between Gina and Lynn in the interrogation room at the end saved what had been a bumbling subplot.