'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Recap: The Mother Lode - Rolling Stone
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‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Recap: The Mother Lode

An episode focused on a single murder investigation invites both Jake and Rosa to contemplate their family dynamics

Andy Samberg and Stephanie Beatriz in "The Crime Scene," this week's episode of 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine.'

Andy Samberg and Stephanie Beatriz in "The Crime Scene," this week's episode of 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine.'

Evans Vestal Ward/NBC

A review of this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “The Crime Scene,” coming up just as soon as I look like a freshman at an all-women’s college…

“The Crime Scene” isn’t exactly a sequel to last season’s “The Box,” where Jake and Holt spent the entire half-hour interrogating a suspect. But it does suggest the birth of yet another annual Nine-Nine tradition: an episode singularly focused on a murder investigation, with everyone other than Jake and his partner-of-the-week barely appearing, if at all. This time, we get Jake and Rosa spending nearly two months on one case — his foolhardy promise to the victim’s mother that he’ll solve it has turned the thing into an unhealthy obsession. Where “The Box” was a riff on shows like Homicide that turned interrogation into its own art form, this one is lampooning the CSI franchise, with the eponymous crime scene providing an overabundance of evidence and always-reliable guest star Michael Mosley doing his best David Caruso impression as crime-scene tech Franco McCoy.

It’s not at the level of “The Box,” though, for a couple of reasons. First, it lacks someone for our two regulars to bounce off of in the way that Sterling K. Brown’s killer did last year. Mosley’s funny, but McCoy appears too infrequently, and is too one-note, to be much of a foil for our heroes. Second, the grieving mother pushes the story just over a tonal line that the series is usually careful not to cross. Jake’s investigated plenty of murders over the years, but for the most part, the victims are just abstractions, where you don’t have to think too much about the pain their deaths have brought on other people. (The classic Backstreet Boys teaser turns this into the joke, but it’s also the last thing that happens before the theme song plays, and we never have to think about the mournful sister afterwards.) The episode tries to play this for laughs too, by having the other cops scold Jake for the rookie mistake, and by turning it into a referendum on both cops’ relationships with their own mothers, but the balance of the episode never feels entirely right.

There are plenty of fine jokes throughout, from the running gag where Rosa has a new hairstyle in every scene thanks to her girlfriend Jocelyn (the fauxhawk was my favorite), to the ridiculous but sharp scene where an exasperated Amy orders both Jake and Franco out. “The Crime Scene” isn’t as successful a deviation from formula as “The Box” was, but some Halloween and/or Pontiac Bandit episodes are better than others, too, and this is an idea the series should keep trying, for however long this NBC run lasts.

What did everybody else think?

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