And just like that, the 9-9 is back together, reunited, reinvigorated, returned to New York City, and that may be the most important thing of all. Florida sucks so bad that a mobster named “The Butcher” shows open disgust for it. That speaks volumes. This is a place where you can get pistols from vending machines, where the local news station reports on high school sports, the weather, and winning numbers in the tri-swamp area. (If you’re lucky, the anchors might even get around to telling you who Donald Trump is running against!) You half expect Jimmy (played by Eric Roberts!) to give himself up to Jake and the team just to buy himself passage back to the Big Apple. As it stands, the only place he’s going is the slammer. (Zing!)
Meanwhile, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is going back to the place it normally starts its seasons off, and there’s nothing wrong with that, even if you get the sense that the show has missed an opportunity by not milking its three-episode “Coral Palms” arc for another three episodes, or for perhaps another seven. We often praise Brooklyn Nine-Nine for its consistency and for how well it plays to the formula it’s worked off of since first airing, but there’s something to be said for ditching the formula and giving your lead character frosted tips (and also relocating him to a totally different backdrop alongside his best foil character). Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a New York show, but the new setting, temporary though it may have been, felt like a welcome change from the standard. (At the very least it meant lots of jokes at Florida’s expense.)
Now we’re back to normalcy, whatever that may be. It’s important to note that Holt doesn’t kick C.J. out of his office immediately upon his return, though that doesn’t mean we should expect good old Ken Marino to stick around for much longer: Stentley’s on his way out, though nobody has bothered to tell him yet. Wouldn’t it be grand, though, if Holt had to wrest his job back from the clown currently taking up residence as the precinct’s boss? Marino is cut from similar cloth as Samberg, though rather than neurotic he tends to be more laid back, or at least less fussed. If Andre Braugher plays well with Samberg, he’ll probably play well with Marino, too, and if that doesn’t sound like good television to you, well, maybe you don’t deserve good television.
Weirdly, there isn’t much to “Coral Palms, Pt. 3” that’s worth reporting on. Rosa gets her badass moments, taking out a bad guy via ball pit ambush and eventually misreading the letter Adrian wrote to her before he went off the grid. (Would it be worse if Adrian licked off Figgis’ skin or ripped off Figgis’ skin? How you answer probably depends on how you feel about Jason Mantzoukas.) Jake and Amy get their kissin’ on after an awkward reunion, which is set up just a tad clunkily via exposition. Gina and Holt team up to dish and to save the day, in which “saving the day” involves Chelsea Peretti boosting Braugher’s bottom. It’s every bit as amazing as it sounds. (Also: Gina speaks Italian, most of which is comprised of words like “pizzeria.” Still, Peretti’s accent is pretty damn good.) Terry and Boyle have a dad-off, culminating in a hilarious lullabye freestyle session. “Go to sleep/Daddy’s dead/But his ghost’s always watching!” is a high point in Terry’s superdad repertoire. Or low point. Whatever. The guy cares, and you know it.
And yet it’s all fleeting. It’s funny, make no mistake, because Brooklyn Nine-Nine, even at its worst, is funny, but usually the series gives us something to hang onto, and “Coral Palms, Pt. 3” lacks that. This, perhaps, is what happens when you squish an arc this substantial into only an hour of running time: Everything gets rushed, and in rushing the show trips and almost falls on its face. That it doesn’t is a nod to how well Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s engine runs even in suboptimal conditions, and a reminder that in just four years, the show has figured out what it does well and committed the “what” to muscle memory. The humor here is reflexive. If that sounds like a buzzkill, then you haven’t seen “Coral Palms, Pt. 3” yet. (Hint: You should do that.)
It’s good to have the gang assembled anew. It’s good to have the action returned to New York. It’s sad that Hitchcock’s dad died, but we don’t have time for him. And it’s great that Adrian can, in theory, come back to work, though don’t count on another Mantzoukas cameo anytime soon (as he isn’t credited for this season on his IMDB page, though take that as you will). But it’s all too soon. Figgis is dealt with too quickly. Jake and Amy are back in synch too easily. There’s a whole lot more that Brooklyn Nine-Nine could have done with its change in setting, and it’s just a shame that we didn’t get to see that “more,” though you can’t blame the show for being so eager to get back to its roots. (And besides, would you really want Jake and Holt to suffer in Florida for longer than they had to?)
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing about film online since 2009, and has been contributing to Paste Magazine since 2013. He writes additional words for Movie Mezzanine, The Playlist, and Birth. Movies. Death., and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.