Screenplay by Lakshmi Sundaram.
In continuation of the idea I expressed in my review of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.: Fear Itself, when a serialised drama has an ensemble cast, it’s okay to apply situational archetypes to them because it will manage to be original if the characters are. Whereas the first example found a way to manifest the characters’ fears into a being, this time it’s the annual competition held among the officers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine whenever they’re on alert and can’t focus on anything else.
The specific situation of this episode is a motorcade being held, putting the precinct into a state of inactivity in case of emergency (named after the bastardisation of a world leader’s name, whom was visiting New York, inspiring the First Jimmy Jab Games). And so, in the manner of the Triwizard Tournament (ala Steve Kloves‘ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire), the competition features a variety of imaginative tests and trials to experiment with how far their senses can be pushed. Superbowl XLIX has happened recently in the United States, and since I’m a bit bitter about missing-out on the hype, I’ve decided to use this as an excuse to get excited about sport, despite having absolutely no interest in sport.
The Jimmy Jab Games are only formulaic per se, in the sense that it begins with a run-down of the competitors, followed by a series of knock-out rounds, leading to the final versus battle. But the writer remembered that the challenges should relate to the characters and their environment, and only really work if inapplicable to other character sets. And it passes that basic test of character relevance. The first round, involving the sandwich works perfectly in terms of both who set it, and the reactions of the other players. Rather than creating excuses for players to drop-out, they only do so if they actually would, and the outcome of the games feels completely natural, rather than forcing a plot onto the audience.
And then there’s the final factor of the last round. The last round has to be the most ambitious, imaginative, creative, original and difficult. It accomplishes all of these things. It utilises the entire precinct building and it’s furnishing, while still managing to have a creative wit. And who’ll win is left in serious doubt – yes, Jake Peralta is the central character, and we do want him to be victorious, but he doesn’t need to be for plot purposes. And then there’s Amy Santiago, who’s the most competitive character and often tends to win at most things, even when there isn’t even a real competition in anything. Ultimately, she does win, only for it then to be revealed that Peralta allowed her to by manipulating that final round through alteration of its stages. It was a clever deception of the narrative, but more importantly a good one, because it didn’t contradict anything about the characters that have been established. Not only that, but the contest itself allowed for significant character development – after the revelations at the end of the previous season, a new dynamic was established between Peralta and Santiago, and it’s nice to know Sundaram (and the other writers) haven’t just forgotten that. They’re still letting it influence the story, rather than forgetting about it for the sake of straight-up comedy.
This episode didn’t just reinforce the contract between audience and artist, but also the development of the show’s quality. Season one was good collectively, whereas season two’s episodes are becoming increasingly enjoyable on their own. It was simply the latest in a string of episodes that have strengthened the bond between myself and the show.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine: the Jimmy Jab Games – reinforces audience contract with characters 8/10.