This Brooklyn Nine-Nine review contains spoilers.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 7 Episode 5
Considering how funny I’ve found Vanessa Bayer as Debbie in her other appearances this season on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, you would think “Debbie,” in which Debbie becomes a coked-up antagonist to Jake and Rosa, would have been right up my alley, but somehow the episode slightly misses the mark. There’s plenty of laughs and even a solid emotional moment poignantly delivered by Stephanie Beatriz, but overall the episode never really gets going. Perhaps it’s because Debbie’s meek delivery was such a part of her oddness and it was completely erased once she did a couple of toots, but I suspect it’s because the writers forgot how they had success with the character in the past.
I understand the inclination to have Debbie interact with different characters, but Debbie worked so well paired with Holt, with her believing obliviously that she was showing him the ropes, and Charles, who came across as a charismatic winner when paired next to someone as hilariously inept as Debbie. Instead of leaning on those tested dynamics, Holt and Charles are sidelined in a threadbare B-plot that mostly just exists to point out how big of nerds Amy and Holt are (though I am a sucker for those jokes, I got a big laugh at Amy revealing she had several gay boyfriends in college).
Another problem with the episode is that there isn’t a very clear moral to the story. Jake goes along with a wildly dangerous and unprepared sting operation because he’s operating under the belief that Debbie is a good person who made a bad decision? His real desire is to go for the bigger target in the sting, what does Debbie being a good person have to do with that? On the opposite side is Rosa, who thinks bad decisions should define people, despite her own troubled past.
Now, when Rosa changes her mind after seeing how poorly Debbie’s mom treats her, it’s actually an affecting moment, mostly because Stephanie Beatriz is a talented actress. Rosa getting emotional or acting against her hardened, badass persona is one of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s greatest tricks, and they’ve played the card well in back-to-back episodes, but it still doesn’t help excuse the poorly constructed plan that Jake and Rosa execute. This is the latest example of many this season in which Jake has made irrational choices, been called out on the choices, and preceded to barrel ahead anyway. We just had a previous installment talking about how much Jake has matured since the early days, so why is he acting so foolish throughout the season’s first five episodes?
Still, I hope this isn’t the last we see of Debbie. In the same way you could tell that the writers clearly loved writing Gina-isms, it’s obvious that they love coming up with weird, pathetic details about Debbie’s life. From the feline cruise to the oddly specific 101 Dalmatians references, Debbie is an odd delight, and I wouldn’t mind seeing how she’s adapting to life behind bars.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been solid, if not stellar in its seventh season and second on NBC. So far there’s been nothing that would crack our list of the all-time best episodes. There’s still plenty of time though, and given the show’s track record, I’m sure a classic will pop up here soon.