NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are present in this review
It’s not like a goofy sitcom such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine to so boldly take on a topical episode, but I suppose it certainly deserves credit for its courage. “Moo Moo” pretty bluntly took on the ongoing issue of racial profiling by police this week, as Jeffords is stopped by an officer after trying to find one of his daughters’ lost blankets, leaving the entire precinct up in arms about the incident.
Things begin with the subplot of the episode, which has Jeffords trying to apply to be a City Hall liaison, after telling Holt that he’s ready to take on more responsibilities. Since he’s not able to pick up and care for his daughters during the application process, and since his wife is out of town with infant daughter, Ava (why did she only take Ava?), Peralta and Santiago are charged with looking after little Cagney and Lacey Jeffords. It’s when the two decide to let the girls play with the minivan windows that the blanket, affectionately named. “Moo Moo”, is initially lost, causing the whole issue with Jeffords being stopped by the officer for being a black man roaming at night in his neighbourhood.
What was smart about this debate is how the episode approached it with an even hand, and didn’t lay it on too thick. The officer that stopped Jeffords isn’t portrayed as an idiot, which helps to strengthen the debate, especially when he does apologize to Jeffords after not realizing that he was a cop. When Jeffords points out that the officer isn’t apologizing for stopping him as a black man however, the officer defends himself by saying that he stopped Jeffords because there is another black man that he was investigating in the neighbourhood. Naturally, that makes everything worse.
Because of the incident, Jeffords debates filing a formal complaint, which he thinks Holt will be fully behind, as a homosexual black man. To Jeffords’ surprise however, Holt refuses to file the complaint, thinking that it’s a bad idea. This has Jeffords very upset, to the point of even confronting Holt at an unexpected dinner party! This at least has the blessing of getting Holt away from a friend of his husband’s that he finds to be disagreeable, but it nonetheless results in a pretty frank discussion between the Nine-Nine’s two black police members, as Jeffords tries to plead his side.
This could have been in danger of being preachy, but again, the episode actually lays it out with just the right amount of wisdom. Major props go to Terry Crews in this scene as well, who actually perfectly sells the moment with an incredible dramatic conviction, something that you wouldn’t think is normally possible on a light-hearted show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Jeffords even manages to move Holt, who agrees to file the complaint in the end, having realized that Jeffords has a superior on his side where Holt didn’t, and Holt rose through the ranks to enact the kind of large-scale change that black cops and black people in general need to feel safer. Jeffords doesn’t get the liaison job, likely because of the complaint he lodged, but Jeffords and Holt still celebrating a moral victory nonetheless made for a satisfying way to end the episode, as Diaz and Gina are forced to babysit Cagney and Lacey much less successfully than Peralta and Santiago did.
If this sounds like a very serious, dramatic episode that’s out of place on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, then you might be happy to know that the humour didn’t necessarily suffer because of the political and racial commentary. Granted, the focused and heavy-hitting nature of this week’s storyline did mean that most of the Nine-Nine crew were pushed into the background, with Boyle, Diaz and Gina in particular simply serving as gag fodder between scenes and not much else, but the subplot with Peralta and Santiago was nonetheless comparably great. Peralta and Santiago having to have a difficult conversation about race with Jeffords’ kids didn’t completely betray the drama in the main storyline, and the two comically debating how best to approach such difficult subjects with children still offered some solid laughs, especially when the rest of the Nine-Nine is predictably no help. Surprisingly, it’s Scully that proves to be the most sensible person out of the precinct this week, which made for lots of standout unexpected laughs whenever the detectives had a conundrum!
For some, Brooklyn Nine-Nine might have gotten a bit too heavy this week, and not everyone will agree that this is the right show to bluntly take on subjects like racial profiling, but like I said, at least the show found a solid way to approach a difficult conflict, without sacrificing the laughs or over-indulging in the drama. “Moo Moo” may not be an episode for everyone, but I imagine it would be a cathartic episode for many black viewers, since even a fluffy sitcom wanting to make a positive impact on the real world for them is certainly a heartfelt effort. It’s too bad that a few of the precinct members had to be shoved aside to accommodate the debate this week, but with the show doubling up on episodes for the remainder of Season Four in the coming weeks, perhaps this was the only time that such a debate could be had. It didn’t sugarcoat the problem, but at least the problem didn’t render the episode completely unfunny as a result, and that alone is commendable.
- Touches on a difficult debate with solid tact
- Peralta and Santiago finding a way to have a tough conversation with Jeffords' children
- Jeffords moving Holt to enact the change he worked for
- Not everyone will agree with this show adopting a heavier tone
- Gina, Boyle and Diaz are all pushed into the background