Brooklyn Nine-Nine premiered with an entertaining-enough premise, a cast that seemed to have a natural chemistry, and some established cred behind the camera in co-creator Mike Schur. When the show and its star won Golden Globes in February, a shift could be felt in the televerse. This was no longer a TV show featuring the work of comedy darlings whose main fan base is readers of a site like this, but now a critically-acclaimed, mainstream, award-winning sitcom. Tack onto that an early season two pickup, and the game had completely changed.
What Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always had to its advantage is an ensemble of talented actors who seamlessly fit into their roles. Each character was quickly defined and fleshed out, and the writers have found the space to give the show’s seven central characters a solid, even if small, storyline in each episode. And the golden pairings are the over-the-top goofy with the cartoonishly serious: Andy Samberg’s Jake Peralta with Andre Braugher’s Captain Holt; Joe Lo Truglio’s Detective Boyle with Stephanie Beatriz’s Detective Diaz; Chelsea Peretti’s Gina with Melissa Fumero’s Detective Santiago. The most normal of the bunch is Sergeant Jeffords (Terry Crews), and even he becomes a caricature when confronted with his fear of guns and a playful affection for his twin daughters. With this group together, each interaction and joke, no matter how ridiculous, feels natural and is rooted in reality by the fact that despite the silliness, each of these people is good at their job.
Honing in on this dynamic at its best, the finale was nearly perfect. When Jake goes after a politician who he suspects is laundering drug money, Brooklyn’s finest have their quirks fully on display, making for one of the most entertaining episodes of the season. A highlight comes from one of the most reliable sources for jokes all season: Gina. Hearing her speak emojis out loud to better express her emotions (including “cat with a scream face” and “emoji eggplant”) is a perfect example of the goofy-yet-smart jokes that have set the series apart. Along with the laughs, we learn more about the characters (most charming among the discoveries: Captain Holt is an excellent ballroom dancer) and the story progresses. In fact, the story provides a plot shift that is more aligned with the cliffhanger to a cop drama rather than a sitcom: Jake gets fired from the NYPD to embark on an undercover mission with the FBI, though not before sweetly and simply admitting his romantic feelings to Amy Santiago.
It’s hard not to compare this show to its sibling sitcom, Parks and Recreaction. Both are brainchildren of Mike Schur and are workplace ensemble comedies with an SNL alum taking the lead as an eccentric personality who is good at their job. Leslie Knope and Jake Peralta are similar in that they started out as completely over-the-top but have since settled into their humanity. Parks and Rec serves as a good roadmap for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to follow as it continues; the characters have been established and are already well-rounded in the first season, the jokes and comedic structure are in place, and now what it needs is more heart.
A drastic choice was made in the finale that will mix-up the ensemble dynamic for next season. Already the show’s universe is expanding, taking the main character out of the office environment and placing him undercover. It’s a bold move that has the potential to pay off; Andy Samberg can certainly carry a scene on his own, and a more complex storyline will definitely set the show apart from other sitcoms. Let’s just hope that it sets it apart in a positive way; I want great things to happen in the 99th precinct.