Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t only one of the funniest comedies on TV, it’s easily the most consistent. There’s almost never a false character moment, there’s a bounty of hilarious bits of physical and verbal comedy in every episode, and the characters are just nice — good people who are good at their jobs and genuinely care about each other. It’s a style of comedy developed by Michael Schur, co-creator of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with Dan Goor, perfected by other Schur shows like Parks and Recreation and The Good Place.
As Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns to the air, switching over to NBC after Fox canceled it after five seasons (its ratings were never blockbuster), here’s a list of every episode of the Nine-Nine. (Note: Some episodes have been grouped together by theme or storyline, as you’ll see.) It was a tough task, as there are no terrible episodes of this show. Every Nine-Nine is a lovingly crafted, airtight little package of goodness. (Hey, title of your sex tape! Noice.)
84. The “Prison” episodes and their lead-up: “The Slaughterhouse” (Season 4, Episode 20); “The Bank Job” (Season 4, episode 21); “Crime and Punishment” (Season 4, Episode 22); “The Big House: Part 1” (Season 5, episode 1); “The Big House: Part 2” (Season 5, Episode 2)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t work that well when the characters aren’t in Brooklyn, doing their jobs solving crimes. On top of that, it has a tendency to stick with dramatic, high-stakes arcs for a little too long. Those are the problems with this five-episode saga, which spanned two seasons. Jake and Rosa agree to help out a robbery-busting task force led by Gina Gershon … who, in a kind of obvious twist, is actually robbing the banks. Jake and Gina take the fall, get railroaded by the legal system and wind up in the very scary world of prison. They eventually get out, of course, but it’s sheer agony to endure watching these characters you love go through hell.
83. “The Night Shift” (Season 4, Episode 4)
What an odd, listless episode. Jake is still trying to get back to normal after his horrific prison stint, and is thus the only member of the 99 who doesn’t mind the work when they all get assigned the night shift. There’s a subplot involving Charles doting on his little son, with whom he obsesses over even more than food, and Jake has to commandeer a vehicle from a civilian, who is Jess Day, Zooey Deschanel’s character from New Girl. That was part of a two-way crossover with that show, and if you haven’t seen that show’s contribution to the stunt, this cameo is bewildering.
82. “The Tagger” (Season 1, Episode 2)
The first regular episode explores some dynamics that have long since been put to bed, particularly how Jake bristles at Captain Holt’s authority. Herein, he shows up late to roll call and gets assigned a lame graffiti case. It blows up when it turns out to be the deputy commissioner’s shithead son, leading to a delicate, highly political situation. It’s kind of nasty and rough. Chock it up to growing pains.
81. “Operation: Broken Feather” (Season 1, Episode 15)
A show’s Super Bowl episode is rarely its best episode. It’s more of a novelty special that tastes like the show but isn’t the show. It’s not for the fans, it’s for the 100 million casual viewers still tuned in after the big sports game, expecting a broad spectacle. Outside of that Super Bowl context, these episodes seem weird — like that New Girl installment with Prince, or The Office ep where Jack Black makes a cameo. But at least Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers tried to cater to fans here by bringing back the Vulture and introducing the idea that Amy might defect to Major Crimes. But the main deal in the episode is Jake getting involved with an auction attended by Very Special Guest Star Adam Sandler. It’s better when the 99 meets fictional celebrities, not real ones.
80. “Captain Latvia” (Season 4, Episode 10)
This small, out-of-the-way precinct in Brooklyn sure gets mixed up with the mob (or mobs, actually) a lot.
79. “Karen Peralta” (Season 3, Episode 14)
Amy is nervous to meet Jake’s mom (Katey Sagal), who has gotten back together with Jake’s pathologically unfaithful father (Bradley Whitford). All this personal drama is such a far removal from the workplace sitcom format that it doesn’t quite thrill, although Andy Samberg is such a good actor that he quietly conveys Peralta’s years of buried heartbreak and frustration.
78. “AC/DC” (Season 2, Episode 20)
There are no outright terrible episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. About the lowest the show ever goes is when it uses tired TV comedy premises. To wit: Rosa dates Marcus (Nick Cannon) for a while, and he’s Holt’s nephew, and so they agree to a dinner party with the captain and his husband, Kevin Cozner. It is an awkward evening, friends.
77. “Ava” (Season 3, Episode 8)
… And ditto that “been there” sentiment with “Ava,” in which Sergeant Jeffords’s third child is born under chaotic circumstances. (But bonus: Parks and Recreation star and “Fremulon” sayer Nick Offerman guest stars as a doctor.)
76. The New Captain episodes: “New Captain” (Season 3, Episode 1) and “The Funeral” (Season 3, Episode 2)
After Captain Holt got transferred out of Brooklyn in the second-season finale, there’s a new captain in the 99, and it’s a militaristic nightmare of a man named Seth Dozerman, portrayed by Bill Hader. No, the great SNL veteran will not be joining the cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine because his character is so consumed by rage and stress that he has two heart attacks, the second of which is fatal, after he witnesses the newly united Jake and Amy kissing. Holt’s return is prolonged further by another new captain … the Vulture (Dean Winters), the case swiper the whole squad hates. He makes life miserable for the 99, creeping on Rosa, practicing his karate moves on Charles, and making Amy fire his housekeeper. And then there’s a funeral for a dead man, and his wife blames Jake, so just a lot of misery all around for all.
75. The Bureaucratic episodes: “The Audit” (Season 4, Episode 13) and “Serve & Protect” (Season 4, Episode 14)
These police politics episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine are frustrating. The show crackles most when it’s a workplace comedy, or an interpersonal comedy. But the episodes that revolve around the realities of police-specific bureaucracy (with some exceptions) fall flat and feel at odds with the show’s wacky, joyful humor. These are some of those “off” episodes. The NYPD wants to close a Brooklyn precinct, and so the 99 needs an audit, and the force sends Amy’s ex-boyfriend Teddy (Kyle Bornheimer) to do it. He ultimately recuses himself … only for an ex of Terry (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) to step in, and she’s bound and determined to shut down this here precinct, although she won’t because then the show would be canceled.
74. “DFW” (Season 5, Episode 17)
So Jake’s father is a serial cheater, which means Jake has a half-sister. The long-lost relative, who is also crazy? That’s a bit of a cliché. On the plus side, she’s played by guest star Nasim Pedrad, who Fox put in almost all of its sitcoms after unceremoniously canceling her show, Mulaney. (Shut up, that show was great.)
73. The “Florida” Episodes (and lead-up): “Bureau” (Season 3, Episode 22); “Greg and Larry” (Season 3, Episode 23); “Coral Palms: Part 1” (Season 4, Episode 1); “Coral Palms: Part 2” (Season 4, Episode 2); “Coral Palms: Part 3” (Season 4, Episode 3)
Again with the fish-out-of-water arcs. After some high-intensity police and spy work, there are three (!) episodes (plus season-finale cliff-hanger setup) where Jake and Captain Holt are on the run and stuck in Florida in witness protection from mobster Figgis. They feel like a different, lesser show. Pleasant but forgettable, like a one-season wonder from Comedy Central. Plus all the easy Florida jokes are made. Jake has bleached tips and works in a jet-ski store? This show is capable of so much better character and situational comedy.
72. “Tactical Village” (Season 1, Episode 19)
Slapstick zaniness and actual real-life cop stuff ensues as the detectives endure intense police training. Other notable events in this otherwise minor episode: Gina and Holt get addicted to a now-real smartphone game called Kwazy Kupcakes, and Amy reconnects with her old doofus of a boyfriend named Teddy (Kyle Bornheimer).
71. “Old School” (Season 1, Episode 8)
The first seven episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine are marvelous, and that’s an exceptional feat for a young series still finding its way. It stumbled just a bit with its eighth episode, a somewhat mean-spirited tonal misfire. Stacy Keach plays a crime reporter who gets Jake drunk and then threatens to publish the unflattering remarks Jay said about Captain Holt while drink. Peralta? Mean? Nah.
70. “The Apartment” (Season 1, Episode 18)
In which it becomes canon that while Jake Peralta is a fantastic, dedicated police detective, in his personal life he’s a mess and never has any money. Nevertheless, New York is a bleedingly expensive, financially exploitative nightmare, and to get the down payment on his own apartment when the building goes co-op, he has to seek out a loan shark. That’s just a little depressing, as is the subplot about Charles and Rosa going after the messy cop (Matt Walsh) who uses Rosa’s desk on the other shift.
69. “The Chopper” (Season 2, Episode 22)
A case that dates back to the early ‘90s gets blown wide open when one of the “Fulton Street Four” involved gets out of prison and his cohorts start turning up dead. The detectives get involved. Captain Holt takes an interest. Even his superiors, such as Deputy Chief Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick) get involved. There’s a police helicopter, a race to find the bad guys, and even a climactic scene in a barn. What is this, Bones?
68. “The Mattress” (Season 3, Episode 7)
Bad news: Jake and Amy are already fighting extremely early in their relationship. Good news: After their bickering over a fancy mattress (Jake’s old, cheap one makes Amy’s back hurt) just about ruins a drug bust, Holt tells them not to worry because even he and Kevin used to fight over money. Also, Holt sits on a cake, which is very funny.
67. “Boyle-Linetti Wedding” (Season 2, Episode 17)
It’s a totally normal thing to attend your co-worker’s mother’s wedding to the father of another of your co-workers, right? The 99 is in attendance because Gina’s put them all to work to make the wedding happen, but because this is a sitcom wedding, nothing goes as planned. But yeah, shortly after Charles and Gina inexplicably slept together, their respective single parents fell in love for real, and they are portrayed by the impeccably cast Stephen Root (as Lynn Boyle) and Sandra Bernhard (as Darlene Linetti).
66. The lesser Thanksgiving episodes: “Mr. Santiago” (Season 4, Episode 7) and “Two Turkeys” (Season 5, Episode 7)
There’s only so much to explore with Thanksgiving — even Friends, which had legendary episodes celebrating the holiday that foodie Charles insists on calling Turkey Day, eventually ran out of ideas. In “Mr. Santiago,” Jake meets girlfriend Amy’s father (played by Jimmy Smits), and although he goes “full Santiago” and makes a huge binder full of research, the meeting is unsurprisingly less than smooth. A lot of “Two Turkeys” involves a faction of the squad looking for a lost pie. Funny but unmemorable.
65. “The Venue” (Season 5, Episode 6)
Two stars from season one come back to haunt our beloved characters and get in their way. First, the Vulture, rather than snipe a case, snipes a wedding mansion as a venue from out from under Jake and Amy. Charles has to rescue Sergeant Peanut Butter, the horse that pooped on the stage when Charles got his Medal of Valor. The Vulture wins and PB gets the credit for saving himself. Neither gets their way, and that sucks. This is supposed to be a sitcom, not real life!
64. “Chasing Amy” (Season 4, Episode 18)
As Gina is technically a Boyle since her mother married into the family, she gets possession of a Boyle treasure (its sourdough starter), but ruins it, getting herself and Charles disowned from the family. The nugget here is that we get to meet the extended Boyle family, and Gina digging down way deep to do something nice for Charles to get him back in his own family’s good graces.
63. “Windbreaker City” (Season 2, Episode 15)
At the annual Inter-Agency Anti-Terrorism Drill, the NYPD (and our protagonists) get picked to be the hostages. Back at the station, Gina and Captain Holt take online quizzes. So then nobody really does … anything in this episode.
62. “Into the Woods” (Season 3, Episode 6)
Terry is stressed, so Jake and Charles take him … camping? If you’ve ever been camping, then you know that this is a bad idea, because even the nicest camping trip is still 90 percent work. Indeed, their cabin has no electricity, dirty water, and Jake and Boyle brought fireworks instead of food. Then everyone gets stuck in a sinkhole. Watching this episode is about as relaxing as camping.
61. “Gray Star Mutual” (Season 5, Episode 18)
The ever-cautious Amy was correct to have reservations about going into the food-truck business with Charles. It burns up, they lose ten grand, and bring untold stress into their lives. It was a nice pairing, though, of two characters who don’t get a lot of one-on-one time.
60. “The Mole” (Season 2, Episode 5)
The A plot is about a stereotypically weird germaphobe of an internal affairs investigator (Dan Bakkedahl) looking for a possible mole in the 99. Way more fun are Rosa and Terry infiltrating one of those silent discos that were all the rage at the time to uncover a ring selling a street drug called “giggle pig.” Earnest Terry can’t believe a woman who went to his daughters’ school would grow up to be a drug dealer, and I can’t believe dorks at a club hit on Rosa like they’d even have a chance.
59. “The Overmining” (Season 4, Episode 9)
Gina is so selfish and mean that to use her more would make us all realize how unlikable and hostile she really is, and how she should and would get fired for her behavior in real life. That said, her steadfast commitment to her own fleeting happiness is comically fascinating. In this ep, she calls Terry’s bluff and flouts his authority — and request to reduce electricity use — by installing a crap ton of space heaters on her desk. That doesn’t sound like a very funny sight gag, but it totally is.
58. “Kicks” (Season 5, Episode 3)
Before post-prison Jake can do any field detective work, he has to do some time on desk duty and pass an evaluation. Also, Rosa breaks up with zany Adrian Pimento (more on him later) for good — probably the right decision for her career, but not for us, the viewers, because Jason Mantzoukas is so wonderful as the unpredictable detective.
57. “Your Honor” (Season 4, Episode 19)
Let’s all watch as Holt tries to keep his cool as he tries to deal with something outside of his control — that his mother has a new boyfriend.
56. “The Oolong Slayer” (Season 3, Episode 4)
Peralta has so many movie-inspired cop fantasies that when he actually pulls one off, it’s really impressive and entertaining. He goes behind the backs of his superiors to get the help of PR-department-exiled Holt and Gina to solve a case. They get caught, but Jake, after nearly getting killed by the serial killer whose nickname is the title of this episode, gets rescued and gives all credit to Holt. That gets him reinstated back at the 99. After another period in which a dramatic arc is carried out a bit too long, stasis is reacquired!
55. “48 Hours” (Season 1, Episode 7)
It’s an episode full of gimmicks, but they’re amusing gimmicks. Despite being a police show, the stakes on Brooklyn Nine-Nine often aren’t that high, but they are here: Jake has 48 hours to make evidence stick or he has to release a guy (Kid Cudi) that he knows did the crime. So, the whole crew gets stuck working the weekend to solve the case because loyalty and friendship are what drive the 99 and Nine-Nine.
54. “Det. Dave Majors” (Season 2, Episode 21)
There’s no way Terry is going to leave the force (and the show) to work with a private security firm. There’s also no way that Amy will take up with a handsome, badass detective who helps Jake and Amy solve a tough case. But it’s fun and sweet to watch Holt quietly convince Terry to stay — forcing him to digitize old records so as to remember all the great work he’s done with the NYPD. It’s also fun to watch Jake squirm over his dream woman going on a date with his local hero, and who is portrayed by the marvelous Garret Dillahunt of Deadwood, The Mindy Project, and Winter’s Bone.
53. “Thanksgiving” (Season 1, Episode 10)
How does a workplace comedy do a Thanksgiving episode, realistically collecting all of its characters into one place at one time to celebrate a holiday away from their families? On Nine-Nine, there are lots of reasons — Amy can use it as a way to get closer to Holt, and Jake can skip it because of his parental issues. It also brings some characters’ complicated relationships with food to the fore, including Boyle’s obsessive and obnoxious foodie-dom, and Terry’s hangry rage that develops if he goes too long without eating (which isn’t long).
52. “Cop-Con” (Season 4, Episode 17)
Drunken party in the hotel after the Tri-State Police Officers Convention. The 99 needs a break after an eventful year, and so do viewers. That, along with a cute and silly subplot where Amy and Gina help Scully find Cindy Shatz, his “She Scully,” makes this one little more than a palate cleanser.
51. “Captain Peralta” (Season 2, Episode 18)
After many allusions to Jake’s dad being a flake and a scoundrel, we finally get to meet him and he’s played by the lovable Bradley Whitford of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and presumably other things. Here, he’s a regional airline pilot; Jake hasn’t seen him in years and is boyishly optimistic and hopeful that they’re finally gonna have a relationship. Nah. The elder Peralta only came to Brooklyn to enlist Jake in helping him beat a charge he smuggled prescription drugs (such as the wonderfully named Viagra competitor “Turgitol”) to Canada. He’s such a sleaze that as a viewer, you figure he’s as guilty (he’s actually framed by a woman he cheated on) as he is manipulative. Waiting for him to break Jake’s heart anew is not pleasant.
50. “Boyle’s Hunch” (Season 3, Episode 3)
The title refers to Boyle helping prove the innocence of Genevieve (Mary Lynn Rajskub), an art-gallery owner accused of theft he’s crushing on, and whom he dates for a while. The subplot shows off Rosa and Terry’s police skills when they team up to investigate if Hitchcock and Scully … stole Rosa’s ice cream.
49. “The Slump” (Season 1, Episode 3)
Jake can’t solve a case and everyone thinks he’s bad luck. An early episode where writers and cast are just starting to figure out the world of the show. And look, there’s a very young Pete Davidson as a troubled teen!
48. The Murphys episodes: “The Favor” (Season 5, Episode 11) and “Safe House” (Season 5, Episode 12)
In most large families, there’s at least one dummy. The idea of a crime family having one is rife with comic potential. Mike Mitchell (from The Birthday Boys and Love) plays Kyle, the sweet but dopey nephew of crime boss Seamus Murphy, who gets kicked out of the Murphys after he loses a Rolls Royce. Surprisingly, the interactions with this seemingly unimportant character leads to some serious business in future episodes: Seamus may kill Kyle, and a sympathetic Holt sneaks him off to a safe house, prompting Seamus to threaten to kill Kevin Cozner, Holt’s husband. That means Kevin has to go off to a safe house of his own, where Jake protects him for two extremely long months in an extreme Odd Couple–type situation.
47. “House Mouses” (Season 3, Episode 16)
I think we all thoroughly enjoy the depths of Holt’s erudite nerdiness. Not only is he stoic and controlled, but he’s also into extremely high and obscure culture. Jake somehow forgets this when he tries to get assigned to a sensitive case involving a celebrity, because to the captain, a celebrity is just a really good oboist (Brad Hall) who got his oboe stolen. This leaves Scully and Hitchcock in charge of a drug case, and they are dangerously incompetent. That pair is best for small bits, not whole plots. They are frosting, not the whole cake, which is a metaphor Scully and Hitchcock would probably appreciate.
46. “White Whale” (Season 5, Episode 21)
Amy is far too busy with work to wedding plan, so fiancé Jake happily agrees to take on the impossible binder of tasks. Almost immediately, he’s in way over his head, and Terry patiently helps him. Still, he spends too much and locks his keys in the car, turning into season-one Jake under so much pressure. Also happening here is the heated race for police commissioner between Captain Holt and Olivia Crawford, portrayed by the criminally underused Alison Lohman from Fargo.
45. “NutriBoom” (Season 5, Episode 16)
Jake gets involved with a shady, cultlike, draconian vitamin-shilling pyramid scheme … but the whole thing is a bold, daring, and barely concealed attack on Scientology. There’s even a missing high-ranking member.
44. “The Jimmy Jab Games” (Season 2, Episode 3)
Not as famous as the Halloween heists (see very far down below) are Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Jimmy Jab Games. It’s a series of wild, competitive office activities to kill time until the squad has to protect the visiting Serbian president’s motorcade and all authority figures — Captain Holt and Sergeant Jeffords — are gone.
43. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)
Pilots are always a little awkward, because it takes time to fully flesh out characters, their relationships to one another, and even tone. All a pilot really needs to do is demonstrate a mostly-there proof of concept, and the Brooklyn Nine-Nine pilot shows flashes of what will make it such a consistently funny and kind show. It feels a lot like Parks and Recreation in a police station, with some direct counterparts of characters clearly drawn out. But, like how that show took some time to find its footing, there are some odd bits here. Jake eventually became a goofball and good guy in equal measure, while in the pilot he’s like 80 percent doofus, and also very much the dominant character. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was an Andy Samberg vehicle once, and not an ensemble comedy. Crazy!
42. “The Ebony Falcon” (Season 1, Episode 14)
Just a routine, case-of-the-week early episode for the most part, although we learn Terry is such a badass that he was once known as “the Ebony Falcon.” We also learn, via a visit to her home to investigate a robbery, Gina’s personal life is every bit as delusional and frivolous as hoped.
41. “The Wednesday Incident” (Season 2, Episode 16)
Happy Days creator Garry Marshall was also a really great comic actor. In one of his last onscreen appearances, he took on one of his funniest and surely darkest roles: an elderly bank robber who “gets off on violence.” He fully admits his crimes to Charles, but Amy and Rosa don’t believe him, because he turns on the sweet old man act whenever they’re around. He’s like the singing frog in those old cartoons, except one that “gets off on violence.”
40. “9 Days” (Season 3, Episode 12)
“Sick” episodes are a rare treasure. You’ve either got normally solid, functional people behaving like whiny babies or whacked out on cold pills or, like in this episode, Captain Holt and Peralta contracting the mumps and winding up with comically gigantic salivary glands.
39. “Sal’s Pizza” (Season 1, Episode 9)
I’m certainly and understandably one of what’s probably very few people who notice the name “Marshall Boone” when the Brooklyn Nine-Nine credits roll, which made me privy to the sort-of-inside joke of a recurring fire-department leader named Fire Marshal Boone (Patton Oswalt). It’s some great, early-series world-building, with the tenuous peace between departments Police and Fire mirroring that of the librarians versus parks rivalry on co-creator Michael Schur’s Parks and Recreation.
38. The Skyfire episodes: “Skyfire Cycle” (Season 4, Episode 8) and “Return to Skyfire” (Season 5, Episode 8)
Terry contains multitudes, and he apparently loves epic, Game of Thrones–esque fantasy fiction as much as he loves yogurt, weight lifting, and his twin daughters. He’s obviously thrilled when he investigates death threats made against D.C. Parlov (Fred Melamed), the author of The Skyfire Cycle. Hitchcock’s warning to not meet one’s heroes proves sadly accurate — the writing on the death threats matches an older letter Parlov wrote Terry. But he didn’t send himself the death threats, an assistant wrote both letters. It’s easy pickings to make fun of fantasy, and the people who make and love it, too, because a year later D.C. Parlov shows up again, this time enlisting Jake and Terry to help him find who’s leaking his book online. He did it himself, of course, as a publicity stunt. It’s amusing in the world of Brooklyn Nine-Nine that the seediest, sketchiest people are, of all people, successful fantasy novelists.
37. “Full Boyle” (Season 1, Episode 17)
It’s the sexual awakening of Charles Boyle. He’s singing “The Piña Colada Song” around corpses, and wearing jeans on the job, all because he’s hooked up with Vivian, a new lover he’s falling for way too fast. Jake, always the protective older brother, calls this process (and the self-sublimation to follow) going “Full Boyle.” And yet, this confident Boyle interests Gina, lightly telegraphing their future hookup. And Holt’s busy organizing a meeting for the LGBT NYPD group he founded decades prior and faces a leadership challenge, forcing him to move from tenacious progressive to elder statesman. This is the kind of thing you’d see on Blue Bloods, except it’s interesting.
36. “The Puzzle Master” (Season 5, Episode 15)
As Santiago has passed her sergeant exam (because of course she did), Jake wants to give her detective career a celebratory, tailor-made send-off. He finds the perfect case: a series of arsons linked to clues given in crossword puzzles. He even brings in a genius puzzle-master named Vin who is also a hot model guy (and Melissa Fumero’s husband, David Fumero). Jake gets jealous of the guy who can beat him in brains and looks, but hey, love is love and he’s got nothing to worry about.
35. “The Swedes” (Season 3, Episode 9)
A delightfully paired Anders Holm and Riki Lindhome play an extremely close and intuitive duo of Swedish detectives who come to pick up a stolen diamond and its thief. They’re so in sync it puts doubts in Jake and Rosa’s heads about their working relationship and the emotional distance they’ve so carefully crafted over the years.
34. “Bad Beat” (Season 5, Episode 5)
Earlier episodes allude to Holt’s past gambling addiction, which can actually be played for laughs because that guy always has a poker face. He helps Terry and Jake investigate an underground gambling circuit … only to fall back into old habits and almost get himself killed after he blows his cover. In the less important subplot, Rosa gains respect for Hitchcock and Scully and their Homer Simpson–like levels of champion laziness — she finds it hard to sit all damn day, a task only those two can fully embrace.
33. “Undercover” (Season 2, Episode 1)
Jake relishes the chance to go undercover, which is funny because he would be the worst undercover cop, seeing as how he talks in silly voices and yells a lot. At any rate, it’s a way for him to live out some Mafia-movie scenarios. Back in Copland, Amy and Rosa get new job training on how to handle various scenarios thrown at them by Terry. Also, Charles and Gina pick up on the previous season’s last-second reveal that they’re having sex, which is hilarious because she’s so mean to him and he never stops being sweet to her. Proof that bad romantic pairings can work on shows if they’re self-aware of how bad they are.
32. “Payback” (Season 2, Episode 13)
If one episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine could fully encapsulate the character Jake Peralta, it is this one. As he’s a brilliant detective, he determines out of some vague clues — such as Terry demanding Jake pay him back the thousands of dollars he’s borrowed over the years — that Terry’s wife is pregnant. (They need the money for, you know, baby stuff.) As he’s kind of a dumbass, too, Jake also accidentally tells the entire building that Terry’s wife is pregnant, which Terry had wanted to keep quiet.
31. “The 9-8” (Season 3, Episode 15)
Watching Charles, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s version of Millhouse, squirm over the Bart-like Jake having other friends is both funny and sweet. These two have unabashed love for each other, and Charles is never going to be cool or quiet about his deep devotion to Jake. You can’t help but feel for him when Jake’s old partner Stevie (Damon Wayans, Jr.) from the 98th precinct makes a brief comeback.
30. “Stakeout” (Season 2, Episode 10)
The 99 can’t stand each other for a hot minute … but then makes up. The most stable, steadfast relationship on the show is challenged when BFFs Jake and Charles agree to a grueling eight-day stakeout and refuse to acknowledge that even they might get on each other’s nerves. Oh, and Terry writes and illustrates a kid’s book and alienates Gina and Amy with unflattering characters he claims aren’t based on them but definitely are. Good stuff.
29. “Unsolvable” (Season 1, Episode 21)
Andy Samberg turns in some subtle, charming work here. He’s so lovelorn over Amy, about to take a weekend trip with lame boyfriend Teddy, that he works when he doesn’t have to to solve an unsolvable case, if only to occupy his thoughts. Oh, Jake. However, Amy doesn’t go away, because she forgot she signed up to do something for Holt, forever the brown-loser. Her attempts to get out of it get way out of hand, and she even submits to some unnecessary dental surgery. Oh, Amy.
28. “USPIS” (Season 2, Episode 8)
This contains maybe the best Brooklyn Nine-Nine cold open ever. Hitchcock guilt-scams the squad into thinking they all missed Scully’s birthday, and they give him their apologies and a big envelope full of cash. Scully thinks of himself as a genius until he drinks a coffee mug full of thumbtacks. In compiling this list, I watched this scene eight times because it’s the best, and Scully and Hitchcock are just fantastic when used in small, potent doses. In the episode proper, Ed Helms shows up to do what he does best: play a lamestain. In this case, it’s a postal inspector named Jack Danger, or rather Jackie Donger, because he is lame.
27. “99” (Season 5, Episode 9)
Nine-Nine no. 99 jumps the gun on the traditional 100th episode great plot leap forward because it can. On a work trip to Los Angeles (or just past the gates of the faux–New York set in Los Angeles where Brooklyn Nine-Nine is produced), Jake spots the building that played Nakatomi Plaza in Die Hard, which he’s said about 99 times is his favorite movie. He gleefully visits and drags the whole group… but they get locked inside. Also, Rosa begins the process of coming out as bisexual. That’s a big moment for her, but in line with the show’s admirable commitment to inclusivity and diversity. 99!
26. “Chocolate Milk” (Season 2, Episode 2)
Here’s the first time we see Kyra Sedgwick as Madeline Wuntch, Captain Holt’s superior and longtime nemesis, the evil twin of Brenda Lee Johnson from The Closer. He thinks she hates him because she spurned his advances (as he’s gay), but he doesn’t like her because she’s convincing and also shot him once. It’s a pleasure to watch these two great actors insult each other. Elsewhere the show makes one of its surprisingly rare digs at Brooklyn hipsterism, with the investigation of a robbery of an artisan “dark milk” parlor operated by Moshe Kasher.
25. The Chris Parnell episodes: “The Defense Rests” (Season 2, Episode 14) and “Sabotage” (Season 2, Episode 19)
Jake’s relationship with a public defender named Sophia (Eva Longoria) comes to an end, because their careers have driven a wedge between them. Jake, blaming her boss for their split, tries to get her back in the most illogical way: by trying to make her boss like him. That boss is played by Chris Parnell, Andy Samberg’s old “Lazy Sunday” playmate, and we as a society do not fully appreciate how funny Parns is, especially when he’s portraying a dangerously coked-up, repeatedly self-incriminating lawyer. He returns a few episodes later, kidnapping Peralta in an ice-cream van, and nearly murdering him because he blames the detective for ruining his life.
24. The “Adrian Pimento” Episodes: “Adrian Pimento” (Season 3, Episode 17); “Cheddar” (Season 3, Episode 18); “Terry Kitties” (Season 3, Episode 19); “Paranoia” (Season 3, Episode 20); “Maximum Security” (Season 3, Episode 21); “Monster in the Closet” (Season 4, Episode 6)
Jason Mantzoukas and his bonkers Adrian Pimento is a close second behind Craig Robinson/Doug Judy in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine extended universe of amazing recurring characters. After 12 long years deep undercover in the employ of an especially monstrous mobster named Figgis, Pimento hits the 99, where Jake thinks he can get through to him … and Rosa falls in love with because she has a type, and that type is “freaks.” He’s increasingly unhinged and paranoid, and totally over the top, and only Mantzoukas could play a guy who lives in a break room, thinks it’s a good idea to propose immediately, and fakes his death to get away from Figgis. (The same guy who forces Jake and Holt to flee to Florida in season four.)
23. “Jake and Sophia” (Season 2, Episode 6)
Early in the second season, we all know that Jake and Amy will wind up together, but the show has some fun treading water until they can couple them up for good. The red herring here is Sophia (Eva Longoria), a woman Jake meets in a bar who enjoys chicken wings, table tennis, and sex stuff as much as he does. Of course, there has to be a hitch, and it’s that she’s a defense attorney, which Jake realizes when she’s on the other side of a case he testifies on the morning after their first tryst. The B plot provides some of the best Scully/Hitchcock material ever — Scully fights for his position as union rep, a job at which he’s obviously incompetent, but he likes because the meetings are catered with a party sub. (Oh, and he pronounces union as “onion” because he is so very stupid, you guys.)
22. “Game Night” (Season 5, Episode 10)
Around the time this episode aired, Stephanie Beatriz publicly identified as bisexual, and her character, Rosa, did, too. After coming out to her squad in the previous episode (“99”), she faces the considerably more difficult task of telling her parents. This is one of the most sensitive and kind handlings of such subject matter in recent TV memory, and it’s one of the usually silly show’s most poignant episodes. And as Jake helps Rosa tell her folks, we also see a bond grow between the characters, as Jake is increasingly less immature and Rosa less closed off to human contact.
21. “Beach House” (Season 2, Episode 12)
The gang heads to a beach house (in the middle of winter) to unwind, but can’t relax because Jake sympathetically invited the captain, who never got to “josh around” back in his detective days since all of the other cops were racist and/or homophobic. Everyone learns to cut loose, sure, but Melissa Fumero’s bravura performance of an increasingly drunk Amy Santiago is classic. With each drink, her behavior dramatically changes and the intensity escalates as she approaches what Gina has mythologized as “six-drink Amy.”
20. “The Party” (Season 1, Episode 16)
Off-the-clock episodes of workplace sitcoms are tricky, as writers have to figure out a way to get a bunch of co-workers to hang out with each other away from the office. A party is a good way to do that, like on The Office’s “Dinner Party.” Add to the list this pretty good Brooklyn Nine-Nine, wherein the detectives get to go to Holt’s very tasteful home (against his wishes) for a birthday party at the behest of his equally stone-faced husband, Kevin Cozner (who Jake points out starred in Danzes With Wolvez). It’s the first time we get to enjoy Marc Evan Jackson as Kevin, and also to see how the workaholic detectives behave when they aren’t working. The answer: like dumb-dumbs. Somebody brings an Arkansas-based “wine drink” and Jake pretends to have read an article to sound smart.
19. “The Road Trip” (Season 2, Episode 9)
Jake is so noice. (How noice is he?) He is so noice that when he decides to make an out-of-town, overnight, prisoner transfer trip into a romantic getaway with girlfriend Sophia, he doesn’t want it to be weird for partner Amy, even though he is secretly in love with her — and so he calls her boring boyfriend Teddy to surprise her. However, she was about to break up with him, because he is the worst (all he talks about is pilsners, the most boring style of beer, and in the world of the show, beer itself is a boring hobby). Yet there’s still lots of romance in this episode, like how Amy and Teddy have a joint library card (which should totally be a thing) and how Jake and Sophia have sex in a B&B room full of creepy dolls.
18. “The Vulture” (Season 1, Episode 5)
The Vulture, a Major Crimes detective whose real name isn’t important, makes his first appearance, swooping in to take over cases — and credit — at the last minute. From Dennis Duffy on 30 Rock to that insurance-commercial character to this, Dean Winters excels in playing dirtbags. It’s fun to watch him drive the good guys insane, and this show always delivers just enough workplace politics to make it believable. His behavior is a fact of life for police, and so is Terry’s subplot of trying to make himself psychologically able to hit the streets once more.
17. “Bachelor/ette Party” (Season 5, Episode 19)
Prior to their wedding, Amy and Jake submit to the ritualistic bachelorette and bachelor parties. Amy’s gets sidetracked when she finds out her wedding band is fronted by an old boyfriend (Blake Henderson from Workaholics) who is aggressively and frighteningly very much in love with her. Jake’s goes off the rails when he meanly skips Charles’s scavenger hunt clues (perhaps putting Charles in actual jeopardy some how) in favor of traditional bachelor-party stuff like steaks ‘n’ booze. Each part of this farcical, complex episode could have both been great episodes on their own — or raunchy, full-length Bridesmaids or The Hangover–style movies.
16. “Christmas” (Season 1, Episode 11)
The show really started to gel and hit its stride here, perhaps because this is where it abandons the adversarial relationship between Jake and Holt and makes them respectful colleagues if not friends instead. Respect and love can fuel just as much comedy as sniping. After the captain receives death threats, Jake cards him, tricking him into a staying in a safe house (where they watch Safe House).
15. “Johnny and Dora” (Season 2, Episode 23)
This is the one where Jake and Amy kiss. And there will be no Ross-and-Rachel “will they or won’t they?” nonsense here; they’re gonna be together forever. Hooray to sweet resolution and two wonderful characters finding love! But wait, this is a season finale, not a series finale, so there’s trouble afoot. The evil Deputy Chief Wuntch completes her goal to destroy Captain Holt’s professional life. She gives him an option: leave the 99 and take a job in the soul-killing NYPD PR office, or send all the 99’s detectives to far-flung precincts. He takes one for the team of course, and the PR job, leading to a final moment where the usually emotionless Holt tries not to cry as he tells the squad working with them constituted the best years of his life. Andre Braugher is a national treasure.
14. “Fancy Brudgom” (Season 1, Episode 20)
Of course when Charles gets engaged, he’s super-weird and specific, requiring a series of traditional Danish wedding traditions, for which his best man, Jake, of course, is extremely onboard, doing all that Charles and Fancy Brudgom magazine ask. That marriage never happens, because this is season one of a sitcom and it would require his move to Canada. Brooklyn even manages to avoid the cliché Canada jokes, instead just nailing one big, weird one: in Canada, pizza is called “Manitoba sauce cake.”
13. “Lockdown” (Season 2, Episode 7)
Thanksgiving can feel like a lockdown in one’s family home, but you don’t really want to be anywhere else. On this, the second Thanksgiving episode, Nine-Nine writers hilariously take that idea to its logical conclusion, when a mysterious package of white powder requires a seal-up of the whole precinct. Shit goes wrong. There are riots. There’s a fire (R.I.P., Hitchcock’s nap couch). The B plot is slightly less hostile, with Terry and Holt camping out at Terry’s house, where he bonds with his bullying brother-in-law (a man mountain even larger than Terry) over bad bosses, leading to the absurdly comic idea of Holt having to pretend to be a bad boss.
12. “Hostage Situation” (Season 3, Episode 11)
On a show about police in which hostage situations have been a credible threat, the hostage situation of the title refers to Jake and Boyle’s journey to reclaim Boyle’s frozen sperm from Boyle’s ex-wife (Kathryn Hahn). You know, the way guys do. It’s a highly physical comedic episode, because Amy and Terry take a self-defense class and she somehow manages to break his nose. It also gives us the joyous gift of Captain Holt in a dance-off with street toughs.
11. “The Bet” (Season 1, Episode 13)
Every episode starts with a cold open, a stand-alone little comic sketch, but in “The Bet” it’s plot-related, and the events affect the plot years down the line. Charles receives a Medal of Valor for getting shot in the butt … at the time Sergeant Peanut Butter, a police horse, receives the same honor. The main plot of the episode also lays the groundwork for the future: Jake and Amy go on a stakeout together, and there’s a romantic rooftop peanut throwing scene, and yeah, these two are definitely gonna fall in love.
10. “Yippie Kayak” (Season 3, Episode 10)
At long last, the Die Hard tribute episode. Bad guys take over a department store on Christmas Eve, just like in Die Hard. However, they’re Canadians, not Germans. Also, and this is really sweet, long-suffering, forever-mocked Charles Boyle is who saves Christmas, not Peralta.
9. “Charges and Specs” (Season 1, Episode 22)
By the end of its first season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine had won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy Series and enjoyed the plum post–Super Bowl slot. Its ratings still weren’t great, so the writers smartly just decided to cater to its steady, hard-core fanbase. So much of the comedy derives from the characters that a viewer has to know to get to the jokes, and, thankfully, there’s a lot of that here. First, flighty, self-absorbed, phone-obsessed Gina does the most Gina thing ever and starts using emoji in her daily speech. Then Jake has to pretend to get fired to join an undercover mob sting, but not before telling Amy he’s into her.
8. “M.E. Time” (Season 1, Episode 4)
Mary Elizabeth Ellis doesn’t get a chance to go full crazy all that often in her recurring role as the Waitress on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but she steals this excellent episode in her guest appearance as medical examiner whom the 99 must consult for an autopsy report. Jake takes an interest and they hook up, only for him to discover she has a dark and weird fetish: pretending her lovers are dead people, which is extra creepy for a coroner.
7. “Jake & Amy” (Season 5, Episode 22)
Can crime take a day off so our Jake and Amy can have the perfect wedding they deserve? No, it cannot. Thanks a lot, precincts 1 through 98, for not covering for the 99 for one damn day. There’s also a cliff-hanger (per Brooklyn Nine-Nine custom) in that Holt waits to find out whether or not he’s the new police commissioner. And then Fox canceled the show after this episode completed production, so we almost never found out. “Jake & Amy” would have made a lovely if premature finale, though. Jake and Amy get hitched in a beautiful ceremony their friends put together for them, and Rosa’s love life looks promising, too, with the possible addition of Gina Rodriguez as a recurring cast member.
6. “The Last Ride” (Season 4, Episode 15)
Had NBC not revived Brooklyn Nine-Nine shortly after Fox cruelly canceled it, the fifth-season finale, “Jake & Amy,” could have and would have been a classic series finale. And yet this installment from the middle of the fourth season feels like a last episode. Continuing the arc introduced in “The Audit,” in which budget cuts may lead to a precinct closure, the 99’s detectives pretty much assume that theirs is the one that will get chopped. So they all act like its their last day working together, which is sweet, satisfying, and obviously funny. Jake and Charles have a blast trying to catch a bike thief, Terry goes for a case-solving record, and Amy finally gets some long-desired validation from Captain Holt.
5. “Moo Moo” (Season 4, Episode 16)
A lot of episodes earned low spots on this list because they broke the Brooklyn Nine-Nine formula, or dealt too much with realistic police problems. “Moo Moo” does those things, and it’s probably the least funny yet most enraging episode of the entire series. For all of those reasons, it’s a vital installment. After his daughter loses a stuffed animal (Moo Moo) somewhere in his neighborhood, Terry takes to the streets at night to look for it … and gets harassed by a cop because he’s an African-American man out after dark. He’s as humiliated as he is mad, and this was a great way for the show to no longer maintain a disconnect with the realities of the issues of race and police.
4. “Show Me Going” (Season 5, Episode 20)
With “Moo Moo” and “Show Me Going,” it would seem that Brooklyn Nine-Nine figured out to handle the tough stuff — with a single annual, emotionally devastating late-season episode. This one reminds us that these characters are police officers, and that can be a scary and dangerous line of work. Sure, they’ve all gotten into some very nasty scrapes before, but it never felt like anyone was in real danger, perhaps because viewers got to see what they were up to, and how they got out of it. But Stephanie Beatriz’s absence from this episode adds to the intensity — Rosa runs in to help deal with an active shooter … and nobody can get a hold of her.
3. The “Pontiac Bandit” Episodes: “Pontiac Bandit” (Season 1, Episode 12); “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” (Season 2, Episode 10); “The Cruise” (Season 3, Episode 13); “The Fugitive” (Season 4, Episode 11 and 12); “The Negotiation” (Season 5, Episode 13)
Craig Robinson is one of the most underrated comic actors, probably because he’s usually so cool and understated. Darryl Philbin is a much different character than likable serial criminal and con artist Doug Judy, a.k.a., the Pontiac Bandit, who appears once per season to help Peralta catch bigger fish but then inevitably pulls a fast one and escapes because he is the one who is the big criminal. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t genuinely like Peralta when he’s screwing him over — Robinson and Samberg have fantastic chemistry. The Doug Judy episodes are an annual treat.
2. The “Halloween Heist” Episodes: “Halloween IV” (Season 4, Episode 5); “Halloween III” (Season 3, Episode 5); “HalloVeen” (Season 5, Episode 4) “Halloween” (Season 1, Episode 6); “Halloween II” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Each Halloween, the named detectives of the 99 compete to steal a secured, guarded object and go to extreme and weird measures to do so, revealing everyone’s near-toxic level of competitiveness. They’re each their own self-contained, twist-heavy, mini-action movie with way more comedy than that kind of movie ever have.
It’s ironic then that while Jake Peralta desperately wants his life to be Die Hard, the “Halloween Heist” episodes are somehow more entertaining than that extremely entertaining movie. The episodes vary just slightly in quality and viewer satisfaction, so inside of this larger ranking, let’s rank them from A Good Day to Die Hard (not best) to Die Hard (best).
“Halloween IV.” The item to procure: a plaque, placed right in the middle of the bullpen where everyone can see it. The “Ultimate Detective / Genius” who wins is the only character who isn’t officially a detective: Gina. (She fakes an injury and creeped around the precinct in “disguise,” wearing Amy’s bland pantsuits.) It’s very satisfying that the victorious competitor is the east likely candidate, especially one who takes an aggressively cavalier attitude toward everything in her life except for Floorgasm.
“Halloween III.” Amy Santiago is an even-keeled, by-the-book detective, but don’t sleep on her. She absconds with a crown out of a locked interrogation room while thwarting the rest — she forces Jake to climb so many flights of stairs that he throws up a few times. Also, the characters’ Halloween costumes are especially inspired, particularly Terry as Popeye, Rosa as Little Bo Peep, and Gina as a matador.
“HalloVeen.” Few things are as important to Peralta as the annual heist — only Amy Santiago outranks them in his heart. The show’s writers also know how much fans love these episodes, and they use the fifth season entry to launch one of the series’ sweetest moments — the item to be acquired at all costs is ultimately inscribed with Jake’s proposal ato Amy.
“Halloween.” With Holt and Peralta still tenuous adversaries, Peralta aspires to swipe his boss’s Medal of Valor out of his office, and the process is relatively simple (at least in relation to future heists), involving switching out vaults and keys. More than just a fun novelty one-off, this episode marks a major character shift for Jake — he learns some respect for Holt, and, because he has to rely on others, he starts to move away from his arrogant, one-man police force ideal.
“Halloween II.” Jake manages to steal Holt’s watch off of his very wrist with the help of a pickpocket, but he accomplishes it so early in the episode that there has to be more afoot. There is — it turns out Holt has been planning his own approach to this Halloween heist since the previous year’s Halloween heist. He makes Jake think his pickpocket stole the watch (he actually returned it to Holt), which sends the detective on a harrowing recovery mission that includes a party bus distraction (that masked lady in a catsuit is Rosa) and his car getting towed (by Amy). Andre Braugher as Captain Holt carefully, evenly narrating the series of flashbacks showing how he planned it all out, like a villain revealing his nefarious plot, is maybe the best individual sequence in all of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
1.“The Box” (Season 5, Episode 14)
Jake Peralta is like Leslie Knope — in spite of a huge personality and a lot of emotion, he’s extremely good at his job. “The Box” isn’t only one of the best Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes, it’s also one of the best Law & Order episodes. No subplots today, just Jake (and with some assistance from Captain Holt) taking a whole night to interrogate or wear down an incredibly clever murder suspect (and dentist) played by the incredibly charming Sterling K. Brown. Jake heroically outsmarts the dentist and tricks him into a confession at the last possible moment. The bare-bones approach means the writers and actors had to be flawless, and everyone came through. The episode’s understated tag is almost inadvertently poignant: Jake and Holt leave the station, satisfied after a job well done … only for Charles to tell them it’s morning, and time to do it all over again.