Moving to NBC, Brooklyn Nine-Nine Is What It's Always Been, and That Is Excellent News

TV Reviews Brooklyn Nine-Nine
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Moving to NBC, <i>Brooklyn Nine-Nine</i> Is What It's Always Been, and That Is Excellent News

Everybody LOVES the police, it’s embarrassing!” —Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), in full delusional freefall, incorrectly describing the current state of law enforcement but absolutely describing Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans as the series makes its triumphant return to air.

It is with the lightest of hearts that I settle in to report: There is absolutely nothing remarkable about the newest episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

From the series’ trumpet-propelled title sequence to the squad’s rollicking interplay of personal quirks and professional badassery, there is nothing about the former FOX series’ sixth season—aside from the fact that Jake (Andy Samberg), Amy (Melissa Fumero) and the rest of the 9-9 are now nestled safely in NBC’s Thursday night comedy block—that makes tuning in feel like anything other than coming home.

And when I say nothing, I mean nothing: The big cliffhanger that ended the Season Five finale, in which Holt reported the news of his promotion to commissioner to the squad at Jake and Amy’s wedding reception? The Season Six cold open picks up immediately where that scene left off and, with Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s signature comedic acrobatics, manages to kickstart an emotionally propulsive plot arc for the new season while simultaneously making every line of dialogue a joke, all capped off by Jake throwing his whole body into pure slapstick silliness.

As the season premiere continues, and Jake and Amy (Melissa Fumero) take off on their Mexican honeymoon while the rest of the squad (Holt included) deal with Holt’s extreme reaction to the board’s commissioner decision, the feeling that NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine is our Brooklyn Nine-Nine only grows: Jake and Amy reach Peak Jake and Amy on their honeymoon (sexy cosplay between Die Hard’s Holly Gennaro and the Dewey Decimal System’s Melvil Dewey may be involved), while the complex and deeply loving dynamic the squad has developed over the course of five seasons prevents total precinct chaos. Once Jake and Amy return from vacation and the whole squad gets fully back to work, that dynamic delivers even juicier fruit: a deep dive into the long-referenced, never-believed badass exploits of Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) and Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) as the 9-9’s hottest hotshot vice detectives back in the “wet and wild” 1980s. Readers won’t get to see the glories that are Young Scully and Young Hitchcock until next week, so I won’t spoil anything here, but to happily quote Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) after seeing a picture of the apir in their prime: ME. YEOW. This is the content Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans have been waiting for!

Co-creator Dan Goor et al. also use this new NBC season as an opportunity to revisit the frustrating disconnect they’ve touched on before between the idealized policing culture of the 9-9 and the broken policing culture beyond the 9-9’s walls, as Holt’s belief that he could achieve success and sweeping cultural change by spending decades not rocking the boat comes crashing down and both he and Brooklyn Nine-Nine recognize that moving forward, something has to change. This is a smart move, and not because incorporating threads about institutional injustice is consistent with both the tone and the character arcs established in the series’ first five seasons, smoothing the series’ transition from one network to another. It also elevates that policing-culture disconnect from a detail the series has been compassionate about but not ruled by, to one that is the very heart of the sixth season’s central narrative conflict. (“I am struggling for the very soul of the NYPD!” Holt shouts at the squad in next week’s episode, meeting at last the acute need for boat-rocking articulated in Season Four’s excellent and harrowingly realistic episode, “Moo Moo;) It’s also something that Brooklyn Nine-Nine could only do now, six seasons and one new network into its run. The latitude to tackle a plot as serious and prickly as American law enforcement’s steepening slide into “dangerous and regressive” policy making, and to do so with love and humor, is something a sitcom has to earn over time. At FOX, Brooklyn Nine-Nine put in that time; at NBC, they are finally getting to cash in.

One word I haven’t yet used to describe the new season is iterative. Every time I’ve written about Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the past year, I’ve called out iteration as the key to its unique brand of comedic success—that is, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is good because it makes good jokes, but it is great because it knows how to call those jokes back, break them apart, and rebuild them even better—and so it feels like I should call that analysis back, break it apart, and build it into an even better lens through which to appreciate the series. With only two episodes of NBC’s take on the 9-9 available for review, though, it’s impossible to draw any sweeping conclusions, let alone reasonable ones. So, in the absence of enough evidence to declare anything substantive, I will say this: Holt and Jake, in this week’s season premiere, both referred to the annual Halloween Heist as a critical element of the 9-9’s whole deal. If that doesn’t promise iterative excellence to come, I don’t know what else possibly could.

In the meantime, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is what it has always been: Kind, quick, and very, very funny. The entire ensemble is working at the height of their abilities, and while the shape of that ensemble will necessarily change following Chelsea Peretti’s planned exit from her role as a series regular, its tightness is as warm and familiar as a big family hug—which, following the whirlwind cancelation cum network-hopping revival of the beloved precinct comedy last spring, is, obviously, the best of all possible outcomes.

So, no: Nothing about the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is all that remarkable. And that is excellent news.

Season Six of Brooklyn Nine-Nine premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC.

Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic and audiobibliophile. She can be found @AlexisKG.