It usually takes workplace comedies around half a season before the characters start to spread their wings and find their voices. Out of the gate, there are a lot of actors competing for attention and it can take the writers a while to find what makes these characters tick, before putting them in compelling, comedic situations. Any show is bound to have a couple of characters that do not gel with the rest of the main group.
The good news is that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s terrific first season was a testament to the well-bonded cast. The Group of Seven jumped out of the gate with a dynamic chemistry that complemented the show’s kinetic, high-tempo comedy. That camaraderie has only gotten richer throughout the year and into this sophomore season, and it is showcased beautifully in “The Jimmy Jab Games,” which relies on each cast member to give their all. The bad news is, while the core of the group has blossomed over the past 25 episodes, the writers still cannot figure out how to incorporate Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller).
“The Jimmy Jab Games” refers to a silly collection of competitions that the precinct members do when they have to stand around on call. Cpt. Holt and Terry are off to try to convince deputy chief Madeline Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick, continuing her excellent recurring role) to enforce a drug task force. (There is a new drug out there that this reviewer overheard as ‘giggle pig,’ the effects of which should be apparent.) That leaves Jake and company back at the precinct, looking for something to do before they are called upon to make sure protests don’t break out during the Serbian president’s visit. As per the past two episodes, Brooklyn Nine-Nine favors character moments over explaining the central predicament, so the information of why they were waiting around went by so quickly that this reviewer needed to rewind it for clarity twice.
The games are an enjoyable bunch of office-related challenges, including eating month-old Chinese food – one wonders if they keep the expired food for future challenges – and a relay around the floor in bulky, bulletproof outfits. All of the characters approach the games with their personal goals. Amy, who has an unfathomable losing streak, strives to correct course. (Jake even refers to the loser as a “Santiago.”) Jake, trying to get over Amy, makes a bet with Diaz that she will give him the number of her friend, Katie, whom he wants to date if he is victorious.
“The Jimmy Jab Games,” directed by first-time series helmer Rebecca Asher, is one of the series’ most kinetic episodes. When the characters are just standing or sitting around, such as in the first and last scenes, the dull visual framing usually entails a lot of zoom-ins that occur so frequently that they become distracting. Thankfully, the drive and enthusiasm of the characters when the games begin mirrors the growing energy and variety of camera techniques during the action-packed segments. It is also great to see a workplace sitcom where all of the characters have an affinity to compete, which gives the episode a drive and zest that makes the challenges even more enjoyable.