Two episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
It’s still frustratingly common to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine described as “that Andy Samberg cop comedy,” but in the show’s strikingly confident third season, what’s never been clearer is that the series is a true ensemble piece, dependent not only on Samberg’s endearingly childish Jake Peralta but a whole host of lovable characters to gel as a collective whole. And from Stephanie Beatriz’s delectably dour Rosa to Andre Braugher’s gentle giant Holt, the first two installments of the new season give almost every player in and around the 9-9 some time in the spotlight – though, crucially, the show remains equally devoted to continuing to juggle all of its colorful narrative balls in a meaningful way.
Comedy, particularly when made in a mockumentary format like this, is a hard genre to sustain over multiple seasons, but this show’s writers (many of whom have honed their skills on other hit comedies like Parks and Recreation) are well-aware that their greatest strengths will always be in the characters they’ve taken care to form and ferment, so it’s gratifying to see that both episodes provided for review make evolution a priority. Last season ended with the sexual tension between Jake and Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) spilling over into a secret kiss in the backroom, and the premiere picks off moments later, with a new captain arriving and the two still working to wrap their heads around what the kiss meant and could mean for their futures, both at the precinct and off the clock.
In typical Brooklyn Nine-Nine fashion, though, that discussion gets tabled as soon as more madcap antics begin to plague the 9-9. First and foremost among those complications is the fact that the new captain is none other than Seth Dozerman, played by the consummately hilarious Bill Hader with a straight-man scowl, who makes it his number-one priority to crack down hard on anything he deems unsavory within the department. Such authoritarianism doesn’t sit well with Jake and Amy, whose budding romance is immediately imperiled by Dozerman’s new rules, or Rosa, who seems physically repulsed by the new captain’s ideas about keeping the force on task.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always done madcap mirth exceptionally well, but even seasoned fans might find themselves surprised by how relentlessly hard and fast the laughs arrive in the premiere. It’s a terrifically paced, snappily written half hour of television (penned by creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur) that understands the strengths and weaknesses of the show’s entire ensemble. Even Holt and Gina (Chelsea Peretti), exiled to the hellish depths of the NYPD’s public affairs branch by verified succubus Madeleine Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick), get some time to bounce off one another, his buttoned-up professionalism contrasting with her in-your-face persistence to pretty inspired results.
Watching Hader, who once raked Samberg over the coals at a comedy roast for the basic conceit of this series, take a self-serious character and infuse him with the same lived-in weirdness that characterizes just about every other Hader performance is another reason that even casual fans should make time for the first episode back. He’s one of the best guest stars Brooklyn Nine-Nine has had in quite some time.
The second episode, which features the introduction of another new character played by The Good Wife‘s Archie Panjabi, isn’t quite as non-stop in terms of its punchlines, but it arranges all the characters in such a way that their stories all build nicely and dovetail in a fun, very traditionally Brooklyn Nine-Nine kind of way – which is a completely amenable way for any second episode back to unfold. There’s plenty to love (albeit in a somewhat cringing manner) about the B-plot given to Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), but the focus stays on Jake and Amy in a slightly less exciting manner. If the show is to completely utilize every tool at its disposal, it will need to avoid prioritizing their romantic plotline for too long, but given that the new pair of episodes are in a would-be honeymoon phase with regard to that coupling, so it only makes sense that the writers would want to hurtle as many ridiculous obstacles their way as soon as possible.
All in all, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back, and it’s still one of the funniest shows on television (especially with its predecessors, save HBO’s Veep, all having gone gently into that good night). One gets the sense that creators Goor and Schur have a great deal up their sleeve, simply because at this point, audiences know every member of the 9-9 well and, more importantly, know what it’s like to watch them build off and collide with one another. Watching Jake and Amy navigate their new romance seems packed with potential, but the really exciting thing about this new season is it holds the promise of charting new waters for just about every cast member – while maintaining the same merrily manic energy that’s turned it into one of the best series Fox has going right now.
The first two episodes back find Brooklyn Nine-Nine firing on all cylinders, blending a talented ensemble with terrific writing and the show's distinctively madcap energy.