Now that The Good Place has officially ended, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the one and only Mike Schur-created TV show on the air. After seven seasons, the show’s formula will be familiar to viewers: A new season-long villain will likely appear later in the season, ending in a cliffhanger that changes the status quo for a few episodes next season before repeating the process.
Indeed, though the show is still a comedy, it has amassed a healthy number of villains throughout the years. From the Vulture, to The Butcher, to John Kelly, but none of them (with the exception of Doug Judy) remain as delightful as Madeline Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick). From her hilarious back-and-forth jabs with Holt (Andre Braugher), to her professionalism that differentiates her from other villains. Last time we saw her, she helped the squad get rid of Commissioner Kelly before discovering Holt was made detective after simply a month, something that annoyed her to the point that she demoted the Captain and forced him to serve as a traffic control officer.
Season 7 picks up just a few days after this, with Holt now stuck in a post more menial than he was used to. But right before that we are reunited with the Nine-Nine in a fantastic cold open (though maybe a bit too long, as NBC allows the show to do longer openings) where Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) argues who in the squad would win in a fight if they couldn’t use their arms (apparently, Hitchcock would bite harder). The episode then deals with Peralta being over the moon about leading a manhunt (and Boyle giving him his own theme song to the tune of “Maneater”) before running into “Captain Dad. I mean, Officer Holt. I mean, Officer Dad.”
The premiere makes good use of all its plots, with the main one being Peralta’s investigation of the assassination attempt, the B-plot being Holt’s dealing with his frustration over his new position, and the C-plot being a fun little side story involving Amy and the next step in her relationship with Jake.
Thankfully, none of these feel dull. Even if the Amy subplot doesn’t immediately pay off, it could have bigger implications going forward, and even hint at the show’s endgame. Likewise, Holt working out his disappointment with his new position leads to him hijacking the main investigation, building up a hilarious new dynamic between him and his surrogate son Jake, which easily becomes the best part of the season premiere. We have seen Jake treat Holt as a surrogate father in the past, and Holt has even reciprocated the feeling before, but now that the tables are turned and the power dynamic has shifted, having goofball Jake in charge leads to a fun rivalry, especially if it involves both Holt and Jake fighting over who gets to make a bad Monopoly joke.
It is a testament to Mike Schur’s brand of comedy that no matter how the dynamics, the plot, or the setting changes, the characters will easily adapt and carry the show forward. The Nine-Nine squad has always been uniquely weird and three-dimensional, a quality the show shares with The Office, Parks and Recreation as well as The Good Place. After 7 seasons, we know how the characters think, and even if we don’t get many surprises, seeing them again feels like being at home.
If the season opener serves to resolve the cliffhanger from last season, episode two is a return to the more standalone and fun Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes we know and love. Like the first few Season 3 episodes, “Captain Kim” introduces a new Captain to the Nine-Nine, and of course things don’t go as planned. Where Bill Hader’s Captain Dozerman had a heart attack after seeing Jake and Amy kissing, and The Vulture is, well, The Vulture, Nicole Bilderback’s Captain Kim appears to be unbelievably nice and badass (she apparently inspired The Rock’s character in Fast & Furious) so of course everyone but Jake and Holt love her. The episode becomes a throwback to “The Party”, the episode from way back in Season 1 that dealt with the gang being invited to a party at Holt’s house, and them making a mess of things. Freed from solving or setting up plot threads, this is as funny and irreverent as the best Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes, with Hitchcock and Scully falling in love, Amy acting as a chaperone, and Terry facing a former inmate he put away years ago.
It’s a fantastic showcase for the show’s cast, as everyone gets to be at their quirkiest (with the exception of Rosa, who sadly is missing from the episode). This time, the MVP gets to be Charles, who borrows Rosa’s jacket and instantly gains the confidence he never had before, as he starts calling Jake a bitch, speaks with a lower tone of voice, gets a married woman’s number and even gets invited to a high-stakes game of cards with Broadway stars and rich people.
As usual, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and its writers excel at finding notable and memorable guest stars in roles you want to see come back over and over. Case in point, Bilderback as the badass Captain Kim, which makes for a nice change of pace from goofballs or monsters that usually join the Nine-Nine. Likewise, the premiere episode introduces us to Holt’s quirky partner, Debbie Fogel (SNL’s Vanessa Bayer) an officer that would much rather pick up traffic cones and count steps in her pedometer app than investigate dangerous murders. Though Fogel doesn’t appear in the second episode, a letter from showrunner Dan Goor sent to the press says that Bayer shows up in a three-episode arc, so look forward to more talk about counting steps and doing menial tasks!
If there’s one downside to this new season is that you can figure out how most of it will play out just by watching these two episodes, which may feel repetitive to some viewers. But when the formula is so fun and the characters are such a delight to watch, why change it? If the premiere of Season 7 is any indication, we could do much worse than seeing the Nine-Nine get into new antics for the next couple of years.
Rating: ★★★★ Very good