In a television age rife with such unusual subjects as dragons, hackers, and meth-dealing chemistry teachers, a cop comedy-drama seems too ordinary to be a likely stand-out.
But Brooklyn Nine-Nine does just that. Winner of two Emmys and two Golden Globes—for Best Series and Best Actor, both in the musical/comedy category—Brooklyn Nine-Nine shines as a compelling cop dramedy that refuses to take itself too seriously.
The show stars Andy Samberg as the immature yet gifted Detective Jake Peralta, who works alongside his cold, robotic boss, Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher). Samberg is the star of this summer’s Popstar and is also recognizable for his many videos with the comedy group The Lonely Island and his fan-favorite days on Saturday Night Live, while Braugher has had his fair share of TV appearances, notably on TNT’s Men of a Certain Age.
While the fourth season premiere last Tuesday only features Samberg and Braugher out of the show’s main cast, much of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s appeal lies in the strength of its collective ensemble. This includes Jake’s uptight, validation-craving girlfriend Detective Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero, Gossip Girl), his best friend and bumbler Detective Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio, Reno 911!), disengaged administrator Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti, Twitter comedian and Samberg’s elementary school classmate), Stephanie Beatriz (in her breakout role) as mysterious detective Rosa Diaz, and the always hilarious Terry Crews as a detective also named Terry.
Since its first two seasons, when it was primarily an office comedy set in the nine-nine station, the show has evolved into something more plot-driven, with increasingly higher stakes. After the third season finale, which saw the mysterious mobster and killer Figgis evade police raids and threaten Jake’s life, he and Holt end up in Witness Protection in Florida.
“Coral Palms, Pt. 1” therefore sees Jake and Holt masquerading as frosted-tipped ATV salesman Larry and his mini-golf employee neighbor Greg. Holt has adjusted well to Coral Palms, befriending the local power-walking old ladies and angling for a promotion to assistant manager. Jake, meanwhile, has suffered six months’ depression and is restless both to see his old girlfriend and to get back to police work.
When Holt catches Jake working the Figgis case, he steals his files, prompting Jake, in a Machiavellian streak, to retaliate by ingratiating himself with the mini-golf manager, taking the assistant management job, assigning Holt mini golf’s most unsavory (and increasingly ridiculous) tasks, and turning the power-walkers on him. But when Holt, on hot dog costume duty, and Jake trip hilariously over their facility’s go-karts, one woman threatens to post the would-be viral video, which would compromise their new identities and make them Figgis’s targets once more.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s deviation from a standard procedural format allows for many more gag opportunities than usual. Many of these usually rely on Jake’s incongruous silliness in spite of his detective genius, or involve jokes in their casework. There’s plenty of each—for example, tracking down the viral videographer means identifying her by her tattoo of Jesus punching Osama bin Laden, which turns out to be the area’s most common tattoo request. But now the show also has to deal with Jake’s identity issues. Jake visibly impresses Holt with his work on the Figgis case in his illicit files, but he refuses to say his favorite movie is, as his cover requires, Failure to Launch (instead of Die Hard, which he references over the seasons and which forms the basis for one early episode).
The new episode doesn’t quite feel like the Brooklyn Nine-Nine of last year without its main cast (or the actual nine-nine office), but it also feels more serious than usual. Jake’s saying a brief hello to his girlfriend’s picture is touching, and Holt’s decision to trust Jake’s instinct to return to police work, and to call him “son,” lessen the intensity of the episode’s feeling of isolation.
Looking forward, the show seems well up to the challenge of balancing plot progress, emotion, and sitcom silliness. The next two week’s episodes are parts two and three of “Coral Palms,” although hopefully the gang at the nine-nine office figures in somehow. It doesn’t seem like the hunt for Figgis is letting up anytime soon, either, which could make it still key in this season’s drama. Whatever twists happen, they’re sure to be accompanied by Jake’s trademark one-liners and imitations, which are always funnier than they should be.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t exactly what it was last year—it’s better. And it will be even more compelling when Jake and Holt join the rest of the detectives on the case.
Featured Image By Fox Broadcasting Company