Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended its second season with a whole host of changes: Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago finally, blissfully kissed; Captain Holt took a job in the NYPD’s Public Relations department, saving his staff from deputy chief Madeline Wunch’s wrath; and the whole 9-9 waited to see who their new captain would be. For a breezy workplace comedy, it was a busy finale, with new jobs and new relationships shifting the dynamics of the core characters.
And yet in “New Captain,” Brooklyn Nine-Nine shows no signs of strain in its storytelling from these changes; it’s still the celebratory comedy it has been for the past two seasons, now with some new antagonists and Andre Braugher in a truly horrifying-in-a-funny-way pigeon costume. The show has always been incredibly aware of its characters and the way they interact with one another, the pilot being one of the strongest comedy debuts in recent memory, and “New Captain” continues to build on the foundation the show has created for the past two seasons, stretching the show beyond the boundaries of the 9-9.
The biggest stretch for Brooklyn Nine-Nine was removing Captain Holt and Gina from the team, placing them in the PR department, a potentially problematic direction for the show. Andre Braugher’s Holt is at his best when acting as a frustrated father figure to the lovable band of misfits the show centers around, and it was unclear how it would change the show’s dynamic to not have him interacting with the main cast. In “New Captain,” at least, the show circumvents this problem, finding a way to channel Holt’s personality into a new setting, as he tries to stick to his principles in the face of slow bureaucracy. Wunch and Holt’s antagonism from the previous season is still around, as Wunch first places him right in the middle of pointless department fighting over naming the NYPD’s new mascot, a pigeon, and then forces him to wear the nightmarish pigeon costume to educate kids in school. Gina, she of magical unicorn one-liners, ends up saving the day, giving the Captain a pep talk, encouraging him to keep going. It’s a matter of when, not if, the show will bring Gina and Captain Holt back into the fold, and yet despite that inevitability it’ll be fun to see Gina and Captain Holt have side adventures for a while.
The other big development in “New Captain” is Amy and Jake’s relationship, that moves from a secret kiss in the evidence locker to a dinner date to sleeping together to telling everyone in the office to deciding not to see each other to actually dating one another, all in one episode. Listing the beats of their relationship, somehow crammed into 22 minutes, could give someone story whiplash, but somehow the show makes it work. Amy and Jake have been will-they-won’t-they-ing for the past two seasons, ever since season one’s “The Bet,” and “New Captain” doesn’t mess around with the traditional format for a sitcom relationship. It skips right ahead, in realistic and confident fashion, to Amy and Jake as a unit, retaining their identities as cops and as characters, simply adding romance to the mix. Andy Samberg and Melissa Fumero, who had a stellar season last year, find tenderness and silliness in Jake and Amy’s relationship, and when paired together bring out the best in both characters.
“New Captain” also had Bill Hader as Seth Dozerman, the squad’s new, efficiency-obsessed captain, a surprisingly less zany character from Hader than his usual, although no less funny. He’s quickly replaced (replaced by way of dying from a surprise heart attack by finding Amy and Jake making out in the evidence locker at work) by The Vulture, Dean Winter’s slimy Special Crimes detective and Jake’s nemesis. Seeing Hader go so soon was a disappointment, but The Vulture’s shared history with the characters promises great friction in the precinct going forward, and therefore great stories.
Entering its third season, Brooklyn Nine-Nine knows what works for its characters and its actors, and that self-assuredness is clear from the execution of “New Captain.” An episode that could have introduced too many new plots, separating characters from each other to the detriment of the show, “New Captain” instead expanded Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s storytelling potential by putting characters in new places and relationships. It’s too soon to tell what the rest of the season will hold for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but the sure-footed premiere was a great start.
Photo Courtesy of FOX