With the return of television shows each season, especially second seasons, there are often unspoken guidelines that the creative teams conform to. They will re-establish characters in a way that could introduce them to new viewers as well as reminding older fans why they loved them. They introduce a new theme, idea or overarching plot that will take place over the course of the season – at least if it isn’t purely episodic – and they oftentimes to their own detriment try and pull a move that shakes it up so that the show doesn’t come off tired.
Luckily for fans, Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t fall into any of these pitfalls which often make the start of shows so rocky.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a surprise hit amongst critics last year, and while they didn’t quite pull in the audience numbers that I’m sure Fox would have liked, they did get a Golden Globe for the series and its lead actor, Andy Samberg, as Jake Peralta. It offered up a sense of confidence that is often lacking in new shows, particularly sitcoms, which benefit greatly from time and the audience getting to know their characters. Creators Daniel J. Goor and Michael Schur instead didn’t waste any time in establishing the who’s who of the show, and it resulted in a hilarious half hour of television.
Season two stars up as if the summer hiatus never occurred, feeling more like a continuation of season one than a new season altogether. Jake is back from his stint as an undercover cop, Amy (Melissa Fumero) is still with her boyfriend, much to Jake’s not-so-secret chagrin, Gina (Chelsea Peretti) is mourning the loss of her cool factor as she fears Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) is going to tell Jake about how they slept together, and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) has his task force undergoing drills to help them improve. These drills include Terry (Terry Crews) wearing a sign around his neck indicating who he is and Amy and Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) dealing with it with the appropriate protocol.
These drills also include Terry as a confused old woman, an angry prostitute and, possibly my favorite, an unattended backpack, which has him sit in a corner making ticking noises.
After being told to act out as a young boy, the trio’s patience is tried, and so Terry goes to Holt asking about why he’s assigning them these tasks which only seem to take up their time. Captain Holt tells Terry that they’re getting a new commissioner coming in which will put them under scrutiny and he wants them to all be prepared.
Jake is too preoccupied with the mafia member who got away after his undercover bust to truly get re-acclimated with the office, and he and Boyle strike out to find the last guy which, in reality, is more of a way to distract Jake from his conflicting emotions over the Amy situation. We witness Boyle being a terrible undercover cop and a fun showdown between Jake and guest star Jenny Slate. In the end, though, the target gets away and Jake has to deal with the fact that not everything is in his control.
The episode ends with a welcome back party at a bar where Captain Holt is as sentimental as he ever is and tells Jake he’s proud of him and is glad he’s back. Jake confronts Amy and tells her that what he told her before going undercover wasn’t a mistake, and he knows she’s with Teddy and won’t be trying anything but would’ve felt weird if he’d lied. Gina realizes that Boyle never told Jake, and the episode ends with the two of them having once again landed in bed together.
“Undercover” sets into motion the rest of the season with the new commissioner looming over head, but otherwise it resolves season one plotlines more than setting up new ones for season two.
The reason why Brooklyn Nine-Nine clicks back into place so seamlessly is due to how well defined these characters are. We don’t need to be reintroduced to anyone; relationships and character quirks don’t need any explanation because they’re characters we know well. We laugh at Amy’s distress over Terry breaking her castle not because of the cheap sight of Terry throwing a fit, but because of how much effort Amy puts into such a childlike task. Jake and his oddly formed need to be a perfectionist doesn’t come out of left field because we’ve seen him become obsessed with tasks and ideas in the past. These characters are so fully formed, so fully realized at only a season into its run it’s surprising. Scully and Hitchcock aside, each one of the team players has something that makes them unique to the cast, whether it’s how they’re written or how the actors choose to interpret their roles. And despite the different comedic styles, from Samberg’s broader face-pulling mode to Crew’s bottled rage to Peretti’s physicality, they all come together with an ease of a comedic ensemble that has years of experience under their belt.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back and already off to a strong start. If the show continues the path that season one set off on, we could be in for another season of one of the best comedies on television.