Following its inter-season hiatus, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has returned to NBC, this time without the direction it once had. Fans of the show are well-versed in the many storyline changes the show has undergone in recent seasons. Amy Santiago (Melissa Fuermo) and Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Baugher) have found themselves in new positions, isolated from their former detective colleagues, and Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) has departed from the 99th precinct entirely. Going into the premiere, it could only be suspected that the dynamic of the show would receive a notable jolt given these recent changes.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, like nearly every comedy on television, has, until recently, followed the golden rule of sitcoms: Don’t change a thing. Sitcoms are largely expected to remain consistent throughout their runs without significant character evolution, lest producers risk upsetting the dynamic of the show viewers have come to be familiar with. After six seasons, however, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s writers were clearly getting bored, but they weren’t sure where to go—and it doesn’t look like Season 6 helped them find any direction.
The first episode of the two-part premiere focused on a manhunt assigned to the show’s protagonist Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), who must track down a suspect in the attempted assassination of a local Brooklyn politician while Holt begins serving his year-long demotion as a patrol officer. What initially appeared to have been a last-minute joke inserted into the Season 6 finale turns out to be a long-running plot arc for the former captain, and as one could predict, he has trouble adjusting to his low-ranking position. Most of the episode follows Jake as he is constantly undercut by Holt in his investigation, dampening Jake’s excitement as he attempts to solve the high-profile crime.
Over the course of this procedural plot, we see Holt acting as the wise authority figure guiding Jake, the brilliant yet immature detective, to the case’s conclusion—in other words, it’s no different than a typical episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Despite clear attempts at reworking the show’s existing dynamic, it appears the writers are unable to let go of the familiar format. While the plot aims to demonstrate how uncomfortable the characters are in their newfound roles, little of the storyline has actually changed. Furthermore, this was all done at the expense of the other show’s characters, with Charles (Joe Lo Truglio), Amy, Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz), and Terry (Terry Crews) all being sidelined to highlight the more-of-the-same plot disguised as a shake-up.
The second episode introduces the precinct’s new captain—Julie Kim (Nicole Bilderback). While an improvement from the first episode in terms of character inclusion, as Amy, Rosa, Charles, and Terry all assume larger roles, the lack of direction in the show is even more glaring. As Kim has now replaced Holt, Jake and his former captain try to sleuth out her alleged sinister motive. By the end of the episode, Kim quits after Jake makes it clear how unwelcome she is and, once again, the 99th precinct is left without a captain, which leaves us wondering what the point of the episode was.
A number of multi-episode plots in recent years, such as Jake and Amy’s marriage, Holt’s job changes, and the departure of Gina, have indicated the writers are attempting to move Brooklyn Nine-Nine toward serialized plots. With this episode, though, they erase their progress.
It feels as though Brooklyn Nine-Nine has lost its direction. The writers are unsure how much change they are comfortable with or if they even want to change the show at all, while simultaneously making it clear that they have become bored with what they have created. This disinterest can be seen when Amy and Jake, in the first episode, discuss having a child, only to completely drop the idea by the second episode.
This experimentation has also come at the expense of Holt and Jake’s characters. Holt has long been characterized as resolute, having endured decades of racist and homophobic discrimination within the NYPD to attain the title of captain. In one of the early episodes, he attributes his success in spite of adversity to “doing [his] job, and doing it right.” However, in breaking into Kim’s house to uncover dirt in an attempt to undercut her, Holt is portrayed as petty, vindictive, and selfish, the antithesis to the upstanding captain we have known since Season 1.
Then, Jake makes Kim feel so unwelcome that she transfers to another precinct. Jake’s behavior is attributed to his “daddy issues,” given that he had seen Holt as a father figure. Up until this point, Jake’s childhood abandonment had been a prominent aspect of his storyline and character, but the writing of this episode turned what once made Jake more complex into something extremely ugly, made worse by the lack of resolution offered between Jake and Kim.
The episodes, however, were still enjoyable. The moment where Jake and Amy agreed to have a child showed a new, more mature side of Jake, and there were a number of notable references to Cheddar, Holt’s beloved corgi who died last year. The best part, however, was Vanessa Bayer’s guest appearance as Officer Debbie Fogle, Holt’s temporary new sidekick who is borderline obsessed with her pedometer app “Foot Friends.”
Season 7 had an awkward beginning to be sure, but there remains plenty of room for the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers to make up for the initial stumble.
Featured Image by NBC