Brooklyn 99

⭐⭐⭐⭐½ based on 10 reviews.

tl;dr: An absolutely brilliant new contender for the office comedy crown, with an exceptional cast and a surprisingly nuanced, modern, and human set of characters. There are some dips in certain seasons, but for the most part it continues to be charming, witty, and heartfelt.

Season One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I'd heard good things about Brooklyn 99 but I have to admit, I was dubious. Most of the people involved have never cropped up on my radar before, apart from Andy Samberg and Terry Crews, both of whom I like but neither of whom I feel have a particularly great track record. Crews is best known (by me) for his work in ads, whilst Samberg consistently disappoints. I was (and remain) a big fan of the Lonely Island, but I can't say any of his films have come close to being enjoyable. On top of which, I'd heard a lot of people comparing the show to The Office, a series which I've famously been unable to get through a single episode of (tbc, I'm talking about the UK version; I've never seen the US one).

I can definitely see the Office comparison. There's something about the way the camera moves around that feels similar, but importantly the camera isn't "there" from the perspective of the actors, so you don't get the fourth-wall-breaking. Other than that, though, the show very much exceeded expectations. Not only is Samberg actually very funny (even if he does pull a few too many stupid faces), he's backed up by a brilliant and diverse cast. The characters themselves are interesting, too, as are the plot lines. There's plenty of police action, but it stays firmly grounded as a workplace comedy, not a procedural.

Core to everything is the character of Raymond Holt, who plays a sublimely ridiculous control freak. The strange pseudo-love triangle that rapidly comes to exist between Jake, Amy, and Holt is a surprisingly clever gimmick, though I do feel that Holt himself could stand to be toned down just a touch. Even the blossoming romance between our new Ross'n'Rachel fits nicely and isn't overly irritating. In fact, the rooftop scene is actually quite sweet. Despite having a fantastic group of comedians, somehow the writers have decided to make their characters realistic and human (and humane, to boot). Who'd have thought that would work so well 😏

Though, of course, they're not above slapstick. The walking prat-falls of Scully and Hitchcock are excellent comedy diversions, as are the quite brilliant opening skits, and of course the whole Boyle-gets-shot-in-the-ass thing is surprisingly funny. Actually, I found both Boyle and Gina quite interesting, in that they're ostensibly imbeciles designed purely for comedy hijinks, yet they somehow come out of the season with emotional resonance. Honestly, at the very start I was convinced Boyle would just be irritating, but I really quite like him. His honest relationship with Jake works very well.

Actually, honest relationships is something the show excels in. Again, the characters just feel like genuinely good people, trying to do the right thing. They aren't superheroes or incredible Holmesian detectives, but they know right from wrong and they do the best they can. That's actually pretty refreshing and makes in a surprisingly funny, nuanced, and well-written comedy. I'm excited to see where it goes.

Rewatch

One year later and with the upcoming release of a new season I wanted to bring Alison up-to-speed, so off we went with another binge-athon (albeit a bit more restrained than last time). Thankfully, the show really holds up. I'd somehow not realised how many exceptional moments season one contains: the first Halloween special is brilliant, the Thanksgiving episode is a great character development piece, the introduction of the Pontiac Bandit, Terry's PTSD, Vivian, the Tactical Village "blood" bath, and of course the cliffhanger ending. It's all a huge amount of fun and it so deftly sets up the characters. Yes, the first few episodes are a little stilted, but actually it's remarkable how quickly the show finds its feet. It's great.

Season Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The show comes out swinging into a second season that really helps develop the core characters and introduces several new solid additions to the recurring cast. Most importantly, it doesn't perform a song-and-dance around Jake going undercover for the FBI, instead cleverly using it as a way to move the general narrative forward by half a year. It gives the show a clean break, lets everything feel far more settled and skips over what could have been a drawn-out mess of multiple timelines, without making it feel like a cheap knock out. In many ways, it actually reminded my a little of how Rick & Morty has classically left a season on a major cliffhanger only to quickly wrap it up in the following episode.

Overall though, season two feels like Brooklyn 99 hitting its stride. The natural sitcom setups that were utilised in the first season are maturely developed: Jake and Amy get some time chasing down other love interests to help flesh out their characters; Rosa and Boyle's ill-fated romance is firmly killed off; Gina is more roundly brought into the team, revealing a much deeper side to her aloof character; and, finally, Holt has gotten over his initial insecure phase and is now a clear leader in control of each personality on his team. The result is a season which feels comfortable with its characters and plot lines whilst also surprisingly fresh. There still isn't a huge amount here which is groundbreaking, but no episodes feel poorly executed or like filler content and, ultimately, a sitcom is best when being surprising but still sticking to expectations for the most part.

High points include the return of the Pontiac Bandit – long may that continue – the introduction of Jake's father, the wonderfully mature conclusion of the Boyle/Gina romance, and the brilliantly funny Homeland Security training regime. There are a few jokes which fall flat, but on the whole the season is a solid, laugh-filled romp which secures the reputation of the show as a sitcom to be watched (quite literally).

Even funnier and far more mature, a solid return to the 99th precinct and the wonderful characters it contains.

Rewatch

A nearly perfect season that lacks nothing on rewatch. It's just a whole lot of fun, with some the best episodes the show has put out. The writers really hit the sweet spot with season two.

Season Three

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

After a very solid start which refreshingly blew straight through the now-standard 'will-they-won't-they' of Brooklyn 99's own Ross and Rachel, I would argue the show may be losing its touch a little.

First, though, definite props for the way the show continues to present a surprisingly mature and realistic view on relationships. I'm a big fan of the way they allowed Jake and Amy to both get together and neither instantly blow up or fall into some comical misunderstanding. So far, they've both behaved like genuine adults would, acknowledged that there are less-than-ideal aspects to their relationship and, where plausible, worked through them. So far, I'd say its almost been a big of an anti-climax, though one which feels all the more refreshing for being so. It isn't just Jake and Amy that get a solid relationship analysis though, with the whole third season seemingly focused around the precinct's love lives a lot more closely than in previous seasons. Both Boyle and Holt go through fairly serious and well-written plot arcs surrounding their love lives, though Rosa's relationship is a little more conceited.

Look, I get that she's a hothead and it makes for some funny television, but I still don't understand the entire plotline surrounding Pimento. Is the two-part finale a lot of fun and leave us with another brilliant cliff hanger? Yes, it is and it does, whilst also giving our characters some genuine police work and mystery which the show is a little lacking of. Is it nice to see Rosa actually get to show some different emotions? Yes, to an extent, though I'd argue her fling with Holt's nephew was a lot more in-character. Because that, ultimately, is the problem. Yes, Diaz is a hothead, but she's also extremely intelligent, logical and calculating; she doesn't make on-the-spot, rash decisions. She gets the same problematic treatment in the episode with her 'little brother'; she's clearly capable of understanding how rough being a teenager can be, so her flying off the handle doesn't make that much sense. Rosa isn't a character lacking empathy, she just chooses the Vulcan way (or, arguably, the Klingon way of anger) in most instances. Her character, then, gets a bit of a bum treatment throughout season three and her new love interest, Pimento, isn't much better. Initially I thought they could have some fun with a cop who's been undercover for over a decade, and whilst they do get some good narrative progression out of Jake as a result, overall it just feels overdone. Pimento isn't even vaguely believable as a character, nor is the idea that a police force would allow him anywhere near active duty. Holt is far too intelligent to not realise just how disturbed Pimento is and the result is a very unrealistic plot. Considering how late in the season he arrives, I feel they could have simply introduced him earlier and been able to build up the romance between him and Rosa, whilst tempering his insanity be several stops, and the result would have been much easier to swallow.

Which isn't to say that Brooklyn 99 has jumped any sharks. It's still a solid show with some brilliantly funny scripting, great characters and genuinely intriguing storylines. The probably final Halloween episode was a fitting end a nice touch, the Die Hard episode was brilliantly fun and great fan service, and Doug Judy's return was once again hilarious. The season starts on a high note, not just because of its fair treatment of workplace romance, but also in how it dealt with Holt's initial dismissal. Whilst I have praised the show in the past for quickly concluding previous finale cliffhangers, I actually really liked how they made Holt's return a slower, more drawn-out process, and the character growth it gave Jake was much needed. And even though I wasn't a big fan of the setup for the final plot arc, I did really enjoy most of the payoff. Seeing Amy get to be a badass undercover in prison was great, as was Jake owning up to his overbearing protectiveness and the complexity of dating someone putting their life on the line. Plus, the whole ending with Holt's friend in the FBI was brilliantly written and just plain funny, whilst remaining surprisingly suspenseful. Heck, even the failed wedding gave us Rosa's bachelorette party, which may have felt forced to exist but was a genuinely fun introspection on both her character and the way she fits in the team as a whole. So, whilst I won't mourne if Pimento himself never returns, I will definitely be looking forward to watching season four just as soon as I get a chance to!

Rewatch

I think I mind Pimento a lot less the second time around, though everything I've previously written about his character remains true. It's also interesting that Rosa felt so out of character at this stage, considering how the slightly madder part of her personality now feels like a core trait, so I'm generally less annoyed with the third season overall on second watch.

That said, it's still definitely a step backwards in some regards and I do wonder if Pimento will be seen as a turning point for the show in general once it's done.

Season Four

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Let the binge-watching continue! Season four really ups the ante in terms of plot lines. We start with Jake and Holt in witness protection in Florida, which is superb and has so many great cameos in it, including Jorma from the Lonely Island. It's a great three-parter that spirals out of control brilliantly and makes for a really pacy reintroduction to the series, whilst really broadening Holt as a character. Plus, C.J. is a great character to have fun with. Ridiculous and completely implausible, but less so than Pimento and so that's okay in my books.

Speaking of, I minded him much less on his return and I think they did his arc justice, even if it was just so we could see wedding planning Amy! Otherwise, it feels like the show was trying for a slightly more serious season. Amy and Jake continue to be excellent grownups working through normal couple stuff, but on top of that we got some really interesting episodes around Terry's racial profiling and Gina getting hit by a bus. Still, it also lets the lighter side shine, with the police convention a particular highlight, alongside the episode where Jake gets written into an awful character on an in-universe cop show. It's meta and I loved it.

Of course, it wouldn't be Brooklyn 99 without a huge cliffhanger, but after witness protection, I couldn't really think where it would go next. Jail, it turns out, was the answer. It's a big swing and I can't wait to see how they get the gang back together after this.

Rewatch

I had completely failed to realise that Maya Rudolph is yet another connection between Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place. There's some kind of conspiracy here, I know it. Beyond that, I still think this is a brilliant season with some of the strongest episodes that the show has put out, both in terms of comedy gold and hard-hitting topics dealt with gracefully. Brooklyn 99 continues to be an exceptionally nuanced and well written comedy and I can't wait for the new season to come out.

Season Five

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I was a little worried that Brooklyn 99 was having a yo-yo issue, with seasons swaying back and forth between excellent and a little disappointing, but season five but that track record on ice. I thought they handled the whole "jail" situation really well and – much like the start to the previous season – it got the show running very quickly. I'm glad that they quickly kicked Pimento out too. I ended up liking his character more each season, but he was still a bit too weird for the rest of the show, and that it gave Rosa the chance to come out as bi is an even better upside. It's another one of the show's more heartfelt moments and it's handled tactfully and positively.

In other areas, I think season five lags a little bit. Beyond the Halloween-episode-proposal – which is great – and the finale wedding/bomb threat – also great – there aren't many really great episodes. Even the Doug Judy pop up feels a little less memorable than normal. I don't think the show is necessarily slowing down at all, but it does feel like the lustre is fading a bit. Certainly, the big cliffhanger ending is a bit, well, boring. That said, I do understand that the show has a shaky status right now and this may be the last season. If that were the case, they wrapped things up neatly and I think went out on a high. If it isn't, I look forward to more in the future. There's still plenty of stories left to tell.

Season Six

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

I have been looking forward to more Brooklyn 99 for so long! It felt really great to dive back into the exploits of Jake, Amy, Terry and co once again. Unfortunately, I'm not sure the sixth season bodes all too well for the future.

Season five ended on a lacklustre cliffhanger, mainly because the show had an uncertain future, but it was no surprise to see Holt fail to get his promotion. It's not a surprise, but I do believe it was a mistake. As much as Holt has become a cornerstone of the show, I feel like keeping him behind left a plot gap that the season failed to really fill in any meaningful way. None of the episodes were badly written, the jokes still make me laugh, and I generally enjoyed things, but it felt more like the characters are treading water than ever before.

I think the Heist episode is a great example of this. The Halloween Heist has become a recurring moment of television gold, but this year it just felt ridiculous. Not only was it not Halloween (boooo!) but the plans were ridiculously convoluted, requiring almost every character to have been plotting for the entire year. The show even seemed aware of that, making the over-the-top antics a plot point at one stage, only to heel-spin that into yet another fakeout. It was fun, but it showed that the ideas are drying up. I've gotta throw Doug Judy onto that same pile. I love Craig Robinson's recurring role and most of the previous Pontiac Bandit episodes have been amazing, but this time it was just a bit bland. I can't even remember what the premise was.

My highlight of the season was seeing Hawk from Titans playing a young Hitchcock, which was a throwaway cameo in episode two. It was a great episode, actually exploring Hitchcock and Scully in a more nuanced way whilst consistently reminding us that they are the parodies of themselves. After that, most of the episodes just revolved around the beef between Holt and the new police commissioner, Kelly. The problem was, unlike previous season's villains, Kelly was just boring. He was enacting a racist policy, so you aren't rooting for him at all, but that's as deep as it went. Even when you discover he's using a Batman-esque listening device it just feels a bit farfetched and silly. There was never any real drama and the big ending – that Holt is back to being a beat cop – just felt a bit dull, too. I don't know, it was still a fun ride, but it's a far cry from the seasons that came before it.

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