[The following is a review of Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3, Episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
After two seasons, Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine has really settled into a nice groove, with the potential to be the next great ensemble workplace-based comedy (following on the heels of The Office, 30 Rock, and Parks & Recreation). That chemistry was put to the test with the season three premiere, though, as the dynamics of the workplace were severely strained by removing Andre Braugher’s stoic Captain Holt and lunatic administrator Gina (Chelsea Peretti).
It’s a common enough way to mix things up, bringing in new blood to shake up the chemistry, but unfortunately Bill Hader’s over-the-top performance as the new precinct captain, Dozerman, was more a distraction than an appreciated comedic addition. And while we knew he was only going to be a temporary replacement for the captain’s chair, I will say I was impressed by how he went down … and how quickly!
Ultimately, it came across as a cheap casting stunt — Hader is a Saturday Night Live alumnae with Andy Samberg — and a mismatched performance. Television shows develop a comedic rhythm and tone all their own, which can make it difficult for guest stars and new cast-members to fit in. Hader’s performance was amusing enough on its own, but it did not blend well with the established style and tone of the show, leaving him looking like a Looney Tunes cartoon character in this world. It was a bit jarring, which certainly made it easier when he collapsed the second time and ultimately died.
And so Captain Dozerman became simply one of those stereotypical road bumps that television couples always face. Was his death the universe telling Peralta (Samberg) and Santiago (Melissa Fumero) they shouldn’t try to make it work? Amy decided that might just be the case, so she called it off. In days of yore, this would have lasted at least half a season, but television works at an accelerated pace these days to combat our distracted society, so this break didn’t even last the remainder of the episode.
Of course, B99 did still take two full seasons to bring these crazy kids together, so it’s looking like season three will be the first phase of their relationship. It will be filled with all of those awkward firsts, like this week’s uncomfortable first date, and plenty of hiccups along the way.
But that’s what this premiere was really about. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is coming out of a strong sophomore season creatively, so it’s time to lay the foundation upon which the third season will be built. Rather than simply offering more of the same, the captain’s chair shuffle and the burgeoning relationship give the entire ensemble new material to play off of.
Joe Lo Truglio’s Boyle is way too invested in Jake and Amy’s new relationship, but who would have him any other way? On the other hand, office romantic Terry (Terry Crews) is already concerned with how it might impact the office and their job performances.
Braugher, who has become a comedic revelation on this show, was pushed front and center with his own major storyline to lead off this new season. Separated from the Nine-Nine with only Gina by his side, he’s challenged as we’ve not seen yet in his new position under his mortal foe Bureau Chief Wuntch (Kyra Sedgwick).
Peretti was incredibly tamed in the episode, removed from the precinct to join Braugher at his new position with the NYPD Public Affairs Division. They spend much of the episode naming the department’s new pigeon mascot, while Wuntch delights in tearing down and tormenting her old nemesis. We’ve heard for two years now how Holt has faced adversity throughout his career, but this is the first time we’ve really been shown it. And while it’s completely personal between Wuntch and Holt, she’s also one of the few people who can break through his stoicism.
Of course, we know Holt and Gina will be making their way back to the Nine-Nine at some point, but I don’t mind stepping back and taking a few minutes to see how he can overcome these latest humiliations. By the end of the half-hour, Wuntch has him standing in the pigeon costume, completely neutered and broken. But it’s Gina, proving once again her own leadership potential, who gives him the motivation to keep fighting. It should be an epic battle.
While Holt is battling for his dignity and his career, the precinct has its own war to wage. In the closing minutes of the premiere, their new-new captain arrives, and it’s everyone’s worst nightmare. Dean Winters is back as Detective Pembroke, “The Vulture”, and now he’s in charge. Even worse, he’s apparently going to continue dumping all over the team.
So it’s a workplace battle both home and away, with a side of Jake and Amy finally trying to make a relationship work. Sounds like Brooklyn Nine-Nine is off to yet another strong creative start with this third season. Looking forward to seeing where it goes.
Will there be a revolving door of disastrous captains while Holt is trapped under Wuntch’s thumb? How will Holt secure his return to the Nine-Nine? Who’s the most excited about Jake and Amy being together? Okay, that last one is easy. Boyle has been ‘shipping them forever!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine continues next Sunday with “The Funeral” at 8:30pm on Fox.