[This is a review of Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 2, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
When the writers of Brooklyn Nine-Nine sent Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) on a top secret six-month undercover assignment with the FBI after his engineered dismissal from the NYPD in the season 1 finale, it was natural to wonder how they would get Peralta back into the 99th Precinct house again and how long it would take once the second season began. The answer? It took about five minutes for Peralta to find himself back, his assignment seemingly over after he signaled a raid on a mob wedding where he had just given the toast and locked lips with the male crime family elders.
What did Jake experience in his time away? Unfortunately, he's forced to shorthand his rundown when Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) gives him 12 seconds to swap stories, but he did smoke a whole cigar without vomiting. What has the precinct been up to? Unfortunately, Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) also embraces brevity.
If not for Jake's inquiry on the status of Santiago's relationship with Teddy, it would be almost as if he had never left (even Gina is stuck in the events that took place on the night that Jake left as she stresses that Boyle will confess their affair to Jake - which is the least of her worries by episode's end), but her admission that that relationship is still ongoing and Jake's decision to undercut his previous admission that he "liked" her mostly drives this episode. Without that rejection, we have to assume that Jake wouldn't have been so eager to go back undercover after finding out that the FBI only caught 15 of their 16 targets - a risk that he brushes aside, by revealing that once you sing Billy Joel karaoke with a mobster, you're bonded for life.
To assist him in his assignment, Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) is recruited to play against type, putting on the visage of a cop with a taste for getting physical - something that is a challenge considering Boyle's deep adoration for Jake and the need to absolutely punch him the face and possibly kick him in the balls in the presence of anyone from the underworld. Hilariously, Charles really gives the task his all and even goes overboard. Pent up aggression over Jake's absence, perhaps?
Besides Truglio, Terry Crews makes the biggest supporting player contribution thanks to his summer lisp cutaway and the torturous day he puts Diaz and Santiago through - by role playing walk-in cases for the detectives to solve at the Captain's insistence.
Though we get to the bottom of Holt's thinking (he wants everyone to be prepared for the arrival of the new commissioner), the gags feel like filler. Funny filler (try getting the image of Terry Crews in a bouncy castle out of your head), but a less satisfying use of the supporting cast than we're used to when it comes to this show that fares best when it finds a way to equally work everyone into the mix and embrace its ensemble nature more.
With that said, though, this was an important episode for Jake, who misses out on capturing his target and eventually finds the sense to tell Santiago that he really does like her and that he won't try to break up her relationship with Teddy - an about face that gives the show a sense of direction for Jake and Santiago's will-they/won't-they relationship going forward.
Naturally, with any relationship like that on a TV show, the hope is that it doesn't become the entire show and that's doubly true here since Santiago isn't a very deep character at this point; not to mention, this show is more gag based and less story driven, while also less character-heavy and heartfelt than past shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation. Those shows, while they never entirely lost themselves in puppy love, did alter their focus a bit as Jim/Pam and Ben/Leslie, respectively, started to garner more of the spotlight.
Incidentally, Brooklyn Nine-Nine co-creator Michael Schur worked/works as a producer on both of those shows, but hopefully he recognizes the many ways that those series are different from this one, as we go down this path with Jake and Santiago.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sundays on FOX @8:30PM ET.