On the 10th of May, 2018, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was cancelled by Fox. Ironically this was the first time I had really heard of the show, as within minutes of the news breaking several famous people I follow on Twitter expressed their shock. Never did I expect Luke Skywalker, Samwise Gamgee and the Master of Monsters to team up but Mark Hamill, Sean Astin and Guillermo del Toro, among others, begged Fox to revive a show that at that time I had no real interest idea in. 31 hours later the series was saved by NBC (thus becoming like fellow beloved ex-Fox comedy Futurama) and life went on as normal. Fast forward six months and I’m scrolling through Netflix to find a new show to watch. My decision to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine is two-fold- firstly my love for Micheal Schur’s other NBC show The Good Place and also to see just what some of my favourite film personalities have in common other than being awesome. Two months and four seasons later (fortunately we have an airdate for Season 5 on Netflix- March 8th, so I can finally catch up) and I can’t recall a time Brooklyn Nine-Nine wasn’t in my life. Season 6 airs for the first time in the US today, and while it’ll be a while before I can see it it’s worth looking back at what we have now-
This show is simply awesome. Quite why Fox decided to initially cancel it is beyond me (although this is also the same company that decided to cancel Futurama, never even let Firefly finish its first season and thinks doing another Phoenix saga will work so…) because Brooklyn Nine-Nine is one of the funniest, entertaining and original television shows currently airing. The show focuses on the fictional escapades of New York’s ninety-ninth police precinct as new Captain Raymond Holt clashes with the precinct’s hot-headed and often lazy Detective Jake Peralta. From this initial conflict spawns a brilliantly written ensemble sit-com that is not only hilarious but genuine and brought to life with amazing characters.
There is not a single bad character in this show, or even a character that’s merely OK. Each member of the Nine-Nine is wonderful and through the seasons evolve into fully fledged personalities. Jake Peralta is an endearing lead and I have certainly become a huge Andy Samberg fan since discovering this show. Sure, Peralta is a bit lazy, a bit immature and often annoying to his co-workers but he has a good heart and is a genuinely great detective when he wants to be. If at first you find him a bit grating, and I understand if the early episodes present a slightly irritating lead but just keep watching- the layers to this character are so well thought out. Peralta is supported by one of the greatest cast of characters on television. Terry Crews is… let’s be honest, playing Terry Crews… as the yogurt loving loyal husband and father who gets some of the best episodes and laughs of the series. There’s the hyperactive and lovably idiotic Charles Boyle, the snarky secretary Gina Linetti, Jake’s competitor turned girlfriend Amy Santiago, the inseparable buffons Hitchcock and Scully and everyone’s favourite deadpan Raymond Holt. Andre Braugher is perfect in this role and like Peralta, Holt seems a bit static and one-dimensional until we learn more about him. Having fought against prejudice from his race and sexuality for decades from within his own job, Holt finally gets the job he desires and finds himself having to command a detective who simply doesn’t respect him- at first. Through excellent writing and hilarious plots, Peralta and Holt become television’s most unlikely comedy double act. If the Oscars still haven’t found a host by the time I write this, may I suggest Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher in character as Peralta and Holt. Trust me, you’ll actually have me watching.
If you watch this show or seen the promotions you’ll realise I’ve missed out a character. I haven’t. I’m simply saving the awesome nature of Detective Rosa Diaz for a separate paragraph, as I usually do when I need to go in depth as to why I love a character. Rosa, as you probably guessed, is my favourite character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. She is simply a perfect character, and I wish there were more episodes focused mostly on her (I know Season 5 focuses on her a great deal, which I’m looking forward to a lot). It’s the fact that despite being completely unreadable you know exactly what she is thinking, her tough as nails demeanour that hides a more vulnerable and self doubting individual, her intimidating nature which can be dropped at a moment’s notice to be a kinder and softer figure and of course the fact that every. Single. Line. She. Says. Is. Gold. Every line. Even if she has only one line in the episode, it’ll either be a savage insult, a hilarious commentary on the situation or a combination of the two. Let’s have Rosa Diaz team up with Rick Sanchez and Skulduggery Pleasant as the Sass Squad- any criminal will be taken out with ease through their sheer skill, provided the criminal doesn’t turn themselves in due to the amount of one-liners they’ll endure if they don’t.
So we have the wonderful cast and the fantastic characters, and that in and of itself justifies the existence of the show. I could sit and watch the nine leads (Hitchcock and Scully ARE part of the main cast no matter what the opening credits say) talk for a whole episode and I’ll be happy. In fact, some of the best episodes are the ensemble pieces which don’t even always have a crime as the focus- like the best sitcoms, this show can deal with any sort of episode. Pure silliness, social commentary and satire, parodies, straightforward crime with a comedic element, a character piece… you name it, you got it. Oh, and this series has the best cold opens of all time. They’re all gold. Whilst I haven’t seen Series 5 yet so it may be premature to do a list, for now, these are my 15 favourite episodes of the show from the first four seasons. Yes, 15. There’s just too much good in the four seasons I’ve seen and I don’t think there’s any bad ones, as even the ones with weaker plots or slower pacing still has hilarious jokes. With that aside, let’s take a look at the best outings for the Nine-Nine-
15. Serve and Protect- Season 4, Episode 14
This episode takes place in the middle of an arc that sees the Nine-Nine be audited for inspection. Unfortunately first Amy’s, then Terry’s vengeful exes are the auditors, putting the future of the precinct in jeopardy. Whilst the Terry plot is great here, the reason this episode makes in onto the list is due to Jake and Rosa’s investigation on a set of a television show that sees none other than Captain Malcolm Reynolds himself, Nathan Fillion, make a hilarious and scene stealing guest appearance. Literally anything Fillion touches is gold, and his character is a genius send up of method actors. The episode also features some great commentary on the state of the television industry. Honestly we should just call this the “Episode where cancelled Fox shows team up”.
14. Lockdown- Season 2, Episode 7
In this Thanksgiving bottle episode, the precinct is put in lockdown when a mysterious powder speculated to be anthrax is discovered. Adding to the complications is that both the Captain and Sergeant Terry Jeffords (yes, the character was written with Terry Crews in mind) are out of the precinct, leading Peralta in charge. This episode makes excellent use of the ensemble and has one of the finest moments in the show with the visual gag of Andre Braugher on a bouncy ball. The episode focuses on Jake as for once he is put into a position of authority and must keep the large amount of people locked inside from leaving. Hilarity and character growth ensues. You can always rely on Brooklyn Nine-Nine delivering a quality bottle episode.
13. Skyfire Cycle- Season 4, Episode 8
The above clip is perfection. Andre Braugher deserved an award for the simple utterance of the word “Bone”. But even if the Holt/Amy/Rosa subplot and the hilarious meeting of the Council of Boyle Cousins were cut from the episode I reckon it would make the list based on the strength of the A-plot. Terry and Jake investigate death threats made by one of Terry’s favourite authors and the episode takes a good look at Terry’s character and his background and passions. As my second favourite character of the show I always find the Terry focused episodes to be very strong and entertaining and this episode also throws in some subtle criticism of toxic fan culture and celebrity statuses. It’s not often that all the plots of an episode are equally strong but the strength of all three makes this a classic episode.
12. The Pontiac Bandit Returns- Season 2, Episode 10
One of the show’s best recurring characters is Doug Judy, aka The Pontiac Bandit. Jake’s arch-nemesis, Judy is able to escape capture each time they meet and Jake treats him as his number one threat- except when they meet and they out-charm each other into being friends. In this encounter, Judy offers to help Jake and Rosa track down a drug kingpin, whose capture will help give Holt and Rosa credibility in the police force. Throw in hilarious interplay between Peralta and Judy, a fast paced plot and a Christmas themed setting to boot and we have a great sequel episode, conclusion episode and holiday special in one. One aspect of this show I love is how there are recurring elements, arcs and characters, which a lesser show would ignore.
11. Adrian Piemento- Season 3, Episode 17
This episode kickstarts the epic Jimmy Figgis arc, which spans ten episodes and two seasons. Adrian Piemento is the walking barrel of pitch black humour that begins the whole plot, as he returns to the Nine-Nine after years of being undercover and it’s up to Jake to help him rehabilitate. The episode is also supported by strong subplots, as the Nine-Nine engages with a psychological battle with Mean Marge the cleaning lady and Gina attempts to make a film to advertise the precinct with some… uncooperative actors in the form of Holt and Rosa. But the core of this episode is a fascinating one, as Jake has legitimately no clue how to react to Piemento yet wants to try his best. All this combines to make one of the all-round great episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
10. USPIS- Season 2, Episode 8
As part of the ongoing arc to track down the supplier of the drug called Gigglepig (which is resolved in Pontiac Bandit Returns) Rosa is given a taskforce to hunt the drug down. In this episode, she assigns Jake and Boyle to work with USPIS (United States Postal Inspection Service) and Special Agent Danger to investigate the use of post boxes in the Gigglepig case. This episode features a great guest performance by Ed Helms as Danger and he and Andy Samberg have a lot of fun winding each other up, with Boyle serving as the hilarious straight man to the two immature children. The subplot is also great fun, with the rest of the squad trying desperately to help Amy quit smoking. A memorable episode that shows how Jake’s methods often lead others to dislike him.
9. House Mouses- Season 3 Episode 16
Most shows have an episode that focus on a minor character, and this wonderful episode focuses on Brooklyn 99’s secret weapons- Hitchcock and Scully. The two senior detectives were once good… maybe… but nowadays they just do paper work and make coffee, being too lazy and stupid to do anything else. So when Jake, desperate to work on a celebrity case, gives what appears to be a minor drug operation to the duo, hilarity ensues when he and Terry must stop them from messing it up as it turns out to be the largest drug bust the precinct has ever seen. I love it when Hitchcock and Scully are involved with the main storylines and another rare duo in Boyle and Holt work on a case that exposes hidden layers to Holt. If I was to show someone a strong example of a standalone 99 episode, this would be it.
8. The Coral Palms Trilogy- Season 4 Episodes 1-3
The Jimmy Figgis storyline reaches its momentous conclusion with this epic trilogy that’s essentially a Brooklyn Nine-Nine feature film. Forced to go into witness protection in Florida, Jake and Holt (otherwise known as Greg and Larry to hide their identities) plot to end their hiding by taking Figgis (a menacing Eric Roberts) out themselves. The first episode is a two piece between Jake and Holt as they plan their escape, whilst the rest of the Nine-Nine are thrown into the mix when they disobey their new captain to go to Florida and help their friends. This series of episodes are noticeably darker and more plot based than the average episode but the whole arc serves as one of the finest examples of the show balancing multiple plotlines, satisfyingly resolving ongoing stories and providing excellent ensemble based comedy.
7. The Bureau- Season 3, Episode 22
Whilst this is technically a linked story with the rest of the Pimento/Figgis saga, this is such an outstanding episode of plotting and entertainment I have to distinguish it. With the help of Special Agent Bob Anderson, who to Jack’s delight is just as deadpan and dry as Holt, Jake, Rosa and the Captain break into New York’s FBI headquarters in order to gain information on a corrupt FBI agent who is in league with Figgis. The heist is gloriously constructed and put together (the highlight is Gina teaching Holt all about Sex and the City in order to distract the security guard) and this is balanced with two equally engaging plots with Terry investigating a leak at the precinct and Amy undercover in prison befriending Figgis’s ex-wife. Oh, and there’s a prolonged sequence of Holt and Anderson saying “Let’s break into the FBI”. It is quite possibly the greatest thing ever broadcast.
6. The Last Ride- Season 4, Episode 15
Following the events of Serve and Protect, the Nine-Nine comes to term with the fact that there is a high chance it will be shut down. In the wake of the show’s cancellation and revival it’s a bit more poignant now and each character is wonderfully fleshed out in this low key episode that is obviously not the end but absolutely feels like it. Holt tries to teach Amy everything he wanted to teach her, Terry tries to solve one last case in order to beat Hitchcock’s record of arrests whilst Jake and Charles go on an epic quest that starts as a simple bicycle theft before turning into a major crime scene. If there was any doubt that this show could handle genuine emotion, then the scenes in the car with Jake and Charles dispel them. The episode is simply wonderful and would have been a more than satisfying conclusion in its own right. Fortunately it wasn’t.
5. The Fugitive- Season 4 Episode 11-12
This thrilling feature length two parter from the middle of Season 4 would have been a tense and brilliant chase for nine criminals in its own right, but in this show any case can become equally engaging yet gut-bustingly funny as Hitchcock and Scully make a cookie pizza in amidst the action. Everything the show is good at is doubled in a higher stakes plot that sees the 99 handle one their toughest cases yet. At the end of Part 1 all but one of the criminals are caught, and who else to find than the criminal’s brother Doug Judy? In classic two part fashion the second part builds on what the first established and is both completely different yet similar. I just love this story’s ambition and ability to throw new plotlines and mystery at every turn.
4. Cheddar- Season 3, Episode 18
Is Cheddar the most complex episode? No. Is it the most entertaining and the greatest demonstration of the show as an ensemble? Yes. Jake offers to dog sit Holt’s dog Cheddar whilst the Captain visits his husband Kevin in Paris and Jake thinks it will be a nice easy task. But when an allergic to dogs Amy and a currently blind Boyle are thrown into the mix the dog escapes and the whole precinct must find him whilst Gina tries to stall Holt from returning from the airport. This episode is just gag after gag after gag, with some of the best comedic set pieces and situations in the entire show. The highlight is Rosa and Pimento’s… interesting way of flirting and Terry’s perfect reactions. Despite the plot being a missing dog and the humour never being better there is still good character development for Holt, Pimento, Rosa and Jake, making this an iconic episode of the show.
3. Yippie Kayak- Season 3, Episode 10
One of the main recurring aspects of Jake’s character is his worship of Die Hard. So it was only natural for Season 3’s annual Christmas episode to homage the second best Christmas film of all time* with this pitch perfect parody. Whilst doing late night shopping for Christmas Jake, Gina and Boyle are caught up in a store robbery, locking them inside as Jake’s dream comes true. Whilst the episode may not work as well if you haven’t seen Die Hard (although who hasn’t?) this is still a humorous and excellent piece of television with great comedy set pieces and brilliant pacing. This episode has joined the list of annual Christmas media I watch and it’s a worthy addition. Oh, and if you hate the Vulture as much as everyone else then this will be the best episode ever.
*The first being Batman Returns, which is an undeniable fact that cannot be argued.
2. Moo Moo- Season 4, Episode 16
Whilst Brooklyn Nine-Nine is predominantly a comedy show, it also occasionally gets into the reality of police work and issues it faces. In this episode, Terry is stopped and searched by a police officer whilst searching for his daughter’s blanket (the titular Moo Moo) simply for being a black man in a black neighbourhood. Terry understandably wishes to register a complaint, but Holt surprisingly refuses to register it. What follows is a brilliant and expertly layered discussion on race and how to tackle racism in the police force whilst Terry comes to terms with the work he loves betraying him. It’s a deep and mature subject matter to tackle and the episode eschews the usual format to focus almost entirely on Terry and Holt, with Jake and Amy being left to tell Terry’s children the reality of what’s happening. Andre Braugher excels as usual but it’s Terry Crews who carries the episode with his nuanced performance. He’s a hugely underrated performer and he’s my choice for The Thing in the MCU. Not every episode is like this but I’m glad when one does come around.
1. All Halloween episodes
These episodes are the definitive Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes. It starts in Season One, with Jake betting that he can steal Holt’s Medal of Valor from him on Halloween. From there an annual event happens that escalates each and every year with the situations and heists getting more and more absurd. I cannot explain why these episodes are so good but they just are. The humour is perfect, the situations wonderful and the characters on top form. Theses episodes are infinitely rewatchable due to how each one has been set up by whichever character will end up winning and just when you think they can’t get more ridiculous… they do. What can I say? These episodes justify Halloween’s existence.
The great thing about this wonderful show is this time next year I’ll have changed a lot of my list. I’ve only discovered Brooklyn Nine-Nine recently but it is now one of my top five favourite shows of all time. May it reign supreme on NBC for years to come.