I love Parks and Recreation. I love The Good Place. You would think I’d have been all over Brooklyn Nine-Nine as it’s cocreated by Michael Schur, the creator of both Parks and Recreation and The Good Place. And yet, I’m not. Well, that’s not true. It’s not that I’m not a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s that I’d literally never seen an episode before this year. I love Michael Schur and I love Andy Samberg and I’ve somehow never seen Brooklyn Nine-Nine. So, what would possess me to start watching the show with its seventh season? Honestly, sheer curiosity. The screeners for the premiere came out right as The Good Place was ending and I was curious to see how someone who’d never seen an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine might fair tuning into the seventh season? So, that’s exactly what I did. I watched the entire seventh season as it aired. I had a friend who was a Brooklyn Nine-Nine fanatic fill in background info or recommend previous episodes that would be of vital importance to understanding the context of one of the new episodes (I have no seen the first seven episodes of season one, the first three Halloween episodes, the episode with Bill Hader, and the first Jimmy Jabs Games episode). So, in that context, how was the seventh season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine? In short: it was great. It’s turned me into a fan of the show and I eagerly look forward to binging the entirety of the first six seasons as soon as possible. (Spoilers for the entirety of season seven of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.)
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” follows the exploits of hilarious Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his diverse, lovable colleagues as they police the NYPD’s 99th Precinct. After Capt. Raymond Holt’s (Andre Braugher) demotion to patrolman at the end of season six, the squad’s world is turned upside down.
Rounding out the ensemble is the newly promoted Lt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews), a muscle-bound human mountain who loves nothing more than his three little daughters, except for a fresh carton of full-fat yogurt. The man loves yogurt. Reporting to him is Sgt. Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero), a consummate rule follower with a weak spot for dork dancing and her husband, Jake.
The other detectives in the squad include Jake’s best friend and human puppy dog, Det. Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio), and the incredibly secretive, tough-as-nails Det. Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz). Also part of the Nine-Nine are veteran officers Det. Scully (Joel McKinnon Miller) and Det. Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker), whose only skill as police officers are their ability to make a passable pot of coffee.
I finally understand what the appeal of this show is. It’s the characters. From the moment I started this season, the characters are what hooked me into the show. They are so fully formed, feel so lived-in, and are just so immediately likable that it’s hard not to be drawn into their stories. I supposes that’s the benefit of having six years of stories in your belt. But, man, these characters are just so much fun. You can tell that Michael Schur had a hand in this show, even though he’s not the showrunner, because these characters feel like the kinds of characters he tends to usher into the world. They’re flawed but you love them anyway. Luckily, I had some background knowledge coming into this, so I already understood a lot of the ongoing relationships (I knew Amy and Jake were married) so I don’t think it’s too hard for new viewers to understand the complexities of the relationships in the show. Even though I’d only just met Amy and Jake, I was immediately invested in their ability to conceive their baby. I wanted to see Holt get reinstated as the captain of the squad. I wanted to spend time with Rosa and Terry and Boyd. I even enjoyed Scully and Hitchcock (in small doses, of course). Heck, I was even intrigued by a lot of the guest characters – Vanessa Bayer’s character was a hoot and a half and I loved her entire plotline. Overall, it’s clear that Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s characters are its strongest point and this season shows that off extremely well.
Not only were the characters enjoyable, but so were the episodes. There was not a dud within these thirteen episodes – and that’s impressive for any show. Having seen a handful of other episodes, I know that Brooklyn Nine-Nine certainly has some less-than-stellar episodes which is what makes season 7 as impressive as it is. All of these stories are really good ones. There’s a really nice mixture of silly, case of the week plots and storylines that tie into some of the ongoing character arcs. I tend to dislike when shows use a lot of time jumps, but this season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine used them extremely well in two separate episodes (“Trying” and “Valloweaster”) and I was genuinely blown away by how much I liked those episodes. Episodes like “Debbie” and “Dillman” were hysterical because they were such ridiculous ideas and a show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine thrives on ridiculous ideas. Even the episodes that relied heavily on background info (more on that shortly) landed really well for me as I felt the show did a good job of explaining that previous history enough that I could fill in the rest of the dots. I’m willing to go along with a lot of stuff in sitcoms, so it’s not hard to get me onboard with a show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine – especially when the episodes are this good.
It’s remarkably impressive how accessible the seventh season of this show is. I know I had a friend who was filling me in on any gaps I had, but I rarely felt like I was missing anything. The show, and its writers, do an absolutely impressive job at ensuring the show is accessible to new viewers while remaining appealing and exciting to longtime viewers. This season was filled with numerous callbacks to old jokes, returns of fan-favorite characters, and several moments that literally made my friend squeal with joy but throughout the whole season, I always felt included. The show would set up these moments in ways that would clue new viewers in on what’s going on without feeling like a needless rehash for longtime viewers. I understood the context of the jokes and still found them funny, even though I didn’t have the knowledge that it was fulfilling some longstanding thing or calling back to an old joke. Doug Judy was funny even though I hadn’t seen his other episodes. Meeting Kevin and Cheddar was great, even though I’d never met them before – that episode ranks as one of my favorites of the season. All of these moments worked really well for a new fan and I can only imagine how well they worked for returning fans. Overall, the show managed to perfectly strike a balance between appeasing both groups of people and it’s something the writers should be immensely proud of.
I really appreciated the season’s overarching plotline. Sure, it was a loose one and it only made appearances in half of the episodes, or so, but it did provide everything with a nice connective tissue. We start the season with Jake and Amy deciding to try to have a baby and then we end the season with the birth of their baby. Even though I didn’t fully grasp just how big a storyline this was for longtime fans, it was still an exciting storyline to follow. The season premiere quickly hooked me into it, explaining why this matters to Jake and Amy and why it should matter to me. And from there, I was hooked. I rooted for them and mourned with them as they struggled to conceive their child and I cheered loudly when they finally succeeded. Having the season finale be the culmination of that plotline was such a smart idea. On a simple structural level, it raised the stakes of the episode and separated it from being any other episode in this mostly-episodic series. But on a fan-fulfillment level, it was something to get the fans really excited. It was the delivery of a promise made to them and it was done in such a way that felt so true to the characters and so satisfying, even for this new fan. I loved every bit of this storyline and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a large part of what hooked me into this show.
All in all, it was certainly a weird experience jumping into a show during its seventh season but Brooklyn Nine-Nine immediately welcomed me in. I was greeted with some amazingly written and performed characters that I immediately connected with and wanted to see more of. I got to see thirteen well-written episodes that made me laugh, cry, and see the show in its best light. Season 7 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has made me want to immediately binge watch the previous six seasons so that I can fully understand the love people have for this show, and so I can be a part of that love. It’s such a fun show with such joyful moments and I really appreciate the fact that the cast and crew try to keep it accessible for new viewers while still taking care of their longtime fans. It’s a really hard balance to nail and it’s impressive to see it done so well. To anyone who isn’t watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine – just start somewhere. The show will take care of you and you won’t regret getting into it.
4.5 out of 5 wands.