Sitcom premieres are weird. At this point and time in television, we’re conditioned to view premieres as events, but sitcoms, inherently the most laid-back form of the TV medium there is, challenge that idea. What do we really want from an ensemble sitcom then? Reassurance. Confirmation that everything you loved, from the sharp-witted writing to the fully game cast delivering it, hasn’t suddenly gone stale, as sitcoms are wont to do at any given moment. And if Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s premiere is to be believed, then the best new sitcom of last year didn’t lose any steps over the summer.
Last night’s premiere, titled “Undercover,” could’ve easily picked up where last season ended to kick off year two with an arc that found Andy Samberg’s man-child detective Jake Peralta undercover. A three- or four-episode storyline with Peralta doing his best to fit in with a bunch of Paulie Walnuts, while pretending to be at odds with his co-workers could’ve been funny and exciting, for sure. But actual police work has always ranked low on the list of this show’s goals. Instead the premiere just gave viewers exactly what we’ve been waiting for all summer: the wacky Nine-Nine fam riffing off of each other’s weirdness in the precinct bullpen. As “Undercover” reinforced, the chemistry among this cast is just top notch, even during an episode that’s relatively light on the show’s bread-and-butter pairing of Peralta and Andre Braugher’s deadpan-delivery machine Captain Holt.
The season picks up with Jake finally completing the months long titular undercover operation against the local mob, while back at the Nine-Nine Captain Holt keeps mysteriously forcing the squad to engage in citizen walk-in exercises. Jake, ever the manchild, is far too focused on his recent loss—confessing his feelings to Amy (Melissa Fumero) at the worst possible time—to be satisfied with his win, so he reassumes his cover to get the one mobster who got away.
Here, Peralta spends most of his time paired with Boyle, Joe Lo Truglio’s hapless but lovable goofball, who’s lowkey beginning to steal the show away from MVPs like Terry Crews and Braugher. That this case goes absolutely nowhere—Jake and Boyle don’t even come close to catching the wiseguy who slipped through the net and a good chunk of the story is spent bantering with his side chick—is beside the point. It gives Boyle an excuse to try and make undercover safari hats a thing, and, not to mention, it allows for a great bit of physical comedy. The episode's high point has got to be the moment Boyle tries to unlock himself from his car to help Jake on an operation.
Meanwhile Captain Holt’s walk-in scenarios are basically just a (very welcome) excuse to make the giant Terry Crews do things that are hilariously out of character for a man of his size, like play a 7-year-old kid. And Andre Braugher owned every scene with one instantly memorable one-liner after another.
Of course, things are going to look slightly different this season. Jake’s feelings for Amy are out in the open, and given her decision to let him down gently, it’s likely many more cases this season will be spurred from Jake’s need to distract himself. More sexual tension is imminent. The obvious play would’ve been to have Boyle and Gina’s (Chelsea Peretti) hookup come out to the rest of the squad, but now that it’s a two-night stand the fallout should be even more must-watch. And finally, starting next week Kyra Sedgwick will once again play a Deputy Chief, but instead of closing cases she’ll be scheming to close the Nine-Nine thanks to an old rivalry with Holt. Judging from last night—a solid, place-setting B+ of an episode—we should be in for a fun season. If you slept on last season then now’s the perfect time to hop on the bandwagon: Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the new, great workplace sitcom we all need in our TV diets.
Frazier Tharpe is a staff writer at Complex. He tweets here.