Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 3 aimed for greater depth – and came off feeling a little more superficial instead.
“Think of something super cool to say when we arrest him. My leading contender? ‘You’re going to jail for oolong time.’”
Do comedy shows need a decent plot to satisfy their audience? I’m not talking about that procedural-like, case-of-the-week nonsense – I’m thinking about an overarching narrative. Do the characters need to have arcs and grow beyond just the events of a single episode? Are we supposed to get invested in their lives and emotions rather than just their little quirks. Because if so, Brooklyn Nine-Nine might have a creative problem on its hands.
And yet, somehow, it’s one of my favourite comedies on television. Perhaps that’s down to the dearth in quality in light-hearted network TV right now, but no other show leaves me shaking with laughter on multiple occasions every episode. Over the course of three seasons, I’ve fallen in love with this motley crew of show-offs, neat-freaks, zany weirdos and food-obsessed fuck ups – without ever truly getting to know them.
The cast of characters are an incredibly likeable bunch, brought to life wonderfully by an incredibly talented ensemble of comedic actors. But, beyond their lovable idiosyncrasies and in-jokes, they’re pretty thinly-scripted. There’s no genuine depth to these people – no long-term sense of growth. Each episode may offer a little tug at the heartstrings as a character learns a life lesson, but it’s swiftly glossed over in time for the next joke.
Season 3 felt more superficial than ever – and no sub-plot highlights that better than Diaz & Pimento’s love affair. Whereas Jake & Amy’s blossoming romance proved to be a rare long-term success for the show during its first two seasons, the emphasis on slapstick/over-the-top humour undermined any chance of that happening here. Stephanie Beatriz is arguably B99‘s breakout star, and brings a charming brand of deadpan humour to every episode – but when the writers attempted to humanise her, it came off feeling fake or even insincere.
You could argue that talented showrunning duo Schur & Goor stabbed themselves in the foot by not incorporating this kind of depth from the outset. Had they done so, Season 3’s more blatant attempts to string together a multi-episode storyline (such as the one centred around Pimento) may have achieved their desired effect.
In the same vein as Amy & Jake’s courtship in past seasons, the one exception to this rule this time around proved to be Captain Holt’s long distance relationship with Kevin – thanks, largely, to some fine work from the incomparable Andre Braugher. Unlike the Pimento stuff, it was never overtly signposted, nor was it ever the focus of a multi-episode arc. Yet the strain between Holt & Kevin became increasingly noticeable throughout the year – thanks to Braugher’s little moments of solemn gravitas in the midst of all the madness.
And that’s exactly where Brooklyn Nine-Nine excels: in those moments within the madness. It was never made to be anything more consistent. If you want longform storytelling or dramatic weight, look to cable and Netflix comedies. In the meantime, I’ll settle for this weekly dose twenty minutes of laugh-track-free, side-splittingly hilarious chaos, and a delightful ensemble of quirky characters. You just have to wonder how long that can last?
Highlights: Halloween III | The Oolong Slayer | Yippie Kayack | 9 Days | The Cruise
I had thought writing about something as light-hearted as Brooklyn Nine-Nine would be relatively easy – but it took me several days to finish this. There’s (oddly) so many things to talk about with this series – I didn’t even have time to profess my love for Craig Robinson’s Pontiac Bandit (PB & J ride again!).