The most extraordinary thing about Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s big post-Super Bowl show? Besides a few unobtrusive cameos – compare them, for example, to Prince Presents New Girl: A Royal Post-Game Engagement Brought To You by Ford Focus – Sunday’s special episode was hardly extraordinary at all. Football itself came into play only once, during a brief cold open that pitted the Nine-Niners against their archnemeses in the FDNY; both A and B-plots revolved around fairly standard shenanigans in the office and in the field; even Adam Sandler managed to keep things toned down when he popped up briefly during the show’s second half. (He collects antiquities, and is writing a movie about Russian revolutionaries starring Kevin James as Trotsky – who knew!)
Happily, Brooklyn’s low-stakes gamble paid off. “Operation: Broken Feather” was as relaxed and confident as the show’s ever been, making it a great introduction for anyone who hasn’t yet been won over by fall’s best new sitcom. And as goofy as this may sound, the episode also did a fair amount of world-building – bringing back onetime guest stars like Patton Oswalt, Fred Armisen (peering around a barely opened door, as per usual), and Dean “Dennis From 30 Rock” Winters helped to establish that Brooklyn takes place in a universe populated by all kinds of amusing minor characters, not just the ones we see each week in the opening credits. Called it an attempted Springfieldification.
The show’s main player, of course, is still Jake Peralta, who’s in fine form throughout the half-hour – “scoring” a touchdown against Oswalt and his crew of surprisingly schlubby firefighters, noshing on a “breakfast burrito” that’s just a Fruit Roll-Up wrapped around a fistful of gummy bears, crashing a schmancy auction of “cool old Greek things” party to catch a perp and partly just because it seems like a fun thing to do.
Slowly but surely, though, Jake is starting to show a few signs of growth; even if we’re still weeks (or seasons) away from seeing his and Amy’s inevitable hookup, it’s nice to watch him begin the transition from “Sandler character at the beginning of the movie” to “Sandler character at the end of the movie.” In between those two poles, there will be plenty of growing pains… especially for poor Joe Theismann, who stopped by Brooklyn only to see his other leg get horrifically broken. Memo to Fox, home of The Following: The urge to show us the bone must have been tempting. Thanks a thousand times for resisting it.
As Peralta and Santiago hunt down a thief in Manhattan, the rest of the gang is working in Brooklyn – harder than usual, thanks to Holt and Terry’s brilliant/evil scheme to up productivity. Their plan – moving foodie Boyle far from the precinct’s crappy toaster oven, stationing surly Diaz by the bathroom to discourage pee breaks, distracting chatty Gina by placing her in front of a mirror – is thisclose to transforming the Nine-Nine forever… until everything quite literally goes up in flames. (Did anyone else have flashbacks of The Office’s own post-Super Bowl episode when that scene was happening? Not that there was actual fire in The Office’s version, but something about the bit’s amped-up intensity recalled “Stress Relief.”)
In the end, naturally, the status quo is restored once more – because Brooklyn is a sitcom, and sitcoms tend to have a finger hovered over the reset button. That’s no knock on Nine-Nine, though; as long as it stays this consistently funny, it’ll be a long while before I yearn for real forward momentum. In fact, right now, all I’m really yearning for is an instant replay of Peralta’s best line: “What the hell’s Othello? I was calling you the parrot from Aladdin.” (Close second: “And on the back, just a whole… bunch of wheat.”)