Brooklyn Nine-Nine returned for its third season last night and immediately went about providing answers to questions we had coming in. Those answers, in short: Yes, Jake and Amy are a thing now. No, Captain Holt is not totally gone. Yes, Bill Hader is the new captain of the Nine-Nine. Or rather, was the new captain. These will all require further explanation. Let’s do that.
One of the trickier parts of any workplace sitcom is the handling of a workplace “Will they or won’t they?” relationship. Look at the last two sitcoms produced by Mike Schur. On The Office, Jim and Pam exchanged stolen little flirty glances for two full seasons before they kissed, and then went through the whole third season in an awkward state of flux before Jim busted into Pam’s talking head shot and asked her on a date. Parks and Recreation took a different path, burning through a Brendanawicz and a Louis C.K. guest arc before spending the latter part of season three and the beginning of season four getting Ben and Leslie together. To me, both of those felt more earned than the Jake and Amy thing on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s not that I hated the whole arc that got us to this point, it’s just that… It never hooked me, I guess. Put it this way: I doubt there are hundreds of GIF Tumblrs dedicated to their burgeoning romance. This represents the truest and most accurate test of a TV relationship in 2015.
But with that said, I do give Brooklyn Nine-Nine a lot of credit for how they handled things in the season premiere. The little okie-doke they pulled was really refreshing, first nodding toward both the “secret office romance” thing and the “let’s keep this professional and just be friends” thing (either of which they could have used to drag everything out for another season), only to turn around and have them sleep together and make it all public. There’s something to be said for just cannonballing into the pool instead of tip-toeing down the steps one at a time. Will it — meaning the romance itself and as a plotline — work? No idea. But it’s definitely happening.
Elsewhere, Captain Holt and Gina are off in the public-relations department naming pigeons. My official response.
Spinning Holt and Gina away from the group, even if it ends up only being temporary, seemed a little dangerous at first. They’re the show’s two most reliably funny characters for very different reasons. (See Gina’s pitches for Linetti, Set, Go and a fragrance called “Gina in a Bottle,” contrasted with Andre Braugher giving the full Andre Braugher to the pronunciation of names of a pigeon mascot.) Putting them off on an island together ran the risk of somehow being too much and not enough. But if episode one of the experiment is any indication, this will work out juuuuust fine. Part of me hopes they spend the entire season coming up with names for mascots or neighborhood-outreach programs together. Possibly in bird costumes. It could work.
Speaking of things that worked, this brings us to the best part of the premiere: Bill Hader’s brief, intense turn as Captain Dozerman. Back when it was announced that he would be stepping in for Braugher as the unit’s new top banana, I was excited. Bill Hader is a treasure, from his run on SNL to the brilliant work he and Fred Armisen just put in on IFC’s Documentary Now. And from his first moments on screen here, barking about efficiency and handing out tablets with his face and a countdown clock on them, it looked like we were in for another memorable performance. Creating a character like that and then killing him off right away is either the sign of a show brimming with confidence or a show that has totally lost its mind in the best way possible. Either way, it has my full support. R.I.P. Captain Dozerman. We met you, laughed with you, and then said goodbye, all in under 30 minutes. Your commitment to efficiency is truly inspiring.
And the best part of Dozerman’s tragic, makeout-induced coronary? Dean Winters, the Vulture himself, striding into the precinct to take over and promptly calling everyone ding dongs. He’s been great in spot duty as Jake’s case-stealing archenemy, so putting him in charge should prove to be interesting, if nothing else, especially if he stays in full Dennis Duffy mode the whole time, as he was in limited action in the premiere. In fact, can we really rule out the possibility that this season will reveal that “Dennis Duffy, Beeper King” was actually just part of an undercover sting by the Vulture? Yes, we probably can. But it’s fun to pretend!