Jake And Rosa Go To ‘The Big House’ For The ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Premiere

A review of tonight’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine fifth season premiere coming up just as soon as I flex my eyes to keep from crying…

It’s now a tradition for for Brooklyn to end each season with a cliffhanger that removes one or more cops from the Nine-Nine, and also a tradition for the next season to undo it within a few episodes. Jake and Rosa’s incarceration seems like it may be trickier to undo than others — especially since the premiere suggests Santiago, Boyle, and the others have hit a dead end in trying to exonerate them — but I’m hopeful it doesn’t last too long, because this temporary status quo really pushes up against the show’s tonal limits.

Brooklyn has generally done a great job of maintaining its goofy tone while treating the characters at least semi-seriously as cops, but can struggle on occasion when the cases get really intense. Sometimes, the awfulness of the crime successfully becomes the joke, like Jake and Holt struggling to overcome their glee at investigating a serial killer in “The Oolong Slayer” (the episode that undid the season two cliffhanger, in fact), but at other times the gravity of a situation can undercut the jokes, or vice versa.

That’s largely how I felt about the Jake half of “The Big House, Part 1.” The idea of Tim Meadows as Jake’s cannibal cellmate Caleb made me laugh when I first heard about it, but the execution — particularly the repeated jokes about his victims having been children — seemed to belong on a different, vastly darker show. It seems like the creative team is trying to make Caleb’s crimes so extreme that they can’t help but seem ridiculous, but I cringed each and every time. Ditto some of the threats against Peralta, and particularly the one Lou Diamond Phillips’ Romero issues to him in the closing scene, even if the goal of that moment was to illustrate just how badly Jake needs to stay in touch with Amy.

The Rosa half of things was much better, both because the stakes were lower — Rosa forcing Holt and Terry to do annoying errands for her to get them to treat her like they did pre-prison — and because when all else fails, Brooklyn can still generate enormous laughs from making Andre Braugher say and do things that seem vastly beneath both Captain Holt’s dignity and his own. Holt trapped on the phone with Rosa’s cable company was a delight, for instance, but hearing Braugher say “Yas queen” in his usual stentorian tones was a moment of pure joy.

I haven’t seen “Part 2” yet, but assume Goor and company have a prompt exit strategy plotted for this arc, even if I can’t see it yet. The Holt/Terry scenes suggested that once we’re back to the precinct full-time, the show can keep on with all the comic wonder it had to offer last season, while the Jake scenes left me hoping the writers reconsider the cliffhanger tradition when they get closer to the end of this season.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@uproxx.com. He discusses television weekly on the TV Avalanche podcast. His next book, Breaking Bad 101, is out 10/10 and available for preoder now.