Review: ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ – ‘The Party’

A review of last night’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” coming up just as soon as I give our kiss umami flavor…

Even though most of it aired out of primetime, Sunday’s episode was by far the highest-rated of the series (and most likely always will be, unless it somehow gets another post-Super Bowl showcase when FOX next has the game in a few years). I’m skeptical that many (or even any) of those new viewers tuned in for “The Party,” but if they did, they saw a comedy that’s just on fire right now.

This late in the season, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is so confident, and has done such a good job defining all its characters, that it can easily deposit everyone in new location and a different kind of story (though Peralta does wind up solving a mystery by the end) and make it work perfectly. Boyle’s still Boyle, Diaz still Diaz, etc., no matter the setting, and they can be just as funny around Holt’s snobby friends as they are dealing with drug dealers or rival cops.

At the same time, though, the new setting gave us a very different view of a few characters. In this world, Holt isn’t the uptight robot, but the funny one (though perhaps the best part of that running gag is that we got no real examples of Holt being funny, and had to take it on faith), and I really liked the casting of Marc Evan Jackson (Trevor the attorney from “Parks and Rec”) as his husband Kevin. The show could have gone for a bigger name, but Jackson’s very funny in a dry way that matches what Andre Braugher’s doing, and he’s likely going to be more available in the future than if they’d gone for, say, Bill Hader.

It was, in some ways, an even better showcase for Terry. With Holt being co-host of the party, and dealing with the usual work tension with Kevin, Terry was completely in charge of the squad, and what made his exasperation with them particularly amusing was how well he wound up fitting in with the other party guests. Terry’s not just a muscle man who can crush a smartphone in his bare hands; he’s an artist who apparently knows his French New Wave cinema, but every time he got in the middle of a conversation, he spotted one or more of his detectives doing their best to ruin the party.

All the jokes and story beats were assembled so well this week, whether it was Jake’s difficulty in getting access to that New Yorker story, or the ever-increasing crowd of shrinks fascinated by Gina’s complete overlap of ego and id(*), or Holt instantly figuring out what was going on inside the bathroom once he heard Santiago’s sneeze.

(*) It was also a nice touch that Diaz understood so well how to both navigate the party and find the optimal situation for Gina. Outside of her temper, she’s been written as a character with a very strong sense of self and how to fit into the world at large, where the other detectives tend to be adrift outside of the squad setting.

Like the post-Super Bowl episode, “The Party” gave all the regulars a moment to shine (Scully even got to sing opera twice) even as it deftly weaved in guest stars (including Marilu Henner was a new love interest for Boyle), and it was yet another episode showing that the writers have figured out how to write Peralta in a way that’s comic without making you wonder how he has the job that he has.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is at a point where it’s mastered its tone and the strengths of its ensemble. I think there’s still room for it to get even funnier, but if it stays at this terrific level, I’ll have no complaints.

What did everybody else think?