This review contains spoilers.
You may find that shows as long-running as “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” tend to be formulaic, often forcing their protagonists to go through radical changes or obstacles that ultimately force personal growth onto them. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is no different, but the Season 7 premiere offers a refreshing twist compared to the development of the protagonists during the previous seasons.
In the Season 6 finale of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher, “Bojack Horseman”) finds himself demoted from the rank of officer to beat cop. Initially, you might find this shift in power to be less drastic compared to the incarcerations of Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg, “Palm Springs”) and Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz, “Bob’s Burgers”) during the Season 4 finale. Yet the removal of a father-like figure from his position of power presents a window of opportunity: Have the other protagonists of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” changed and matured enough to handle the vacuum of power that has remained constant over the previous six seasons?
You’ll find that in the first episode of Season 7, “Manhunter,” Jake Peralta becomes a full-fledged, competent detective capable of leading a manhunt — a vast improvement compared to his lazy season one counterpart who is constantly berated by his superiors. In stark contrast, Holt finds himself in a depressive rut due to his demoted rank.
During the manhunt of an assassin, Holt attempts to commandeer his former protégé Jake’s investigation, finding himself unable to swallow his own pride and follow the orders of his former subordinate. Holt’s subordination leaves him to follow his intuition, which runs contrary to Jake’s conclusion that leads to the arrest of the accomplice of the murder. Holt’s intuition ultimately leads to the arrest of the true assassin alongside the assassin’s accomplice. Through the arrest, Holt and Jake both learn that trusting their respective talents, skills and intuitions is far more important than the arbitrary label given to their relationship within the hierarchical police force. You hope that the upheaval of Holt’s relationship to his subordinates might lead to a positive reflection and change in his own character.
Yet those hopes are dashed in the second episode of season seven, “Captain Kim.” Captain Kim (Nicole Bilderback, “Staged Killer”), has been brought in to replace the former Captain Holt for the duration of his year-long demotion. The childish antics of Jake and Holt, who are convinced that the benevolent Captain Kim has ulterior motives, make you question whether Holt or Jake have learned anything from the previous episode. Ultimately, Captain Kim requests an immediate transfer away from the 99th Precinct. The captain’s responsibility then falls on the next highest ranking commander — Lieutenant Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews, “John Henry”).
Terry Jeffords’ arc during the events of “Manhunter” and “Captain Kim” provide a perfect complement to the front seat antics of Jake and Holt. In “Manhunter,” Terry’s insecurities about receiving increased responsibility in the light of Holt’s demotion is played to comedic effect — he assumes that everyone is talking about his inadequacies behind his back. Terry ultimately accepts at the end of “Manhunter” that his best efforts matter as much as his leadership, regardless of whether his efforts are imperfect.
Yet in “Captain Kim,” Terry’s run-in with a former convict who he convicted reveals that he still has much to learn even as a leader — namely that of trust and empathy. Terry’s weaknesses as a leader are laid bare in the form of social embarrassment as Terry fails to hide his suspicion that the former convict might poison Terry. Though Terry’s embarrassment is portrayed in a humorous light, you wonder about the writers’ intentions for the relationship between the ex-convict and Terry. Are the writers attempting to underscore society’s unwavering disdain toward formerly incarcerated individuals attempting to integrate within society through humor? You remain unsure because Terry’s negative reactions and embarrassment toward the convict are second-fiddle to the outlandish antics of Jake and Holt.
With the departure of “The Good Place,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” sadly remains the only Michael Schur written comedy currently on the air. However, the Season 7 premiere provides the promise of continued positive character development for your beloved characters at the 99th precinct.