Brooklyn Nine-Nine gave us a real scare there.
After Fox declined to renew the show for a sixth season, fans had to wait and excruciating 31 hours for NBC to pick up the show and bring it back home where it’s always belonged.
That 31 hours felt like a lifetime. When the show finally returned, on its new home, it delivered the laughs and heart that fans of the highly-quotable ensemble comedy went out of their way to save. Season 6 was such a success, that the show will move forward with Season 7.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is such a tonally consistent and persistently funny show that there are few episodes that truly stand out. The show’s 100+ episodes just feel like one big glob of excellent comedy. Still, we’ve decided to highlight 24 in particular that deserve just a bit more praise.
Our list is in chronological order from season one through season six because it feels cruel to rank them. One other qualifier is that in the event of multi-part episodes (Coral Palms parts 1 – 3) or recurring yearly episodes (Halloween), we’ve chosen just one to represent those, lest seeing “Halloween” every three entries get tiring.
Season 1, Episode 5 – The Vulture
“The Vulture” introduces one of the most important figures in Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s “mythology.” Major Case Detective Pembroke (an excellent Dean Winters) is the titular vulture. He’s a detective in a higher bureau who just loves to sweep in to get the credit after the 99 does all the work. “The Vulture” is the first great episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine because it begins to establish a larger world for the show and also unveils what would be a consistent theme throughout: teamwork, dummy.
Season 1, Episode 19 – Tactical Village
“Tactical Village” is a wonderful Jake Peralta episode for Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 1. Jake and Amy would one day become engaged (and presumably married depending on how the season five finale shakes out) but in these early days they have a contentious rivalry that clearly belies just how madly in love Jake is with her, even if he doesn’t realized it. Jake is thrilled to go on a training session with Amy before he realizes that an old fling of hers will be joining them. Also Boyle gives everyone STDs (save-the-dates).
Season 2, Episode 8 – USPIS
It’s a given that federal executive agencies always have the jurisdiction over state and local agencies. But what about when that federal agency is the dumbest one ever? When the 99 is dealing with a difficult case, they are burdened with the excitable US Postal Investigation Service agent Jack Danger (pronounced “Donger”) played by Ed Helms. Helms and Samberg have a blast getting on each other’s nerves while Captain Holt tries to help Amy quit smoking.
Season 2, Episode 11 – Stakeout
Jake and Boyle are best friends. So when an opportunity arises for two Brooklyn PD officers to stakeout a Ukrainian mob’s stash house, they obviously jump at the opportunity. You see where this is going. These are two incredibly annoying people who begin to annoy each other during the stakeout almost immediately. To keep the peace the two develop a “no-no list” to curb behaviors that they absolutely cannot abide. By day two it’s longer than Crime and Punishment. This also begins a multi-episode arc for Nick Cannon as Holt’s nephew and Rosa’s love interest.
Season 2, Episode 15 – Windbreaker City
One of the best things about Brooklyn Nine-Nine is how it takes observations we’ve all had about law enforcement and then incorporates that into its own vernacular. Case in point: the FBI sure does seem to wear a lot of windbreakers, don’t they? The 99 is invited to the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorism exercise for multiple law enforcement agencies. Jake is determined to make an impression for the federal bigwigs. Unfortunately Homeland Security Special Agent Kendrick (Nick Kroll) decides to make the 99 hostages in this particular exercise. “Windbreaker City” is a funny episode that features nearly the entire cast working together and bouncing off of one another perfectly.
Season 2, Episode 18 – Captain Peralta
Since moment one of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Detective Jake Peralta has desperately sought the approval of Captain Raymond Holt. It’s almost as though he’s just a scared kid in need of a father figure. In “Captain Peralta” we find out why. Jake is excited for his dad, pilot Roger Peralta (Bradley Whitford) to come visit. At first he seems like the coolest guy in the room. He jetsets across the world taking in phenomenal experiences and telling awesome stories. Problem is he’s unable to make any meaningful relationships with other people – including his son. “Captain Peralta” is a realistic, emotional episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and also happens to feature a goatee that Boyle names “Bianca.”
Season 3, Episode 1 – New Captain
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 2 ends with a bang: Captain Holt leaves the 99 to become head of PR for the division. So going into season three, the 99 needs a new captain. They find one immediately in the form of Captain Seth Dozerman (Bill Hader).
Dozerman is a seemingly good and fun-loving captain until he discovers Amy and Jake kissing in a supply closet. He sternly tells them that as long as he’s at the precinct, they can never date. Then he immediately drops dead from a heart condition. “New Captain” is hilarious and bold for how quickly it dispatches a guest star as big as Hader. It also sets up the beginning of Jake and Amy’s relationship perfectly.
Season 3, Episode 11 – Hostage Situation
Given that this show is about cops and its main character loves Die Hard, it would not be a stretch to assume that an episode titled “Hostage Situation”is about an actual hostage situation. Well, it’s not. It’s about Jake and Boyle trying to rescue Boyle’s sperm from his ex-wife. The A-plot is a wonderful Jake and Boyle adventure but it’s in the rest of the storylines that “Hostage Situation” shines. Amy accidentally breaks Terry’s nose at their self-defense class and Captain Holt engages in a dance off with a group of street ruffians because why not.
Season 3, Episode 13 – The Cruise
The Pontiac Bandit Doug Judy (Craig Robinson) is the perfect recurring character for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He appears once a season, continues his burgeoning friendship with Jake, and then inevitably betrays him each time. “The Cruise,” however is the best of all Doug Judy appearances simply because it also happens to feature Paul F. Thompkins as an exasperated cruise ship captain. Back on land, Boyle and Rosa engage in a battle of wits to see who can make the winning bid for a dead woman’s apartment.
Season 3, Episode 15 – The 9-8
Sometimes a guest actor can make or break an episode. Thankfully, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a habit of picking only the best. Damon Wayans Jr. guest stars in the “The 9-8” as Stevie Schillens, an old partner of Jake’s who is forced to join the 99 when the 98th precinct is forced to relocate. Wayans is a hilarious actor and he and Samberg have excellent chemistry. What really makes “The 9-8” sing, however, is how it positions Steve, Jake, and Boyle being three distinct parts of a friendship love triangle. Of course, we know who’s probably going to win but it’s nice to see Boyle try to win his friend back. It’s also not a stretch to think this role is what got Wayans Jr. the lucrative Lethal Weapon job.
Season 3, Episode 22 – Bureau
“Bureau” is Brooklyn Nine-Nine at its best because it gets the entire cast involved. This is the middle chapter in a three-part arc and it’s by far the best one. Rosa’s boyfriend, Adrian Pimento (Jason Mantzoukas), has gone into hiding since there is a leak at the FBI threatening to burn him from his undercover days. The entire 99 team (save for Amy, who is in prison) bands together to uncover the leak and get Pimento home. “Bureau” features a downright Holt-ian guest appearance by Dennis Haysbert and gratuitous contortionist yoga from Rosa.
Season 4, Episode 3 – Coral Palms Pt. 3
At the start of Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 4, Holt and Jake are in witness protection in Coral Springs. Holt spends his days playing straight and speedwalking with the old ladies in his neighborhood while Jake…well, he has highlights. The Coral Springs arc culminates in an exciting part three where the rest of the 99 comes down to Florida to help Jake and Holt take out Jimmy “The Butcher Figgis (Eric Roberts). Fittingly, it all goes down at some place called “Fun Zone.”
Season 4, Episode 7 – Mr. Santiago
Obviously, Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s best holiday episodes are its “Halloween” series. But don’t sleep on how well it deals with Thanksgiving. Jake is set to meet Amy’s father this year so he goes “full Santiago” and prepares an entire binder on information on Amy’s father, played by the always welcome-Jimmy Smits. It does not go as well as Jake would have hoped. The B-stories in this episode are particularly wonderful with Pimento getting Holt addicted to gambling in an astonishingly short time frame and Boyle attempting to slaughter a turkey.
Season 4, Episode 15 – The Last Ride
Before NBC rescued Brooklyn Nine-Nine at the last minute, it looked like the season five finale would be the de facto series finale of the show. Thing is, the show has already presented us with a pretty pitch perfect series finale. “The Last Ride” occurs a little over halfway through season four and it is quite simply: a almost-series finale when the viewer least expects it. Holt announces that NYPD is going to be shutting down a precinct due to budget cuts and the 99 is a serious candidate.
So every character then proceeds as though it could be their last day together. Jake and Charles try to make the apprehending of a bicycle thief into the best day ever, Terry tries to get a few more cases solved so he can get the 99 record, and Amy and Holt unexpectedly bond. “The Last Ride” is a hilarious, sweet episode of the show and gives its characters and the audience a chance to eulogize the show before it’s dead.
Season 4, Episode 16 – Moo Moo
Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows up its fake series finale with a deadly serious exploration of racial profiling and how it applies to black men of all walks of life – even cops. The name of the episode is “Moo Moo.” When Terry’s daughter’s favorite stuffed animal, Moo Moo, goes missing, Terry hits the street in his neighborhood to find it. He’s in street clothes and is soon stopped and harassed by a fellow cop. Terry is angry and humiliated and wants to file an official complaint against the officer but Holt isn’t so sure that’s the right move. “Moo Moo” isn’t the funniest episode of the show but it makes great use of Terry Crews and Andre Braugher.
Season 4, Episode 22 – Crime and Punishment
Brooklyn Nine-Nine likes to make a habit of blowing up its entire storytelling universe in its finales. Granted, things return to normal pretty quickly after the first few episodes of the following season but it’s still admirable. The season four finale, “Crime and Punishment” upends the show’s model in a more extreme fashion than ever by sending two of the show’s lead characters to prison. Jake and Rosa are really excited to be working with one of their heroes, Lieutenant Melanie Hawkins. But when they discover that Melanie is a dirty cop she frames them for a string of bank robberies. Whoopsy daisies!
Season 5, Episode 1 – The Big House Pt. 1
“The Big House Pt. 1” presents the consequences from season four finale “Crime and Punishment.” Poor Jake and Rosa are in prison, wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit. Holt and Terry struggle to emotionally support Rosa while she’s in prison, which sends them on a series of misadventures to do increasingly difficult favors for her. Meanwhile, Jake is in the pokey with a cannibal (Tim Meadows) so things aren’t that bad. “The Big House pt. 1” is a fun example of Brooklyn Nine-Nine getting creative with new environments and circumstances for its characters.
Season 5, Episode 4 – HallowVeen
Escalation is a tricky thing for sitcoms for pull off. Many sitcoms’ primary goal is to stay on air as long as possible and keep its actors and writers employed for an extended timeframe. That means they rarely hold anything back and sometimes eschew long-term planning. That’s what makes Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Halloween series so miraculous. Every year Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a Halloween episode. And every year the Halloween heist episode is better than the last. Season five’s “HalloVeen” is the most thrilling, epic, and hilarious one yet. The entire precinct gets involved in Holt and Jake’s heist contest this time around and the conclusion leads to a Brooklyn Nine-Nine moment long in the making.
Season 5, Episode 9 – 99
Most sitcoms pull out all the stops for their 100th episode. Brooklyn Nine-Nine decides to make “99” its big one for obvious reasons. “”99” is a wonderful episode that highlights the strength of the entire cast. The 99 heads to Los Angeles for a police funeral. While there Jake convinces the crew to check out Nakatomi Plaza from Die Hard. Unfortunately, they accidentally get locked in, causing them to miss their flight home for Holt’s NYPD interview. What follows is a Planes, Trains, and Automobile-style excursion home. The idea of the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast road-tripping is fun enough on its own but where “99” really shines is showing how much these characters care about one another and how well they work together. Plus, once Amy Santiago: Master Planner is finally unleashed she’s the type-A nerd equivalent of Hulk in the first Avengers.
Season 5, Episode 14 – The Box
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is usually at its best when incorporating every piece in its massive, talented cast. Sometimes, however, you gotta go small. “The Box” is essentially just Jake, Holt, and a potential murderer (Sterling K. Brown). Brown’s character, Philip Davidson, is brought in for interrogation as the police have reason to believe he’s murdered his partner at their dental practice. Jake is determined to wrestle the truth out of Davidson but Holt disagrees with his tactics. Jake Peralta is a classic comedy protagonist with arrested development. He will always have a certain level of childlike glee with his job to keep the show fun. Episodes like “The Box,” however, are crucial to establishing him as a capable professional even if he’s working hard only in part to receive the ever-elusive praise from his mentor, Holt.
Season 6, Episode 2 – Hitchcock & Scully
How did we go six seasons without diving into Hitchcock and Scully’s collective past and how long are we going to have to wait before revisiting their ’80s heyday? Watching Alan Ritchson (Titans) and Wyatt Nash (Dear White People) play macho ’80s action star versions of everyone’s favorite terrible desk jockeys was enough to earn a spot on this list, but the episode also contains an interesting investigation of Jake and Boyle’s flaws as detectives and a trip to the immortal restaurant Wing Sluts. Basically, if you’re a fan of the fleeting Hitchcock and Scully joke or bizarre line-reading in a typical episode, this installment will leave you rolling with plenty of material to choose from.
Season 6, Episode 7 – The Honeypot
Brooklyn Nine-Nine only dabbles in seralization, but some of the over-arching story episodes turn out to be their best. Case and point being “The Honeypot” which focuses in on the season-long battle between Captain Holt and commissioner John Kelly. The episode centers on Holt and Peralta discovering that a honeypot has been set into the precinct by John Kelly to seduce Holt and eventually publicly embarrass him. The joke is that the honeypot is an absurdly wooden, formal young man who’s behavior mirrors Holt’s almost to a T. I mean, just look at the way that he tries to flirt using a single windsor knot! Peralta/Holt stories are always fantastic because of their odd couple nature and how Jake has increasingly been pushed to being the straight man in their comedy duo as the show has gone on. The episode ends with a classic BK99 triple-cross that sees John Kelly stymied and the first floor of the 99 reopened.
Season 6, Episode 8 – He Said, She Said
Regular viewers know BK99 can be deft and emotionally intellegent when it calls for it, handling comedy and social commentary with grace, and there’s no better example than Season 6’s “He Said, She Said.” Directed by Stephanie Beatriz, “He Said, She Said” addresses the topic of #MeToo in a way that Beatriz describes as “subtly discussing social issues through a multifaceted and complex lens while taking you on a comedy joyride.” The episode brings the funny, but also does an excellent job at highlighting not only the indignities that women are forced to suffer on a daily basis, but the ways in which sexual assault victims are disregarded, humiliated, and professionally stifled when they come forward with their stories.
Jake and Amy are assigned by Holt to team up on a case that involves a finance bro getting his “dong broken” after he’s attacked by a female co-worker who claims that he tried to sexually assault her. When the female victim expresses doubts about testifying, Rosa criticizes Amy’s determination to get the victim on the stand. It’s a startlingly honest and complicated converstaion for a network comedy, only topped by when Amy relays her experiences with sexual misconduct in the workplace. Melissa Fumero is routinely excellent, but she’s phenomenal here. She and Samberg provide the emotion that the scene calls for. Anyone that argues that Jake and Amy aren’t a believable couple will be eating their words after this one. It’s incredible that the episode is able to tell an accurate and nuanced portrayal of what victims of sexual assault go through in just a 22-minute runtime, with several of those minutes dedicated to a B-plot.
Season 6, Episode 16 – Cinco de Mayo
Look, I know we said at the top of this list that the Halloween Heist episdoes would only get one entry, but just like NBC had to do when Season 6 of BK99premiered after Halloween, we got creative. Since this heist actually takes place on Cinco de Mayo, it’s not technically a Halloween Heist. Loopholes! Anyway, “Cinco de Mayo” starts with Rosa suggesting that there’s nothing new that can be brought to these heists, as Season 5’s outing climaxed with Jake using the game to propose to Amy, but man, she was wrong. Five heists in, the entire precinct has gotten wrapped up in the double-crossing, twist-heavy, overly-competitive game, and Season 6 is the twisty-est yet, with even the level-headed Terry being dragged into the insanity. Terry actually goes full-on batshit crazy, planning the heist months in advance and manipulating every little detail. The Cinco de Mayo heist was a clever way to explain why the game wasn’t taking place on Halloween and proof that these reoccurring episode formats still have plenty of life left in them.