Last year, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s biggest strength was that it somehow managed to come right out the gate fully-formed. When it made its debut, the cast did such a great job playing each other, the characters were so well-written, and the stories were so lived-in and well-told that it was easy to mistake for the kind of show that had found a rhythm that typically doesn’t come until a third or fourth season. Mike Schur just really knows what he’s doing, but a lot of credit absolutely has to go to the ensemble cast. It’s the characters that make B99 work as well as it does; they make a great family unit, working alongside and bouncing right off each other as though they’re working with a dynamic that’s been well in place for years and years. “Halloween II” capitalizes on this in a really strong way, bringing us another Holt vs. Peralta bet caper. The fact that the show essentially went for a one-upped re-hash of the caper from the previous season’s Halloween episode without allowing it to feel cheap or forced (even Community’s second paintball episode made  it a little hard to look the other way) is a testament to how well the show is written. Instead of simply feeling like the show’s opting to re-do an episode that proved to be popular, the audience feels like it’s participating in a bit of these people’s tradition. The Nine-Nine really is a family unit, and seeing each character settle into their familiar roles is a lot of fun.

This year, Jake bets Holt that he can straight-up steal the watch off his wrist. Watching Jake’s plan put into action is great fun, for Jake and the audience alike (he’s overjoyed when he finds himself organically presented with the opportunity to say “It’s hammer time”). It’s a bit of a no-brainer that the plot is going to go awry in the expected sitcom kind of way, which is why it was zero surprise when Fingers’ note turned up in the bar. The rest of the episode was a great surprise though, with Boyle’s gloating narration at the end being a bit of a crown jewel.

Last year, it was really great to see Jake beat Holt. At that point, the two characters were really still getting to know each other, and there was much less of a camaraderie in place. Jake was arguably a bit more of a fuck-up at that juncture, so it was interesting (if not a wee bit farfetched) to see him pull of the caper last “Halloween.” By this year, though, Jake has gotten a lot more comfortable with Holt, and the show’s writing team guessed correctly that it wouldn’t be nearly as fun nor as satisfying to see Jake pull one over on Ray again. Rather, we got Ray’s elaborate plot, which was comically convoluted...but also something I totally believed.

Of course, Jake hastily informs everyone that he’s begun concocting his plan for the next year...only to learn that he’s three months late. Of course he is.

Oh, and also...

- This week’s B-plot involved Gina being the worst person. What’s nice, though, is that the other characters in the show actually call her out on her bullshit. (This is something that really bugs me on a show like Parks and Recreation, where a character like Tom has gotten to the point where he’s just an unrepentant asshole to everyone all the time...but nobody really seems to mind.)

- Best line read of the episode: “A wordcloud.”

- The producers of this show were correct when they assumed they could just have Terry Crewes dance with Chelsea Peretti and that that would constitute a successful episode tag.

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