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Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back, and better than ever

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The series returns tonight on NBC with more jokes and more justice

Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher as Jake Peralta and Raymond Holt in Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Vivian Zink/NBC

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is back, which is a miracle: a day after being canceled by Fox, the show was picked up by NBC. That the new season doesn’t seem to have missed a step after jumping networks — and has, in fact, improved — is yet another work of divine providence.

The sixth season, which premieres tonight, picks up right where the fifth concluded, with a few key changes occurring at the precinct: Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy (Melissa Fumero) are finally tying the knot, and Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) is about to find out whether or not he’s been chosen as the next police commissioner. In the first couple of episodes that were sent to critics, each millisecond of airtime sets up or deploys a punchline — or both! — without breaking a sweat.

For five seasons, the series has been one of the best on the air, making “feel-good” look easy with a mix of smart, rapidfire jokes, a genuine love for its characters, and a conspicuous absence of any one-note antagonists (if any at all). It has also dismantled the “nice guy” stereotype, figured out how to keep a will-they, won’t-they dynamic from overstaying its welcome without getting rid of it, and kept the title precinct in ship-shape while allowing each and every character to go through some measure of personal growth.

Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) and Jake on their honeymoon.
Vivian Zink/NBC

In the sixth season, creators Dan Goor and Michael Schur, who are also responsible for series like Parks & Recreation and The Good Place, don’t seem content to rest upon their resurrected laurels. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s new season is not only operating at a sharper level but taking more explicit steps towards addressing the unavoidable elephant in the room, i.e. that it’s a show about cops at a time when police brutality and systemic racism are increasingly pressing issues.

Up to this point, the series has made a few efforts to acknowledge the problematic aspects of its own subject matter — racial inequality has been tackled in storylines that range from a black cop being arrested by a white fellow officer, to navigating unspoken hiring bias — but, without giving too much away, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is metamorphosing, and gearing up to do more than just make us laugh.

As Jake and Amy set off on their honeymoon, and the precinct readies itself for literal and emotional upheaval as the verdict on Holt comes through, the series does even better with what it does best (smart, kind, thoughtful, and razor-sharp comedy) while also using that base to evolve into something new.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs on NBC at 9 p.m.. You can binge the previous five seasons on Hulu.