Brooklyn Nine-Nine is on an interesting path this season due to the social context in which the show is airing, and it’s adding an extra layer to wade through while reviewing, as one can’t just consider the episode stories in a vacuum. From here forward, when an episode heavily features commentary on the state of police in America, I’m going to separate my reviews into two different sections; one section for evaluating the episode removed from its real-world parallels, and one section for dissecting the commentary regarding them.
“Blue Flu” as an episode in a vacuum is a bit odd. The show seems to be excelling at side gags, which is particularly important during heavier episodes like this one. A joke like Scully’s comment about his “Color Blindness Awareness” pin being the same color as the pin the cops are wearing in remembrance of the mouse incident is almost entirely removed from the actual plot of the episode, and jokes like that are an excellent way to keep humor around without making light of the heavier issues at hand. Holt and Jake discussing how to properly say “Whoop” could happen in almost any episode at any time, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine is smart to use these inoffensive jokes to keep the tone light.
On the whole, I think “Blue Flu” balances its humor with its subject matter fairly well. Holt eating cheese and being depressed is good, Jake’s suggestions for Boyle’s bucket list is humorous while being sweet, and the Hitchcock/Scully subplot is a fairly good time (though I do feel they could have done more with it). And Terry’s storyline, while incredibly predictable, at least gives Holt an extra obstacle to overcome regarding his investigation.
Rosa and Boyle, however, I don’t feel are quite as successful. Rosa coming in as an outside investigator is a pretty smooth way to bring her into the fold in theory , but it still feels forced because she hasn’t missed any episodes. I would have loved if we hadn’t seen Rosa in a few episodes and then they needed a private investigator, but the more excuses the show needs to bring her into the story, the less natural each feels. We also don’t actually get to see her doing anything, and while the mystery of Holt’s tattoo is a highlight of the episode for me, I would be interested in seeing a version of this episode that Rosa doesn’t appear and we spend a couple more minutes with Holt, Jake, or even the Hitchcock’s and Scully’s.
Boyle’s storyline is the one that throws the episode off the most, however. It’s a serious tale and the episode, while having those trademark side gags to lighten the load, treats it with some real gravity. The scene where Boyle explains his fears is played shockingly straight from a dialogue standpoint, but dramatic camera movements in Brooklyn Nine-Nine have historically been used to increase the humor of a scene (such as in the scene where Holt is fighting for Cheddar in the previous season), so there is a weird dissonance where I’m trained to expect the camera to add humor or set up a punchline while the dialogue is genuinely heartbreaking.
Then it cuts to Jake who is crying, but in a humorous “Andy Samberg is great at making silly faces” kind of way, which actually does end up undercutting the gravity of Boyle’s emotional outpouring. It’s not really even tonal whiplash so much as just a tonal mashup where I just can’t get a feel on what the show is going for. Tonality aside, I think the plot line could have lead to some great places, but it ends up serving us little more than a catalyst for Holt to accomplish his own goals.
That catalyst could have happened through Boyle doing almost anything, though, like baking a cake wrong or something. It definitely didn’t need to be a life or death situation, and to have such a heavy plot be treated so genuinely in some moments and then tossed off at the end is really bizarre. I don’t see what value such a heavy story adds to this episode. I think it detracts from it, especially considering the commentary the episode is attempting to convey.
I commended Brooklyn Nine-Nine for raising questions about the police in America last week, and expressed hopes that it would continue to travel down that road with more vigor. “Blue Flu” sees a return to the subject matter, and I’m not as ready to raise applause this time.
I considered the first week a baby step that was hopefully leading to larger discussions, so I didn’t focus much on how the episode neglected to dive into each character’s perspective on the situation as I believed they could explore this further into the season. However, this episode doesn’t have much nuance to it, and no matter what kind of opinion you hold regarding the real world issues, people are complicated and should be reflected as such.
“Blue Flu” very clearly and very casually makes the boycotting cops villains. Taking a stance on who you feel is right and wrong is a good thing, so making it clear doesn’t bother me. The casual nature does, because it completely removes nuance from the entire situation. Without diving into why a cop would boycott, or why O’Sullivan is such a garbage human, it makes the situation feel like it’s been copied and pasted into the show from the real world instead of an actual exploration into what is happening there.
Essentially, it turns the narrative into an “Us” vs “Them” narrative, with the Nine-Nine crew as the “good” side, and the cops they are trying to expose as the “bad” side. I quote those terms not because I disagree with them, but because the premiere episode “The Good Ones” explicitly explored the term “The Good Ones” and how that term can be weaponized as well as used as a shield to absolve yourself from responsibility, exemplified though Jake as he used it to convince himself he wasn’t part of the problem. By treating the illegitimate cop boycott as an issue that is casually agreed upon by all the Nine-Nine crew as wrong with no exploration as to why they think it is wrong or what their investigation into other cops means, the episode removes the plot line from its real-world counterpart, and it feels more like the real world has been used as inspiration for a plot line rather than a plot line designed to explore a real-world topic.
“Moo Moo,” the Season 4 episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine which explores racism in the police force, handles a similar situation better. In “Moo Moo, “Terry and Holt explore the consequences of reporting another cop and we get to see clearly how each of them feels about reporting another cop and the consequences that come along with it. “Blue Flu” could use that sort of real exploration instead of just uniformly having the Nine-Nine crew unquestionably dive into their investigation.
At the end of the episode, Holt reveals that the police force did less harm with less cops on the street. The reveal makes sense in the context of the resolution, but it comes out of nowhere narratively. No characters spend any time discussing their conduct as officers, so hinging the narrative twist on police conduct feels like the episode leaning on real-world scenarios instead of exploring them.
I’m less confident in the show’s ability to explore the state of police now than I was two episodes ago. By no means do I feel this was a botched attempt, but I also don’t think it was successful. I’m more convinced than ever that Amy and Jake’s contest to see who could get more arrests in Season 1 needs to be brought up in the show. It’s a gaping issue I feel the show could use to actually explore the emotions these characters have regarding their profession.
Also, Terry being sick and spreading it to other people could have worked as a gag a couple years ago, but it seems like a REALLY bizarre choice in a “post-COVID” world (the show seems to treat COVID like it is completely gone, while it is definitely NOT gone in the real world). No characters bringing up the disease that was established in the premiere is odd enough, but it’s even weirder to see when we are still right in the thick of the pandemic in the real world.
- Boyle is so much less supportive of Jake so far this season, and I hope it is addressed because that’s a storyline ripe with potential.
That’s it for this one!
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Series Finale Review: The Last Day (8×09/8×10)
Season 8 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a lot of issues. The finale of the show is not one of them.
Using a heist for the finale episode is a brilliant move, and I personally feel it is a pretty gutsy one, as well. The heist episodes are highlights of the series, and each year the pressure mounted to keep the quality of these outings high. Not every heist episode is a classic, but enough of them are that with each additional entry there is a risk of diminishing the reputation of the yearly series.
So to hinge the series finale on a heist episode is a gutsy move. Not only must it live up to the expectations set by the previous heists, but it also must serve as a satisfying conclusion to the show. In retrospect, it seems like an obvious answer and it serves the function of “series finale” very well. Maybe for viewers this seemed like a no-brainer from the start, but from a writing standpoint this was a risk.
It was also a risk due to the nature of these episodes. The heist episodes tend to toss the rules of the show out the window, resulting in mass chaos where damage to the precinct is encouraged and betraying loved ones and risking serious bodily harm are expected. They also exist almost completely outside whatever storyline the show is focused on in a particular season.
I’ve criticized the show pretty thoroughly this year for not providing deep enough character ties to its serialized plot, citing how I feel the messages the show tries to send about the police get a bit watered down due to a lack of exploration. “The Last Day” continues this trend. Jake was suspended by the police in “The Set Up,” and yet doesn’t reflect on his suspended time at all when deciding to quit the Nine-Nine in the finale. That’s a major disconnect from Season 8 and is a large reason I feel this season is among the weaker years of the show. O’Sullivan, Holt’s marriage troubles, Rosa quitting the Nine-Nine – none of it is really relevant to the final episode. There isn’t any true through-line from the season to this finale. Is that risk of narrative disconnect worth the reward?
I believe it is, because while the final episode of Season 8 has almost nothing to do with Season 8, it has everything to do with Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s a phenomenal interpretation of what the show is and I loved pretty much every second of it. It’s an amazing excuse to run through the show’s history and never quite feels overly-cheesy because of the exaggerated logic the heist episodes operate on.
But my favorite aspect of the finale is that for the first time in a long, long time, the entire crew is together. No A, B, and C plots – just one huge A plot with different moving parts. Terry sums this up perfectly when they get trapped near the end of the episode, citing that the Nine-Nine is at its best when it is working together.
And yeah, sure, they were actually all working against each other, but that’s a technicality in this case. From a story purpose, they all work together to create one final heist, and it results in an excellent finale to the series. Asides from paying homage to dozens of moments from the show’s history, “The Last Day” also delivers the punches to the heart you need from a good finale. Some are goofy, like Hitchcock and Scully’s hug and Gina’s exit, and some are heartwarming, like Amy and Rosa and Holt and Jake.
Holt and Jake’s relationship is the highlight of this show, and their final scene together brings them to a well-earned conclusion. Jake finally gets true acceptance from a father-figure, but wonderfully has grown past the need to get it. This doesn’t mean that Holt’s words don’t mean the world to him – it just means from a story standpoint, Jake did actually grow up, and he doesn’t need Holt’s approval anymore.
Which makes Holt’s approval that much more affecting. It tugs at your heart in a way none of the season’s other plot lines do because it’s so directly tied to Jake and Holt’s journey on the show. Holt’s words are affecting because we’ve actually witnessed the growth they’ve both gone through and we’ve seen the ways their actions and personalities have influenced each other over the course of the series.
“The Last Day” fully succeeds at bringing these characters to earned conclusions, and I am genuinely impressed by its success.
But Season 8 was a mess.
I wish I didn’t have to taint this review with some dourness, but what was the point, from a story standpoint, of having Jake be suspended? His conduct didn’t factor into any plot lines past that episode. The season opened with a heavy look into what it means to be a “good cop” and Jake’s decision to leave detective work behind has nothing to do with it.
Maybe I’m biased because I know the season was partially re-written to include examinations of the current sociopolitical era, but it really feels like this finale was written in a vacuum away from all of that. It’s really odd to have so many plot lines that have Jake evaluating exactly what it means to be a cop and then only have him leave because he wants to be a dad.
To be clear, that’s a great reason for Jake to leave! It’s super relevant to his character arc and it’s the perfect send off for him. It’s just odd that none of those other factors factored into his decision at all when they were the focus of nearly half of the season’s episodes.
I agree Brooklyn Nine-Nine needed to address police conduct. I agree Jake leaving to be a dad is an excellent end to his story. I don’t agree that those two storylines don’t cross paths at all. There’s a huge disjoint there that I can’t overlook when considering the quality of this season.
So, with that said, I didn’t love Season 8 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It had story inconsistencies, a tendency to dilute its noble messages by not grounding those messages in character, and at times fell a bit too far into standard sitcom fare.
But I love this finale. A finale’s number one priority is to be as great a representation of the show it’s capping as possible. “The Last Day” is near perfect by this metric. It maintains the consistent quality of the heist episodes, grounds its heartfelt moments through its characters, and is anything but standard. It embodies everything that makes this series special – the ensemble cast, sharp, witty writing that moves one-hundred miles a minute, and a surprisingly strong heart that beats all the way through to the last scene.
- I think this was the best episode of the show since the move to NBC.
- The joke referencing the opening credits is one of my favorites jokes in the entire series. This is the sort of joke that only really works in a finale. I didn’t really “laugh” at it, but I appreciated the heck out of it and felt it was a great 4th wall break that didn’t technically break the 4th wall.
- You knew Gina would be back, and I love how it isn’t really made into a big deal. She slips in and out of her old role without a trace. Love it.
- Hitchcock winning is so stupid. It’s the cherry on top of the chaos.
- I wish we would have gotten more investigation driven episodes this season, as a large part of what made the show so unique was its ability to take investigations and genuine danger and balance them with humor, however that’s more of a season criticism and I don’t think this was necessary for the finale.
- The epilogue showing us that the heists will continue and will keep these characters in each other’s lives for years to come is a wonderful final scene and very true to the show and its sense of camaraderie.
When I say “standard sitcom fare” I only use that as a negative regarding Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I don’t have anything against standard sitcom fare, as it wouldn’t be standard if it didn’t have some merit! But part of what separated Brooklyn Nine-Nine from other sitcoms throughout its run was how different it was and how sometimes it was closer to a spoof of police procedurals than it was to a sitcom. The closer to The Office or Parks and Recreation that Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets, the less Brooklyn Nine-Nine it becomes. There easily could have been an episode of The Office or Parks and Rec where everyone goes to the cabin for a weekend (I know that actually happens in Parks and Rec and there are similar scenarios in The Office), but no other show on television can do a heist episode like this.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – Renewal (8×08)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is coming to a close, with “Renewal” being the penultimate episode of the series. For me, however, “Renewal” doesn’t feel like the penultimate episode of a series that has run for eight years. Sure, it has the standard setups that the final few episodes of a show should have, such as Amy’s promotion and the implementation of the police reform program, but it all feels so obligatory.
I don’t feel Brooklyn Nine-Nine has really set itself up for this story-wise. It’s just a plot that’s happening. The season seemed to only half-focus on the police reform storyline even when it was at the center of an episode. Amy and Terry spend “Balancing” trying to make sure Amy’s proposal got heard, but the show didn’t really focus too much on the specifics of her proposal or what this proposals means to her at all.
That’s the biggest issue with this season. The plot raises stakes that the characters don’t really react to. Jake admits his wrongdoing in “The Set Up” but hardly reflects on it afterwards. Terry and Boyle get no time to react to the issue of police conduct, and Rosa, while she has a good moment of introspection in the premiere, has mostly just been a side-character ever since.
Without the characters actually reacting to what’s happening to them, these plot points feel by the numbers instead of important. There hasn’t been a real build up to the finale because Jake’s perspective on his work hasn’t really been explored. Whatever happens in the finale, even if it’s really good, will be hurt by the lack of character build up to it.
This episode on its own, though, is solid, and that’s mostly because of Holt. Captain Raymond Holt is undeniably the MVP of this season, and possibly the entire series. His character has been used the best in regards to mixing plot points with character motivation. His journey in this episode is good; he wants to be a better husband to Kevin and believes retirement is the best option to do so, but he wants to work because his work means something to him. This is the sort of character conflict we should be seeing in the rest of the characters this season.
We care about Holt’s retirement because he cares about his retirement. It isn’t just a plot point to deliver a message like Jake’s suspension turned out to be. Jake’s suspension means little to us because the biggest impact it had on Jake was making him bored. Even Holt questions how little Jake learned from it in this episode when Jake is so excited to break into O’Sullivan’s house. Holt’s dilemma leaving the force is a much better story because we actually see how it affects Holt, and understand the personal struggle he is having trying to make a good decision for himself and for Kevin.
I wish more of the characters would have gotten this sort of introspective look throughout the season. It would have strengthened every storyline and strengthened the messages behind them. Hopefully the finale will provide more of this than the rest of the season has.
- Why would Holt tell anyone he is retiring before Amy’s report is done? These people are historically terrible at keeping secrets and this was a super lazy way to put this plot into motion.
- The “bone” callback was a bit forced, but it was fun so I don’t care.
- I thought Terry screaming at both Amy and O’Sullivan at the same time worked. I actually liked that side plot a fair bit.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – A Game of Boyles (8×07)
I had a lot of fun this episode, and I feel this episode hits an “old-school” Brooklyn Nine-Nine vibe. I think this is one of the funnier episodes of the season so far, and it uses each of its main players well. However, I have one gigantic, glaring issue with it.
But first, the positives. The opening scene is well executed creepiness. It’s a bit disorienting at first because it is filmed so differently from the usual look of the show, and the cheerful Boyle family is played up for creep factor instead of its usual goofy comedy. Removed from context, there is something unsettling about how they treat each other, and the twist of the death that caps the scene hammers the creepiness home. Loved it.
The mystery itself is obviously a Knives Out parody, right down to the reveal of the killer, and as a Knives Out fan, I enjoyed this. I’ll admit it feels a little odd using Knives Out as an inspiration for a show that is already about people solving crimes, since it doesn’t really need an excuse to do this sort of story, but considering how little of crime solving we’ve actually seen this season, I’ll take what I can get.
The Boyle storyline is simple and basic, but their weird family dynamic makes it unique. Making a subject uncomfortable by giving them weak tea is something that only the Boyle clan can do, and those sorts of character specific beats keep this episode entertaining and funny. Jake and Terry are both used well (even if Terry’s excuse for going is a bit flimsy from a writing standpoint), as Jake relentlessly pushes the plot forward and Terry provides Jake an easy and willing ally.
The twist that Boyle isn’t actually a Boyle is almost excellent, but since it doesn’t amount to almost anything, it ends up being sort of moot. That’s sort of the point, though, and I like that the episode frames Boyle as a “true” Boyle despite not being a full Boyle by blood. I’m disappointed that Boyle’s adopted son isn’t spoken of considering how hard he takes the news of his heritage, but most the kids in this show are forgotten about until the show feels like bringing them up, so this isn’t unexpected. In this case, I think Nikolaj should have been referenced, though, as it would have been thematically relevant. Either way, the message that you are who you choose to be and not who you’re born as is a positive one, and the show gets there in entertaining fashion. Good stuff.
Holt’s storyline may be even better, though. It’s a perfect blend of trope-ridden sitcom romance and Holt specific humor, just like the Boyle story blended classic mystery with Boyle humor. This is a new character beat for Holt, as we’ve never seen him date before, and I wish we could have gotten more storylines like this the last few years.
Amy and Rosa’s knowledge of Holt’s personality also come into play, which is great for two reasons. First, it’s Season 8 and these characters should know each other very well. Second, it’s a great way to bring a “final look” at Holt as a character, since this is the final season.
And the bonus on top is that the storyline leads to a real emotional payoff. I complained last week that “The Setup” was an episode that seemed built to deliver Holt’s speech. “Game of Boyles” doesn’t fall into this trap, and earns Holt’s emotional realization naturally through the actual experience of the character.
This is also the first time we ever see Holt and Kevin kiss, which is awesome! I’m sure part of the slow build to this on-screen kiss had to do with some antiquated behind the scenes content control, but in this very particular case, it works. Kevin and Holt aren’t characters that we would see show affection in public very often. The kiss here works on a character level; it shows how far they’ve come as a couple and how much they care for each other that they would kiss in the rain in the street.
I’m not the biggest fan of this subplot as a whole, as I don’t feel the show used it too well and it is a bit of a trope (and kind of an easy way to drum up drama), but “Game of Boyles” takes advantage of the storyline and has a character driven payoff. Thumbs up.
Now for my gigantic, glaring issue. Jake was just suspended for tailing an innocent man without evidence and he immediately does it again to Boyle’s cousin. What is this? How is this happening? It’s completely at odds with the story they attempted to lay out last episode. I maintain that “The Setup” really missed the mark by having Jake apologize for one mistake instead of a career full of “I have a gut feeling,” and this episode supports that argument. “The Setup” flat-out stated Jake was wrong for his conduct in that episode, and “Game of Boyles” allows him to do it again, freely, without consequence, and to have fun while doing it.
It’s maddening. This is completely inconsistent. If you want Jake to be able to be a “loose-cannon cop that doesn’t play by the rules,” fine, but don’t have him suspended for conduct in one episode and then repeat the conduct without consequence in the next. AND HE IS SUSPENDED. Doesn’t that make this even worse? What authority did he have to conduct an investigation? Shouldn’t Terry have reprimanded him for not learning from his past mistakes? What is the message this show really wants to send?
I’m not sure, and maybe Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t sure, either.
- Lots of fun callbacks this episode, from the Boyle dough to Holt’s method of considering ideas. Great stuff to see in a final season.
- Scully has been used very, very well this season. His single line this episode was amazing. Great to see his character getting some major small moments in the final season.
Removed from the context of the season and if Jake wasn’t suspended, I’d really like this episode. In context though, oof. I just can’t get past the failure to truly acknowledge Jake’s conduct.
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