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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – SPOILER Died??? And a Jake and Amy Baby Update (7×07)

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE -- "Ding Dong" Episode 707 -- Pictured: Andre Braugher as Raymond Holt -- (Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC)

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I’m sure there are a lot of people excited about the final reveal of “Ding Dong.” Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. As I’ve mentioned previously, I don’t typically enjoy baby storylines, and I’m super, super disappointed we didn’t get to explore Jake and Amy’s management of their grief and disappointment over not being able to conceive. I think this retroactively hurts “Trying,” as their pain, while effectively portrayed in that episode, is now essentially inconsequential regarding their storylines as well as what we will be learning about Jake and Amy moving forward.

I’ll admit I found Boyle waking up in the middle of the night having sensed the conception pretty funny, but even that, already, I’m finding issues with. Maybe it’s because I have a negative filter over these storylines, but why did Boyle only sense when Amy told Jake, and not sense the moment that the baby was conceived? I’m being picky and ruining it, I’m sorry.

But that’s why it’s first! So I can get my Negative Nancy views out of the way. I’ll review each subsequent episode with an open mind, as Brooklyn Nine-Nine surpassed my expectations with “Trying” and I’m hoping they can do it again. Let’s see if Jake and Amy can continue to flourish on Nine-Nine in their professional careers and with their friends while going through this pregnancy, or if they will get pulled away and onto Baby Street. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is at its best when it’s mixing tone and creating humor in ways no other show can, and baby plots are something I can see on almost any other sitcom. Hopefully the baby doesn’t take away from the “Debbie’s” of this show.

ANYWAY

I liked a lot of “Ding Dong.” Jake’s already starting on the “Dad” sort of storylines, as he gets to be the mature one in the group for once. Few incidents on the show have had me smiling with glee like the lead up to Boyle and Terry’s boxing match. The potential for comedy was sky-high with this concept. I felt like Charles had a trick up his sleeve, but the decision to make that trick just fighting dirty is great in all the right ways. It’s funny, believable, and highlights the immaturity Boyle is acting with.

We rarely get to see Boyle this intensely at odds with Terry, and there aren’t too many other things I can see Boyle going to the mat for outside Nikolaj. Boyle and Terry will do anything for their kids, and the lengths they are willing to go here is funny but also sweet. The stakes are low, but their desperation is high, and that’s a perfect mix for a comedy.

As I mentioned, this storyline allows Jake to standout as the most mature, which is nice to see because it’s fresh. I like seeing Jake act more mature; I certainly don’t want this to be the case all of the time, but once in a while it’s good to remind us that Jake is a functioning adult, even if he does get mad at Wario when playing video games.

I knew Jake would end up only taking the kids almost immediately, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the storyline. It’s fun to watch Jake get there and to watch Boyle and Terry’s increasing bribes and competition along the way.

The real meat of “Ding Dong” is with Captain Holt’s story, where the title reveals itself to be very clever. Wuntch (the witch) is dead.

I didn’t believe it at first either, and I got a little worried the episode wasn’t going to take advantage of this premise to explore what this relationship meant to Holt due to his initial reaction, but it excels in this exploration.

Holt celebrates Wuntch’s death by bringing in bagels for everyone and constantly insulting Wuntch, much to Rosa’s delight. Rosa is softer than she presents but she has a consistent worldview, and she likely doesn’t mind Holt’s insults because Rosa believes Wuntch was a horrible person, and in her eyes that doesn’t change with her death.

What does change with Wuntch’s death, though, is Holt’s relationship with Wuntch. His sworn enemy is gone.

Relationships are fascinating. In real life we mostly recognize the relationships we develop with people that we like, but our preference for a person doesn’t always dictate the power of our relationships with them. Hatred is a very powerful emotion, and when you dislike someone, you create a bond with them. It might not be a bond you want to keep, but it’s a bond nonetheless and our bonds influence who we are.

Holt loses a part of himself with Wuntch’s death. He had a bond with her. That bond is initially threatened by Adam, Wuntch’s “true” arch nemesis. Holt feels almost like Wuntch cheated on him, and while this reaction can be played for laughs, it’s very very real.

Just as when you love someone and you want those feeling reciprocated, when you hold a powerful enough distaste for someone to call them your arch enemy, you want them to feel that way back. For Holt, he wants to feel that Wuntch put as much energy into disliking him as he did to her, because if not it feels like the bond he created is invalid. Also, part of it is fun! Tell me Holt doesn’t love coming up with insults for Wuntch, and you know she loved making Holt miserable.

So seeing another man be her nemesis is hard for Holt. Amy and Rosa convince him to try to team up with the man, but at the end of the day, even if Holt does attempt this, it’s not the same. It’s not what he really wants, or needs, from Wuntch and that relationship.

Holt’s speech for Wuntch is honest, thought provoking, and accepting. Wuntch is gone and so is that part of his life, that part of him. He may have hated Wuntch with all the hate he could muster, but he’ll miss her. He’ll miss the challenge, the insults, and the excitement she brought to his life. Just as Jim would miss Dwight or Jerry would miss Newman (ok Jerry wouldn’t miss Newman).

Few things make us feel as alive as overcoming adversity. We all love an underdog story, amazing physical feats, and remarkable tales of survival. The adversaries in our lives provide us with adversity. Holt’s greatest adversary is gone, and we see in “Ding Dong” how much that relationship meant to him.

Holt never has to worry about Wuntch messing with him ever again, and he’s got a small hole inside of himself because of it.

Other Great Thoughts:

  • I didn’t mention Amy’s role in “Ding Dong” because it is super tropey regarding pregnancy storylines, and it isn’t an interesting side of her (in my opinion). She’s just emotionally all over the place, and while Melissa Fumero can make an incredible range of expressions with her face and that alone can be fun to watch, there is no character drive or reaction to this; it’s just hormones. We don’t get to see how she personally feels about it or how it’s affecting Jake. The episode helps it a bit by using some visual comedy with her appearance, but it’s not enough. Hopefully the rest of this pregnancy storyline is more character driven.
  • The rest of this episode IS character driven, by everyone. Holt, Rosa, Wuntch, Jake, Terry, Boyle; it’s really good.
  • Loved the balloon arch continuity from “Monster in the Closet.”
  • I also love that Terry and Boyle got a free babysitter in the form of Jake and are happy with it. It’s fun when a storyline rife with conflict turns out well for everybody, and it also shows the complexities of being a parent. Those two men will do anything for their children and love spending time with them, but boy are they happy to share a moment of relief when they don’t have to take care of their kids for a little bit.
  • Holt likening his relationship to Wuntch with chess and that, “She’ll never make another move,” is excellent, excellent writing. This line is the perfect summation of what I tried to say in like 500 words above, and an excellent way to convey Holt’s feelings at this time.


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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Series Finale Review: The Last Day (8×09/8×10)

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season 8 The Last Day

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.

Other Thoughts:

  • 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.

Goodbye, Nine-Nine!


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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – Renewal (8×08)

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season 8 Renewal

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.

Other Thoughts:

  • 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.


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Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review – A Game of Boyles (8×07)

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season 8 A Game of Boyles

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.

Other Thoughts:

  • 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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