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.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Review: The Setup (8×06)
I’m glad “The Setup” holds Jake responsible for his wrong doing, and yet I find myself wishing again there was more nuance to this season. The “good” cops and “bad” cops have been so easily and clearly defined that any realistic exploration of police conduct may be out of reach.
This episode begins with Jake excited to go chase down a bomber, and ends with his acknowledgement of his own misconduct, and yet somehow there isn’t a thread running from that first scene to the last one. Jake isn’t sorry for wanting to arrest people, he’s sorry for making a mistake, and there is a massive difference between the two.
Because Jake’s character motivations aren’t truly explored, “The Setup” feels more like a vehicle designed to get to Holt’s speech about accountability, which fulfills my fear of placing a message over character. It isn’t that I don’t believe this speech fits Holt – in fact I think it is written and performed quite well – but the surrounding narrative doesn’t support the speech in a way to make it part of the story instead of just a message. The speech may be a result of Jake’s actions in this episode, but in practice it has nothing to do with him.
There seems to be a reluctance to accept that Jake’s approach to policing may be a part of the problem. Maybe it’s because his boyhood excitement at getting to reenact his favorite cop movies is such an ingrained aspect of the series, historically providing a balance of comedy to drama. Whatever the reason, the refusal to address Jake’s sheer joy at his chance to hunt down a bomber is completely at odds with the story “The Setup” is trying to tell, creating a disjoint. This results in something closer to straightforward propaganda instead of a character based story that sends a powerful message .
To be clear, I agree with the message Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been trying to send. I just feel the message, and the story, would be more effective if they were better intertwined. “The Setup” is an episode designed with Jake making a mistake in mind so it can reach that speech at the end – I feel it should be designed around Jake realizing that his approach to policing makes him specifically more likely to make mistakes.
Then, instead of only having to evaluate the mistakes he makes in this episode, he has to re-evaluate his entire career. How many other mistakes has Jake made because he was so gung-ho about “catching the bad guy?” How will a cop who is genuinely trying to be a good cop handle the realization that he’s part of the problem?
A focus on Jake’s own personality flaws would bring about these questions more naturally, and hopefully lead to a more natural path to Holt’s accountability speech as well. By keeping Jake squarely on the “good” side and O’Sullivan squarely on the “bad” side, lines are being drawn and simplistic answers are being given.
I can’t help but to imagine a version of this episode where Holt gives his speech directly to Jake, blurring the lines between good and bad and truly forcing Jake to look at himself and his place in the community. It’s easy to point out that random cops we never met have done bad things (like Marzipan, the cop Jake worked with to get information in this episode). It’s a lot more difficult, and more powerful, to point out that the cops we know and love have done bad things, too.
I support providing a point of view with your art, and I again commend Brooklyn Nine-Nine for attempting to navigate such a difficult topic on network television, but I feel the message, and the story, would be stronger if the message was delivered through the characters and not just by them.
“PB&J” brought up Jake’s badge and went nowhere with it, “The Setup” begins with Jake’s glee at a bomb threat and that reaction is never evaluated. The show has the opportunities to make these issues personal – it’s just not taking them.
- Terry and Boyle have been almost completely removed from any sense of complication regarding their jobs. Terry was too busy with a stomach ache in “Blue Flu” and Boyle was too busy worrying about his health. Terry and Boyle are basically carrying on as normal while Jake, Amy, and Holt are out there fighting for a better system. It’s an odd story choice to have some of your key players completely removed from the central storyline, no matter what the storyline is.
- I am so over FBI guys being jerks. It’s a very tired trope, and I’d love it if just once an FBI or CIA officer was really polite and courteous to the local police.
- Due to the FBI trope, my eyes rolled pretty hard when another trope of “Dad’s competing to sell their kids candy/cookies/popcorn” popped up, but it was saved by Scully, who is absolutely hilarious in this episode.
- I wish more episodes would have allowed Stephanie Beatriz to put on different voices and personalities. She’s great at it, and part of what makes Rosa unique despite a pretty archetypal “badass” persona is the range she brings to her undercover work. Guess it’s better to have too little than too much, though!
I’m basing a lot of my criticisms of the season’s handling of its subject matter on the first episode and its direct repudiation of the phrase “the good ones.” I can’t help but to feel the storyline has faltered since it created a mission statement and has since proceeded to disagree with that statement through its framing. “The Good Ones” (the episode) ended with Jake realizing he may not necessarily be a “good one,” and yet the rest of the season has mostly framed him as a “good one.” Even this episode “The Setup” frames him as a “good one” who makes a mistake. I think my reception of most of the season would be more positive if the first episode had a different focus, but I have to consider the season as a whole, as there is plot continuity at play here.
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