WarningMight contain spoilers.

I’ve been watching (and loving) Brooklyn Nine-Nine since it started airing in 2013, and I’ve always been impressed by how consistent it is. Of course, between the Covid-19 pandemic and the general reassessment of portrayals of the police in American media, there was no way for it remain unchanged. The final season that arrived in the end has as much heart as ever and makes a heroic effort to maintain its identity with more self-awareness. It doesn’t quite bring the thing off, but what follows the uneven first episode[1] is not a bad season. That it minimizes time spent inside the familiar headquarters is unfortunately a necessary concession to reality.

This is an introspective season that makes an interesting and compelling statement simply by examining the zeitgeist. At the same time, it’s still Brooklyn Nine-Nine. What’s funny, silly, or zany (such as the intoxicated Rosa in ‘The Lake House’) stays so. What’s emotional or heartfelt remains genuinely emotional or heartfelt. Murders are still occasionally an unpleasant catalyst for comedy.

The cast continues to be wonderful and delightful. Stephanie Beatriz is still brilliant. Even after eight seasons, the nuances of Jake’s responses to Charles’s unintentional double entendres are a joy to behold. In fact, this season greatly benefits from reveling in the pauses, like Jake’s nonplussed reaction to Charles asking, Why would I want to go to town on Dianne Wiest when I can go to town with you?. His temporary speechlessness when he needles Terry about his lack of an arch-nemesis in ‘Balancing’ only for Terry to take the wind out of his sails with a pointed Maybe I don’t have an arch-nemesis because I solve all my crimes is beautiful. Even the censored swearing that follows can’t detract from the humour.[2]

The story of Jake’s disillusionment with the police force begins with the first episode and follows a reasonably believable course. I honestly thought helping Doug Judy escape would be the beginning of the end for his career, and I have to assume that would come back to haunt him if he stayed. Either way, ‘PB & J’ is a sweet, even touching episode—despite the absence of most of the squad—with an equally sweet air to Jake’s conversation with the freshly-escaped Doug.

He does make some important mistakes this time around, such as when he wrongfully arrests an innocent person, costing them their job, all because he ignored orders and thought himself beyond reproach. The subsequent five-month suspension is merited, but the entire episode (which also includes someone threatening two different queer individuals with being outed to try to silence them, though it’s played for humour) is difficult to watch.

‘Game of Boyles’ is a sub-par episode that ruins the hitherto delightful Boyle family mythos by showing far too much. Neither of the two storylines is particularly good, though Holt and Kevin’s impassioned kiss in the rain is certainly a highlight of the season—their love story is one for the ages.

There are a few oddities in the last few episodes. Holt doesn’t seem like Holt when he steals the tube from Jake in ‘The Last Day - Part 1’. Chelsea Peretti doesn’t even sound like Gina in her initial appearance. Bill the actor being in dire straits isn’t particularly amusing. Caleb the cannibal is still a shockingly abhorrent character.

I’m glad Amy isn’t completely defined by motherhood, but as sweet as she and Jake are together, they only reinforce my belief that most people aren’t cut out to be parents. Not only do their careers suffer—after all, Jake gives up his dream in favour of being a father, with no mention of how he no longer feels comfortable being part of the police force—but the show demonstrates repeatedly how difficult parenting is. They’ve both been inexorably trapped in roles they aren’t prepared for by societal expectations and biology. I can only pity them. That, and enjoy conversations like this one:

‘Oh great, we already have three applicants!’

‘Great, hire them!’

‘Aww, I think we have to interview them first.’

‘But what if they’re bad?’

Jake quitting is all the worse because of the reminder that, no matter how foolish he may appear to be and how many amusingly bad investments he makes, he’s an ace detective. It’s he who correctly deduces a killer is leaving him messages, defying his colleagues’ skepticism (in an episode that also sees a quick and concise dismissal of AI-driven policing).

‘Renewal’ is one of the strongest episodes, and the second part of the two-part finale that follows ably bids farewell to this beloved series with a classic heist (after a necessarily rushed first part). Both the aforementioned episodes are touching and satisfying in spite of all the limitations they operate under. Holt retiring would truly have been the end of the idea of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but his becoming the Deputy Commissioner of Police Reform is logical. It doesn’t feel like he’s leaving even though he is.

The return of the incomprehensible Mlepnos—who doesn’t even bother to keep the names straight this time—made me inordinately happy, and made me wonder whether Andy Samberg was genuinely on the verge of laughter in that hilarious scene. Rosa’s complete satisfaction with and lack of remorse over her interaction with Amy (read: her betrayal of Amy) made me guffaw. Her telling Amy off for so easily believing Rosa needed someone in her life is satisfying. I laughed at even Hitchcock later admitting it felt wrong for him to win.

Terry’s frustration at being compared to the Kool-Aid Man is excellent. It beautifully sets up the later reversal. I must say, even after eight seasons of Terry Jeffords’s fitness being a central part of his character, putting his biceps on display in a sleeveless jacket in ‘Renewal’ still elicits awe. Terry Crews is ludicrously muscular, yet somehow escapes the ‘bodybuilder’ look.

Holt cracking jokes and telling Jake he would have been proud to have a son like him really does get unexpectedly emotional. It brought tears to my eyes. Meanwhile, Charles takes Jake’s resignation rather well on the whole, not even forgetting to correct his pronunciation of ‘Nikolaj’.

I agree with much of what Paste Magazine has to say about the finale, especially regarding Doug Judy and the conspicuous absence of the many female guest stars. Holt and Kevin’s marriage is the ideal relationship. The length of the scene where Amy pretends Jake was in a coma is extremely stressful. And I’m glad to see someone else is equally uncomfortable with the callous insertions of murders and disembodied limbs.

The image of the squad getting into the lift en masse for the last time, with the doors catching for just a second to frame Jake’s smile, is sweet and emotionally charged. The world was a very different place when Paste’s review of the pilot introduced me to Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and the show has never let me down in the eight years since. It saddens me to say goodbye to something associated with so many good memories, but I’m happy it’s been able to overcome every obstacle and make a graceful exit. It would have broken my heart to see it morph into something unrecognizable and uncomfortable.

I don’t mind the One Year Later scene: it doesn’t undermine the ending in any way, only shows old friends taking a moment to honour their past. It was a nice, amusing touch to acknowledge the Brooklyn bridge in the background of the opening credits, too.

  1. The only major appearance of face masks, as it happens, presumably just to establish the pandemic setting.
  2. Said swearing might have been funny once or twice, to bring home the fact that the show was no longer on Fox from season 6 onwards, but it very quickly became an unpleasant, overused device.