REVIEW: “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” Season 8

After nearly a decade, a cancelation scare, a network change, and a whole host of shenanigans, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is coming to an end. But not before taking one final ride, of course. And if the first five episodes are anything to go by, fans are gonna be pretty happy with how this final season brings the show to a close. Managing to balance its usual absurdity and fun character beats with some more serious, topical storylines, the final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine gets off to a solid start. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good reminder of why the show is so beloved.

NOTE: There are spoilers for episodes 1 and 2, “The Good Ones” and “The Lake House.”

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Season 8)
Created by Dan Goor and Michael Schur
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” follows the exploits of hilarious Det. Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and his stoically ever-professional Capt. Raymond Holt (Andre Braugher), along with their diverse, lovable colleagues as they police the NYPD’s 99th Precinct. In this final season of the series, Jake and the squad must try to balance their personal lives and their professional lives over the course of a very difficult year.

The biggest question going into the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was how it would tackle last year’s BLM protests and the growing distrust of the police. The more cynical might have assumed the show wouldn’t tackle them at all. After all, it’s a light-hearted workplace comedy, could it really do these conversations any real justice? And that’s where things get a little complicated. Because Brooklyn Nine-Nine does tackle these issues, and it tackles them in a way that’s kind of surprising, all things considered. The first episode, “The Good Ones,” opens with Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) quitting the NYPD in the wake of the protests. She subsequently decides to devote her time to defending the victims of police brutality. It’s the kind of cold open I didn’t think would last very long. But it does.

The rest of the episode follows Rosa and Jake as they investigate a specific complaint. Jake’s there to prove that some cops are still good, while Rosa is simply trying to get justice for her client. There’s a lot of nuance in this plot as Jake gets caught up in his own feelings about Rosa’s resignation and his insecurities about remaining a cop. Naturally, in doing this, he ends up being the very thing he’s trying to disprove. But the whole storyline works incredibly well. Everything is rooted in these characters – how they’d react to these specific situations. Jake and Rosa’s actions are both believable, as is Charles’s (Joe Lo Truglio) descent into performative action. It’s exactly what you’d hope a show like this would do. And the episode ends on this somber note, emphasizing the notion that this isn’t a problem that can be quickly fixed.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE — “The Good Ones” Episode 802 — Pictured in this screen grab: (l-r) Stephanie Beatriz as Rosa Diaz, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta — (Photo by: NBC)

What’s surprising about Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s approach is that it doesn’t just shove all of its thoughts about police brutality and police reform into one “Special Episode, never to be examined again. Instead, almost every one of the five episodes provided for review touches on the idea of police reform. The first and third episodes deal with it most directly. But it crops up here and there throughout the episodes. And, on the one hand, it’s nice to see the writers attempting to follow through on exploring such a big idea. Sure, there’s probably only so far they can take it on a network television show, but it’s admirable they’re giving it some room to develop. And I mostly think what they do here works very well. They take these issues seriously, and while their solutions aren’t necessarily novel, they’re still quite unique within the context of other cop shows.

There are places, though, where it doesn’t work as well. The combination of the episodes that focus more on these issues alongside plotlines and episodes that don’t creates a kind of tonal whiplash. Just look at the two episodes that aired this week. The first ends in stunned silence as Jake realizes he’s got a lot of work to do before he could really consider himself “one of the ‘Good Ones'”. And then it’s immediately followed by an episode entirely divorced from that plotline – or any cop stuff at all. Both episodes are great individually, but combine them and they don’t quite flow right. This pattern gets repeated next week, though to a slightly lesser extent. And it holds true for most of the first five episodes. Individually, they’re really good. But together, the tones don’t quite mesh as well as they could’ve.

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE — “The Lake House” Episode 801 — Pictured in this screen grab: (l-r) Terry Crews as Terry Jeffords, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta — (Photo by: NBC)

With all of that said, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still the same show it’s always been. It’s an absolutely hilarious romp that wears its heart on one sleeve and its comedy on the other. From the moment the season begins, you’re inundated with all kinds of over-the-top gags. There’s Jake and Charles’ COVID-friendly high five device, Amy (Melissa Fumero) and Holt’s subplot in episode one, Rosa spending the entirety of the second episode high as a kite, and many things in the subsequent episodes that I can’t even mention but will make you laugh outrageously hard. The show has always been one of those comedies filled with as many jokes as possible, and that remains true here. And it’s even cranked up to an eleven. There’s never a dull moment in these episodes, and the comedy continues to be that perfect blend of smart and dumb.

But even better than that is the chance to revisit these characters one last time. A show like Brooklyn Nine-Nine only gets to last this long because of its characters. And there is just so much joy to be found in these characters. Seeing Jake and Amy trying to balance parenthood with their jobs opens the door to a host of heartfelt-yet-hilarious moments. Holt’s ongoing marital troubles end up being surprisingly poignant. Charles’ interactions with Terry (Terry Crews) in episode one and Jake in several of the subsequent episodes are as quintessentially Charles Boyle-esque as possible. And there’s even an appearance from a fan-favorite guest star later on in the season that’s sure to bring fans joy. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always been a show that could bring a smile to your face no matter what. And this final season brings that quality in spades.

At this point, you either like Brooklyn Nine-Nine or you don’t. And what I’ve seen of season eight simply isn’t going to change that for most people. Those who have been on the fence will remain on the fence. Those who haven’t enjoyed the show at all probably still won’t. But those who adore the show are gonna get what they’ve always gotten: a collection of gut-bustingly funny stories featuring one of the best comedic ensembles on television. There’s still a great balance between character-driven episodes and weightier episodes. All of the actors do exactly as fabulous a job as you’d expect them to. These first five episodes are a genuinely good start to the final season. They get the ball rolling towards a conclusion we can only hope will prove satisfying. I’ve got a lot of hope, though. Some episodes are better than others, but all five of them are enjoyable installments. And I’m excited to see how the rest of the season plays out.

4 out of 5 wands.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Thursdays at 8 and 8:30 pm on NBC. New episodes debut on Peacock and Hulu the following day.

Note: This review also ran on Geek Vibes Nation.

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