The 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' Season Finale Was a Reminder of Why It's a Cop Show Worth Saving
Soon after Season 5 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine premiered last fall, Andy Samberg spoke with Jimmy Kimmel about the previous season’s cliffhanger, which saw Samberg’s character, Jake Peralta, and Stephanie Beatriz’s Rosa Diaz, wrongly imprisoned. At the time of its filming, the lovable cop comedy hadn’t yet been picked up for Season 5. "We were like, 'Well, if this is the last episode of the whole series, it’s gonna be sucky,'" Samberg said with a laugh.
The fate of a Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 6 was still an open question until about a week before its finale this past Sunday. On May 10, FOX announced a slaughter: Nine-Nine and a handful of other shows, including The Last Man on Earth and The Mick, would be canceled. The internet (and Twitter, particularly) felt the cult show's loss hard; celebrity fans like Lin-Manuel Miranda and Mark Hamill revolted, and a Change.org petition to save the show garnered nearly 40,000 supporters. There was immediate speculation that Netflix, Hulu, or TBS would swoop in to save it. But all of 31 hours later, NBC announced that it would be picking up Brooklyn Nine-Nine for another 13 episodes.
Riding on the show's expected demise, thinking back to Samberg's almost nonchalant foreshadowing on Kimmel felt common: Brooklyn Nine-Nine has ran on fumes more than once. In Season 4's super-meta finale, the precinct was teetering on the edge of closure. Jake and his best pal Charles Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) were going to go down in a "blaze of glory," while Captain Ray Holt (Andre Braugher) would cram a nine-year mentorship with Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) into one day. It turned out that Gina Linetti (Chelsea Peretti) and her huge social-media presence saved the Nine-Nine, highlighting the precinct’s commitment to its community. So it’s fitting the recent swell of support on real-life social media would bond the fan base and propel the show to its new home.
Overall, Season 5 was about upping the ante from last season, which suffered from lackluster patches and a so-so prison arc. Jake and Amy’s wedding plans only came up sporadically, like when the Vulture (the always incredible Dean Winters) swooped in on their wedding venue. In "The Negotiation," Jake lived out his dream of being a hostage negotiator, while "Nutriboom" introduced a sinister pyramid scheme. The second to last episode, "White Whale," tied up other loose ends -- Rosa caught a criminal that’s long eluded her, and Holt’s race for the commissioner’s job finally began to heat up.
The Season 5 finale, of course, was created when the show’s fate was still uncertain. "Jake and Amy," began, fittingly, with everything falling apart before the pair's wedding. Amy’s veil is on life support, the cake is AWOL, the ringbearer is sick, and there’s a bomb at the wedding venue. But Jake stays cool, coming up with solutions for every problem while Amy sucks on nicotine patches. When the bomb squad shows up, they uncover another issue: Amy’s ex, Teddy (Kyle Bornheimer), is back, again declaring his love. Meanwhile, Rosa falls for an Uber driver, played by the down-to-earth Gina Rodriguez. At the precinct, Holt hems and haws over whether to find out if he was chosen as police commissioner, something that’s long been his dream.
As the wedding plans crumble, Jake and Amy decide to get married at City Hall. Boyle’s only goal is to save the day, and he does so in true Brooklyn Nine-Nine fashion: creating a sparkling outdoor setting with flashing police lights and shredded document paper instead of flower petals for Amy to walk down the aisle.
The finale’s "toit nups" were a satisfying end to Season 5 while leaving enough doors open for more storyline exploration, but the real victory in its Season 6 return is in keeping things like LGBTQ issues on mainstream network television, where graceful representation is still sorely needed. (Rosa is bisexual and Captain Holt is openly gay.) Beatriz, who came out in 2016, says writers reached out to her as the story was developed, asking how she wanted the sexuality of her character to be revealed on the show.
"It’s really cool to me that our show is exploring something with almost the safety net underneath it, telling the audience, ‘Look, we’re not doing this so that we can explore a story and simply throw it away when it’s convenient for us. We are going to keep this person around because we love this person already.’ It’s part of the family," Beatriz told Entertainment Weekly in 2017.
Furthermore, both Beatriz and Fumero are Latinx, and both have spoken out about the importance of their presence on primetime TV. Their initial fears that one of them would be dropped from the show gradually fell away. "I remember we would grab each other and go to the side and say, 'Do you think they will keep both of us?'" Beatriz said in the cover story of Latina magazine in 2015.
The show has also never shied away from addressing divisive issues like racial bias and corrupt cops. For example, in the 2014 episode "Moo Moo," Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) is racially profiled by another officer; the storyline is further complicated when Holt at first discourages him from filing a complaint, thinking it would make matters worse. Holt eventually relents, realizing that not doing so would be perpetuating the same struggle he went through to get to his post, and that standing up for Terry would be an important step in changing prevailing attitudes about race for everyone in the NYPD.
There are, of course, plenty of worthier, more humane causes to save than a TV show. But watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine every week was a form of self-care for many viewers that other shows couldn't compete with, as proven through all of the supportive tweets and Reddit threads. In the outpouring of emotional reaction GIFs ripped from the show, along with the season finale, was as good as any reminder that it was a show well worth saving.