Friday, September 17, 2021

Bye Bye Nine Nine


Brooklyn Nine Nine had its series finale today.

Jill and I have watched the show from the beginning -- we were hooked from the first TV ads featuring "Detective Right-all-the-time" and "Detective Terrible Detective" (as opposed to you latecomers who only got onboard after "I Want It That Way"). It was a stellar show, no question about it, and I am sad to see it go.

This final season was a bit rocky -- I think everyone knew it would be, as they revamped the season entirely following the protests over George Floyd's murder. They didn't take my advice on story arcs, though Rosa did indeed leave the force. And at some level, the last season did in some ways reinforce the semi-popular narrative that all cop shows are "copaganda" -- precisely because it did try to tackle injustice and abuse in policing seriously (or at least, as seriously as a comedy program could).

The penultimate episode, where Jake gets suspended from the force, is what sealed it. Objectively speaking, what happened in that episode was what should have happened in every wild and wacky plot Brooklyn Nine Nine did throughout its entire run. All of Jake's fantasies about living out Die Hard or Speed or any other old cop movie staple completely blew past the fact that he's living a fantasy while being an armed state agent in a world of real people. Of course it would be irresponsible, of course it would mean innocents get caught up and hurt. The reason these things work on TV-land is partially because of suspension of disbelief, partially because every bone in our narrative-driven bodies expects some twist or turn that vindicates Jake after all. Even in this episode, where it was obvious that such a "twist" wouldn't be coming, one still felt the dissonance -- once it became clear that the episode would finally play it straight for once, it all just felt wrong. In a world where the potential for adverse consequences were real, Jake stops being a funny, I-don't-wanna-grow-up enthusiast, and just is a completely irresponsible jerk. A show that didn't make the police look good just wouldn't be fun.

All that said, the series finale itself did a stellar job bringing the show in for a landing. Jake leaving the NYPD to become a stay-at-home dad was exactly how the show should have ended -- him finally learning how to grow up indeed. Getting one last heist episode was a must, and it is incredible how the show managed to keep that concept fresh over eight iterations (Hitchcock winning, and winning in the most uncreative way possible -- he just paid Bill $40 for the trophy -- was fabulous). It was nostalgic and funny and reunifying in all the best ways -- really, a pitch perfect way of saying goodbye. Unlike, say, The Good Place finale, which was excellent but also wrecked my soul, I could actually watch this episode again. Arguably, it was the best episode of the entire season.

And so, if we do have to say goodbye, this was the episode to do it. We got to see most of our favorite characters one more time, having fun, doing what they love, being extra -- and it does help that the heist is completely divorced from actual police work, so the undertone of abject irresponsibility is lessened enough so that it can be comfortably ignored.

Ultimately, Brooklyn Nine Nine which almost certainly would have been eclipsed by the politics of the time if it wasn't just too good to dismiss. That is to the tremendous credit of the actors, writers, and showrunners who made it great. From day one, it proved itself far better than a vehicle for Andy Samberg to get wacky. It demonstrated the incredible comedic chops of dramatic actors like Andre Braugher, and made folks like Terry Crews and Stephanie Beatriz into genuine stars (though lord knows whether Beatriz will ever be able to move beyond her "Rosa voice" -- fun fact: I'm pretty sure "Rosa high on cold medicine" and "Rosa sarcastically chipper" is just Stephanie Beatriz speaking normally).

So, one last time -- Nine Nine! (NINE NINE!)

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