Review: “Brooklyn 99” and navigating a cop comedy after 2020

The final season of “Brooklyn 99” premiered Aug. 12. (NBC)

Connor Stewart

*Spoilers ahead for the final season and rest of the series*

“Brooklyn 99” was put in a tough spot when the writers began working on its eighth and final season. The pandemic was in its early stages when the show’s seventh season finished in late April 2020. 

It left the writers with not much else to do besides start brainstorming what wacky adventures 

this lovable band of detectives would get into for the next season and come back with a bang once COVID-19 allowed people to be together again. 

Then the death of George Floyd happened.

The murder of the Black man at the hands of police sparked protests across the nation. Police and their procedures were put under a microscope, and trust had been shaken between the public and law enforcement.

“Brooklyn 99” could not just come back and pretend like nothing happened. The series never did shy away from real world issues. 

The show had already broached the topic of racial profiling in the season four episode “Moo Moo.” It showed Sgt. Terry Jeffords (Terry Crews) being profiled by another police officer. Then, in season six the series’ lovable lead, Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg), and his wife Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) take on a sexual assault case that reveals Amy’s own history of assault.

The series had to address the real-world issues that were at the forefront of the minds of Americans. This was why the creators, according to actor Terry Crews, scrapped all the work that had been done up to that point on season eight. 

“They had four episodes all ready to go, and they just threw them in the trash. We have to start over,” Crews said back in 2020.

The show returned on Aug. 12, 2021, with ten episodes and immediately shook things up. In the very first cold open, the hardened Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) quit the force after becoming disillusioned with police. 

The hits continued to come when the precinct’s stern Captain Raymond Holt (Andre Baugher) revealed in heart-breaking fashion that he and his husband Kevin (Marc Evan Jackson) split up after the weight of the past year as a Black police captain affected the relationship. Jake began to understand the shortcomings of police while balancing raising his newborn son with Amy, who was fighting for police reform.

The writers pull off a balancing act that not only talks on the tough issues, but uses them to challenge the characters to help them grow while still getting the usual goofy antics in. 

The season’s main antagonist, the head of the patrolman’s union Frank O’Sullivan (John C. McGinley), spends his time harassing the characters for trying to make police reform happen. At times, he does feel like a caricature of those that spoke out against reform. He is a heightened version of that. He might be too much for some people, but McGinley gave it his all as the show’s latest entertaining villain.

The final season does have some stumbles. Mainly the episodes “PB+J” and “Game of Boyles.” Both of these episodes felt like ideas from an earlier season that were just thrown in because they needed to fill up space. They provided some laughs, but ultimately felt underwhelming and not a part of the lead-up to a series finale.

The finale, on the other hand, succeeded in being a final send-off to the characters in every way possible. One of the strongest assets of this show is its ensemble cast. They work really well together, and that shines in the show’s finale, where they pull off one more heist competition, a staple to every season of the show. 

The heists have continued to get more ridiculous and entertaining with every passing year. They always provided great laughs, twists and furthered growth in the characters. This one was no different. It felt like a love letter to the fans of the show, filled with Easter eggs and surprise cameos for the super fans to enjoy.

With Kevin and Holt’s relationship reconciled and Amy’s police reform bill passing in the previous episode, the season’s main plot was finished, but the writers still had one last twist up their sleeve. Jake was quitting the force to be a stay-at-home dad. 

I was worried that this change came out of Jake’s loss of trust in the police and would send the message that good officers should just quit. Instead, it shows Jake’s growth from man child with daddy issues to loving and capable father. It is capped off with one final exchange between him and Holt that really summarizes how far he has come. 

The final season was not perfect, but it was a good send off. The creators had a curveball thrown at them, and they pivoted to address the issues. It did tie a very complicated issue up in a nice, neat bow, but that is just how television is. I admire the series for going this direction. Not only to address the real-world events, but using it to further growth in the characters. 

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