It’s been a hell of a rollercoaster season for the Nine-Nine. It was a year tainted with cancellation rumors that had the fandom on edge like it’d never been. We wanted to enjoy the episodes, yes, but checking the ratings to see if they’d be enough for Fox to keep the show going was a preoccupation that hindered our complete enjoyment of the show’s fifth season.
Alas, there is reason to rejoice: despite the cancellation, NBC swept in and rescued the show. And, in light of this, we go over the season to understand why NBC decided Brooklyn Nine-Nine deserved a place at home.
For a season that had to carry the weight of a less than stellar one before it, Brooklyn Nine-Nine certainly delivered a fifth season that proved it to be a mature show in touch with its comedic roots and that was always true to the characters. It was, perhaps, the season with the most emotional growth for our squad, one that pushed them forwards in ways that practically seemed to scream “Last Season” but that were essentially organic for our beloved characters. It was a season of milestones: Amy Santiago fulfilled her dream of becoming a Sergeant, Captain Holt had a real shot at being Commissioner, Rosa’s coming out story defined her familiar and romantic life, Jake finally decided to settle down and mature —with Amy.
It was a season to celebrate them, to celebrate what they do best.
And it was also a season that consolidated a possibility for the show to explore new ideas, new horizons, new episode styles and new punchlines. The show got bolder and funnier, somehow. It kept proving, week after week, that its uniqueness was more than enough for us to want more of their stories, but that, if FOX wasn’t satisfied simply with that, it would also demonstrate a capacity to make its audience laugh no matter what in the truest Nine-Nine fashion.
And, honestly, it gave us the best cold open in the history of comedy television.
Listen, was it the show’s best season yet? It definitely ranks very, very high.
The second half of the season. To be honest, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s all-time best seasons are probably the first three, as it often happens with television shows in general. After a while, the writers stop being as creative, and it’s hard to see the characters in a refreshing new light. The Nine-Nine has been overall successful in avoiding falling into the traps of that which is typical and dangerously close to boring, but admittedly, its fourth season wasn’t the strongest. Season five started stronger than the previous one did, with iconic episodes like “HalloVeen”, which easily scored a place among the show’s best ever, but if there’s really something worth highlighting, it’s the season’s second half.
The fact that there wasn’t a clear overarching baddie worked in their favor. There was no threat looming over our characters excessively, so the writers were allowed more freedom and creativity to explore other aspects —aspects that are actually the show’s best. We not only got interesting episodes that challenged the way the show is written and shot, but we also got outstanding guest stars that raised the bar higher than ever. Sterling K. Brown ranks high among those, but so does David Fumero, and, of course, Fred Armisen, as small and brief as his cameo ended up being.
Perhaps because the risk of cancellation was more extreme than ever —a dark premonition that ended up being true, although not for long thanks to NBC— the show took the chance to be bolder in its second half, to try new things, to explore relationships and dynamics in new ways. And it worked in their favor. The Nine-Nine was funnier than ever, tackling social problematic issues with new force and determination, delivering some of its best episodes to date.
At its root, however, the show’s second half of the season worked because it stayed true to what the Nine-Nine has always promised us. It seemed to rediscover its roots in fascinatingly imaginative ways only to build from them again.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Having to carry season four’s season finale was no easy task. It was, however, a much more interesting and mature approach that the one we saw coming into season four. Getting Jake and Rosa out of prison was a hard duty, and dealing with the physical and psychological aftermath and trauma our characters were certainly going to have to struggle with could’ve been a drag. They weren’t, thankfully. They were actually a new form of development that pushed both detectives in different directions, different paths we may not have been sure we’d see on a comedy.
But dragging such an important emotional weight had its repercussions on the first half of the season. To the exception of “HalloVeen”, it felt like the show was struggling to regain its footing through the season’s first eleven episodes. Almost like they were trying to focus on what the tone should be and what the punchlines should be like, it was chunky and funny every so often, and even the show’s ninety-ninth episode fell a little flat at times.
Essentially, it proved that perhaps the show profits more from a less intimidating and horrendous season finale or season-long arc, in benefit of equally developing storylines that are just slightly less transcendental.
WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE MORE OF
Kevin. There’s never enough Kevin —and Kevin and Holt together, for that matter. The show’s twelfth episode did feature him prominently, but it only left us wanting more. He proved he could be equally as badass as Holt and Jake, and suddenly I’m craving a storyline where Holt and Kevin, somehow, end up solving or working a case together. After all, their unlikely but loving marriage remains one of the show’s most distinctive relationships, and a fan favorite one at that.
We also didn’t get enough of the recurring characters we love so much. The Pontiac Bandit only made a brief one-episode appearance, hilarious as it was, and I will keep advocating for Fred Armisen’s Mlepnos to come back as long as they let me. And, actually, looking back on the show’s earlier seasons, there where an overall whole lot more amazing guest stars featured in many episodes. Bring that back!
And, okay, I know it’s greedy of me to ask for more Peraltiago from a season that gave us their proposal, their wedding planning, and their wedding. But the little shipper in me can’t help it. They’ve proven time and time again that they’re one of the show’s fundamental hearts, and there is never enough of them. So, yes, we would’ve loved to see more —domestic— Peraltiago.
WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE LESS OF
One of the brilliant things about this season was the way the writers managed to make us care about storylines or characters we were initially hesitant about. Jake’s storyline about meeting his half-sister wasn’t my cup of tea upfront, but then it turned out to be one of the show’s funnier episodes, and it introduced yet another SNL alumni to the Nine-Nine family. Mob boss Seamus Murphy didn’t feel as threatening as he should’ve, perhaps, but the quick and smart resolution of his brief looming threat was a wise writing choice.
Some of the baddies were lukewarm, to put it bluntly. Jake’s reluctant participation in fake Charles’s pyramid scheme NutriBoom was picked up later on in the season but it ultimately fell flat on its face. Understandably, Jake investing all of his money in such a scheme had to come back to bite him, and the larger, cult-like characteristics that NutriBoom proved to have had the makings of an end-of-the-season enemy. But the storyline was left only half-resolved, and the threat ended up evaporating between other storylines.
But to the exception of these two very minimal and precise ideas, the season managed to balance out the better aspects and the worse with magistral talent. So much so, that looking back on it, it’s hard to pick out specific ideas we could’ve done without.
Thus is the magic of the Nine-Nine.
HalloVeen: Was there even any doubt about this? It wasn’t only one of the best episodes this season, it was one of the show’s best, period. It managed to combine an episode storyline that’s already special, a fundamental part of the show’s continuing mythology, and the show’s strongest relationship. And it may be the desperately enamored Peraltiago shipper in me, but this episode deserves every recognition out there because it proved what Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s strong suit this season was: re-imagining and reinventing classics to make them better.
So “HalloVeen” proved to be a great Halloween Heist episode, with twists and turns and surprises every minute —in the truest Nine-Nine Halloween fashion. And just when we all thought we’d seen it all, when we knew exactly what kind of plot twists to expect and to imagine after five years of similar storylines, the writers and Jake Peralta himself pulled the rug from under us and proved, once again, why we love this show. It was funny, it was exciting, it was incredibly beautiful. And it brought back the “Title of your sex tape” running gag in the best way possible. Truly, a masterpiece.
The Box: Another perfect example of why the show deserved to get rightfully picked up after cancellation. The writers were bold enough to explore the closest plot line possible to an actual procedural, and changed the way the episode was written and shot to deliver a truly thrilling half hour of television. Sterling K. Brown brought a strange kind of hilarious seriousness to his character that both challenged Jake and pushed him to new comedy extremes we’d never fully appreciated.
It was funny, it was intense, and it provided a whole lot of character and relationship development for Jake and Holt. And for an episode that had only them and K. Brown to rely on, it demonstrated that its leads are still in perfect form, ready for as many runs as we wish there to be for them. Plus it features the greatest transition in television ever, probably.
Show Me Going & Game Night: Both episodes reminded us that comedy can be poignant and can contribute to social discourse and in resolving problematic issues. “Show Me Going” tackled active shooters and gun violence from a rather tense perspective that we rarely get to see: what things are like in a police precinct that’s incapable of helping a squad member involved in a shooter situation. It was a great commentary on gun violence and gun rights and regulation, but perhaps more importantly, it was a hopeful vision on the struggles and the importance of hope and comfort. It allowed the characters to grieve in different ways, to deal with possible imminent death in a manner the show never had before. And, essentially, it proved that if we try, we can make our world a better place —as cliché as that sounds.
“Game Night”, on the other hand, was the best example of LGBT characters being treated the way they deserve to be. Rosa coming out as bisexual had been a significant development episodes before, and it ended up being a practically groundbreaking moment in network television. But, had that been the extent of her sexuality-related storyline, we would’ve felt cheated. Thankfully, the writers never seem to disappoint. They granted her an A storyline that dealt, in a very adult and mature and open way, with the aftermath of her coming out. Despite how positive the show —and the squad’s— point of view on Rosa’s bisexuality was, the Nine-Nine has always been characterized for being down-to-earth, for never being overly naive. The squad accepted Rosa, but Rosa’s parents had a harder time doing so. “Game Night” wasn’t simply one of the best episodes because it gave visibility to the bisexual collective, it was game-changing because it proved, in a hopeful light, that there is still a long way to go and that we cannot go that distance alone. So kudos to the writers and the actors for handling it with the utter delicacy and gentility they did.
Jake & Amy: A must. After five years, the show’s strongest romantic relationship finally culminated in the most beautiful television wedding I’ve ever had the pleasure to be invited to —thank you, Boyle. But if the episode had simply been a great, gorgeous wedding, it would not have made the season’s best episodes. A lot of television shows actually have trouble handling milestone episode such as this one with the honesty they deserve, and the amount of expectations they carry surely do not help the writers.
But again, these writers are something else. They managed to write a thrilling hour that not only highlighted the beauty of the Jake and Amy relationship, it also managed to put the spotlight on our squad and on the family they’d become. And despite the fact that Teddy From Jazz Brunch featured almost too prominently for my taste —he was, admittedly, hilarious—, Jake and Amy’s vows have got to be preserved in the television hall of vow fame, if such a thing exists. The honesty, the magic, and the hope they enlightened us with are worthy of remembrance in television history.
Here’s to them!
LEAST FAVORITE EPISODES
Bad Beat: Despite gifting us with gambler Holt, runner up for Best Holt Ever after bachelor party Raymond, it is definitely one of the less memorable episodes. It had great jokes, and the Terry-Jake-Holt storyline was well developed and funny, but the other half of the episode fell incredibly flat. Joe Lo Truglio’s efforts to portray a near psychotic Charles in charge of a food truck —a decision that certainly wasn’t in anyone’s best interests— weren’t enough to save that story, unfortunately. It relied too much on classic crazy person gags that are less smart than the comedy the Nine-Nine has gotten us used to, and thus was more chuckle inducing than out-loud laughter.
The Favor: Perhaps because Seamus Murphy’s presence always seemed unnecessary, his threat seemed neither real nor high-stakes. The episode had the added pressure of being the mid-season finale, which certainly didn’t help its cause, but it isn’t worth re-watching. The Nine-Nine has written better mid-seasons, ones that were iconic and hilarious, but this season’s wasn’t one of them. It wasn’t, strictly speaking, a bad episode. But in comparison to the rest of the season, it undoubtedly falls in the worse category.
NutriBoom: It had all the ingredients of a greatly hilarious Nine-Nine episode: Charles and Jake partnered up, a weirdly sketchy cult posing as an “investing opportunity”, and a cult leader that was definitely alive. But, for some reason, the rhythm was unstable and Jake and Charles seemed to be out of sync —a rare occurrence in one of the show’s best established dynamics. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Charles had to pose as fake Charles instead of himself, so already we were deprived of his usual shenanigans. It certainly felt like an episode that could’ve given us much more than what it did.
SEASON FINALE IMPRESSION
Finales are always a tough thing to handle. But if it’s a season finale that you might be forced to use as a series finale? The task just got double as hard. And because FOX wasn’t being too optimistic about the show’s chances next year, the writers were forced to write an episode that went halfway.
And yet, they managed to write one of their best episodes ever.
Ignore the Peraltiago shipper in me bursting with joy, but it was truly the best way to end a season that had proven to be better and better each week. It stayed remarkably true to the characters, it focused on the one family we care about —the squad—, it felt high-stakes and yet emotionally on-point. It was heartfelt when it had to be, and yet the tenderness that a wedding episode seems to imply was never an excuse to set aside the episode’s comedic potential.
New ideas were explored and left hanging, so that if a sixth season was finally accepted —thank you again, NBC— they could be explored in greater detail. Rosa’s seemingly perfect blooming romance with Gina Rodriguez’s character is definitely an ongoing storyline we need to see happen. Jake and Amy’s married life has got to be one of the main hooks of the next season. And Holt’s Commissioner job cliffhanger is as frustrating as it is exciting.
In many ways, it felt like our characters were closing a vital chapter of their life whilst simultaneously opening a new one full of possibilities. It felt like a season finale, but it also felt a little bit like a series finale. And thankfully, the uncertainty did not force the writers into a strange limbo of half-written jokes or betrayed character arcs.
NEXT SEASON SPECULATION
More than speculate, asking questions is where the fandom should be at as of right now. NBC’s miraculous heroic rescue was followed by the announcement of a thirteen episode season renewal starting 2019, so the new schedule might prove a new challenge for the writers. If the show airs January or February 2019, will the canon schedule stick? Will we not get Thanksgiving or Christmas episodes?
Will there be no Halloween VI?
The season’s cliffhanger, for one, did not jeopardize the life of any of the squad members, but the resolution of whether Holt will or won’t get the Commissioner job could potentially end up separating most of our squad. With Amy already taking full charge as a Sergeant away from the rest of our characters, Holt’s disappearance from the precinct in order to act as Commissioner could further strain their bond. Season three had to deal with a similar idea, but we were sure Holt’s newly appointed job would be temporary.
If he gets to be Commissioner, we’re not so sure.
How the writers will handle that remains a mystery and a small source of worry and doubt for some fans —myself included. We love the Nine-Nine because we love our squad, and after five years of building strong, solid relationships between each and every one of the different characters, separating them now would be a terrible narrative strategy, and an even bigger tragedy.
What we can count for sure on, however, is NBC finally giving the Nine-Nine the promotion and visibility it deserves. And with stars of Mark Hamill and Seth Meyer’s caliber, perhaps we have reason to be excited about possible cameos on their side.
Who knows? Lin-Manuel Miranda may finally guest star as one of Amy’s brothers.
In any case, we have more than enough reasons to be excited and to rejoice until our favorite squad comes back. Thirteen episodes are easier to handle than 22 or 23, so we can hope they maintain the same strength and rhythm that season five granted us.
Until then, keep making sure people hear about how amazing this show is.