This Brooklyn Nine-Nine review contains spoilers.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 8 Episodes 3 & 4
The writers and cast of Brooklyn Nine-Nine made it a point this season to reflect the real-world conversations happening around policing, systemic racism, and accountability. While their passion for these topics is evident, and in this writer’s opinion, economically dealt with for a 22-minute comedy, not everyone loves a network sitcom getting “preachy.” While last week’s premiere felt bold and thoughtful to some, others didn’t appreciate the jarring shifts in tone.
This week’s first episode “The Blue Flu” amazingly strikes a deft balance that I believe will make both sides of the audience happy. Union representative O’Sullivan appears that he’s here to stay as this season’s chief antagonist and, using a “contaminated food” scheme that we’ve seen in real-world headlines, he organizes a uniformed officer strike that leaves the Nine-Nine short staffed and unable to hit arrest quota numbers.
Holt splits the squad up to uncover the scheme in a trident-style plan (or fork, depending on the number of prongs). After overcoming hurdles like Terry having the stomach flu, Holt eventually reveals that though the precinct was understaffed and didn’t hit their arrest targets, they also saw huge decreases in officer complaints and thrown out cases, as well as a level of violent crime. That means that perhaps the precinct could get by lowering the number of staffed officers, so either O’Sullivan can end his strike, or Holt could release his findings and lay off officers. By addressing union corruption and diving into real theories about police presence relative to crime, this is radically grounded for a silly NBC comedy in a way that feels important.
That said, “The Blue Flu” is also incredibly funny. This is the best Boyle material we’ve gotten in a long time. For instance, Boyle calls mono the “cousin’s” disease and doesn’t understand why Jake doesn’t like him saying the pair are “going to town” together. When Boyle believes he may have testicular cancer, he begins spiraling, buying expensive cheeses, and wearing extravagant fur coats.
Also, there’s a great gag about the other precincts sending their versions of Hitchcock and Scully to the Nine-Nine to make up for the lack of manpower. I have to say, I’m very disappointed that Hitchcock looks as if he’ll only be appearing via video screen, but hopefully the season still finds a way to creatively deliver Hitchcock and Scully material.
However, similarly to last week, the night’s second episode leaves a bit to be desired. “Balancing” is a classic new parents sitcom episode filtered through the BK99 lens. Jake and Amy each are highly dedicated professionals with important business on their plates. Jake is trying to catch an old nemesis, serial killer Johnny Franzia (the bad guys always have the best names on this show), while Amy is set to deliver a proposal on lowering the number of officers based on the findings in the last episode. Each still has to find time to be parents. This is the exact kind of story that I was not looking forward to when it was revealed that Jake and Amy would be parents. While the show was incredibly inventive telling pregnancy stories, so far, the parenting stories have been cliché.
It is a bit fun seeing Jake almost tortured over the fact that Boyle is living out his detective movie fantasies while he’s stuck hearing about them second-hand. In the end, Jake steps up to parent and allows Amy to deliver her presentation, but he’s rewarded by witnessing his son pull himself up for the first time.
The episode also finds Holt moving in with Rosa amid his relationship issues with Kevin, and he proceeds to talk nonstop about his husband, driving Rosa mad. When they get drunk to take Holt’s mind off of his relationship issues, he ends up sending a dick pic to Kevin, and the pair scramble to delete the photo off of Kevin’s devices. Rosa and Holt are a fun, uncommon pairing, but they don’t really get enough time to turn this into something memorable.
So another week, another winning episode paired with a mediocre one. Thankfully, next week NBC will stop burning two episodes a week, and maybe we’ll see a more steady level of quality. While this series can sometimes be a bit spotty, the NBC seasons have usually had a higher level of consistency than this, and hopefully this final season locks into that groove soon.