And so here we are. The end of eight seasons of Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the form of one last heist. The second they announced said heist, I thought about how fitting it was, as Brooklyn Nine-Nine is probably most famous for its heist episodes. They always rank among the best episode of any season, and they allow for the most character interactions to be packed into 30-40 minutes.
As a premise for a series finale, I don’t think they could have chosen better, and it was certainly a very good episode. Easily my favorite of the season. What I am not so sure about is how well “The Last Day” worked as a series finale.
There was plenty about it that worked individually to say goodbye to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s eight seasons of memorable characters. With Holt and Amy leaving for their new promotions and great change coming to the Nine-Nine, Jake decides to leave the NYPD as well to be a stay-home father to his son, Mac. The heist is meant to be his elaborate goodbye, complete with gifts, memorable cameos and returns, and visits to memorable locations.
Naturally, both Amy and Holt also planned on this heist being their perfect goodbye to the Nine-Nine, and so we get the usual twists and turns as each new character takes control of the heist.
I would need to rewatch the others to have a strong opinion on where this heist episode ranks among all the others, but it was certainly a fitting example of why these heists work so well.
The usual Cheddar shenanigans are countered by a dog Amy adopts purely to place at Cheddar’s playground to steal the prize back. Terry has an interview for the captain’s job that alternates from real to fake to back to real before finally settling on fake. There is even a fake 7-year coma complete with a fake hospital room in the middle of the precinct.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine does its usual wonderful job weaving everyone’s plots together so that they end up in the same place at the same time, with no idea who is in control. And of course, no one was really in control by the end. They all ended up at the mercy of a backstab that leads to Hitchcock buying a win.
There are many strong moments that function the way you would hope a B99 finale moment would. Jake and Holt have a great final conversation about Jake’s newfound maturity, complete with surprise “Title of Your Sex Movie” crack from Holt. Amy and Rosa have a goodbye complete with a shared “I love you” and an appreciated crack at the idea of marriage and babies being the end point of every character arc. Terry becomes the new captain of the Nine-Nine, Gina returns, Jake has a conflict with Boyle when the news of his last day becomes known. Most of it works quite well.
Gina is also far from alone among the returning cameos. Pimento returns as part of Rosa’s attempt to win the heist. Bill returns as well, looking more haggard than ever and allowing Hitchcock to win the heist in the end. Wuntch’s grave spotlights is part of the heist. Fred Armisen even returns as Mlepnos and helps Jake escape a ploy by Amy, while Tim Meadows returns as Jake’s cannibal friend from prison.
The whole episode tries and mostly succeeds to take a trip down memory lane, as you would expect of a series finale. The problem is how much of this isn’t really a trip down memory lane for us. There is a nice gag about the opening credits walking sequence being a trip to a falafel stand near the Brooklyn Bridge, but it still seems like a weird location for Jake to plan the heist to end at. Jake and Boyle’s last conversation takes place at the first place where they said they were best friends, but the place is new info for the audience.
In many ways this unintentionally makes “The Last Day” feel more like a good season finale rather than a good series finale. Which is still better than many finales manage, but still stands out as a flaw.
Unfortunately, this is the result of a rushed final season that did not let the season develop plotlines towards this end. Terry’s interview shenanigans would have worked better if Holt got his promotion earlier and his candidacy had taken place over multiple episodes, for example. By far the big flaw of this final season is that it only had nine episodes to close things out, and the finale could not escape the rest of the season’s lack of time to set up the ending.
You can also see how Brooklyn Nine-Nine never quite figured out how to be a cop show in a post-2020 world. To be fair, much of this struggle also ties back to the shortened season. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was both trying to close the show out in a satisfying fashion and find a way to somewhat reinvent itself moving forward, but could not quite do either.
At times this made season 8 feel like both an entirely different show, and yet one retreading familiar ground that they felt was safe. The finale kind of pokes fun at this with Jake’s comment on the eighth annual heist, but one wonders if lampshading is enough.
The finale didn’t deal with police reform at all, and that was the right choice, but ultimately leaves something of an incomplete feeling. I think we will look back on this season and realize it was too late to tackle reform in any satisfying or meaningful way. Brooklyn Nine-Nine simply could not make that transition at this point. It was too invested in being a lighthearted cop show. The effort was incomplete, because you can tell Dan Goor and the other writers simply weren’t sure how to really change at this point. It is easier to just end the show and leave it to someone else starting fresh.
Whatever it means for the dangling plotlines of the season, ignoring reform to focus on the characters was the right choice for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to make here at the end. Let’s be real, it is and always has been a sitcom first. No one is here for hard-hitting examinations of social issues. We are here for the characters, and we just hope they treat the social issues with respect along the way.
And Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s characters were outstanding. They were a diverse, entertaining group with fantastic chemistry. Over eight years, they developed different arcs and chemistries with each other that could make the audience feel like any of them were our favorites. They were the rock-solid core of one of the best sitcoms of the era.
While I am sad that everyone could not all get the same quality of memorable goodbye, I am happy that it was these characters the series finale decided to focus on. It was the right choice to make so that we got the best finale they could. These characters will be part of each other’s lives forever, pulling off heists until the end of time, but this was goodbye for us. I’ll miss you, Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Line of the Week: “I gotta stop trying to recapture the magic of the original and move on. Anyways, back to the eighth annual heist!”
Images Courtesy of NBC
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