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Brooklyn Nine-Nine Series-Finale Recap: The Perfect Good-bye

Vulture.com logo Vulture.com 9/17/2021 Brian Tallerico
Stephanie Beatriz is walking down the street: John P. Fleenor/NBC © John P. Fleenor/NBC John P. Fleenor/NBC

It’s over! The remarkable eight-season, two-network run of Brooklyn Nine-Nine came to a close last night with the hour-long “The Last Day,” an episode that genuinely gives fans what they want in a series finale. It returns to the most beloved structure of this sitcom: The heist! And it peppers this final adventure with a ton of nods to the history of the show, some of them in the blatant form of returning guest stars and some more as easter eggs for the hardcore fans. It’s an episode that allows its performers to shine with clever, funny, and incredibly fast-paced performances. And, as this show has so often done, it’s bound with just enough emotion to land. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a show about relationships more than anything else as Jake Peralta found a partner in Amy, a best friend in Boyle, and a father figure in Holt. Jake says near the end that “Goodbyes are inherently sad,” but the team behind this show found a way to bring the rocky final season to a close with enough joy and humor to send it off with the proper final case.

“The Last Day” contains so many twists and turns in its heist that it’s almost impossible to recap it adequately. Every other scene involves a betrayal, a surprise, a flashback, etc. It’s really a very well-constructed hour of television, always moving with a momentum that a lot of this season lacked. The heist episodes are fan favorites because of their breakneck pace, and it’s impressive that the writers were able to stretch that concept for a two-parter without breaking it.

It helps that they have finality to ground it. It’s really about two competing agendas to craft the perfect goodbye. Everyone knows that Holt is leaving the 9-9, but Jake reveals to Amy that he’s using the heist to craft his own farewell to his best friends. As fans have suspected, he’s resigning to be a stay-at-home dad to Mac. He wants to be there in a way that his father never was for him. It’s a little interesting that the writers don’t allow even a hint of the show’s real-world issues this season has played with to impact Jake’s decision. Couldn’t he even mention feeling defeated by the flaws of policing in the modern era? No, the choice is portrayed as Jake’s dream job of being a father, and Samberg sells it. He has a few nice beats here with Fumero. Jake and Amy have long been among the best modern sitcom couples, so it’s nice to see them end on a happy note.

Heist! The journey to find “The Grand Champion of the 9-9” unfolds with a series of double-crosses and cameos from the show’s history. Sadly, no Bruce Willis. (One has to wonder if the line about Jake reaching out to Bruce’s people and getting back that he “would not engage with something like that” could be a peek behind the scenes.) The first familiar face comes as the gang follows a series of clues left by Terry, who has tried to get out of this year’s heist by interviewing for Holt’s job. It’s Caleb, the cannibal that Jake befriended in the two-part season five premiere, played by SNL vet Tim Meadows. He’s into embroidery now but also still into eating people.

The action moves onto what has to qualify as a Wuntch cameo as she’s dead, and Holt maintains the celebratory balloon arc over her grave. There’s a fun little callback here when Jake got suspects in a line-up to sing Backstreet Boys, which happened in the cold open for “DFW” from season five. There’s also an even deeper cut when they get back to the station to find a janitor erasing Terry’s next clue from the line-up wall. The janitor? Dan Goor, co-creator of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

After finally seeing Holt’s tramp stamp — a terrifying hybrid of Kevin’s head and Cheddar’s body — the second big cameo drops in the form of the one and only Gina Linetti. The great Chelsea Peretti returns for the final heist, grabbing the prize and jumping into her armored truck. There are a series of flashbacks and betrayals related to the truck, including magnet suits and a reference to the movie Salt. The action here also brings in Winston Story’s Bill Hummertrout, a man who looks enough like Charles Boyle but has kind of fallen apart over the years. The pandemic was tough on those in the nursing home seduction industry.

The heist keeps moving to the arrival of a cameo by the incredible Jason Mantzoukas as everyone’s crazy cop, Pimento. He and Rosa speed off together, but it is all a part of Amy’s plan to get a dummy prize to Rosa. It’s not the best use of Mantzoukas, still one of the funniest character actors around.

The action of the heist is emotionally derailed when Charles finds Jake’s letter of resignation. Is it part of the plan? He runs off, but Jake finds him where they first admitted they were best friends. A cute scene unfolds about their growth over the years, and Jake reveals that his gift for his BFF was a magazine feature about how they’re the fanciest best friends! How very Boyle. Amy’s gift? A necklace with a mini-binder with the names of Amy, Jake, and Mac. How very Amy.

A disaster with a lot of fireworks and a scam that almost makes Jake believe he was in a coma for seven years leads to a cameo by Kyle Bornheimer’s Teddy Ramos, who has been on the show since the first season as Amy’s ex. He plays along with Amy for the heist but totally still wants to marry her. He also gets the wonderfully funny line: “We were both seduced by the city of Tampa.”

Speaking of funny, Fred Armisen returns for one of the episode’s best cameos as Mlepnos, who appeared in both the pilot and the episode with Jake and Amy’s wedding where he played the violin. He’s now calling himself Jerry, and, for some reason, the way Armisen chooses to pronounce “Honolulu” is hysterical.

Instead of the Brooklyn Bridge, it looks like the heist will end at a storage facility. As Holt seems to be taking the victory lap, it’s revealed that Rosa didn’t run off with Pimento after all. But it doesn’t matter! Bill has the medal! He locks them in storage and takes it back to the 9-9. After Holt “Kool-Aid Mans” out of the storage unit, they return to the precinct to find Hitchcock! On Facetime, all season, it is nice to see him back, even if it means Jake had to put the heist crown on his “sweaty butt head.”

There are a few nice final beats. Amy just wants Rosa to be happy, even if that means Rosa doesn’t want to settle down. There’s a cute moment between the two as Rosa says, “I love you.” It’s nice that the writers took this friendship as seriously over the years as the one between Jake and Charles. Holt and Boyle will stay in the precinct and rely on each other. Gina stole diamonds from the evidence locker. Even Hitchcock and Scully get an emotional hug.

Finally, it comes back to Holt and Jake, who get a great final scene. Jake grew up throughout the series, and Andre Braugher nails the emotion of Holt telling him that he would be proud if Jake were his son. The best part? The genuine smile between them feels like Braugher and Samberg are cherishing their impressive chemistry over the years.

“It’s late, and we have to work tomorrow.” Life will go on at the 99th precinct. In fact, this wasn’t the last heist! The final scene reveals that Terry is the captain, and everyone is coming back for another round! They can’t let Hitchcock be the champion! Nine-nine!

Overtime Shift

• If there were to be a Frasier-esque spin-off following another character from Brooklyn Nine-Nine, who should it be? My vote goes to Rosa. Call it Diaz. Make Pimento a regular. I’d watch.

• Scully not realizing his first name is Norm is a funny beat.

• Speaking of famous Norms, I wonder if the bit at the very end where Jake tries to turn off the light on an active precinct isn’t a reference to the end of Cheers, where Sam Malone turned off the lights at the famous bar.

• With all the cameos, one has to wonder if Dean Winters (The Vulture) and Ken Marino (CJ) were just too busy to make it.

• The final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was rocky, but it was worth the show coming back to say goodbye for this episode alone, a reminder of how funny and quick this comedy was at its best. I’ll miss it. Thanks for reading this season!

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