NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never shied away from addressing real issues facing its precinct. Previous seasons have seen Amy (Melissa Fumero) disclose an incident of sexual assault in her police academy days, while Terry (Terry Crews) experienced racial profiling in his own neighborhood. But though Brooklyn’s 99th precinct has evaluated serious topics with delicateness and sensitivity, it has rarely stretched beyond the confines of a single episode … until now.
The season 8 premiere, “The Good Ones,” opens in the summer of 2020, as a masked Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) announces that she’s resigned from the Nine-Nine. The action then jumps forward to the following spring, when we learn where Rosa has gone: in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Rosa felt that being a part of the NYPD made her complicit in systemic injustice. She has become a private investigator to help victims of police brutality. Jake earnestly wants to help with one of Rosa’s cases, and she reluctantly agrees, but makes it clear that despite Jake’s genuine motivation to help (“I’m one of the good ones!” he says), she disagrees with his continued presence on the force.
Meanwhile, Terry is uncomfortable with Charles’ (Joe Lo Truglio) performative anti-racist activism, and Amy returns from maternity leave to discover that her hero and mentor, Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) has recently separated from his husband, Kevin (Marc Evan Jackson).
The series premiere quickly makes it clear the Nine-Nine isn’t going to wrap up in a neat bow by the end of the episode. The gravity of seeing the NYPD become actively unhelpful, even interfering, with Rosa’s case triggers a crisis for Jake, whose primary motivation as a detective is to help others (and occasionally fulfill his dreams of saving the world, Die Hard-style). He’s dealt with dirty cops before, but there’s a bigger, more systemic issue than he realized. Rosa’s career change is a new opportunity for her to help others—and she’s not backing down on her position.
There are only ten episodes in this final season, and now that two have aired, two overarching themes have been set: the Nine-Nine must address their participation in a system that sweeps injustice under the rug, and the team must reunite Holt and Kevin. The second episode in the season, “The Lake House,” tackles the latter: Jake hatches a Parent Trap-like scheme to bring the two back together.
That both episodes end on unresolved notes presents an interesting storytelling change to the series. Like many sitcoms, character issues on Brooklyn Nine-Nine resolve by the end of the episode, unless there’s a hasty two- or three-episode arc, but there’s surely more to Holt and Kevin’s relationship ahead before the series concludes. And since “The Good Ones” primarily depicts Rosa alone with Jake, the impact and meaning of her departure has yet to be discussed by the rest of the team.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine seems eager to end on a note that demonstrates how much it understands that people change, and so do their perspectives. NBC is concluding the story of the Nine-Nine in a very different era than when it began (and on a different network—the series’ first five seasons aired on Fox). A show about a group of cops, no matter how intentionally inclusive of diversity, is a harder sell now than it was in 2013.
The stakes presented by Rosa’s resignation are permanent and game-changing, and introduce important implications for the rest of the group, who, for now, remain on the squad (that Holt attributes his separation to the strife of being a Black, gay captain in 2020 indicates that there’s more introspection to come). There’s a lot left for the final eight episodes to cover—but then again, eight episodes can be a lot of time, if you use them well.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Thursdays at 8/7c on NBC.