This article contains spoilers for the Brooklyn Nine-Nine series finale.
After eight years of goofy, heartfelt squad shenanigans, Brooklyn Nine-Nine signed off after eight seasons. “The Last Day,” an hourlong conclusion to the NYPD’s 99th precinct, determined it’s the people you work with—rather than the actual work— that make life meaningful.
In the break between seasons 7 and 8, the world changed—a pandemic broke out, and a widespread cultural shift in the conversation about the role of police in society (and by association, shows about cops) indicated that Brooklyn Nine-Nine wasn’t ending in the same world it began in. Last summer the show’s writing staff scrapped several completed scripts in order to address last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests and the murder of George Floyd. The season premiere saw Stephanie Beatriz’s Rosa quit the force to open a detective agency centered on helping police brutality victims, while the rest of the squad discussed the impact of performative versus proactive antiracism efforts.
The season has inched toward significant changes in the dynamic of the Nine-Nine, and it works effectively. In the previous episode, after successfully pitching a reform program for the NYPD, Captain Holt (Andre Braugher) and Amy (Melissa Fumero) were appointed as deputy commissioner and reform program chief, respectively. Their promotion requires their removal from the 99th precinct to the NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza. With Holt leaving the Nine-Nine, Terry (Terry Crews) interviews to replace him as captain of the precinct, and Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio) resolves to stay.
But what about Jake (Andy Samberg)? His childhood dream, encouraged by a lifelong love of Die Hard, was to become a detective and help people. His journey throughout season 8 illuminated two challenges to the continued realization of this dream. One, he already questioned his place as a detective, as seen in the season premiere. Secondly, his and Amy’s increased workload has decreased their ability to spend time with their one-year-old son, Mac. Jake’s fractured relationship with his absentee father is a thread that has run through the series, and he doesn’t want Mac to feel that same sense of longing. Supporting Amy’s promotion within the NYPD, Jake resigns from the Nine-Nine to become a stay-at-home dad to Mac.
Jake chooses to break the news of his resignation by revisiting one of the series’ most beloved traditions: the annual heist. Initially held on Halloween, the heist has evolved into a whenever-we-have-time event celebrated by the Nine-Nine. Jake presents the heist as a sendoff for Holt and Amy, but titles it “The Perfect Goodbye,” telling Amy he will reveal his departure from the NYPD at the conclusion of the heist.
“The Last Day” follows a heist much like the others—diabolical, fun, and full of absurd months-long planning—but this time is populated with cameos and details that make this the sweetest heist since season 5’s “HalloVeen,” when Jake proposed to Amy. Jake replaces the heist prize (a medal hidden inside a vintage message canister) with decoys deliberately placed with each squad member, each containing gifts for the squad.
Cameos from previous seasons abound, from incarcerated cannibal Caleb (Tim Meadows), unpredictable detective Adrian Pimento (Jason Mantzoukas), and Fred Armisen’s vaguely Eastern European civilian Mlepnos. Gina (Chelsea Peretti, who left the series in 2019) returns to help with the heist and brag about the wealth she’s accumulated as an influencer.
Callbacks to previous gags are scattered throughout the squad’s quest to become the ultimate Champion/Genius— Jake’s inability to correctly pronounce the name of Boyle’s son Nikolaj, Gina’s sweatshirts corresponding to her dialogue, Amy’s ex-boyfriend Teddy (Kyle Bornheimer) declaring his love for her at inappropriate moments. It’s a “Perfect Goodbye” not just because Jake has titled it so, but because it’s a love letter to the fans. Without them, the series may never have been revived by NBC after its 2018 cancelation on FOX.
There are no surprises here (save perhaps for the eventual winner of the heist), just a lot of love for a group of people that were always there for each other, no matter how great their differences. It’s a thread that runs through many of series co-creator Michael Schur’s shows: just as The Office wasn’t really about a paper company or Parks and Recreation wasn’t just about a parks department, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was never really about the NYPD or cops at all.
Sure, it was set within that workplace and had episodes that navigated tough cases, ethical dilemmas on the job, and corruption in the workforce. How could it not, when the cultural perception of cop shows changed significantly since the series’ debut in 2013?
But at the end of the day, Brooklyn Nine-Nine was always centered on people who found family in one another. The last scene in the series, a celebration of the heart and goofiness of the show, proves just that. It’s cliche to say so, but after one Backstreet Boys singalong, eight heists, and many “title of your sex tape” jokes later, “The Last Day” really was the perfect goodbye.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is streaming on Hulu and Peacock.