Last June, it was revealed that the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers’ room had essentially gone back to the whiteboard in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. According to Terry Crews, “They had four episodes all ready to go and they just threw them in the trash.” Since then, it’s been a question of just what the show would look like upon its eventual return for its final season. Would the Nine-Nine squad decide to quit the force and instead work at a post office? (At a certain point in 2020, many people were adamant that they’d watch a sitcom about the USPS.) Would they become firefighters? (Considering the canonical rivalry, that would be an interesting status quo shift.) Would they become private investigators like Adrian Pimento? (The most logical option, considering their skillsets and the established Pimento.) Naturally, with four scripts in the trash and a decision to start over, some assumed that maybe the Nine-Nine would no longer be Five-O.
As “The Good Ones” finally reveals, that’s not quite the case at all.
“The Good Ones” is a statement of a season-opening episode, from its content to its episode title. Especially over the past year and a half, the concept of “[one of] the good ones” is a loaded one. So while the title and concept of this episode could have easily been used in a past season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s especially relevant now. However, while culturally relevant, “The Good Ones” and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s approach to what’s going on in the world kind of implode upon themself, thanks to the previous seven seasons of the series.
Over the years, I’ve consistently written this about Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s depiction of police: All cops are bad, except for the squad at the Nine-Nine, who are the only good cops. All other cops introduced on the show are varying degrees of incompetent, conniving, corrupt, and straight-up villain. Never forget that, because of this fact, Jake and Rosa—a couple of the good ones—ended up in prison. This truth is why last season’s “Captain Kim” ended up somewhat surprising, as Kim (Nicole Bilderback) actually was one of the good ones; as well as why the Debbie (Vanessa Bayer) arc was ultimately a bit disappointing, as the show found a way to make even the most seemingly innocent character a corrupt cop. At this point, no one watching should be surprised when any cop outside our core characters is one of the bad ones. And neither should any of our core characters. Especially Jake Peralta.
David Phillips and Dewayne Perkins’ script for “The Good Ones” does a lot of work to make sure that Rosa consistently makes clear to Jake that her decision to leave the force and become a private investigator is not about him. However, it’s work that doesn’t completely, well, work, because despite this being an ensemble, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still an Andy Samberg show. It’s always ultimately going to be about Jake Peralta. Jake and Boyle are two sides of the white ally spectrum in this episode, with Boyle as the obnoxiously performative one and Jake as the one who wants to remind everyone that he’s a good guy, even when no one’s even talking about him. Both have to be taught by the people of color around them in this episode, but Jake is taught a hard lesson he should’ve already known about the very broken system that he’s a part of. (And Boyle is taught a lesson that hopefully sticks, because he is a lot here.)
While it doesn’t make the episode all about it, “The Good Ones” does bring race into this episode. As mentioned, Rosa and Terry are the POC teaching their white friends here, but specifically, it’s the fact that Rosa even brings up people that look like her being targeted by the police, while Holt also mentions how he struggles with being a Black man and a cop right now. And obviously, the show’s given Terry a showcase in this realm when it comes to “Moo Moo.” But this episode also has Amy seemingly have no issue with what’s going on in the world, which doesn’t feel right, considering everything else going on. That’s not to say that this should be a heavy half-hour made solely for the purpose of these conversations, but when these conversations are happening yet pointedly not happening with one more character who should probably have an opinion on any of this, it sticks out. Amy thrives in this episode because of the comedic Raymy (not RaymondAmy) plot. Melissa Fumero and Andre Braugher are absolutely the comedic centerpieces of this episode, while also bringing it emotionally when the moment comes. But with the particular overall focus of “The Good Ones,” that Amy’s contribution to said focus is simply being Holt’s sounding board in his moment is the choice that makes little sense, comparatively.
But the Amy/Holt story really is the comedic lifeline of the episode. While the A-plot with Jake and Rosa has laughs—mostly in a “laugh because it’s true… and sad” way, with both John C. McGinley and Rebecca Wisocky’s very distinct performances as the Billy Joel-loving Frank O’Sullivan and Captain Lamazar, respectively—it’s somewhat weighed down by the obvious knowledge that justice won’t truly be served. (Even before her first appearance, it was clear Lamazar was going to be “one of the bad ones” as soon as Jake vouched for her.) As for the C-plot, Joe Lo Truglio is so talented and this story is so specifically real that it strikes a nerve in a way that personally makes me really glad that it’s only an episode-long story. Terry’s frustrated interjections about “Scully’s book” as a third wheel in the B-plot actually land a lot better than his understandable—and more grounded—frustrations in the C-plot, where he is a main player. Perhaps because said interjections surround the beautiful back and forth that is Amy and Holt’s non-sexual relationship exercises.
This episode is truly held up and together by the performances. It’s nice to see all of these faces again—even Hitchcock’s, on a tablet—and the cast brings their A-game to these stories. Moments like Jake going “undercover” as Mitchell Keith Erickson, Boyle upsetting decked out in Kente cloth, and again, everything Amy/Holt are the kind of ridiculous that Brooklyn Nine-Nine excels at. That’s exactly what you want in a season premiere. There’s also the cold open, which seamlessly blends that ridiculousness (“the COVID-Five”) with the serious topic at hand (Rosa’s resignation in the wake of George Floyd’s death).
“The Good Ones” is a good season premiere. It’s especially helped by the fact that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has gotten away from those big, world-shattering season finales, as it doesn’t have to scramble to figure out how to really undo any of that. But ultimately, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is saying with “The Good Ones” that there’s no reason to feel uneasy continuing to watch this show, because the Nine-Nine squad is made up of the good ones. However, it’s still doing so while saying everyone else is the bad ones. It’s kind of hard to feel optimistic there, isn’t it? Except for when it comes to Raymy, that is. There’s nothing but good vibes there.
The issue with doing a double premiere is that while it may make sense from a network standpoint to include an episode that is simply non-stop jokes—especially after an episode like “The Good Ones”—it might not always tonally work. Or, as is the case for the combination of “The Good Ones” and “The Lake House,” the latter episode might somewhat undercut an aspect of the former.
In this case, it’s the fact that Holt and Kevin are separated. In “The Good Ones,” Holt revealing that to Amy is the emotional peak of the episode. It’s an intimate moment, just between those two, as Holt hasn’t told anyone else in the precinct. In fact, Amy was able to get it out of him because she was the only one who could tell that something was wrong with him. The power of small talk. But with double episodes, moments later, she has apparently told everyone in the squad over drinks. If there were a week between these episodes, it could perhaps cushion the blow. Instead, with a double shot, the heartfelt moment between those two characters suddenly means nothing.
Then again, that network standpoint of going from a topical, NYPD-heavy episode to one where the characters just max and relax at the Lake house (a three-sitting room house once owned by Kirsopp Lake) does make sense. It’s also typical for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to return to the status quo as quickly as possible—especially at the top of a season—which is exactly what Jake’s plan to Parent Trap his two dads, Holt and Kevin, is all about.
As Rosa even points out, an episode like “The Lake House” isn’t a new concept to Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s not a very special episode or even a big event one. (There’s not even any Cheddar. Who has custody of Cheddar?!) It’s a lowkey episode where Jake, yet again, projects his own childhood parental issues onto Holt (and Kevin). However, now that Rosa’s no longer a cop and has a marijuana prescription for her anxiety, that creates a little bit of variety for when the drama of an episode like this kicks in. (As opposed to a drunk Amy.) Said drama comes in the form of Jake’s Parent Trap stratagem, Terry’s hedge vs. ledge outlook on life, and Amy’s hesitance to let Boyle help her take care of baby Mac.
As for Rosa’s edible experience, while television is no stranger to depicting recreational drug and alcohol use as over-the-top as possible, the newness of something like this makes the story work for a character like Rosa. There’s something so effortlessly earnest about a high Rosa eventually joining Scully in crowning the “chip-ion” of a tournament of chips. In fact, while the enjoyment of the beats reminding us just how high Rosa is all depends on your tolerance for this type of story, the way that Stephanie Beatriz bips and bops around during this episode is just so good. The story itself isn’t too big, and neither is her and Scully’s reaction to the rest of the squad simply not caring about their thing. Instead, that bigness is saved for the end tag, with Rosa—still high but not realizing it—agreeing to go on a chip adventure with Scully (and Hitchcock).
The Parent Trap is up there with Pygmalion in terms of storytelling tropes that have become so meta that there’s not much else to do with them (outside of that metaness) at this point. That’s not even a negative criticism, as both stories tend to lead to some pretty fun scenarios when self-awareness is in the building. Unlike with “The Good Ones,” there’s not too much to discuss when it comes to the actual story in this episode. Instead, this plot succeeds based more on the way the episode is edited—the way this obvious plan is presented. From the “53 SECONDS LATER” title card to the depiction of Jake’s description of his plan, the A-plot of “The Lake House” isn’t telling a new story, but it’s bringing fun to the way that it does tell it.
However, despite it being Jake’s plan and Andre Braugher and Marc Evan Jackson’s deadpan deliveries filling every room they enter, it’s Terry who ends up being the secret star of this plot. From the runner of his love of hedges (which feels like it was previously established) but disdain for ledges (which does not) to his first bit of cardio in 20 years (“How hard could it be? It’s immediately awful!”), Terry’s non-commitment commitment to Jake’s stratagem is honestly more interesting than the actual Parent Trap-ing of it all.
As for actual parents and trapping, in comes the Amy/Boyle plot. Thankfully, moving away from performative ally Boyle, “The Lake House” settles Boyle back into a role he knows very well: know-it-all. While Charles Boyle doesn’t have the most self-esteem, when he does have self-esteem, he lets everyone know it. In this case, it comes in the form of parenting, as Mac apparently is a terrible sleeper and Amy can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. It all boils down to Amy’s Amy vibes being the problem… and a gloating, moonwalking Boyle accidentally locking Mac in a room for three hours. The logic as to why that room locks from the inside is never explored, but the episode does eventually use the logic (and pure power) of mom-strength to resolve it. Really, the key to this story is Amy’s behavior after she finds out what happened. Her repetitive, seething rage is understandable—and repetition is almost always funny. While “The Lake House” isn’t as much a comedic showcase for Fumero as “The Good Ones” is, she still gets her moments here in times like Amy reminding Jake that Boyle locked their child in a prison and making clear—even after she and Boyle have reconciled—that she’s not going to forget Boyle locked her child in a prison.
But while the Boyle/Amy story is a fun, small little thing in this episode, I do have one big thing to ask: Mac is Jake’s child too, right? While he obviously had his stratagem to execute, this is two episodes in a row where Amy is clearly a new parent and dealing with that, even on top of her other things… while Jake seemingly is not. I’m clocking this now because Brooklyn Nine-Nine has already struggled to tell the Sergeant Amy story—as more commitment to it would most likely mean more separation from the rest of the core characters—and to fall into her being a mom (who is also a cop), while not necessarily doing the same for dad Jake, could just as easily happen. Just something to sleep on.
- This is my last Brooklyn Nine-Nine review. Like with my Lucifer coverage, my new job (in television) has made it so any work in television criticism has to take a backseat. I started reviewing this show seven years ago, and I was really hoping to finish out this coverage. But I’ll leave you with this, one last time…
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: A whole series on High Rosa and Scully during the 64-round chip tournament.
- Jake: “Not exactly an emotional welcome back— Are you crying?”
Amy (crying): “Oh, he just always knows exactly what to say.”
Jake “Ah, she’s consistent.” Props to Braugher for pulling off the COVID-related exposition to set the season scene, especially as it’s supposed to be as stilted as possible.
- Hitchcock retired… but now lives in a tablet so he and Scully can still do everything together. Classic “COVID Season” shenanigans.
- Amy: “This is my big fear about having a child: losing my spark with my boss.”
Terry: “Amy, he’s your Captain. You act like it’s some romantic relationship.”
Amy: “You know what, Terry? You’re right. It is like a romantic relationship.”
Terry: “That’s what you got from what I said?”
- Detroiters fans, Shawntay Dalon plays Rosa’s client in this episode. She doesn’t do much here, but Jake does Mrs. Doubtfire “Hello” her.
- Amy “Hello, Captain. It’s so good to see you. So, so good.”
Holt: “What’s with the bizarre eye contact and the weird way you’re talking, Santiago? Did you join a cult?”
Amy: “What? No!”
Holt: “Are you sure? Most cult members don’t realize they’re part of a cult.”
Amy: “I’m not in a cult!”
- Amy: “Ever since I’ve come back, you’ve been acting distant. What happened to Raymy?”
Amy: “Ray and Amy. Raymy. It’s what people call us.”
Holt: “I don’t know a single person who’s ever called us that.” They will now.
- Rosa’s delivery disguise is for a water delivery place called “DROPLETS.” In this climate?
- Captain Lamazar: “And you don’t want me gone, I’m one of the good ones. And I know how that sounds, but I’m not one of the bad ones who say they’re one of the good ones. I’m one of the good ones who say they’re one of the good ones.”
Jake: “Yep, I hear it, Rosa. You can stop staring daggers at me. Let’s just go.”
- Jake: “Okay, you guys probably don’t know this, but my parents got divorced when I was a kid and it really messed me up.”
- Holt: “Stop it. Kevin doesn’t like to be lied to. You’re disgusting to look at.”
Kevin: “Thank you, Raymond.”
- Jake: “That’s The Parent Trap! I knew my stratagem had classy origins.” Of course Holt and Kevin only know The Parent Trap as Das Doppelte Lottchen, the name of the original German novel.