Brooklyn Nine-Nine just concluded its seventh season. A few thoughts on this season and its finale, “Lights Out,” coming up just as soon as I investigate a murder at a Cinnabon …
I spent much of Season Seven’s first half resigned to the notion that Father Time is undefeated, even when it comes to consistently funny sitcoms like this one. Other than the time-hopping “Trying,” the early episodes seemed made up of ideas the show had done a few too many times before, and even demoting Holt to patrol cop didn’t shake things up very much. It was still likable and funny enough to make me happy, but the sense that the series would keep defying its creative age faded quickly.
“Ding Dong,” the season’s midpoint, ended Holt’s demotion, and also signaled yet another improbable rally from a show that keeps having them. Not every episode since has been perfect (this year is the first time I was disappointed in a Pontiac Bandit story), but “Dillman” and “Ransom” are both all-timers, and everything else has had at least one great comic set piece, like the Whiplash parody from “Admiral Peralta.” News that the Season Eight virtual writers room began earlier this week has me genuinely excited, because I can’t wait to see what ridiculousness they have this great cast do whenever it’s safe to film a television show again.
“Lights Out” isn’t quite up to the level of this season’s best installments. But in having the entire squad dealing with the boroughwide blackout in different ways, it does the thing you probably want most from a season finale — particularly from a show where the scary state of the real world means we may not see it again for a while. It puts the whole ensemble on display, allowing every character to shine on two levels: Everyone gets to help out in some way — even Scully and Hitchcock become heroes when their nap room turns out to be the perfect impromptu birthing suite for Amy — and everyone gets at least one funny piece of business.
The highlight was probably Terry and Holt’s choreographed “Push It” dance — an activity totally natural for the former and utterly alien to the latter. So we get the best of both worlds, and it sets up a great, season-ending joke, where Jake’s love for baby McClane(*) is superseded by his love for seeing the captain do something spectacularly un-Holt-ian. But all the characters got a good showcase at some point or other.
(*) Named, of course, for the hero of Jake’s favorite film, albeit nicknamed Mac to make going through life a bit easier.
It’s been nearly 70 years since the first sitcom birth episode, back on I Love Lucy, and pretty much every iteration of “woman goes into labor in extreme circumstances” has been tried over that time. But Sgt. Santiago trying to run the precinct during a crisis while masking labor pains felt so quintessentially Amy that it worked. (Amy and Hitchcock hurling long strings of bleeped profanity at each other was probably the episode’s nondancing peak.) And Rosa’s utter horror over the details of childbirth was a welcome bit of vulnerability from the show’s most unflappable character. The crazy night as a whole proved exactly the kind of story these two new parents deserve to tell Mac as he grows up.
Perhaps best of all, under these strange circumstances in which the episode airs, there’s no cliffhanger of any kind, not even a relatively low-stakes one like Holt’s demotion. With the world still mostly frozen, it’s unclear when TV shows will be allowed to resume production, let alone when the traditional broadcast network “midseason” would start. So it could be quite a while before we get to return to the Nine-Nine. With the series again finding a way to age oh-so-gracefully, that wait might feel very long. But “Lights Out” offered the kind of warmth and silliness that feels right to pause on, until whenever the series, and life, can return to something resembling normalcy.