Do Good, Receive Good: How Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Season Finale Reflects the Power of CommunityPhoto: John P Fleenor / FOX TV Features brooklyn nine-nine
Bad news always seems to come on Fridays these days, but two weeks ago, the axe came early: On a Thursday afternoon, when we on TV Twitter were least expecting it, FOX canceled the critically beloved Brooklyn Nine-Nine after five nearly perfect seasons.
Then, 31 hours later, after a long, dark day of mourning and hundreds of thousands of howling #SaveB99 tweets and tens of thousands of heart-full words pouring onto the digital pages of TV columns across the internet about the depth of the goodness Brooklyn Nine-Nine represented, we got the news that NBC had swooped in and picked it up.
This is kismet, in an industry-specific way, NBC gathering all of Mike Schur’s creative ducklings (peachicks?) under one roof—NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt implied as much in his statement to Deadline upon news of the pick-up, and just about every TV writer out there has continued to confirm the puzzle-click rightness of that conclusion since.
But at the same time, it isn’t kismet at all—or, at least, it isn’t the kind of kismet attached to transactional industry synergy. It is, rather, the kismet of kindness, hard work, and community building finally paying off. It is the kind of kismet that is earned, the kind of kismet bought by good faith storytelling and trust in fans and family, the kind of kismet that every aspect of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Sunday night season finale—from the Hail Mary renewal to Gina Rodriguez’s guest spot to the in-episode DIY shape of Jake (Andy Samberg) and Amy’s (Melissa Fumero) wedding—bore out. It is the kismet of do good, receive good.
It is, I mean to say, exactly the kismet that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has worked so hard for so long to make us believe is possible, from the very moment it put the 9-9 under Captain Raymond Holt’s (Andre Braugher) tenderly imperious care and asked an audience jaded by police procedurals and exhausted and depressed by the brokenness of American law enforcement as an institution to buy into a Brooklyn precinct of weirdos bursting with love and goodness and a fierce, communal belief in doing what’s both right and moral to protect human life. It is, as the Internet says, everything. It is, even more literally, the kismet of the best parts of the social internet, itself.
So, yes, there was the Hail Mary renewal from a company that will make bank bringing the 9-9 into its fold. But there was also the soul-renewing outcry of hundreds of thousands of voices across Twitter and Tumblr and everywhere else where the Internet lets you have opinions, all of us coming together to see this vital, kind thing we have in common. And there was Lin-Manuel, and Sean Astin, and Guillermo del Toro. (Can we have your take on “Halloween IV: The Peacocking”? Please and thank you!) Even my mom, who is baffled at the idea of reading about television (“Why wouldn’t you just… watch it?”), found herself in conversation with Facebook friends who turned out to be mourning fans themselves. Maybe NBC was going to pick it up no matter what, but that tidal wave of fan-love across those dark 31 hours—that’s what kept the hope alive for all of us on the ground.
In terms of Brooklyn Nine-Nine social media bringing light to a different kind of darkness, there was also, last year, Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) getting a landmark character moment, coming out as bisexual to the precinct in episode 99 (following organically after Beatriz herself came out in 2016), the compassionate execution of which led, through very passionate fans, to the casting of Gina Rodriguez as her possible future girlfriend.
Dear Production Studios Who Would Like To Get Rich As Hell: Gina Rodriguez and Stephanie Beatriz are 100% up for being superhero girlfriends pic.twitter.com/O8zflDGCrw
— jedusaur (@ohshitcircuit) August 22, 2017
“Dear Production Studios Who Would Like To Get Rich As Hell,” Twitter user @ohshitcircuit tweeted in August 2017, quoting @loudlysilent speaking GinaRosa into the universe and Beatriz and Rodriguez responding enthusiastically in return, “Gina Rodriguez and Stephanie Beatriz are 100% up for being superhero girlfriends.”
“I would love to play her love interest so bad,” Rodriguez told BUST Magazine in an interview for the August/September 2017 cover. “I really hope they make that happen.”
And then, months later, there she was, like a Latina rideshare-driving angel come down from heaven to put actual hearts in Rosa Diaz’s steely eyes.
Do good, receive good. This is what social media, in its Platonic form, can accomplish, yes, but it is also what can be accomplished by a community that trusts each other, that has each other’s backs, that knows its weakest spots and readies itself not to tear those weak spots down but to prop them up.
That is the Brooklyn Nine-Nine fandom, yes, but more acutely, it is the 9-9 itself. From Holt’s subtle tending of Amy’s anxious ambition to Terry’s (Terry Crews) personality-sensitive managerial skills to Jake’s self-awareness of his own worst qualities and ability to channel those into professional success to the whole precinct’s understanding of Hitchcock (Dirk Blocker) and Scully’s (Joel McKinnon Miller) narrow-but-present high-level detective skills, the secret sauce of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always been the squad’s ability to trust in and lean on each other. This is the empathy that has made every big swing of plot or character arc such a home run, from Holt’s sexuality and marriage to Terry’s run-in with a racist beat cop to Jake and Rosa’s false imprisonment, and every tiny story in between. It is what makes Gina (Chelsea Peretti) bearable and Charles (Joe Lo Truglio) endearing. It is, most critically to this weekend’s finale, what has made Jake and Amy’s slow-burn march to the aisle so honest and believable.
Any show can take two principals and plant them in a little will-they-won’t-they plot, but few are willing to follow that plot past its inevitable, romantic end to any kind of relationship stability. For most will-they-won’t-they pairings, that tug of war is too close to the bulk of the characters’ personalities. Their shows can’t survive without that tension, and so keep them in limbo past the point of endearment. For shows that bring them to the altar, that is often the end game—as in, the show then ends. There are shows that follow couples through their courtship and past their wedding and continue to give them new narrative tensions to face together, as a couple, but rarely has it been done with as much grace and humor and help from the show’s in-story community as it was done for the last five years on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Jake and Amy belong together, yes, but their personalities and hopes and dreams and agendas have, since the pilot, been utterly their own, and their romance both with and through those personalities, hard fought. And so when Jake and Amy are finally ready to walk down the aisle, everything about it feels viscerally earned—and that includes not just their happiness and their deep understanding of one another (Jake prepped with nicotine patches for Amy; Amy having signed off on a Die Hard cake on Jake’s behalf), but also the bomb threat that is called in that brings proceedings to a halt, and all the frantic last-minute work everyone from the 9-9 falls to—even Hitchcock and Scully—to make the wedding happen anyway.
“Life is unpredictable,” Amy says in her vows, once they finally get to them. “Not everything’s in our control, but as long as you’re with the right people you can handle anything.”
The wedding, the finale, the grand cap at the end of a long, wild few weeks: It is all of-a-kind with the show Brooklyn Nine-Nine has spent five years making itself into. The world may come at you, disaster might drop into your lap, but as long as you’re with your family—your community—you will survive.
That is: Do good, receive good.
It’s a formula that should always work, but rarely does. At least with Brooklyn Nine-Nine in our lives for at least another season, we can be reminded of how lovely the world is when it does, and live our real lives graciously and in good faith in turn.
All of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is now streaming on Hulu. It will return to NBC next year.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic whose writing has appeared on Forever Young Adult, Screener, and Birth.Movies.Death. She’ll go ten rounds fighting for teens and intelligently executed genre fare to be taken seriously by pop culture. She can be found @AlexisKG.