Grading the Season Finales 2015: Brooklyn Nine-Nine



Title Johnny and Dora (2.23)

Written By Luke Del Tredici

Two-Sentence Summary When Jake and Amy have to pose as an engaged couple to track an identity thief, their ability to separate their personal feelings from their professional partnership is put to the test. Meanwhile, Terry and Gina try to help Captain Holt find a way out of his new position, and Boyle helps Marcus plan a surprise for Rosa’s birthday.

Game-Changing Moment Changes were happening all over the 99th precinct at the end of this episode. Captain Holt decided to take the job with NYPD Public Relations rather than letting his team fall into the hands of Madeline Wuntch, and that decision sent shockwaves through the precinct, even more so when Gina decided to leave with him. Having Holt and Gina work separately from the rest of the characters broadened the scope for Season Three and shook up some of the show’s best dynamics—Jake and Holt, Amy and Gina, Terry and Gina, Amy and Holt, etc. I’m sure the show will find a way to believably (or at least entertainingly) bring those two characters back to the precinct soon enough, but until that happens, Brooklyn Nine-Nine will certainly feel different.

Captain Holt’s departure and the sense of change it brought with it also seemed to inspire Jake and Amy to change the game in their own way—with a real kiss after a pair of undercover ones earlier in the episode. While the fallout from that kiss wasn’t addressed yet (thanks to the arrival of the new captain), it was clear from both of their expressions after pulling away that this isn’t going to be something they try to ignore or excuse away because they regret it. Instead, this has the potential to be a major turning point in their relationship, and, as such, a major turning point in the show.

“Johnny and Dora” ended with a sense of confidence in terms of where the show is going and how it’s getting there. It swung for the fences on not just one but two major changes, and I think both of those swings will lead to big hits. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show that has yet to let me down thus far. That makes it easy for me to watch large-scale changes unfold, because I have every faith that those changes will be handled with care.

Finale M.V.P. How do we start a campaign to get Andre Braugher an Emmy for playing Captain Holt? Because I want to lead the charge. This finale started with a typical “Holt vs. Wuntch” plot, which always brings fun things out of Braugher as an actor. From his description of her as a succubus to his face as she checked to see if he was wearing a wire, I loved every moment. However, it was when Holt actually had to leave the precinct that Braugher really got a chance to stretch this character’s range and tug at all our heartstrings in the process. I loved that he started his farewell speech with his usual unemotional demeanor, but then the emotions he felt became so overwhelming that they started to peek through. And best part was that the dominant emotions were pride and love for the family he’s become the leader of. That scene could have been played for laughs and nothing else, with him finally showing emotion by breaking down and crying, but the show instead chose to have him genuinely smile, which was a thousand times more affecting (for the audience and for the other characters). “Warm” is not an adjective usually used to describe this character, but that’s exactly what he was in that last scene. And the fact that Braugher managed to make Holt’s rare display of genuine affection feel so grounded, earned, and believable speaks to his ability to make what could have been a robotic, one-dimensional character always feel human and complex. I love when unexpected characters make me cry, and that’s exactly what Braugher was able to achieve with his performance in this finale.

Most Memorable Lines
Amy: NYPD—freeze! We are police colleagues!
Jake: You are under arrest! This is a work event!

What Didn’t Work While I still enjoy the uncomfortable tension between Holt and Wuntch for the most part (and will always love Kyra Sedgwick in anything she does), I’m hoping this plot development leads to the scaling-back of Wuntch’s presence on the show. The antagonism between her and Holt is still funny, but I feel like this finale was when it started to cross the line into “too much of a good thing” territory for me. I’m a little worried that Holt’s new storyline is going to mean more Wuntch and not less, but I’m willing to trust that the writers know what they’re doing at this point.

What Worked “Johnny and Dora” was funny—laugh-out-loud funny at times (Jake’s weird accents when telling Amy how he felt, Terry carrying the whole file cabinet out when he couldn’t steal one file, Rosa’s faux-excited voice). But the jokes aren’t what separates Brooklyn Nine-Nine from other comedies on TV; the relationships between the characters are. And every one of the show’s core relationships was firing on all cylinders in this finale. That led to some great moments of comedy, some surprising moments of romance, and some genuinely lovely scenes of friendship that I never would have expected to see even a year ago.

I was looking at my review of last season’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine finale to prepare for this one, and I was struck by how much my opinion on Boyle and Rosa’s relationship has changed in a year. Last year, I was so worried that they were going to rush putting the two of them together, but this year, I thought their friendship was one of the best parts of the finale. I loved that Boyle’s work helping Marcus plan his very sweet surprise for Rosa never felt like an attempt by Boyle to win Rosa’s heart. It felt like a friend doing something nice for another friend, who just happens to be the girl he used to have a huge crush on. The way Joe Lo Truglio and the writers have managed to show Boyle’s desire to be a good friend to Rosa without making it feel like an insincere attempt to get her to like him romantically has been such a great part of this season, and this finale reflected that wonderful development. Lo Truglio and Stephanie Beatriz work so well together, and their scenes together in this finale—from the discussion of Boyle’s weird attraction to Ms. Pac-Man to “Ro-Ro” hugging him at the end—were some of my favorites.

Lo Truglio was excellent throughout “Johnny and Dora,” both in showing Boyle’s attempts to be a good friend to Rosa and in showing Boyle’s impassioned desire to see Jake and Amy happy together. Sometimes I find the whole This character is a shipper! thing an annoying device to pander to a show’s fandom, but it actually fits Boyle’s character perfectly. He loves love, and he loves Jake. So naturally, seeing Jake finally be with the girl he loves would be heaven for Boyle. One of the funniest moments of the whole finale was Boyle telling Jake and Amy to follow their hearts after Jake told Boyle and Rosa to follow a car. Boyle is basically the human equivalent of Dug from Up, and somehow Lo Truglio makes that endearing instead of annoying.

Speaking of characters who have become endearing instead of annoying, who would have though Jake Peralta could be as downright adorable as he was in this episode? Like Lo Truglio, Braugher, and pretty much all of the other actors on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Andy Samberg managed to take a character who could have been obnoxious in someone else’s hands and make him a character worth caring about and investing in. And he does that by bringing real sincerity to important moments on the show while still being able to be silly when the situation calls for it.

Samberg’s balance between silly and sincere was used perfectly in the Holt’s final scene in the precinct. I loved that Jake was basically the voice of the audience during Holt’s speech—going from sarcasm to genuine shock to love for his captain. Holt and Jake’s relationship is the most important one on the show (If we’re comparing it to Parks and Recreation, it’s essentially the Ron/Leslie of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.), and I loved that this last scene between them (for now) featured such a great callback to the pilot, with Holt referencing the robot sounds Jake made when he first heard Holt speak. It was a great way to show how far they’ve both come as individual characters and as part of a strong working relationship. The best callbacks are ones that allow you to reflect on how much characters have grown, and this one did exactly that.

Character growth was also at the center of everything that happened with Jake and Amy in this finale. Those two characters have come so far from their “bad date bet” at the beginning of Season One, so the huge step they took at the end of “Johnny and Dora” felt earned. In keeping with the show’s trend of Jake being honest with Amy about his feelings in season finales, this episode featured Jake coming clean to her about wanting to ask her out while still respecting that she doesn’t want to date any more police officers. Ever since last season’s finale, one of my favorite things about Jake as a character has been that he respects Amy (and women in general) enough to be honest with her about how he feels and to never pressure her to return those feelings. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has no patience for pining in silence and expecting the other person to understand; it believes in characters telling each other how they feel while respecting other characters’ rights to feel differently, which is a true breath of fresh air in the media. And Jake is the poster child for that wonderful approach to TV romance.

With Jake’s feelings out in the open once again, things got adorably awkward between him and Amy. This finale used the “fake dating” trope to absolute perfection—giving it a viable reason for being used (going undercover and needing to secure a restaurant table), allowing them to kiss not once but twice to preserve their cover (with things heating up each time), and presenting us with a perfect moment of truth in the middle of the dating deception. I think Jake and Amy’s descriptions of what they like about each other were my favorite parts of this entire finale. Melissa Fumero delivered Amy’s statement that Jake makes her laugh with such simple honesty that what was a moment of humor suddenly became intensely vulnerable. I loved that Amy likes that Jake makes her laugh, and Jake knows she’s the one because he trusts her opinion more than anyone else’s. Those two statements show why they’re so good for each other: Amy needs to laugh more, and Jake needs to be more serious. He lightens her up; she grounds him. And they both picked traits that the other is proud of in themselves. I know the real romantic moment came at the end of the episode, but, to me, this moment was the pinnacle of romance, especially the dawning realization that Amy wants to be with Jake, which Fumero showed so perfectly across her very expressive face.

Jake and Amy’s foray into the world of fake dating provided the perfect buildup to their first real kiss. This finale made perfect use of the dramatic Rule of Three, with their third kiss being the real deal—and what a kiss it was. If you would have told me before this show started that Samberg would be a new celebrity crush for me and a completely convincing romantic lead, I never would have believed it. But as he looked at Amy before he kissed her, I couldn’t imagine another actor selling that moment as well as he did. And the kiss itself was one of my favorite TV kisses of the past year. Fumero and Samberg have always had great comedic chemistry, and the small moments of sincerity between them over the last two seasons pointed toward good romantic potential. But their chemistry in this kiss was more than good; it was great. The pacing of this kiss was so unexpected; it was slower than most TV first kisses, which gave it a sense of emotional depth and confidence that worked nicely. And their faces after they pulled away offered so much hope for the future of this dynamic, making me incredibly excited to see where the next season takes them.

“Johnny and Dora” will be remembered as “The One Where Jake and Amy Kissed.” However, while their relationship was a very strong part of this finale, all of the show’s most entertaining relationships were on display—from Jake and Holt to Gina and Terry. Brooklyn Nine-Nine works so well because there isn’t a weak link among the show’s core character dynamics, and those dynamics were what made this finale so memorable.

Questions to Keep Us Guessing All Summer How long will Holt and Gina be away from the precinct, and what will bring them back? Who’s going to be the new captain? Are Jake and Amy going to move beyond being just police colleagues now that they’ve kissed?

Finale Grade A. This was a standout season finale that reflected all the things I’ve come to love about Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Plus, we got to see Jake and Amy finally kiss. It doesn’t get much better than that.

13 thoughts on “Grading the Season Finales 2015: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

  1. I finally caught up on this one this morning and I laughed through this entire recall of scenes. What impressed me so much about this finale and 2nd season as a whole is that the show smartly didn’t sacrifice character development for jokes and characticure. It is a decision that paid dividends in spades. As you outlined doing so opened up the storytelling all season long that allowed interesting pairings and foils beyond Jake and Holt which for me was critical to the show gaining depth and providing us an ensemble piece in the way Cheers and Fraiser evolved. This balance of self depricating and sincerity made me shift from amused to invested in the cast of characters. I think that best played out in Boyle and Rosa’s friendship. Evolving Boyle from infatuation to loyal friend has been great to watch because it is endearing and believeable. Making Boyle believable is no easy task given his absurdity and Truglio has really found that balance this season. And while I agree that this episode will be remembered for the kiss, it is a credit to the writers that I was equally moved by the fact that Boyle was the mastermind behind giving Rosa exactly what she would want for her birthday. One final note on Boyle and Ro Ro – I can not believe you got through this entire review without mentioning the Gilmore Girls finale exchange. I nearly spit out my coffee when Rosa delivered that dead pan “Lorelai deserved to find happiness”.

    I think this is why Sedgwick’s character feels like it could easily overstay her welcome. She is not fully fleshed out. She remains a characiture in an ensemble of fleshed out characters. As a result she feels like a plot device more than a foil for Holt. If they do intend to have her character play a substanial role moving forward I hope they provide her with some grounding that gives her purpose beyond being the punchline.

    Two things I simply want to co sign on are 1) Andre Braugher and Emmy love. His performance is so nuanced and marvelous I don’t have enough surpurlatives. 2) The highlight of the episode being the moment of unvarnished honesty at the restaurant. Andy Samberg went from someone charming to someone I really respect in that moment. It’s a great scene.

    It is a credit to the show that in a jam packed 30 minutes I didn’t feel like any of the storylines got short changed. They set up new potential avenues, solidified characters and relationships and gave us a really satisfying finale. As my last one of the regular season who could ask for anything more!

    • I loved reading your take on this finale because it’s nice to get a perspective of a B99 fan who hadn’t watched Parks and Rec religiously and didn’t come in with set expectations for what a Mike Schur and Dan Goor show is. I knew that this second season was going to do a great job creating deeper characters and relationships rather than relying on jokes to get them through because that’s who this show’s creators are—they’re people who believe in characters first and everything else second. (Which is why I will fangirl over them until the end of time.) I’m so happy you singled that out as a reason to love this season, because it’s something so rare in network comedy and I have so much faith that the characters are only going to get deeper and more interesting with each passing season.

      And that brings me to Wuntch and my total agreement with your assessment of why she doesn’t feel quite right within this group of characters. We don’t know much about her, and that stands out on show where we know and care about all of the other characters.

      This was a great way to cap off a strong finale season—with humor and heart. Like you, I couldn’t ask for more.

  2. This is a really lovely review, Katie. It reminds me so much of everything you’ve written about Parks and Rec. There is a warmth and kindness that runs through both the show and your affection for them and both come through in your writing.

    I love what this show has done with Boyle and everything Lo Truglio brings to the character. At his core, all he wants is for his friends to be happy. It’s evident in every interaction he has ever had with Jake and in everything he does for Rosa in this episode. He knew just what she would have wanted for her birthday and that sort of Leslie Knope-esque approach to gift giving fits who this character is so well. He may be overly enthusiastic about things no one cares about and a lot to deal with sometimes but he is so full of love and attention to what his friends need and it’s really amazing to watch.

    Unsurprisingly, I love everything about the way Jake and Amy’s relationship is written. Dan Goor and Michael Schur capture real, respectful adult relationships so beautifully and these two are no exception. You’ve said everything about them so perfectly that all I have left to say is that I cannot wait to see where they are headed.

    I will also co-sign the need for Andre Braugher to win an Emmy. His decision to leave to protect his people felt so right for the character and his announcement was perfect. Everyone of these people have come to mean so much to him, so much more than he could have imagined. So he would say goodbye so they could be happy and Braugher conveyed all of the pride and sadness and resoluteness so well.

    Finally, I can’t not mention Rosa’s love for Gilmore Girls. I may disagree with her about the ending (assuming she meant the finale, not the whole final season) but I love that Lorelai was a character she grew so attached to. It wasn’t the typical display of loud and very enthusiastic fandom that we see so much of on tv, but the much quieter and deeply personal love that we develop for our favorite characters. It fit her character so well and it just makes me weirdly happy that one of my favorite characters loves another one of my favorites.

    • Heather I totally agree with you about Rosa’s Gilmore Girls love. There is something so richly human about it as a moment in that episode not just for laughter but for poignancy in an unexpected way that for those of us who attach and invest in characters was a lovely nod to the idea that sometimes we crave reflections of the human beings we aspire to be and or the one who while flawed are encased in sincerity that allows us to tap into emotions that perhaps don’t always flow naturally in our day to day lives.

      • Well this just made me super emotional. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the investment we have in and the connections we form with the fictional characters we love (you’ll find out why tomorrow!), and it always makes me happy to see that investment played for sincerity and not mocked on television shows.

    • Thanks, Heather! While no show will ever be to me what Parks and Rec was, I really do feel a very similar kind of affection for this show. I’m so glad you can sense that in my writing about it (especially because I plan on writing more than one thing about it during this summer hiatus).

      I loved that you pointed out that Boyle’s approach to Rosa’s birthday was very Leslie-esque. Boyle often reminds me of Leslie—he’s so enthusiastic, he loves his friends, and he has such a big heart. I love that B99 has bits of Leslie in various characters—from Boyle’s love for his friends to Amy’s passion for her work. Boyle grew into one of my favorite characters on the show this season, which I honestly was not expecting at the end of Season One—and you know I love when shows surprise me.

      And your thoughts on Rosa’s love for Lorelai made my whole day. It was such a perfect little moment of realistic, in-character fangirling. It signaled the kind of deep connection that you know I firmly believe everyone forms at some point with at least one fictional character, and I really love that Rosa connected on that level with Lorelai Gilmore. It’s those kind of details about characters in the ensemble that make shows like this one special.

  3. This episode was great. This show is just really great. I want to re-watch episodes all summer long now. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Andy Samberg at first but Jake has become a character I love. The same for everyone, I guess. These characters could have been very different, very shallow, on a different show. But the more I’ve watched and gotten to know them the more I love them. Some of the best things about this show are the absence of all the bs that some comedies think they need to have to appeal to the average viewer – the mean spirited humor, the stereotypes and one dimensional characterizations, and so on. The show is fun and funny and smart.
    There’s something about it that seems like it’s going to be too quiet (?) to really be a hit. But I think that’s OK. I’m not sure how ratings and critics feel about it but I feel like most of my friends aren’t very familiar with it – I’ve just started recommending it strongly to some friends I know who care about representation and social justice issues since I’ve read a few reviews pointing out just how good this show is at avoiding so many “problematic” aspects of comedy. To be honest, I hadn’t much noticed. Watching the show, I just enjoyed it. But when I reflect more critically, it’s so good to see complex characterizations of people of color and humor that doesn’t rely on stereotypes or tearing people down. I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t even watch 10 minutes of the average comedy – even the ads make me cringe.
    Yes, I agree with the other commenters that Wuntch needs to be fleshed out a lot more if she’s going to stick around. Tell me why she’s like that. Show me how she’s not what I think she is – how contradictory she is. Then I’ll love her.
    And yes, give Andre Braugher some recognition. He’s great.
    But I’m an incorrigible shipper and so for me this episode was all about the 3 kisses and the truth telling while pretending that it’s just an act and all that good stuff. I loved your pick for the best dialogue too. They’re adorable. I’m intrigued to see where they’re going to go with Jake and Amy’s relationship. I’m guessing it’s going to be good. And all the other stuff too. It’s a fun show and really enjoyable to watch and I think, just like Parks and Rec, I’m moving from thinking it’s an odd fun little show to loving it with my whole heart. If I do get to re-watch a lot this summer I’m sure I’ll be a very dedicated fan by the time it comes back.
    Sorry, I’m not very articulate about this show. I just like it =)

    • I’ve loved watching your love for this show and your appreciation for what makes it special develop, Jo. It’s such a special show for all the reasons you stated—its humor is never mean-spirited, its characters are diverse and incredibly well-developed, and it’s just a smart show that respects its viewers and their investment.

      I think your thoughts about this show are very articulate, and, more importantly, they’re filled with so much appreciation and love. I can’t wait to keep talking about it with you as it continues!

  4. A great finale for what has become one of my favorite shows on TV. Its pretty much impossible not to have a smile on your face after watching!

    This show was one of the best ensemble casts on TV right now. There is not one character I associate to strongly, because I see a little bit of myself in everybody. I love how each character is allowed to have both strengths and weaknesses, and how each person brings something unique to the team. Each character has their own quirks that we as an audience and other other characters are allowed to laugh at, but it never veers into it being mean spirited. Each character is self aware enough to know when they are being are being ridiculous, and I appreciate that. And every single friendship on this show is perfect. How they manage to get so many different types of friendship dynamics right is a true accomplishment.

    And I want to give Andre Braugher all the awards. He is absolute perfection every week. That man’s smile has the brightness of a quasar and it never fails to amuse me that he keeps that straight face every week.

    • Now that Parks and Rec is over, I think it’s safe to say B99 has become my favorite comedy on TV, and you perfectly outlined all the reasons why. It’s a rare thing for a TV show to let characters laugh at each other’s quirks without it ever feeling mean-spirited, but somehow this show manages that feat every week. And I think it’s because, as you said, the characters are self-aware enough to know when their actions are ridiculous and that their quirks are deserving of some friendly jokes. That’s the way it works in real life with real friends, and it’s fun and unique to see that reflected on TV.

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