Brooklyn Nine-Nine was a show I liked to classify as a low-fantasy (I snuck it onto the fantasy side of a chart I did some time ago). It existed outside of many of the issues surrounding policing, give or take the occasional episode. Notably, though, the villains in Nine-Nine were often corrupt police officers, sometimes even the Police Commissioner himself. It cast the protagonists as the good cops, and cops who were willing to stand up to injustices in the system.
It ended about a month ago with its main character, Jake Peralta, retiring from the NYPD. It’s not out of a crisis of conscience, though an earlier one in the season sees him accepting a suspension rather than being a part of a corrupt system that covers up police officers’ mistakes. His retirement is born out of a much longer arc of his issues surrounding his absent father and he decides to be present in his young son’s life while his wife, Amy, takes up the banner of police reform from the inside. It’s a strong character moment for sure, and maybe I was hoping too much for the issues with policing to be a factor in his retirement (especially given that one character, Rosa, already did so at the start).
All the same, I’m still impressed with how Brooklyn Nine-Nine has handled its own central theme of policing. Again, it’s a sitcom, it had every right to just ignore all of this and keep on being a story about silly cops. Yet in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the show’s writers decided to throw out its original plans for the eighth season and start over from the ground up. The show doesn’t dig as deep into these issues as, say, a segment on Last Week Tonight would, but given that it’s a half-hour comedy filled with wacky hijinks, even hearing the phrase ‘blue flu’ on the show feels remarkable.
Perhaps the fantasy of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has grown unsustainable, especially when news report after news report reminds us that the system the police serve is an unjust one. Choosing to end on an emotional note, with a focus on the squad over the issues, was true to the show’s ethos: a strong focus on character and a wonderfully optimistic outlook. And for that, I remain thankful for the dose of escapism.