The series’ pickup by NBC makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Brooklyn Nine-Nine would make for a great one-two punch from Mike Schur (who co-created the series with Dan Goor) alongside his current hit on the Peacock Network, The Good Place. In addition to, or because of, Schur’s influence, the afterlife and cop comedies have a lot in common. They’re both good, and not just good in the sense that both are well written, well acted, and consistently funny, but good in the sense there is an innate thoughtfulness in the shows and their characters. That much is made evident in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 5 (and nearly series) finale, ‘Jake & Amy.’
In true sitcom fashion, there can never be a wedding that goes off without a hitch. This television season alone brought nearly bungled ceremonies with The Big Bang Theory and the series finale of New Girl. For its part, ’Jake & Amy’ has more in common with its unlikely partner in inexplicable television crossover crime, as not only are the nuptials threatened by unforeseen circumstances, and the return of a former boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney’s Russell in New Girl and Kyle Bornheimer’s Teddy here) who confesses his undying love for the bride-to-be, but the actual ceremony is pulled together last minute and made all the more memorable due in part to the event essentially being assembled with spit and baling wire — or in this instance some unused cop cars and a bomb disposal robot.
But as much of the episode rightly centers on the build up to the wedding and Jake and Amy’s next steps as a married couple, Brooklyn Nine-Nine also makes an effort to take a big step forward with regard to Capt. Holt (Andre Braugher) and his campaign to become commissioner. Like the wedding, Holt’s ascendency up the ranks of the NYPD has been the partial focus of the entire season, facilitating a welcome guest spot by Allison Tollman as Holt’s chief competitor, Olivia Crawford. Always with an eye on strong comedic pairings, Brooklyn Nine-Nine found a new one by pitting Braugher against Tollman in what eventually turned into a race to be the first non-old white guy commissioner of the NYPD. Tollman is characteristically great as Crawford, so it wouldn’t be much of surprise if she had snagged the position, giving Nine-Nine a chance to make use of the former Fargo star’s talents again, not unlike how the series made use of Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson a few seasons ago.
This rarity of women in leadership roles within law enforcement takes center stage again when Captain Holt finds himself up for police commissioner, vying for the position against three aging white guys (two of whom are named John Kelly) and one woman. Holt learns from the head of the selection committee that they only nominated “a girl for PR reasons,” having had no intention of ever choosing a woman to lead the NYPD. Knowing all too well what it’s like to be kept from advancement because of who he is, Holt calls out the selection committee for its regressive attitude, allowing the audience to reap the dividends of a rivalry between him and Captain Olivia Crawford (Allison Tolman). It’s a sort of second take of the rivalry between Holt and Chief Wuntch (Kyra Sedgewick), which, hilarious as it was, fell into the classic “ambitious women are bad” trope. Where Wuntch was only ever out for herself, Capt. Crawford, like Holt, is ultimately driven by a desire to make positive change as Commissioner. In a sort of callback to the 2008 rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Crawford eventually throws her support behind Holt in order to ensure that one of them, and not another old, white John Kelly, will lead the NYPD.
In the aforementioned arc that sees Holt up for commissioner, his sexual orientation is a key focal point. He repeatedly refers to himself as the would-be first gay commissioner (as many viewers probably were, I was initially confused as to why Holt’s race wasn’t mentioned in this context. As it turns out, Benjamin Ward became New York City’s first black commissioner in 1984, and Lee P. Brown would become the second in 1990). That both Holt and Crawford represent progress, as opposed to their white-haired, course-staying competition, is a function of their desire to modernize the NYPD. It’s also a victory for people whose experiences in a field dominated by straight men make them uniquely attuned to the needs of communities routinely underserved by the department (the city’s LGBT Outreach Unit, responsible for training the city’s 36,000 uniformed officers, is made up of just four people).
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