It only stands to reason that in the event of a precinct shutdown, Brooklyn Nine-Nine would give us an episode to affirm its various core relationships: Hitchcock and Scully sharing joint status as the office loafers, Rosa and Terry’s comrade at arms bond, Amy and Holt’s mentee and mentor rapport, and Jake and Charles’ endearingly goofy bromance. (Coiled around each of these pairings is Gina, the glue cement holding the gang together, assuming, of course, that the cement doesn’t kill them all.) And that’s where they are at the start of “The Last Ride,” facing the imminent shuttering of their department in a sad combination of disbelief and horror, because on sitcoms things are always supposed to work out for the best. Right?
Well, just sit through “The Last Ride” and see where they end up. No one takes the news of the 9-9’s closure sitting down, except for Amy and Holt, who literally take a seat in his office and go through a speed-mentoring session, in which he plows through a titanic binder fit to bust with all of his mentoring suggestions for Amy. Amy, understandably, is so excited at this development that her heart seems about fit to bust, too; this is her chance to absorb all of Holt’s grand advice and knowledge in one sitting, putting her stenographer skills, as well as her talents for listening, absorbing and generally being a stodgy fussbudget to the ultimate test.
Of all the duos to join up throughout Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s four seasons, Holt and Amy have always felt the most subdued. This sensation doesn’t waver at all in “The Last Ride,” but that’s the point: Holt isn’t a man with effusive leanings, and so his interactions with others tend to be a one-way emotional street. Amy might be more enthusiastic next to her mentor, but if you put them in a room with each other, the mood will invariably drop downward, somewhere in the vicinity of “sober” and “grave.” Their final goodbye is exactly as heartfelt as you’d expect, save for when Holt leaves and Amy looks stricken at the realization that this may be goodbye forever. It’s a farewell laced with melancholy humanity, compared to the role reversal in the Rosa/Terry and Hitchcock/Scully plot, in which Rosa has to hold up Terry as he slowly crumbles at his perceived failure as an officer.
Would you believe that Hitchcock has the best arrest record in the 9-9? It’s not a surprise that he and Scully are actually stealth-competent detectives; for every “House Mouses,” there’s an “Unsolvable” lurking in the margins as a reminder that these two bums can do their jobs so long as they’re properly motivated, whether by food or by secret bathrooms. Naturally, Terry takes his second-place record personally. We know well enough that he’d feel just about the same if, say, Boyle had the best record instead of Hitchcock, but Hitchcock’s primacy is a crippling blow for the sarge. Here, Rosa is his support system, affirming his achievements as a detective in context with his knack for collaboration. He’s the 9-9’s foundation, the bedrock on which the rest of the team is able to launch their accomplishments. Without him, there wouldn’t be a 9-9, or the 9-9 just wouldn’t be as incongruously successful as it is. (Seriously, the series is so often absent of dramatized police work that it’s almost not a surprise that a shutdown is on the table.)
But these are just Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s supporting players, so the biggest thread is saved for Jake and Charles, buds for life, bad boys for life, total dorks for life, and a conduit for a really slick joke about police militarization that doesn’t feel like a joke about police militarization on its surface. (But it is. You can’t have two white cops unnecessarily arm themselves to the teeth with all manner of ridiculous ordnance without conjuring up images from news segments and feature documentaries about over-equipped law enforcement.) In another office sitcom, you could easily see Jake antagonizing Charles with the rest of the cast, because the Charles archetype is a loser, both schlemiel and schlimazel at once, the guy who everyone picks on. He is that to a point, mind you, but he’s likable rather than merely pitiable, thanks in large part to Jake. (And, in larger part, to Joe Lo Truglio, who turns Charles’ peculiarities and quirks into charm.)
So watching them at the end, weeping behind the lenses of high-powered binoculars (because even in 2017, men are still afraid to cry in front of each other), feels like the capstone that “The Last Ride” needs. There’s plenty to laugh about here, from Jake and Charles’ joint clownery, to Gina’s insistence on pranking everyone in the office, to Hitchcock and Scully making an arrest with their pants literally down; seeing Andy Samberg whiff a BMX stunt is a real pleasure, too, because what he lacks in pro BMX skills he makes up for in pro physical comedy skills. But as much as we laugh, we feel the feels more, even if we can guess the shape of the episode’s climax without consulting our old high school geometry textbooks. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a sitcom through and through, but as ever, its emphasis on characters above all else is what makes it stand out.
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing about film online since 2009, and has been contributing to Paste Magazine since 2013. He writes additional words for Movie Mezzanine, The Playlist, and Birth. Movies. Death., and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.