[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 8, Episode 1, “The Good Ones.”]
Heading into Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s final season, one of the biggest questions surrounding the show’s final installments was how it intended to acknowledge real-world issues surrounding police and police brutality. Last year, it had been said the team scrapped part of the season to include and address those topics — and the show wastes no time getting serious about the real-world injustices that haunt a comedy about a police precinct.
In “The Good Ones,” the show’s last season premiere, Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz) quits the force to become a private investigator who works with victims of police brutality. Jake (Andy Samberg) jumps at the chance to work with her again when she says she needs help with a case, but he realizes that no matter how hard he works or how pure his intentions are, he might be part of the problem. Meanwhile, Holt (Andre Braugher) drops a shocking, heartbreaking revelation about his personal life.
Jake and Rosa go to meet with her client, who was assaulted by a pair of police officers; they demanded she open her bag — which only contained a new loofah! — and when she refused, they shoved her to the ground and arrested her. Jake knows why it happened, and it’s all down to the time of day: Some officers want to make arrests at the end of a shift, so they can stay later and get overtime pay.
Rosa and Jake head to the precinct and talk to the Captain (Rebecca Wisocki), who says it’s suspicious, but without body cam footage there’s no way to prove what happened … unless they can talk to a rookie officer who was also there that night. Encouraged, they head to the rookie’s apartment. They’re stopped by the head of the patrolman’s union, O’Sullivan (John C. McGinley), who says there’s “no way on God’s green Earth you’re talking to anyone involved in this case.”
From O’Sullivan’s ensuing rant, Rosa makes a discovery. From how he described the events, she thinks he watched the body cam footage before it was destroyed. She wants to sneak into the union offices and look for the footage; Jake says they can knock on doors and search for witnesses. That leads them nowhere, and in the end, the truth comes out: Jake’s agreed to work with her because he wants Rosa to see he’s still a good person. They argue — Jake accuses Rosa of thinking less of him for staying at the Nine-Nine, Rosa says this case has nothing to do with him and neither did her decision to leave — and they part ways. “I don’t think we should work together anymore,” she says, “and I definitely don’t think we’re friends.”
But as it turns out, they very much still are. Rosa goes ahead and breaks into O’Sullivan’s office to get the footage, but she gets stuck there when he comes back from lunch early. All hope seems lost, but before she can be discovered, Jake — in disguise, of course — distracts him so she can escape. All is well…
…except it’s definitely, really not. They take the body cam footage to the captain of the precinct, whose immediate reaction is, “I’m going to have to delete this.” She didn’t expect they’d get proof, so the best she can do is get the charges against Rosa’s client dropped — for a variety of reasons she illustrates in deep detail like the drawn-out, imbalanced legal process and the fact that she’s one of the only female captains and thinks she’s “one of the good ones,” she won’t fire the officers.
While all of this has been going on, Boyle (Joe Lo Truglio)’s storyline makes a good point. He’s really trying to be an ally for black people and educate himself about racism, but he’s being, well, Boyle about it and announcing every time he does or learns something. Terry (Terry Crews) tells him he appreciates his efforts, but true allyship is less performative.
Amy (Melissa Fumero), meanwhile, tries to re-ignite her “spark” with Holt after she was out on maternity leave, convinced she’s lost her boss because he made — gasp — small talk with her. Eventually, the truth about that comes out. Holt made small talk not because of Amy, but because he’s trying to pretend everything is okay … he and Kevin (Marc Evan Jackson) have separated. No one on the force knows.
As the episode ends, Jake and Rosa mend their friendship. Jake says it’s not on her to make him okay with his decision to remain with the Nine-Nine, and she says that just because their choices are different, it doesn’t mean they’re not still family. They make up, but there aren’t any jokes or ending gags. Instead there’s a heaviness in the air that lingers as the episode ends, reflecting the deeper, ever-present real-world issues that became entwined with Brooklyn Nine-Nine over the past year.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC