There’s no other TV show that I hoard on my DVR for the pure joy of mainlining it like I do with Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
In a world that can change completely in the second it takes to glance at the news of the hour, the Fox comedy hit such a comfortable groove in its fourth season — which wrapped on May 23 — that each new episode reliably offered 20 minutes of uncomplicated fun. When I need it most, I always know that Brooklyn Nine-Nine will be as silly and earnest as a fluffy pupper running in circles before collapsing to take a blissed-out nap in a sun patch. And because the show hails from some of the minds behind Parks and Recreation and The Office, it’s also an incredibly sharp comedy, letting everyone from Andy Samberg at his goofiest to Andre Braugher at his most deadpan shine.
So now that the fourth season is over and you have all summer to watch it, here are five reasons why you should.
1) It’s comfortable making a “will they/won’t they” couple into a zero-drama partnership
For the first couple of seasons, detectives Jake Peralta (Samberg) and Amy Santiago (Melissa Fumero) circled each other like their obvious sitcom ancestors, Sam and Diane. He’s a slob with sharp instincts; she’s a stickler with more weird streaks than she lets on.
But after Brooklyn Nine-Nine gave in and let them get together for real at the beginning of season three, the show made a surprising choice by allowing Jake and Amy’s relationship to be ... stable. Their becoming a couple didn’t give way to petty hijinks; instead, it deepened both their characters.
In season four, that was truer than ever. The only real conflict they had was the question of whose apartment they were going to move into together, and it was resolved in classic Brooklyn Nine-Nine fashion: with a fierce(ly silly) competition and an inevitably loving compromise.
2) Season four finally confronted latent racism within law enforcement head on
Since Brooklyn Nine-Nine premiered in 2013, I’d wondered if it would ever bring up the fact that cops can have a reputation for taking controversial and downright disturbing actions. But as more and more stories of police brutality and racism became topics of national conversation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine remained steadfastly optimistic. The show rarely let crimes spiral out of control, opting instead to tell slapstick stories about Jake saving the day or bored precinct receptionist Gina (Chelsea Peretti) pulling a solution out of thin air as Captain Holt (Braugher) nodded with taciturn approval.
But in “Moo Moo” — season four’s 16th episode — Terry (Terry Crews) experienced firsthand how his fellow officers’ instincts could go against public interest. The episode sees Terry run into another cop while Terry is off duty, trying to find his daughter’s favorite “moo moo” stuffed animal out in his neighborhood — and the cop assumes he’s up to no good and arrests him for nothing.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t often get serious, but when it does, it makes it count. In the case of “Moo Moo,” the show turned to the 99th Precinct’s previously established fierce family dynamic to rally behind Terry in a way that immediately read as sincere. And when Terry asks Holt if he should report the incident, the episode can rely on Crews and Braugher to bring subtlety to the unusually frank discussion — especially when it turns out they are at odds.
As Pilot Viruet points out at Vice, the storyline is effective both because it’s so unexpected from this usually lighthearted sitcom and because the show has done such a good job shading in Terry and Holt’s characters that their individual reactions don’t come off like convenient story complications but rather the real, conflicted feelings of police officers hurt by others not doing their jobs, and assuming the worst of them besides.
3) Andre Braugher forever and ever, amen
Here comes the requisite part of any Brooklyn Nine-Nine article I write: the part where I talk about how great Andre Braugher’s Captain Holt is, because oh, man, he is great. And while the show’s treatment of Holt — a gay black man who’s had to fight preconceptions about himself for decades — and Braugher’s laconic delivery have always been a treat, Holt consistently became looser, stranger, and more delightful with every episode of season four.
The season kicked off with Jake and Holt holing up in Florida with new identities under the Witness Protection Program, which led to Holt unexpectedly flourishing in his undercover persona as a speed-walking ladies’ man. Later, once the pair returned to Brooklyn, Holt struggled to keep the 99th Precinct together against possible budget cuts, but still made time to complete his mentorship of Amy in a single afternoon and even visit a thermometer museum (Holt lives large). I’ve always liked Captain Holt, but in Brooklyn Nine-Nine season four, he became one of my favorite characters on TV for good.
4) Season four loved a cliffhanger, but didn’t depend on it
One of this season’s most jarring moments came right before the show took a break for a few months, when January 1’s “Fugitive — Part 2” ended with a bus full-on hitting Gina, Regina George style (a comparison that Gina herself would no doubt love). For the next few months, fans waited to see what the hell that was going to mean. Was Peretti — pregnant at the time — taking a break from the show? Would Gina be in some kind of coma? Or, horror of all horrors, was she going to die and leave the show for good?!
As it turns out, the answer to all of the above was, thankfully, no.
Gina came back with everyone else in the cast in April 11’s “The Audit,” wearing a neck brace so big she could barely move. And while the prohibitive costume might’ve held back other performers, Peretti’s physical comedy is second to none, so for her, it was kind of the best.
5) Season four’s guest stars were [chef kissing fingers meme]
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always been stacked with entertaining, well-cast guest stars, from Kyra Sedgwick cropping up as Holt’s longtime nemesis to Bill Hader as a terrible temporary replacement captain for the 99th Precinct. Thankfully, season four made room for even more — and used them wisely.
Maya Rudolph appeared early in the season as Jake and Holt’s Witness Protection contact; the incomparably funny Andy Daly (Review) showed up as yet another Holt nemesis (the man loves a rivalry); and L. Scott Caldwell (Lost) even dropped by to play Holt’s perfectly straight-faced mother.
The season then ended with a pair of wildly differing guest star turns. Ryan Philippe showed up as the father of Gina’s baby (surprise!), while Gina Gershon played Sergeant Hawkins, a dirty cop trying to pin all her misdeeds on Jake and Rosa (Stephanie Beatriz), her smirking confidence tearing holes in their every line of defense. In the final minute of the season, Jake and Rosa were found guilty of the serious crimes Hawkins actually committed. But if Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows its own pattern, that cliffhanger will last maybe 10 minutes into season five before the 99th Precinct family comes through and sets them loose for another season of ridiculous, joyous fun.