After last week’s hilarious faux goodbye to the Nine-Nine, the possibilities were endless for where Brooklyn Nine-Nine could go. I can’t personally say an episode about police profiling against one of the Nine-Nine’s own is where I thought the show would immediately go—especially not with the episode title “Moo Moo”—but it’s quite a way for the show to kick off May sweeps and get the Nine-Nine back in the groove after weeks of worrying about closing up shop.

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“Moo Moo” doesn’t quite get Brooklyn Nine-Nine back into the groove in the expected sense either, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve praised the series before for switching things up and doing something different, and that’s exactly what the episode does, with a storyline that surprisingly took this long to happen. After all, a lot of early Brooklyn Nine-Nine talk was about how it has one of the most diverse casts on television, and with the police precinct workplace setting, there are a lot of directions for the show to take and even more conversations for it to have. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never needed to be a “message” comedy—no one’s asking it to go full The Carmichael Show, for example—but when the show acknowledges its premise and the context of that, it can be something special.

Think about it: The two highest ranking officials in the Nine-Nine are black men. And while the show has discussed just how difficult things have been for Captain Holt as a gay black man in this police world (especially when it comes to moving through the ranks and even just being taken seriously), it’s not until this episode that Terry’s perspective as a black man and a cop gets examined. At one point in this episode, Officer Maldack (Desmond Harrington, dripping with an unsettlingly perfect amount of smarm) tells Terry that he didn’t look like he “belong[s]” in his neighborhood, the implication of that comment pretty much going straight from subtext to text in an instant. He also says Terry would’ve done the same in his position (and that Terry fits a type), even though Terry honestly wasn’t even doing anything that could be construed as wrong. When he’s stopped by Maldack, he’s literally holding a blanket (with a cow head), which couldn’t possibly be mistaken for anything else unless you were intentionally trying to mistake it for such.

The least surprising part of all this is when Terry tells the Nine-Nine that this isn’t the first time he’s been stopped by cops.

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It’s profiling, plain and simple, and it’s a storyline that basically hinges on the existence of Terry Crews. Crews has made an acting career out of “intimidating guy who’s really super sensitive,” and this episode shows how that “intimidating” part can be warped into something much less funny. Crews knocks his one-on-one at Holt’s house out of the park, and even though it doesn’t quite feel like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s great that the series still goes for it. Except for all things Margo: She is 100% Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and that’s in the best way possible. In fact, ending the serious confrontation scene between Terry and Holt with a Margo joke is absolutely the right choice, because it brings us back to the world we know and reminds us that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still about the laughs above all else. It’s not too much either, which is great, because all I can think about is how terrifying it would be for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to approach this episode like it did “The Audit.”

It’s also a nice touch that the episode addresses the somewhat backwards fraternity of police officers, because even though Terry’s in the right (and his one-on-one with Maldack makes that abundantly clear), his eventual decision to file a complaint can absolutely have negative repercussions on his career. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has regular reminders that the Nine-Nine is something of an idealistic utopia compared to the rest of the precincts (and let’s be honest, to the real world), and this is just another instance of that. Even before the episode gets to Holt telling Terry that he thinks the complaint is a bad idea, Amy tosses out a line about how reporting another officer can be “weird.” At the end, this episode doesn’t say the reason Terry loses the City Council Liaison gig is because of the mentality that it’s bad for an officer to report another officer’s misconduct, but it does have Holt acknowledge that it’s absolutely a possible. Though, in this case, I’d say the fact that Terry did a 96-page application with a 4,000 word personal essay the night before it was due could easily be the true reason as well.

All said, this is a very solid episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but due to the structure of the episode, it’s not exactly the most balanced one for the characters. The episode really rides on the backs of both Crews and Andre Braugher, and while that’s certainly nothing to complain about, the way the episode as a whole sidelines the ensemble kind of is. Last week’s “Last Ride” gave everyone something fun to do, but here, most of the characters come across as a side characters who chime in when needed instead of regular characters with anything to do themselves. The only real plots of the episode happen between Terry/Holt and Jake/Amy; everyone else in this episode is a sounding board for both of those plots. (In fact, even Jake and Amy are sounding boards when it comes to Terry’s plot.) However, casting the characters aside this way does lead to the highlight of the Jake/Amy plot, the two of them going down their list of inner circle members to try and figure out what to do in their babysitting situation. While they eventually figure out the right way to handle things, I still think Gina’s song about institutionalized racism (“Racism/Racism/Raaaaaaciiisssm”) was on the right track.

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The Jake/Amy plot also has to carry the weight of the episode’s humor, and it does so with… children. Alright, that makes the episode sound like it’s all over the place, but that’s what the plot is: Jake and Amy babysitting Terry’s twins. Cagney and Lacey walk the line of aggressively adorable and secretly sinister. The way they say everything in tandem (because they’re twins, you see), their infectious joy for everything (because they’re Terry’s twins, you see), their malleability. So it’s nice to see them interact with Jake and Amy, but it’s good the episode doesn’t rely too much on them. This plot also checks off the Jake/Amy relationship point of considering kids but not completely; they never actually get to talk about it outside of cute banter, because Boyle interferes way too much. An actual conversation would add another bit of heaviness to the episode, but it would also be an actual end to the plot.

“Moo Moo” is an ambitious episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and as I mentioned before, it’s also a solid one. It’s not the show at its best, but it’s a reminder of what the show can do with its premise outside of the usual.

Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: The mystery of Rosa and Gina: Babysitters Club must be discovered.
  • Boyle, Boyle, Boyle. How could you start a “WHO WORE IT BEST?” against Terry?
  • Terry: “Die Hard, explosions, whatever.”
    Jake: “Wait, no! Just when the conversation was getting interesting!”
  • Terry: “Hello, Captain Raymond Holt. It is I, Sergeant Terrance Jeffords, your friend but more importantly, your employee”
    Holt: “I’ve never heard you speak like this, Sergeant. I like it. Each sentence so rife with information. Go on, please.”
  • Rosa: “They’re six, they can take the subway.”
    Gina: “Rosa, that’s crazy. They’re babies. Terry, just call them an Uber.”
  • The moment Jake tells Boyle to “get out of us”—regarding his obsession over potential Jake/Amy babies—is a much needed moment, because as much as Boyle loves Jake (and loves Jake/Amy as a result), there is a ceiling when it comes to his interjections about and interferences in their relationship, and this episode constantly hits that ceiling. “The thick rich broth of parenthood—” Oh shut up, Boyle.
  • Cagney and Lacey’s matching leather jackets? Baby badasses, I swear.
  • Jake: “Oh, and one more thing… I love you.”
    Terry: “…I love you too, Jake.”
  • The terrible part of me reacted to Terry getting stopped by Desmond Harrington with an, “oh no, he’s reliving that Newsroom episode where only a high Will McAvoy can save the news.” Then things got real and very upsetting, in a non-Newsroom way.
  • Hitchcock: “He got stopped for being black. Get woke, Scully.”
  • Holt: “Sergeant Jeffords.”
    Terry: “That’s right. It’s me. Sergeant Jeffords from the precinct.”
  • Terry: “You’re real worked up about Margo.”
    Holt: “Sorry. She’s horrible.”
  • Holt: There are no highlights in Scottsdale, Margo.”
    Margo: “That’s what you think, Raymond.”

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