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Brooklyn Nine-Nine wraps up its sixth season with its very own “Suicide Squad”

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“Sicko”

It feels so good to laugh. So on the plus side, at least this two-part Brooklyn Nine-Nine season finale begins with laughter from Captain Holt. The “prank” by Jake is pretty much the only thing he personally has to laugh about in these episodes—except for his dunks on a returning Madeline Wuntch, I suppose—even though Jake didn’t think would be noticed at all. But in true Holt-style subversion, it absolutely does. Subversion is also the name of the game with part two of this story (“Suicide Squad”), actually. But here in “Sicko,” things are all pretty much straight to the point. And the point is that Commissioner John Kelly needs to be taken down.

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Even when he’s not around, Kelly’s presence has been felt around the Nine-Nine all season, whether it’s a matter of budget or precinct overcrowding, as he’s been coming for Holt’s squad this whole time. (Surely that can’t have been a good use of his time though.) Holt hates Kelly, and despite his faux sincerity, Kelly never does anything to change that. So here we are. Kelly is unquestionably corrupt, so it was only a matter of time before the Nine-Nine could prove that. A season finale seems like the right time, and here, we learn that Kelly’s been illegally wiretapping phones in order to get “anonymous tips” for his new app, HotClues.

And to think, these characters wouldn’t have figured that out had Kelly’s assistant Micah (Tim Kalpakis) not been so much of a Howard Stern fan that he couldn’t resist from “BABA BOOEY”-ing.

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“Sicko” is a solid episode for setting up the next episode, but it is a great episode for the return of Jake’s prison roommate/cannibal friend Caleb, played by the great Tim Meadows. Naturally, this gives the show the opportunity to riff on Silence Of The Lambs, with Caleb the Cannibal as an overeager Hannibal. But mostly, this episode is an exposition dump with a great burn on Reddit and a surprising The Durrells in Corfu mention. The particular “serial killer” case is all a means to the HotClues app reveal despite the initial bidding war between Jake, Rosa, and Boyle (on Jake’s behalf) to even get the case. Talk about a bait and switch.

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And while Jake/Boyle get this case, as much as it does ultimately only exist for the HotClues reveal, it’s strange how much it’s clearly just Jake’s case, not Boyle’s case or the Spice Boys’ case. This episode has a lot of ground to cover before moving onto “Suicide Squad” (which has even more moving pieces), but if not for its purpose as part of a finale—if this was just a normal episode—this would usually be the type of plot where the show examines how Boyle has to fight for Jake’s attention when he continues to befriend other weirdos like Dr. Cox (Gabe Liedman) or criminals like Caleb. While Boyle has his moments here (the “Spice Boys,” even the John Smith/Pocahontas line), he surprisingly doesn’t contribute much to this episode. Even Scully gets to snap at Terry at one point during this episode.

Speaking of Terry, after acing his Lieutenant’s exam, because of the Nine-Nine’s budget, he now has to transfer to Staten Island. The “Broadway Brian” (Travis Coles) story is fine—not necessarily hilarious but perfectly charming for what it is, even after Terry crushes his dreams—but Terry’s denial in “Suicide Squad” is the stronger comedic story. This story, instead, is another reminder of how myopic the Nine-Nine squad can be though, which is even somewhat lampshaded when Amy brings up all the “dead weight” in the precinct. But it’s hard to think about all that dead weight think when the all-stars are just around the river bend. And when we all hear “Down With The Sickness” in the year 2019, which works much better than it has any right to.

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Grade: B


“Suicide Squad”

While the two plots in “Sicko” never meet, “Suicide Squad” does everything it can to get everyone on the same page and succeeds. In fact, there is now officially no need to ever watch Suicide Squad since this episode of television exists. From now on, showrunner Dan Goor (who directed this episode and co-wrote it with Luke Del Tredici) should probably even be called the Zack Snyder of sitcoms.

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The concept of Jake’s “Suicide Squad” of past enemies—given CJ’s IQ level, he’s an enemy to pretty much everyone, including himself—is set up to fail, even as the episode shows us how things are supposed to go. (The expectations vs. reality approach to this keeps getting funnier as the episode progresses, but I’m partial to the one-two punch of sex shop masks into CJ fighting off the fake kidnapping.) In a way, the plan going off the rails is completely predictable. Of course CJ has no idea what’s going on and screws Jake over when it comes time for the fake kidnapping. (The police sketch at least gives Jake a jaw of steel.) Of course The Vulture is only doing this “for selfish reasons,” has very different definitions than others would about who his “best” or “worst” detectives are, and flips on Jake and squad by the end. Of course Wuntch leads the charge in this betrayal. This is all why Jake and Wuntch’s final master plan actually works because of all of the absolutes in how this plan will fail miserably.

Plus, after the serial killer case that wasn’t actually a serial killer case, it’s only fitting Jake’s next big shot also hits snags. Where is the fun in everything going perfectly right? Okay, there’s some fun in the final reveal that everything went perfectly right for Jake/Wuntch, at least. “Proud daddy” fun.

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Near the end of Wuntch’s original Brooklyn Nine-Nine arc, I felt like the arguments and insults between herself and Holt had become a bit too much, as the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers realized they didn’t need plot when they could just have these two go back and forth. But absence makes the heart grow fonder, and four years after the last Wuntch sighting, she’s back. And her barbs toward Holt (and vice versa) have been sorely missed. Even with all this missed time, Wuntch/Holt continues to be one of the funniest dynamics of the series. The Vulture’s return is a reminder that he is very much a “Dean Winters character,” which doesn’t really make for a specific nemesis to anyone in the Nine-Nine but does make for great disgusted reactions to everything he says and does. And while CJ is very much the cartoon character of this bunch—his stupidity was a lot to take even back in season three—the inclusion of him in this group and his inability to understand anything is a good use of Ken Marino.

Andre Braugher and Kyra Sedgwick have insane chemistry, which is the greatest asset to their hate-hate relationship. They’re both already such captivating actors that watching them work together is like being sucked into a comedy vortex where everyone else just has to wait to say something. And it’s not just ”like” that, that’s what happens, especially when Holt’s telling the Michelle Obama story. I am disappointed, however, that their fake lover story didn’t lead to Holt talking about the weight of her breasts. That is the one part that rang false.

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As far as season-ending cliffhangers go, Holt being forced to go back to being a patrol officer (presumably until he fulfills the prerequisite) isn’t on the same level as going into witness protection or prison after being framed by your fellow cop… but that’s for the best. Those season-ending premise blow-ups have been a case of diminishing returns that, especially when it comes to getting out of them. The world-changing cliffhanger leading into this season was whether Holt had been named Commissioner or not, and while “not” ended being the answer, that at least didn’t drastically change the show for a couple of episodes. It just let us know that the pineapple is the slut.

Holt returning to patrol life (set to Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life”) and directing traffic doesn’t have the same finality as those other moments, and it’s a refreshing change of pace. It’s clear this will happen from the moment Wuntch learns he became a detective after a month, and it makes sense. On the other hand, while Terry’s obsessive denial about transferring to Staten Island in this episode is funny—as is Jake’s confused concern, while Rosa has to tell him to ignore it—at no point does it ever feel like the show would actually go through with the transfer, not even for a second just to undo it next season. (One nice touch about this, however, is that now Terry will presumably take over in Holt’s absence, as he did in the season premiere.) Both episodes serve as reminders of how difficult it is for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to make its world-altering moments work anymore, but Terry freaking out over ultimately nothing really sticks out.

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Commissioner Kelly is a mustache-twisting villain—even when he’s pretending that he’s not a complete jerk—and this episode highlights both the alternatives to that type of villain (in Wuntch, The Vulture, and CJ) and the reason why one season of him is enough. Phil Reeves’ punchable face will be missed, but there is nothing nuanced about Kelly: He’s just a corrupt old man who abuses his power and only cares that things go in his direction, whatever that direction may be. (And not in a fun, disgusting bro way like The Vulture. He probably doesn’t even know what “coffee” means.) But a mustache-twirling villain like Kelly is actually perfect for an elaborate plan (even though it fails on multiple levels) like the one here, so it’s a solid send-off. Especially after Holt underestimates Kelly; he calls him an “idiot” in “Sicko,” when he’s anything but.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s sixth season is an interesting case. I’m not sure that this is my favorite season overall, but objectively, it took a gamble and did some really interesting and funny things. It also opened itself up to a new audience while providing a love letter to the established one with a closing episode like “Suicide Squad.” (Both finale episodes work in either context, even with the established recurring characters.) Kelly is out (in a realistically depressing way), Wuntch is in, and the Holt/Wuntch feud is back on. These episodes really don’t focus on more character beats outside the context of this case—besides Terry vs. Staten Island—but in terms of wrapping the season up and getting rid of the villain, they do their best. Plus, “Suicide Squad” is very funny and that’s really what fuels it, not just the Nine-Nine (Nine-Nine!) vs. the world component.

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Grade: A-


Stray observations

  • Holt: “Ah, that was a fun several moments.”
  • Jake: “A serial killer? How’d they do it? Were they strangled, mangled, hung—i.e. Dangled?”
    Holt: ”Their bodies were disfigured”
    Jake: “I.e. mangled. Continue.” Wordplay!
  • Jake: “Look, we can handle this, sir. Do we joke around sometimes? Yes. But when it’s time to buckle down, we’re seasoned professionals.”
    Boyle: “That’s why they call us the Spice Boys.”
    Jake: “They don’t and they won’t.” Surprisingly, the “Spice Boys” moniker dies after this scene. Usually, the show would get more mileage out of that, but I guess it does that with Rosa saying “Lieut.”
  • Terry: “Now I can pay for Showtime. Find out who or what SMILF is.”
  • Rosa: “Wait, they’re transferring you out of New York?”
    Terry: “It’s part of the city!”
    Amy: “Is it, though?”
  • Rosa: “We can stop paying for an exterminator. It’s pointless, we all have guns.”
  • Caleb: “Jake! It’s so good to see you! Come give me a hug, I’m not going to eat you. Also, don’t hug me, ‘cause I will try to eat you.” Caleb’s attempts to eat both Jake and Boyle in this episode are impressive, honestly.
  • Boyle: “Well, I’m Charles. I’m Jake’s best friend.”
    Jake: “Charles, he’s serving three life sentences. No need to flex.”
  • Boyle: “Wait, the group text thread is back?”
    Jake: “No.”
    Holt: “We misspoke.”
  • It’s been a while since Wuntch has been around, but Kyra Sedgwick just killed it in an episode of Corporate called “The Expense Report.” Definitely worth a look, even if you don’t watch the show.
  • 18 people were arrested because of the HotClues app and the illegally-procured “tips” (via the “Dark Knight machine”). They’re, um, all going to be able to get out of prison now, aren’t they?
  • The real question is: Does The Vulture actually get to run the 69th precinct? It is his dream job after all.
  • Brian: “I do musical theatre. It’s the hardest form of acting.”
    Terry: “I agree. I am always saying: If you’re not singing, you’re not acting.”
    Brian: “Right!” Also, Terry’s horrible retelling of Rosa’s Ellen episode story is impressively bad. People lose their tongues!
  • Holt: “Nah, bitch. I’m not being petty.
    Jake: “You just said ‘nah, bitch’.”
  • Terry: “Amy, you said he could sing.”
    Amy: “I didn’t say he could sing! He said he could sing.”
  • The Vulture: “Hang on there, genius. You want us, your enemies, to help you bring down Commissioner Kelly?”
    CJ: “You guys consider me your enemy? You’re some of my best friends.”
    Jake: “We haven’t talked to you in like three years, CJ.”
    CJ: “Wait, yeah. I’m thinking of different guys.”
  • Holt: “The only way I’m gonna die is if you touch me with one of your boney fingers and drag me across the River Styx, you reaper.”
  • Boyle: “Now kiss.”
    Jake: “No.”
    Boyle: “You don’t do it enough!”
    Jake: “We do it all the time, just not in front of you.”
    Boyle: “it’s been a year!” I’m on Boyle’s side—I can’t believe they kissed when he was looking away.
  • Holt: “I will never trust Madeline Wuntch. She’s a venomous snake, waiting to strike. And you know what we do to snakes?”
    Rosa: “Chop their heads off, remove the skin, turn ‘em into boots.”
    Holt: “Don’t be absurd. Who would want troll skin boots?”
    Rosa: “You just said she was a snake.”
    Holt: ”The Devil comes in many forms.”
  • Terry: “I’m in denial.”
    Rosa: “Most people who are in denial don’t usually say they’re in denial.”
    Terry: “That’s because they’re in denial about being in denial. But I’m not in denial. I’m in denial!” After Braugher and Sedgwick, Terry Crews is the MVP of these two episodes (even with the lack of believability Terry will be going anywhere).
  • Jake: “Actually, scratch that. We’re not gonna use ski masks. We’ll use cool, rubbers masks.”
    Boyle: “Ooh! We should be the ladies of The First Wives Club. I call Keaton!”
    Jake: “We’re not gonna do First Wives Club masks!”
    Boyle: “Just because you can’t be Keaton? Grow up, Jake!”
    Jake: “No—because they don’t exist. And also, yeah, Keaton clearly is the coolest one and I don’t think it’s really fair that you just ‘called her’.”
  • CJ “Aww, man, I can’t believe this wild ride’s over. We’ve changed so much. You know, when we started out, we were just: Charles the jock, Amy the rebel, Captain Silly Pants, Talky Talky Rosa, Terry the Stoner, and CJ the ringleader.”
    Amy: “I’m not sure you’re nailing these.”
  • Boyle: “I can’t go to prison. I couldn’t even get through the scary parts of the musical Chicago.” Which parts???
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LaToya Ferguson

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.