This season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been quite interested in the idea of the high-concept episode and even more so in the idea of playing with time. For the former, this has been a really good season, pretty much always on an elevated level of comedy with few moments of truly slowing down. (And that’s without losing the impact of its emotional beats.) In the case of the latter, though, it somewhat makes the case for the show to go back to longer—even just slightly, not necessarily 22-episode—seasons, as the season’s work with the passage of time has somewhat rushed certain stories. Holt’s demotion and Jake and Amy’s conception struggles especially come to mind in that case.
In “Lights Out,” Brooklyn Nine-Nine goes out with a holy trinity of sitcom cliches: a city-wide blackout, characters trapped in an elevator, and a character giving birth at an inconvenient time and place. In a sense, all of that makes this another high-concept episode to close out the season. But since these are also such well-trodden sitcom plots, it’s kind of a surprise that any competent sitcom these days would go through with all three of them in one episode. In fact, the episode beginning with the acknowledgment that Amy is about to go on maternity leave and the entire concept of the blackout pretty much guarantee both the inconvenient birth and the stuck-in-an-elevator bits of the episode. (At least the two aren’t combined into one storyline.)
However, as Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the competent sitcom in question, it’s easy to give it a little leeway in this case. After all, it’s not as though series co-creator and showrunner Dan Goor—who also serves as this episode’s co-writer with Luke Del Tredici, as well as episode director—and the writing staff of Brooklyn Nine wouldn’t be familiar with and well-versed in any and all sitcom cliches and tropes. So with that in mind, “Lights Out” is a fun romp for Brooklyn Nine-Nine and one that brings this season to a satisfying end without making too many major moves. Outside of that whole Jake and Amy baby storyline, of course.
Taking it plot-by-plot, let’s start with Holt and Terry stuck in an elevator. This plot allows Amy to take charge—finally giving her more to do as Sergeant this season—of the Nine-Nine in crisis mode while giving us one final Holt/Terry interaction this season outside of Holt mocking Terry for always talking about the fact that he has kids. Yes, Holt still gets to mock Terry about his muscles, but it’s different. It also allows for an instant classic Brooklyn Nine-Nine moment in the form of Holt and Terry doing the choreography to Salt n Pepa’s “Push It.” I’ll be honest: After the little bit we saw of the choreography in the elevator right before the power came back on, I was worried that would be all the show would provide of the dance. However, that expectation only made the full dance moment during Amy’s childbirth—as a distraction from the pain—even better to witness. And unlike Holt defusing the situation with dance back in Season Three’s “Hostage Situation,” Rosa is actually able to capture this moment on video. It truly is the greatest takeaway of this episode and a moment that should be replayed over and over again. Panicking Holt is not as good as Petty Holt—the best Holt—but it does lead to ‘80s Hip Hop Dancing Holt, which is a different kind of comedic success. For this: Bless Andre Braugher. Bless Terry Crews. Bless Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
Also successful is Amy’s running of the Nine-Nine, right up until the moment she has to give birth. (A screaming Melissa Fumero is a comedic gift in this episode.) In any other episode, this would most likely lead to a discussion or a revelation about Amy’s competency as a leader. That doesn’t happen here, as it’s more in service of the bit about Amy working until literally the last minute. But as I mentioned here and addressed in previous reviews, as great as it was to see Amy get promoted, it hasn’t come with more than her training rookies and handling office work at the Nine-Nine. I’m not going to pretend to know anything about the way police precincts work, so I still have no idea why, unlike Terry as Sergeant, Amy wears a uniform and has more administrative duties… but Brooklyn Nine-Nine has never cared to explain or even focus all that much on Amy’s position after the initial promotion follow-up. So watching her take charge easily in crisis is simultaneously a joy and a reminder of how little work the show’s actually done with this aspect of her character.
This plot provides the Amy/Rosa duo dynamic one last time for the season, as Brooklyn Nine-Nine is well aware that the “Sleuth Sisters” always get the job done. That applies to cases, comedy, and emotional beats. Here, it specifically applies to the latter two, with the combination of Rosa trying to convince Amy to go to the hospital (and also trying to avoid seeing any “gross” pregnancy stuff) and Rosa simply being there for Amy when the time comes (helping bring the baby into this world). It’s not exactly a new take on the dynamic between the two—or a sudden reveal that Rosa will be there for Amy when she needs her—but it’s always enjoyable to watch, and Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz always nail this dynamic. This is the season’s culmination of that dynamic at play, which could also be said about the Holt and Terry plot. The biggest surprise in this plot is Hitchcock and Scully providing a suitable birthing suite for Amy, proving Rosa wrong about their uselessness in a crisis like this. It’s a win they certainly need in this episode, especially after they fail at what one would actually expect them to succeed: eating all the food in the precinct’s refrigerator during a blackout.
As for the case as the result of the blackout, of course a series of hilarious mishaps would be the thing that almost has Jake miss the birth of his and Amy’s child. But also in true Jake fashion, this episode makes clear that even under these circumstances, he would never just bail on a case he’s working or ignore a call for help for his own personal reasons. Luckily, because Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still all about positivity and optimism above all else, he’s able to do all of this and make it to see the birth in time. And as Jake and Amy realize at the end of the episode, this all does make for one hell of a birth story for little McClane “Mac” Peralta. Plus, Fumero and Andy Samberg get one last precious moment to close out the season.
While very much expected, the roadblocks throughout this plot are still able to provide major laughs for the episode,. When Terry’s cold open briefing introduces the concept of “Pedal Pubs” and Amy’s maternity leave, those are both structurally sound episode beats but also ones that lend themselves to the predictability of the plot. (I’ll also note that the cold open—which falls under the umbrella of plot-related cold opens—is one of the weaker cold opens of the season. But it’s also tasked with providing the plot points and “twists” that end up propelling the episode.) The twist about the criminal who caused the blackout serving as a distraction for a bank robbery technically wasn’t necessary to this plot, but it does allow Jake to have something even cooler to add to his story. Almost everything before that reveal works, like Dotty (Jill Basey) the wildcard old lady and the Pedal Pub bachelorette party Jake, Boyle, and their prisoners (and concussion victim) join. The part that doesn’t quite work, comedy-wise, is said concussion victim—as he’s simply zoned out, due to the concussion—but his existence is what allows Dotty to shoot the original prisoner, Russ (Brendan McNamara). Honestly, Dotty is a true champ in this episode. A bigoted, scary champ, but still—a champ.
“Lights Out” also acknowledges the fact that a crisis like this would require the necessity of firefighters, which brings back the established rivalry between firefighters (led by Jon Gabrus as Fireman Curt) and cops.
Nothing in this episode is especially outside the box for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but ultimately, “Lights Out” is still a very enjoyable episode. It’s also an enjoyable end to an enjoyable season, which is a greater success. It’s also an episode that makes this the first season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine to not end with a cliffhanger, unless you consider whether or not Jake and Amy will be good parents and how they’ll deal with a newborn a cliffhanger. (To answer both questions, they will be and there will be shenanigans, respectively.) While the series stopped the intense escalation of its season-ending cliffhangers post-Jake and Rosa’s incarceration, Holt’s demotion last season was an interesting wrench in the status quo… that this season, unfortunately, didn’t delve as deep into as it possibly could have. But it was still something worth caring about, and as the season winded down, I was curious about how this season would end to bring in another big-but-not-too-big cliffhanger. I’d mentioned in a previous review that certain choices made it seem like Season Seven was written as a potentially final season for the series, and I’d argue that this finale suggests that as well, with no loose ends to think about and the whole squad together, basking in the glory of a Nine-Nine baby and a Holt/Terry dance video.
Plus, the world is broken and it could be a while before we see Season Eight.
Ultimately, this has been a really good season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine and, while not without its flaws, a really funny season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. (It’s also a season that began and ended with Holt temporarily out of his position of power, though for very different reasons.) “Lights Out” wasn’t the best episode of this season, but it was able to take its predictable sitcom plots—which wouldn’t have been out of place during peak “Must See TV”—and prove that they can still work in a contemporary context, even if you continue to play them straight. Major credit goes toward the cast for their delivery of this material but it also goes to Goor and Del Tredici for understanding what makes these plots work and the necessary beats for breathing some energetic life into them. And despite the simpleness of the plots themselves, this couldn’t have been an easy episode to shoot because of the blackout and nighttime (and horse) components of it all.
- This episode’s cold open introduces Boyle’s quest to get a special “Uncle” nickname for Jake and Amy’s child—leaning hard on “Uncle ChiChi”—which eventually leads to his amusing disappointment when Rosa ends up being “Auntie RoRo.”
- I’m really surprised this episode didn’t include one more Wario gag, but I suppose Jake getting thisclose to learning the secret to beating Wario last week was a good end point for the bit this season.
- Holt: “Can’t you yell any louder? Use those big, strong lungs you’re always flexing.”
Terry: “These are my pecs.”
Holt: “So this is all just for show then? It has no functional purpose?”
Terry: “I mean, I am pretty strong.”
Holt: “Good, then rip those doors open.”
Terry: “I can’t do that.”
Holt: “Oh, well at least you haven’t dedicated a significant portion of your life to looking like this.” Holt… makes several points.
- In case you were wondering, the “clown prince of the Department of Buildings” is Walter Beverly.
- Holt: “Salt and Pepper?”
- Dotty: “Cops are all wimps now!”
- It’s such a simple and small moment, but Hitchcock cursing Amy out after she curses him out—right before he and Scully are about to do something really nice for her—is an excellent bleep moment for the season to go out on. Also, while the birthing suite proves Hitchcock and Scully can do stuff, we can’t forget that Scully confirms he has a bunch of hospital go-bags even before that reveal. Again, they can do stuff.
- Amy: “Charles, meet Mac.”
Jake: “Short for McClane.”
Boyle: “As in Shirley? I love it!”
Jake: “No. As in John. From Die Hard.”
Boyle: “I mean, they’re both incredibly cool. Only one Oscar winner.” Boyle… makes several points.