NOTE: Spoilers from throughout the fourth season of, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” are present in this review
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s ratings may have slid more than ever in its fourth season, but the show is nonetheless strong as ever in terms of its writing and humour. Season Four took the Nine-Nine to some intriguing new directions, beginning with Peralta and Holt operating under false identities in the fictional Florida town of Coral Palms. The season seemed to care less about a serialized direction after Peralta and Holt returned to business as usual at the precinct, sometimes conspicuously, but it thankfully didn’t hurt the comedy at all, with this show still remaining one of the best and most underrated sitcoms on television at present.
Among the major story developments in Season Four, beyond the three-part Coral Palms opener, were a fourth Halloween heist that saw another unexpected winner in Gina, the squad getting stuck on the night shift under the incompetent Captain C.J., Boyle adopting a child with his girlfriend, Genevieve, Gina getting hit by a bus and temporarily injured, and most shocking of all, Gina becoming pregnant at the end of the season! The character strides in Season Four were all around superb, with this show becoming more comfortable than ever taking its cast into uncharted territory.
One of the advantages of Brooklyn Nine-Nine quickly becoming another cult sitcom for FOX is that it can be creative in ways that other sitcoms wouldn’t dare. Season Four even took on some surprisingly heavy subjects at times, albeit always viewed through the show’s reliably upbeat lens. Issues like workplace ethics, police brutality, political corruption, and, most startling of all, racism among cops, were all explored to some degree in Season Four, as the Nine-Nine faced a selection of especially challenging obstacles this season. As usual, some episodes worked better than others, but the vast majority of storylines were nonetheless very successful and funny throughout this fourth season!
In fact, one of the surprising caveats to the season is that it was often more successful when it didn’t focus too much on building up large events. Disappointingly, this meant that the crossover episode with fellow Tuesday night FOX sitcom, New Girl was pretty much a bust, as it barely tied in with New Girl at all in the end, on top of being one of the season’s weaker episodes. The show also didn’t totally capitalize on a few of its challenges, most notably the precinct almost being shut down. Even Gina’s bus injury was eventually waved away rather casually. The precinct shutdown in particular obviously wasn’t going to pan out though, lest we not have a show. It wasn’t until the very end of the season, when Peralta and Diaz end up getting falsely incriminated in a bank robbery, and then sentenced to jail in the season finale, that the show presented large-scale consequences that feel like they’re actually going to stick, at least for around as long as the amusing Coral Palms arc that opened the season anyway.
A lot of these under-utilized story obstacles seemingly came from the fact that Season Four of Brooklyn Nine-Nine had a rather bizarre airing schedule in its back half this year. FOX seemed to blatantly suffer from an overcrowded programming schedule during the 2016-2017 season, which meant that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s airing dates occasionally became especially irregular. The front half of the season in 2016 was fairly standard, but the midseason finale was held until New Year’s Day 2017 for whatever reason, providing a brief return to the more lucrative Sunday night timeslot that Brooklyn Nine-Nine had moved to before coming back to Tuesday nights. From there, the show then joined Gotham and Lucifer in taking a strangely lengthy midseason break, with Brooklyn Nine-Nine not returning to the airwaves after New Year’s Day until the middle of April, so that its timeslot could be borrowed by successful new FOX sitcom, The Mick. At the point of its return, Brooklyn Nine-Nine then aired a few single episodes per week, before doubling up the last few and airing two episodes per week, creating a weird sense of progression that drew attention to several story arcs not always creating the impact that they deserved to.
This strange breaking up of Season Four’s back half is probably a significant part of the reason why Brooklyn Nine-Nine bled quite a few viewers by the end of the season, after the move back to Tuesdays had already taken a chunk out of its higher Sunday night viewership. This is a shame, since the show saved some of the season’s most interesting and funny episodes for after the huge midseason break, though by that point, many viewers no doubt decided to wait to catch the rest of the season on Netflix. Episodes like these had Scully meeting a new love interest, Santiago preparing to take a sergeants’ exam, Holt’s mother being introduced to the show, and, as previously mentioned, Peralta and Diaz facing jail time for trying to bring down a corrupt police lieutenant in their midst.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s fourth season has the show nonetheless going strong as ever, even as FOX seems to have gradually less faith in its longevity at this point. Brooklyn Nine-Nine did manage to make it to a fifth season for 2017-2018, but the fact that it’s a show acquired from Universal Television, making it one of FOX’s only sitcoms that isn’t developed in-house at the network, seems to have FOX gradually caring less and less about protecting its decreasing viewership numbers. Even as the audience diminishes though, viewers who continue to stick by the Nine-Nine’s eccentric crew are continuing to be rewarded with more standout laughs, and more creative storylines, leaving plenty of momentum left for the show’s upcoming fifth season. I just hope that said fifth season doesn’t suffer more audience decline, which might start significantly hurting this sitcom’s chances of survival.
- Humour and creativity remains superb
- Interesting new frontiers explored with the lead characters' development
- Harrowing start and end to the season
- New Girl crossover is completely wasted
- Several recurring conflicts are ultimately swept under the rug