After a dismal first episode of the night, S8E8 “Renewal” finds Brooklyn Nine-Nine back in form, with a fast-paced episode both humorous and heartfelt, while also functioning as a season finale of sorts before the series finale in two weeks.
“Renewal” plays out in the same manner as many of Nine-Nine’s best episodes: a fast-paced case where the clock is ticking, with the entire squad having to work together to make sure things work out in the end. This time, the stakes are couldn’t be higher: season-long villain O’Sullivan has fudged the CompStat numbers in a last-ditch effort to tank Holt and Amy’s reform proposal, and of course the meeting held by the top brass to determine the future of that plan is being held on the same day as Holt and Kevin’s vow renewal ceremony. To top it all off, the episode opens with a shocking announcement from Holt: he plans on retiring from the NYPD to focus on his relationship with Kevin.
So, the team splits off into three groups: Holt and Jake go to O’Sullivan’s house to retrieve a laptop with the real CompStat numbers; Amy and Terry lure O’Sullivan out with the promise of scoring some rare Billy Joel merchandise; and Rosa, Boyle, and Scully make sure things run smoothly for the vow renewal ceremony—and that Kevin doesn’t catch on that Holt is working the day of the ceremony.
Of course, all three groups run into problems very quickly: Jake and Holt have to try and get past O’Sullivan’s mother, but she catches onto their scheme and traps them in the basement; Kevin winds up finding that Holt is working a case after an incident involving Cheddar; and Amy winds up in a near-catatonic state after Terry accidentally spills the news about Holt’s retirement.
Each of these individual threads leads to its own emotional resolution: Terry tells Amy that wrapping her entire personality around one person is unhealthy and that she needs to move on—which O’Sullivan interprets as him saying that he needs to move on from his Billy Joel obsession; Holt confesses to Jake that he’s had fun working the case and is unsure about actually being ready to retire; and Kevin and Rosa wind up showing up at O’Sullivan’s home disguised as uniformed officers to get Jake and Holt out safely with O’Sullivan’s laptop.
But when Holt finally tells Kevin that he plans on retiring, Kevin winds up being opposed to the idea—he didn’t want Holt to think that he couldn’t have anything else in his life, but instead he just wanted Holt to prioritize him over less important things related to work, and something as big as police reform should be a priority in his life. Holt makes it back in time, and while everyone outside of their family members has left, he and Kevin still manage to have a touching ceremony to renew their vows.
Two weeks later, Holt has big news: after their review, the top brass has decided to support the reform proposal and plans on implementing it citywide. On top of that, Holt is getting a promotion to Deputy Commissioner in charge of the reform proposal—and Amy is getting a promotion to Chief, to be Holt’s number two. It’s a neat wrap-up on two of the three big plotlines that have been introduced this season: the reform proposal gets implemented even though O’Sullivan has been re-elected for life as head of the police union—something Holt wasn’t even sure could happen, and Kevin and Holt’s relationship has been mended. Truth be told, as satisfying as the Kevin/Holt reconciliation and renewal is, it’s something that feels like it never got explored to the depth that it needed to be to fully make an impact.
Then, there’s the police reform program. As Holt wisely notes, there’s no guarantee that the reform program will work and that there are a lot of people who are resistant to change. Brooklyn Nine-Nine was never going to solve the issue of police reform in a half-hour sitcom format, and the show smartly steers away from presenting the reform program as a silver bullet solution that will magically solve the issue of policing in the United States.
Finally, there’s the one plotline that still isn’t fully resolved: Jake and Amy’s work/life balance, left here as an even bigger unknown following Amy’s big promotion. This is almost certainly going to play a central role in the series finale airing two weeks from tonight’s episodes, as the show looks towards the future of the Nine-Nine and of its central characters. It’s definitely looking like Jake is going to wind up leaving the Nine-Nine, probably to become a stay-at-home dad—I just hope the show wraps this up in a way that’s satisfying without shortchanging the character.
Unfortunately, just like with “Game of Boyles”, this episode suffers somewhat from the super-compressed nature of Nine-Nine’s final season. Jake’s five-month suspension from the force is all but forgotten. The emotional centerpiece of the episode is satisfying enough, but Holt and Kevin’s relationship problems never really got the attention they deserved outside of being the background for more comedic subplots. O’Sullivan more often than not has come off more on the cartoonish, exaggerated side of Nine-Nine’s villains, which somewhat undercuts the seriousness of the problem with police unions that his character is meant to represent. Plus, even with the note of caution that the reform proposal might not be a perfect fix for the problems facing the future of policing, the whole season feels a little too…neatly wrapped up.
We still have the series finale to go, but with “Renewal” taking on the job of wrapping up most of what’s been introduced this season, I imagine it’s going to feel more like an epilogue to the rest of the show.
All in all, “Renewal” is a satisfying, if not slightly underwhelming “season finale” for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, setting us up for the end of the show in a couple weeks while giving payoff to most of the season-long conflicts we’ve had over the course of the last four weeks.