BROOKLYN NINE-NINE broaches a very real, very topical subject in this week’s episode, “Moo Moo.” Despite the episode’s baby name for a title, the story tackles quite the tough subject, addressing racial profiling in law enforcement. And, incredibly, the show handles the subject gracefully, within the show’s voice and humor, and without straying so far outside the realm of the show’s tone that it felt forced. By no means could this have been an easy episode to write, but show does so gracefully, and with jokes to boot.
For viewers watching the episode without any prior idea of what happens, the show will take viewers by surprise. “Moo Moo” starts out as any Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode would, with a punchliner cold open, and a premise set up. In this case, Terry has decided he wants to take on more responsibility to move forward with his career. Captain Holt agrees, and tells him to apply for a position as city council liaison, and Terry willingly sets about to fill out the awfully intense application. In order to do so, Jake and Amy agree to pick up Terry’s daughters from school. And there you have it: what you think the show is going to be about – Terry applying for office and Jake and Amy testing out the waters of parenthood.
That’s not really the full picture, though, because what the show doesn’t let the viewers in on is that this is all still the build up for the actual plot of the episode. When Terry gets home to put his daughters to bed, one of his girls can’t find ‘Moo Moo,’ the cow blanket she needs to fall asleep. Jake and Amy’s inflated egos at a successful afternoon watching Terry’s girls are immediately deflated. Terry goes looking for the blanket, but when he finds it near his house in a neighbor’s driveway, he gets stopped by a cop for being black and walking. The situation escalates before Terry has a chance to explain himself or who he is to the cop. Thankfully, Terry is finally able to convince the cop to look him up in the system and let him go. But it shakes him up, for good reason.
The next day at the precinct Terry tells the rest of the nine-nine what happened, and of course, everyone is outraged. Terry tries to keep a level head, though, and tells everyone that he’s going to have a meeting with the cop and try to work things out verbally, instead of filing a formal complaint. Jake and Amy of course agree to watch his daughters yet again. The meeting with the cop doesn’t go well, though. The cop won’t apologize for assuming Terry was bad because he was black. He only apologizes for not knowing that Terry was a cop sooner. And then, to make matters even worse, he tries to blame Terry for the whole thing, telling him that if he’d had his badge on him, the incident wouldn’t have happened in the first place.
Meanwhile, Jake and Amy are running into their first serious ‘parenting’ dilemma; Terry’s daughters want to know if Terry is in trouble, and if he got in trouble because he was black. Not knowing the first thing about addressing serious issues with little kids, Jake and Amy call everyone in the precinct for advice, to no luck. That is, until they call Scully and he gives them the great idea to feed the girls cake and let them watch movies. And it works.
When Terry returns to the precinct the next day, he files a formal complaint with Captain Holt. Everyone of course knows that Holt will bury that other cop for what he did; Holt is extremely by the book and takes care of his own. So naturally, it comes as a complete shock when Holt tells Terry that he won’t be processing the formal complaint. When Terry asks him why, Holt tells him he thinks it’s a mistake. In utter disbelief, Terry decides to confront Holt at his home, and thus Jake and Amy are thrown into the parental ring for round three.
This time, there’s no getting around it; Terry’s daughters refuse to eat cake or watch movies, and Jake and Amy are forced to simply find an honest, non-terrifying way of explaining racial profiling to Terry’s kids. They do a pretty good job of it, too, for flying by the seat of their pants.
Meanwhile, Terry accidentally interrupts a dinner party at Holt’s home, but it’s okay, because Holt wants to avoid one of Kevin’s friends anyways. Terry gets his feelings off of his chest, and Holt tells Terry that the reason he didn’t process the complaint was because he didn’t want it to hurt Terry’s career. Holt realizes that being a “whistleblower” on other cops can backfire, and he doesn’t want Terry’s career to be jeopardized because of that. Holt tells Terry to play the long game; to move up the ranks to better power and then change the system that way. Terry doesn’t like the idea of leaving bad cops out on the street and waiting for change to trickle down, though. After an impassioned speech, Terry leaves Holt to think about this. The next day, Holt tells Terry he filed the complaint. He realized that he had put himself in a position of power by playing the long game for the very purpose of being able to do the right thing, and in this case, the right thing by Terry.
In a befitting and realistic end the episode, Terry doesn’t get the promotion. But they get a bad cop off the streets, and that’s a good enough win for right now. This episode was incredible, despite its stray from the show’s usual light-hearted workplace comedy. Even more impressive was its ability to fit this subject into a half-hour sitcom and still make it funny. Seems like Brooklyn Nine-Nine might be transforming itself yet again, and I’ll be here watching to see where things go.
Season 4, Episode 16 (S04E16)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesdays at 8PM on Fox
Tasha is a freelance writer currently based in Los Angeles. Originally from Kansas, when she’s not writing about or watching TV, Tasha is searching for the best BBQ place in LA to fill the KC BBQ hole in her stomach.
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Tasha Cerny | Contributor