Brooklyn Nine-Nine S8E7, “Game of Boyles,” confuses me.
For starters, there’s that title, clearly meant to be a reference to Game of Thrones. No part of this episode is a reference to Game of Thrones, nor is the episode framed in the style of that show or even as a parody of it. On top of that, this might be the first Game of Thrones reference I’ve heard since the series finale aired in 2019, capping off the slow-motion trainwreck of a final season that took a show that had once been synonymous with pop culture and effectively erasing any legacy it might have left behind. I’m not here to talk about what happened with Game of Thrones, but I promise you, we will get there someday.
But, the reference winds up being strangely fitting for this episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine: a weird, out-of-place reference for a weird, out-of-place episode.
“Game of Boyles” is a filler episode, and a particularly egregious one at that. With only ten half-hour episodes making up the final season, AND all the interesting things that have been happening throughout the season—Jake’s suspension from the NYPD, conflicts between the NYPD and the police union, Jake and Amy trying to juggle work and parenthood—it’s bizarre that the showrunners decided that what we desperately needed was…a half-hour detour up to the Boyle family farm, for some previously unseen family drama that is introduced and resolved within the same half-hour stretch, all the while running through jokes that are all some variant of “the Boyle family is extremely weird” that gets stale after about five minutes. It just doesn’t make any sense.
“Game of Boyles” starts out on the untimely death of Charles’ great-uncle, Pappy Boyle, resulting in Charles, Terry, and Jake all heading up to the Boyle family farm for the reading of Pappy’s will and a memorial service for him. Terry decides to come along because he needs a break from his kids (Cagney and Lacey keep trying to get him to fall down the stairs for a TikTok video) and Jake comes along because he’s 87 days into his suspension at this point and is getting a little stir crazy.
Mild spoiler alert, but we do go right from this 87 day mark to the next episode of the night opening on Jake back in the precinct after his suspension. Yes, we are just basically skipping over the whole “suspended for five months” thing. For the first time all season, you can really feel the show being hurt by its super compressed final season. An earlier season could very well have spent an episode or two following Jake as he tries to occupy his time during his suspension, but with only ten episodes airing over five weeks there simply isn’t enough time for such a big plot point to have the time to really make an impact. But then again, we’re getting this entirely unnecessary Boyle family episode when we could have easily had an entire week to focus on Jake’s suspension, or even have it be the B-plot of a whole episode with a better main plot. It’s just another layer of why in an entire episode that doesn’t need to exist, and one of a couple of missed opportunities of the night.
There might not be any Game of Thrones, but S8E7 does give a half-hearted attempt at a take on Knives Out, which WOULD be fun to watch if it extended to anything more than “it’s a possible murder mystery” and “Jake fails horribly at doing the Benoit Blanc accent”. Turns out, Jake’s been having an itch for any sort of investigation, and after they arrive and he hears that there’s “a wealthy patriarch who mysteriously died, a missing will, and a black sheep set to inherit everything,” he immediately suspects foul play. After taking a closer look at Pappy’s body, Jake does in fact find evidence of poisoning, but after sending the hairs found on the box of rat poison off to a lab for DNA testing it turns out that it was the Boyle’s pet nutria (an oversized aquatic rat—I googled it) that inadvertently killed Pappy Boyle.
But, the investigation into Pappy’s death is mostly just window dressing for the true revelation of the night: it turns out, Charles is not biologically related to the rest of the Boyle family, and was actually the result of an affair between his mother and a rival florist. It does lead to one of the better jokes of S8E7—the reason Charles looks like the rest of his family is because the Boyles cuddle their children so aggressively that it reshapes their bones—but apart from a momentary existential crisis it doesn’t add anything new to Charles’ character, as by the end of the episode, he winds up fulfilling an old Boyle family prophecy by opening the “Grandmother Dough” that is the origin of their famous sourdough bread and revealing that he is the “One True Boyle”.
The saving grace of “Game of Boyles” is the B-plot, which quite honestly should be the main plot of the night. It finds Amy and Rosa trying to convince Holt to try dating again after his couples therapy with Kevin (which started all the way back in “The Lake House“) runs into difficulties, with the goal of getting him to see how bad things are out there—and that he and Kevin are a perfect match.
The second missed opportunity of the night, and really of the entire final season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine: it looks like Holt’s couples therapy is going to be something that we never get to see. Again, it’s something that would have been great to get a glimpse into, and something that we probably would have gotten to see in an earlier season that had some room to breathe, but I guess there just wasn’t enough time for this plotline to be something that could be fully explored.
At least this plot turns out in a satisfying way. Holt actually manages to land a date, and when Amy and Rosa go to monitor him, to their horror the date appears to be going well. But, when they chase after him to try and stop him and his date from going home together, he reveals that he’s been aware of their attempts at manipulating him the whole time and has outplayed them.
But, the day after, Kevin comes running to the precinct, having heard from a friend who saw Holt’s profile on the dating app he had been using, leading to a romantic kiss in the rain and a promise to recommit to one another, straight out of one of Rosa’s beloved Nancy Meyers movies. It’s a sweet moment, and one that quite frankly should have come at the end of an episode that focused more on this plotline instead of…whatever they were thinking with the Boyles.
“Game of Boyles” frustrates me. In such a short final season, there shouldn’t be any wasted space, but the main plot is an entirely unnecessary detour, coming right before the finale in a couple of weeks. Where an episode like “PB&J” at least stood on wrapping up the series-long friendship between Jake and the Pontiac Bandit, there’s just nothing of any real substance to be found here. At least the B-plot is satisfying, but overall this episode just feels like a waste.