Fans Saying Worst-Rated Brooklyn Nine-Nine Episode Is Still A ‘Must-Watch’
Brooklyn Nine-Nine returns today, February 6, with two back-to-back episodes – a cause for celebration among its many fans who have been watching the show loyally since day one.
In recent years, the much-loved cop comedy has continuously stood on the right side of history; tackling issues such as #MeToo, racial profiling, sexism, and homophobia.
It does all of this and more, proving time and time again sitcoms can be educational without being preachy – thanks largely to its diverse cast, made up in part of two Latina women (one of whom is bisexual) and two black men.
There’s no doubt Brooklyn Nine-Nine breaks the mould. Instead of having a ‘token character’ to create the impression of social inclusiveness and diversity, or throwing in one episode every season which touches upon important societal issues as a sitcom usually might, it does the complete opposite.
Not only in terms of its cast, where lead actors of colour outweigh lead white actors in an unprecedented way, but in terms of its storylines, its plots, and its narratives throughout.
You only need to look at the show’s episode list to realise this: Moo Moo, Game Night, Show Me Going, He Said, She Said, The Ebony Falcon, Captain Peralta, and The Oolong Slayer – to name just a few – explore an array of pressing topics, ranging from absent fathers to sexual harassment in the workplace to racial profiling.
It’s impossible to touch on all of these episodes and the issues tackled by the show in one article. If I did, we’d probably be here all day and I’m pretty sure nobody has time for that. So instead I’m going to focus on just one: He Said, She Said, directed by the one-and-only Stephanie Beatriz.
Despite being branded by many fans as the ‘best episode ever’ and leaving others in tears, the episode is still the worst rated of season six on IMDb and the second worst ever, scoring 7.2 stars out of 10. Which poses the question: why?
In this particular episode – Season 6, Episode 8 – Amy (Melissa Fumero) and Jake (Andy Samberg) take on a case about a workplace sexual assault. When the woman fears her career might be in jeopardy if she goes through with her complaint, Amy convinces her they will make sure she gets justice for what happens.
Upon interviewing the firm’s employees and receiving the same, seemingly manufactured response that the accused male co-worker, named Seth, is a stand-up guy, Amy vows to solve the case and get justice for Carrie.
She stays up all night searching through the evidence, leading Jake to express his concern for her when he walks into the precinct the following day, asking: ‘Are you doing okay? I’m starting to worry about you.’
It’s at this point Amy reveals why the case is so important to her and why it ‘isn’t just a case for [her]’. When she was a rookie, she was promoted to detective by her superior, someone she classed as her mentor. This ‘mentor’ then took her out to dinner and tried to kiss her, saying he ‘felt like he deserved something in return for [her] career’.
Amy ran out of the restaurant and transferred to the 99th precinct, but she never told anyone because the incident made her feel like she wasn’t worthy of her promotion.
Jake’s eyes are opened to the realities of what being a woman entails, telling Amy: ‘Every time I think I understand how bad it is it’s just way worse than I imagined.’
She then responds:
This kind of stuff has happened to literally every woman I know. I just wanted to help make it better for this one woman.
And it’s true. I can guarantee that any woman I spoke to – family, friends, colleagues – would have a similar story to tell. Whether it’s at work, on public transport, in the gym, wherever… the story remains the same.
In a post-#MeToo world, incidents like this are coming to light more and more, creating a platform for survivors of sexual assault to come forward in a safe space.
In fact, shortly after the #MeToo movement emerged, a survey by Stop Street Harassment found 81% of women had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. But what is being done about it?
One 25-year-old woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told UNILAD she experienced a similar thing at her first full-time job after university. A male colleague, let’s call him ‘Charlie’, acted like a mentor towards her – offering career advice, being there as a friend, etc…
She explained that ‘Charlie’ was always friendly, but then ‘became over-friendly’. During work gatherings, he would: ‘get drunk, start asking me who I was sleeping with, what my love life was like, and other questions which made me feel uncomfortable’.
He would send drunken messages, asking if she was in town and whether he could ‘come along’. It wasn’t until the work Christmas party that things really took a turn though, when ‘Charlie’ got so drunk he forgot his own address, and she and her housemate had to take him back to their flat to sober him up and order him a taxi home.
While my housemate was on the phone, ‘Charlie’ got into my bed, although I told him to get out. He then said he needed to speak to me, so I sat down near him to say you need to go now, I don’t want to chat.
He forced himself on me. Kissed me and began undressing me, while I yelled for him to get off. He eventually did stop and my housemate, hearing my yells, came in and got rid of him. I was scared and upset and I didn’t know what to do.
However, the woman explained that ‘the assault itself wasn’t the worst part – it was the aftermath’. The week after the incident, ‘Charlie’ took her into a meeting room and asked if she remembered the kiss. When she said yes, he said he didn’t know why he did that, blaming the outfit she had been wearing that night.
He warned her not to tell anyone about what had happened, ‘as if he found out I had told someone, he would ruin my career’. He also warned that his wife would ‘beat [her] up’ if she found out. ‘He was a lot older than me and experienced in the industry, whereas I was just starting out. So I believed his threats and stayed quiet,’ she explained.
The He Said, She Said episode is important, she said, because seeing things you have experienced being spoken about so openly and honestly on a TV show ‘might help you address what happened to you, and [help you] reflect on it’.
The scene I found hit me hardest was when Jake and Amy chat about her experience in the break room. Amy was harassed by her mentor and ended up quitting the job, just like me, so I instantly related to her story.
I used to feel ashamed about what happened to me, and I think it is clear Amy used to as well. Amy also says she was worried she wouldn’t advance in her career if she spoke up, which is how I felt too.
I didn’t want to be just a victim in the eyes of my colleagues, friends and the industry. The way they handled the topic was very honest, but never felt preachy or too forced either, balancing things out with humour. Which is what Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always done best.
She isn’t the only woman to experience something similar, either. Farah Benis, who runs Catcalls of London – an Instagram-based campaign that raises awareness about street harassment – started the campaign two years ago because she was fed up of women having to feel uncomfortable and increasingly unsafe.
Farah recalled one incident in her twenties, when she was new to the company and was in another country launching a project, when the operations manager would ‘put his hand on the small of my back when passing me, constantly invade my personal space, grab my arm unnecessarily, put his hand on my knee and [squeeze] it’.
Although she at first tried ‘not to make a big thing’ out of his behaviour, dodging his advances in a ‘non-confrontational manner’, it escalated when he ‘pushed [her] against a wall at the office and tried to kiss [her]’.
Farah reported him to the head of HR and to the head of another department she was running the project with, but it was dismissed as: ‘That’s what he’s like, but you’re a lad’s girl, you can handle yourself.’
That same department head then later tried to pull her into his hotel room one night, and made regular references to Farah’s breasts, weight, and ‘fuckability’.
She told UNILAD:
As I was new, the only woman at management level, and really needed the job, I didn’t want to rock the boat for myself. That was the implication from them – that I would rock the boat.
Dealing with harassment in the workplace and in general, on a regular basis, is mentally exhausting. When you’re constantly second-guessing your responses, wondering if you’re too friendly it may be misinterpreted, if you’re not friendly enough you’re difficult, if you report it will it affect your opportunities within the company?
If you do nothing will they continue to do it to other people, or even take it as some sort of confirmation that you actually like it? Trying to avoid situations where you may be left alone with them, dodging comments loaded with innuendo.
Farah said she used to struggle to navigate all of that in a corporate setting, which is one of the reasons she now runs workshops with young people on sexual harassment. ‘Whilst I can’t change my experiences, I can equip other people with the tools and knowledge to be able to advocate for themselves in those situations,’ she explained.
For Farah, the He Said, She Said episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine was so important because such a popular TV show ‘doing its part in adding to the mainstream representation of harassment and its consequences’ can only be a positive thing.
She said the episode successfully highlights ‘how everyday sexism, sexual harassment, and assault are common-place and, as Amy says, experienced “by literally every woman I know”.’
Highlighting the experiences of women and girls on this kind of platform goes a long way towards changing the culture of silence surrounding these encounters.
Harassment isn’t just limited to the workplace; 23-year-old Seniña Joy D. Mojica, from Manila, Philippines, said it’s impossible for her to commute without getting stares or catcalled by men if she ever ‘decides to wear something that shows even a little bit of skin’.
Not only that, Seniña has experienced assault on a few different occasions, having woken up to a stranger groping her on the bus or train, or having someone openly masturbating in front of her on an empty bus.
She said after each of these experiences, people would be quick to point out what she was wearing or how she was acting, ‘to set [her] harasser free of responsibility to whatever harm or trauma he caused me’.
She told UNILAD:
I want to be able to walk home without fear of anyone taking advantage of me or seeing my state of being alone as an opportunity to attack or practice their power over me when they do not really have power over me.
When watching the He Said, She Said episode, Seniña teared up because she finally felt like ‘there were spaces where I could tell my story, and the story of billions of other women’. She added: ‘It’s just one episode but it’s certainly a [way] to catch attention and drive conversations.’
If the episode has had this much impact on those who have experienced sexual harassment, why then is it the worst rated episode of season six, and the second worst rated of the entire show? Feminism, apparently.
No, really. One of the bad reviews reads: ‘If you’re going to introduce feminism into the episodes at least make it authentic and not the typical “white man bad”,’ while another said: ‘I am seriously sick of this same issues [sic] being smeared on our faces in every opportunity.’
Another person wrote: ‘A big B99 fan, but sadly this episode ruined it for me. From forcing radical feminism down our throats, to treating females as the victim in literally every scenario, the only thing good in the episode was Holt’s case.’
Far from forcing feminism down our throats, I thought He Said, She Said did an incredible job of showing the very real struggles women experience on a daily basis.
More than that, it helped women who had been in similar situations come to terms with what had happened to them because of its sensitive and respectful handling of the issue.
For a sitcom to do all of that, and still have people in stitches mere minutes later, is a pretty amazing feat. And one that will continue to be amazing, regardless of the negative reviews.
Season seven of B99 returns tonight, February 6, on NBC with two back-to-back episodes. Nine-Nine!
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact the Rape Crisis England and Wales helpline on 0808 802 9999 between 12pm–2.30pm and 7pm– 9.30pm every day. Alternatively, you can contact Victim Support free on 08 08 16 89 111 available 24/7, every day of the year, including Christmas.
Male Survivors Partnership is available to support adult male survivors of sexual abuse and rape. You can contact the organisation on their website or on their free helpline 0808 800 5005, open 9am–5pm Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays; 8am–8pm Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10am – 2pm Saturdays.
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