As Brooklyn Nine-Nine is still fresh in my mind after a rewatch, there is no better time for me to discuss its central couple, and one of the healthiest portrayals of a romantic relationship I’ve ever seen on TV, which is Jake Peralta and Amy Santiago, or Peraltiago as fans like to call them. The romance of the two detectives is such a good example on how to write a functional love story while keeping traditional sitcom tropes to a minimum.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of small elephants in the room in a shape of questionable choices from the writers regarding the pairing which I’ll discuss at some point during the article. But without further ado, let’s begin!
Opposites that make each other better – their development
Jake and Amy are a classic example of opposites attract. In the first episode, Terry describes Jake as his best detective but comments on his lack of growth in a personal aspect, which is showcased by Jake’s goofy attitude. Amy, on the other hand, is depicted as a total type-A control freak who loves sucking up to authority and going by the rule book. We can see their different demeanours clashing perfectly from the very first scene together (which also happens to be the first scene of the show). TV fanatics like myself, especially ones who have seen other sitcoms must’ve immediately recognised familiar tropes that set up a relationship waiting to happen, which will be discussed in the following subsection of this essay.
There are a couple of things I noticed and found refreshing in the choices the writers made when constructing the pairing. One of them is that while Jake and Amy are shown to have some growing up and loosening up to do, respectively, the traits they have are never shamed (even if Amy’s controlling streak is lightly made fun of by the other characters), and that they both are well-developed characters as well as good people. While Jake can be a childish idiot at times, he’s also a kind caring person and while Amy loves a bit of sucking up to her superiors, it never makes her mean or vindictive. These two characters getting together over the course of the show doesn’t force them to give up being who they are. Rather, Jake and Amy bring out good in each other, making the other want to work on themselves but still staying true to their nature.
It doesn’t go without saying that Jake does do a lot of growing up in the show. He goes from someone who can’t go past casual dating to someone willing to buy a mattress so his girlfriend would be comfortable in his apartment, then eventually move in with her, propose to her, marry her, decide he’s ready to have kids with her – the progression many couples take in a serious relationship. Throughout all of this, there’s not so much change in Jake himself, but rather how he handles situations that involve responsibility and commitment, as well as solving his daddy issues (this might be a work in progress still, but the point still stands). Even then, Amy never actually forces him to do anything (minus That One Episode which I will discuss later). The most what happens is that they engage in a healthy argument which usually leads to a resolution that satisfies both of them. More importantly, it’s very often that Jake takes a step himself out of a desire to progress in his relationship with Amy because he wants to. This leads him to become an even better version of himself, and it’s a journey that’s great to watch.
With Amy, she didn’t have so much growth to do but rather learning to accept the occasional chaos of life and embrace the fact that sometimes you can’t control everything. Jake is the person who helps her to do that. We see that Amy tries to be with someone who she seems more compatible with, aka Teddy, which turns out to be a disaster because it becomes clear that Amy does want someone more adventurous and spontaneous to balance her out, which is why she and Jake fit so well. So many things in their romantic journey don’t go perfectly – Jake has to go into witness protection just as they were planning to move in together, then barely a season later he goes to jail for a crime he didn’t commit, their wedding day is chaos, trying for a baby becomes a frustrating battle against nature, and she ends up having her firstborn in the precinct. If Amy from season one would’ve known all of this, she would’ve had a cardiac arrest and been buried alongside her binders. Being with Jake helps her let go of the unhealthy factor of loving control and to welcome the unknown. In season seven finale, it’s her who tells Jake they have to scratch the baby birth story they planned out and adapt to the circumstances as Amy can’t make it to the hospital. Back in season five finale, she also embraces the changed location of the wedding and makes a joke about her organisational streak in her vows. Amy becomes someone who still revels in control and order, but who knows when to let it go when necessary. Personally, I doubt that would’ve happened if she didn’t get with Jake, but that’s just my opinion.
Thank the lord those tropes are gone – sitcom couple subversion
As I mentioned previously, Jake and Amy tick off most main tropes of a traditional sitcom couple: opposites attract, will-they-won't-they, belligerent sexual tension, fake dating/kissing/engagement - you name it. However, unlike some couples who have let those tropes overshadow the foundation of their relationship to the point where the waiting games are what most fandoms remember about them (Ross and Rachel come to mind), with Jake and Amy, everything was kept blissfully short.
We’ve seen Jake pine for Amy while she was with Teddy, but it wasn’t dragged on to the point where it got annoying. He never got bitter that he couldn’t be with her and sabotaged neither her relationship with Teddy nor their friendship. We’ve also seen Jake be with Sophia while Amy was single, but she didn’t get in the way of them despite obvious hints of still harbouring feelings for Jake. They didn’t get into a relationship until they were both in the clear and emotionally ready to do so, which was so refreshing to see after so many couples on TV who expressed venomous jealousy and even tried to break up the other’s romances.
Even after they became official, the writers opted not to have miscommunications and misunderstandings to cause rifts in their dynamic, despite it being such a common tool for a lot of storytelling. One moment that comes to mind is the scene where Jake talks to Charles that he wants to be with her in season three premiere and decides to go to her apartment. Any other sitcom might’ve had him run to her apartment and then cut to Amy at his apartment, both of them resting against the front doors in all the split-screen glory. Then we would’ve got a few more episodes of painful tension until they finally talked it out. Instead, we got Amy to come to Jake’s apartment and explicitly say she wants to be with him. If anything, their relationship is stilted by the outside force circumstances, mostly relating to their job. It was great to see their relationship not be turned into a caricature for laughs, choosing a healthy progression while still providing plenty of humour for the audience.
Nothing’s ever perfect – the hiccups in the writer’s room
Unfortunately, even in a show as high of a calibre as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we’re bound to have some imperfections down the road. One of them is, obviously, the Kids Debate episode.
Now, I know it’s controversial one between the fans of both the show and the pairing, but I did not hate it. Maybe I should say, I didn’t hate the idea, but wasn’t a fan of the execution. The thing is, I could see them having this kind of an argument somewhere down the road, as Jake still has issues with his father, which in turn cause fears of not being a good parent himself and Amy has her life planned out to the T, so it would make perfect sense that she would freak out.
However, both of their sudden behaviours were a bit convoluted. Even with Jake’s problems, he never expressed repulsion at the thought of kids apart from the already discussed fear of not being good enough, which is not an uncommon thing. On the other hand, Amy never expressed a strong desire for kids, so her being set on it so passionately felt a bit out of nowhere. It feels like both of these things were heightened solely to bring out some inorganic conflict, which didn’t feel right as they have never done that with Peraltiago before.
As I said, I could see them discussing this somewhere along the road, and it seems logical they would oppose the way they have. I also perfectly identify with Amy’s fears of waiting too long for their partner to decide whether they want kids and when, so I can see where she’s coming from. Regardless, her basically giving Jake an ultimatum was not cool, and while it probably came from a place of inner turmoil of not being in control of a situation, was still not her best moment by a long shot. Someone on Tumblr also pointed out how there’s no way she wouldn’t have discussed it with Jake before marriage and that’s actually a really good point – it would’ve made more sense for them to have this conflict before they tied the knot, and in a different setting. But considering that, for example, in the episode where they babysit Terry’s daughters it’s hinted they’re feeling positive about the thought of kids of their own in the future, it does seem like this whole fight was pulled out of the writer’s asses for the sake of it, which, again, they never used to do before.
This all being said, Jake conceding didn’t give the best implications and further enforced the negative stereotype that once you’re married, your life is over as your wife controls your choices, since Amy is shown to have got her way, Jake’s feeling kind of swept under the rug. The main question I’d like to ask – why was it necessary? Their baby journey in season seven was just so good, sad in places, but it was so them. Jake thought Amy was pregnant in season six heist episode and he was so happy, and he was the one who suggested they should start trying for a baby. It was a natural progression while still acknowledging Jake’s insecurities, so I’m just confused as to why we had to have the episode the way it was delivered to us, as now for some people it might look like Jake is partially sacrificing his happiness to keep Amy, and that’s not okay.
Another thing that I won’t go much into as there’s not much information to go on, but the moment that was the absolute worst for me in the whole show is the entire Therapist Heist Incident. For a show that tackled so many other things with grace and dignity, such an insensitive jab at mental health was a new low. No matter how much the squad got into the heists in the past, hiring a fake therapist for Jake was so not okay of Amy to do and so out of character I’m questioning whether they put it there on accident and forgot to remove it. It’s just so random as it added nothing to the episode, as they could’ve figured out Jake’s heist plan another way, and just gives more unfortunate implications. Amy is not the type of wife and life partner who plays with her husband’s mental health like that, and honestly, I’m prone to ignoring that it ever happened because I doubt they’ll acknowledge it because I just cannot let this ruin their relationship as everything else I ship is some levels of problematic and I need some relationship goals in my life.
One thing I can say for sure is that somehow, both of these things somehow turn Amy into a bad guy, whether it’s acknowledged or not (and in this case, not). I’m not certain what the show was trying to do here, but if it has something to do with sexism, I will rip my hair out because Brooklyn Nine-Nine is too good of a show for that crap.
All in all, here’s my partially polished opinion on the 99% (heheh) amazing couple that is Peraltiago. There are a few more things that I haven’t touched upon, but if I did, I might as well have written a novel. TIll next time!