Brooklyn Nine-Nine is show that is so uniquely its own. It’s meant to be a workplace comedy, but it becomes much more than that as the series progresses without the viewer realizing. Underneath the hilarious one-liners and zany behaviors, Brooklyn Nine-Nine slips in moments of seriousness and reflection that show off its subtle genius through its characters.
The show sets up some pretty obvious character foils from the get-go: Captain Holt and Jake Peralta, Charles Boyle and Terry Jeffords, Rosa Diaz and Amy Santiago, Gina Linetti and everyone. They do their job in highlighting the differences within one another, and are necessary in order to incite conflict that forms the overall plot. What’s unique about Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that these differences aren’t really differences as much as they are traits the characters already possess already. Take, for instance, Rosa and Amy.
Rosa and Amy
Amy is a high-strung Type A who feels things deeply, whereas Rosa has the badass “I do what I want” attitude and shies away from anything that has to do with emotions. Yet, the show constantly puts them in situations that force Rosa to confront her feelings and Amy to control hers. Amy constantly wants to be more like Rosa, who she sees as being ‘cooler’ and more competent as a result of being so indifferent about her feelings. While Rosa will generally agree with Amy at the start of the series about her detachment, by the end of the episode Rosa has an emotional reaction that is at odds with her ‘cool’ reputation. So, what does this do for the audience? It shows them that even ‘cool’ characters like Rosa have their moments of vulnerability, and that feelings don’t invalidate who a person is. If anything, it validates their character more because they are so willing to put themselves out there even when it makes them uncomfortable. During Gina’s good-bye episode both Amy and Rosa come to the realization that the traits they carry inherently aren’t to be envied by the other, but appreciated and learned from while still celebrating their own.
If one were to look beyond the surface of these two characters, they would see these same characteristics manifest in other ways that don’t require such blatancy. Rosa makes small gestures and comments that prove she is more in tune with the needs of her friends than she lets on. Likewise, Amy knows when to get tough with her friends and when she needs to relax in order to best help them, like when she faces her worst fear in order to inspire Rosa. There isn’t a need to be strong all the time or to have everything together because there are always people around you to help carry the load.
Charles and Terry
Charles and Terry are an interesting duo, as they aren’t foils in personality, but in body. Terry is clearly the more muscular and fit one, whereas Charles is less so by comparison. Yet, Charles never lets it get to him. He continues to exude self-confidence, despite being at odds with the standards set by society and verbally expressed by the other characters when they play “Who Wore It Best?”. The joke is clear: Charles can’t hold a candle to Terry, and the other characters are exasperated that he keeps thinking that there’s a chance he could. It comes down to body mentality, and that is the true difference between Charles and Terry. Charles, despite not being the standard of male beauty, is comfortable with who he is. If there ever was a proponent of body positivity, it’s Charles Boyle. He has an envious amount of self-confidence and love for himself, in a way that’s genuine and wholesome. Terry, on the other hand, despite his toned up physique, struggles with self-confidence. He works out because he doesn’t want to be made fun of the way he was when he was overweight before the start of the series and mockingly called “Terry Titties”. He carefully monitors his meals so that there isn’t a chance of that happening again, whereas Charles is a self-proclaimed foodie, with a blog and all. More often than not, at the end of a Terry-centric episode, the lesson Terry learns is something that helps him feel more comfortable in his skin.
The message to the audience here is simple, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is telling its audience that self-confidence and self-worth is not tied to your appearance, but to your mentality.
Jake and Holt
Jake and Holt are probably the most obvious character foils. Right from the first episode, the audience knows that the two will likely be at odds for the entire series, as Holt is an obstacle that Jake will have to overcome over and over again. In fact, there’s an inkling that these two characters won’t ever move past the boss/employee dynamic they have. Jake, after all, loves to do his own thing and flout the rules, while Captain Raymond Holt IS the rules. Yet, that doesn’t happen. The first episode ends in respect from both sides and a glimpse into the beginnings of an unlikely camaraderie. As the series progresses, Holt forces Jake to grow up, sometimes forcefully and other times subtly. Jake ends up softening Holt’s rigid edges. Both are characters that have been routinely cast aside by people or institutions that they crave validation from—for Jake it’s his father and for Holt it’s the NYPD. When they come to realize that they both are seeking some form of acceptance that the other has in their power to give—and give they do— friendship and understanding emerge.
Through Jake and Holt’s relationship, the message (I think) is this: people want to be heard, they want to be understood. If you take the time to listen, you never know who might be in your power to help and what kind of relationship can spring from it.
Gina and Everyone
If there is a chance to be Gina Linetti, be Gina Linetti.
What have you noticed about the character dynamics in Brooklyn Nine-Nine? Let me know in the comments below!
Featured Image via Pinterest
I'm a writer based in California. I received my Bachelor's and Master's in Literature from San Francisco State University. I dream of one day writing books of my own and maybe even being part of a writer's room for a show! I love to talk about pop culture, books, and travel to anyone willing to listen. Some of my favorite topics in those categories are "Avatar the Last Airbender", "Gilmore Girls", the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, Mexico, and Paris. My favorite thing in the world though is my dog, he's just the cutest!