Here’s a question Brooklyn Nine-Nine hasn’t posed in a while: Where, exactly, is Jake Peralta going? In the show’s early days, Holt was intended to be the ax-grinder that put a rogue, rolling-solo Peralta on the path of becoming a better collaborator and friend to his fellow cops, but the show more or less threw that idea out as it realized that the relationships between the members of its fantastic ensemble cast had become fleshed out so quickly. If the show is “about” anything, it’s still about becoming a better friend, but that’s not just Peralta’s lesson to learn, it’s everyone’s. Yet that leaves an empty space where so many of the other characters’ ambitions lie. We know Holt wants to prove himself after years of being discriminated against, that Santiago wants to be captain, that Gina dreams of Tina Knowles elevating her to dance stardom. Yet Peralta, who was initially hailed as the best detective in the precinct, doesn’t seem to have any real ambition to shine unless it means beating Amy in something. This is interesting, since rising in the ranks would solve two of his more pressing problems: a pay raise might alleviate his crushing debt, and showing responsibility at work would certainly look good to his crush, type-A Amy.
In that sense, I liked that “Lockdown” not only put Peralta in the driver’s seat of the precinct but actually taught him something about how to be more than just its de facto leader. Amy correctly calls Jake out on a penchant for people-pleasing, as evidenced by his “boss genie” act (“Done-zel Washington! Brooks and Done!”), and he begins to see exactly how much of a liability that attitude can be when the people trapped in the precinct by a potential anthrax scare begin acting out. When, at Amy’s behest, he finally takes charge and stiffens up for once, calling the shots with the perps and his co-workers, it feels fresh and appealing. Obviously, one afternoon of actually taking charge isn’t going to stop Peralta from being the incorrigible goofball that he is, but he’s a character that so rarely wants something that I get almost unreasonably excited whenever he does. Considering we’re now a third of the way into B99’s second season, I hope the show can find some real stakes for him. If this is some foreshadowing of Peralta and Amy’s competition with each other being revived in the form of a potential leadership position, I’m all for that — I think it would add some needed tension to Peralta’s character and to their romantic arc (which remains sorely neglected if the show still plans on making it happen).
Outside of that bit of intrigue, “Lockdown” lacked the absurdist zip of some of the other stuck-in-the-precinct episodes, like “The Jimmy Jab Games” or the first Halloween episode. (The closest we got: Boyle doing the “Single Ladies” dance, with two perps backing him up from behind the doors of the holding cell.) It still boasted plenty of good laugh lines, but I would have loved to see more advantage taken of the wild cast of characters stuck in there, who were more or less reduced to an angry mob despite getting some really awesome team nicknames. (“I’m just going to call [the lawyers] Vegetable Medley, because that’s the grossest thing I can think of.”)
On the upside, a subplot I wasn’t particularly thrilled to see revived, Terry’s demeaning brother-in-law Zeke, actually ended up being not too bad. I still think the show leans too heavily on the comic incongruity of big, brawny Terry being a nervous Nellie, and that Terry Crews, who’s proven himself to be such a game and committed actor, lets them get away with it. But I always love the pairing of Terry and Holt, and among Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s many lauded (and laudable) commitments to diversity, getting to see a sweet, positive friendship between two awesome black male characters on a network TV show might be my favorite. “You’re a grown man, Sergeant. Strong like an oak.” “That’s a pretty good tree.” “It’s a mighty tree!”
- Rosa’s love for Something’s Gotta Give cracked me up. “Movie’s hilarious.”
- Turns out Holt has not only been shot on the job (by Wuntch), but stabbed as well! “The scar extends through the earlobe and into the neck.” “No one likes it when you do that.”
- Speaking of Holt, I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see him pull his jerk-boss act with Zeke. His commitment to the role was adorable. “Crumb me up.”
- Scully and Hitchcock’s reunion after being trapped on the balcony really was quite touching. Presumably, Amy is no longer Scully’s first choice for bestie.
- Gina didn’t get many lines in this episode, but Chelsea Peretti continues to crush each and every one. “Say good-bye to my sculpture of two jagu-wires making love.”
- “Our second option is surveillance video of Detective Amy Santiago soliciting drugs using perfect grammar.” “It’s not that weird to say, ‘May I have some cocaine?’” “Yes, it is.”