One of Jake Peralta’s most endearing characteristics is how he has romanticized his desk job into a world where he can always be the hero, burning the bad guy with fury and finesse while munching on stock action movie catchphrases. Adding to Jake’s infatuation with the tropes of the genre, Brooklyn Nine-Nine sometimes calls back to the conventions of a straight police procedural and tries to give them a knowing wink.
While Jake pays reference to that giddy fantasy world a few times in “Payback,” the comedy expands the fun to include Amy this week. She gets the chance to cozy up next to a new partner, the captain she has done everything in her power to impress. (At first, Gina asks Amy if her new prominent role alongside Cpt. Holt is a “Make-a-Wish thing” and she is dying.) Even though the relationship between Cpt. Holt and Amy is often predictable, with her enduring loyalty catching her in moments of near embarrassing idolatry, the episode’s funniest scenes give the two actors a chance to deepen this character dynamic.
Melissa Fumero, slowly turning into this season’s MVP, has a blast getting on Braugher’s good side this week. She wants the life that Jake dreams of, getting coffee with her captain outside of the office and forging a tight bond. Meanwhile, episode scribes Norm Hiscock and Brigitte Muñoz-Liebowitz wisely situate much of their work outside of the precinct, broadening their work relationship in a different environment as they wait for a potential suspect. (Impressively, there is even some excitement from Amy swerving through traffic, filmed from the confines of the front cabin, as she tries to get her new partner to the nearest restroom.)
Although it was the episode’s B-plot and could have used a bit more screen time, Holt and Amy’s partnering showed the differences between the generations of cops. Holt recounts with minute detail his alliance with his old buddy from the force, Martin Ormankupp, despite that man’s homophobia. (Nevertheless, he wasn’t racist, which Holt counts as impressive for the era.) Further, the speed and efficiency in which Cpt. Holt figures out the main suspect’s identity through studying his case history also shows how expectations have changed. The characters on Brooklyn Nine-Nine usually spend a while trying to figure out where to put their foot forward, while Cpt. Holt’s knowledge and intuition creates an instant lead. Amy is startled by the detail and brevity in the captain’s investigative work.
Meanwhile, doing police work in the modern-day precinct sometimes feels less like work than a chance to hang out with co-workers. Cpt. Holt is unfamiliar with the concept of “street meat” to pass the time, although the discovery of saucy fast food brings him closer with Amy in an unexpected way. Amy will have a great story to tell her colleagues many years from now, hopefully spurring it onto a hotshot from a new generation.