Character Deep Dive: Jake Peralta

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE -- "Debbie"  -- Episode 705 -- Pictured: Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta
(Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC)

Portrayed by: Andy Samberg
Show: NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine

When we are first introduced to Jake Peralta in Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Pilot, he’s got a lot of quirks to show us, but the emotional beats come later, and throughout the eight years, no male character in comedy has the kind of development that Jake does. It’s largely due to the growth from immaturity, without ever losing his means of comedic deflections or what sets him apart from others.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a special series for a number of reasons, and at the top of the list is how the stories were always driven by the character journeys. It was easy to be intrigued by Jake Peralta’s character from the beginning because one thing the Pilot does in admirable fashion is showcases the road this series is headed on. It’s about teamwork above all things, and the most competitive, hotheaded character is going to learn exactly what that means.

Throughout the trajectory of eight seasons, Jake Peralta shows us that more than anything, his innate human desire for a family proves to be his strongest asset—he’s an excellent detective, sure, but he is a better person because of how deeply he cares about those he is surrounded by.

Jake Peralta: The Lost Boy

Inside every broken adult is a kid who wasn’t loved enough, and that becomes one of the more evident traits we are nudged to look closer to when it comes to Jake Peralta. Because of his father’s abandonment, he harbors intense fears that every single person at some point will abandon him. And so, he deflects with humor. He pretends like he has it all together. He pretends like all he cares about is the competition when really, it’s all about human interaction.

Yes, Jake is intensely competitive, but why? When looking closely, we can see that it’s because if he wins, maybe, just maybe people will stay. People won’t leave. So much of his humor and essentially mocking himself and his issues are his means of coping in such a way where the lost boy isn’t seen by others. But when Jake begins to fall in love and when cases grow in intensity—his vulnerability comes through in the form of a man who’s just wanting to be taken care of.

The “cool cool cool cool cool” was always his means of convincing himself that everything is going to be okay, and that’s a large reason why he’s so memorable as a character. Jake could have been nothing more than a jokester with a heart, but Jake Peralta is as relatable as it gets because the fears inside of him are a reflection of what so many of us have felt too. It’s easy to mutter “cool” a thousand times until we convince ourselves everything is fine.

But the solution isn’t to bottle things up, it’s to deal with the issue head-on. And Jake’s vulnerability as a man is shown in his means of trying to understand how to navigate through hurdles in the world in such a way that he’s a better companion to others than he has seen. Thereby, this approach is further proof of the detail that deep down, he’s just a kid wanting love more than anything. He doesn’t want people to experience the kind of fears he has lived through.

He is a man where it matters, but throughout Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s run, oftentimes he was just a boy searching for guidance. And when he is finally given the recognition that he deserves and the love that he’s always wanted from his family through the team, he uses it to pass it on to others.

As much as Jake could be a nuisance, at his core (and often overtly) he has wanted to be liked and respected. Which, really—can we blame him? Isn’t that something everyone wants at the end of the day? It’s natural, and I’ve always appreciated the way Brooklyn Nine-Nine showed that with an almost childlike innocence through his character. He’s very cool but simultaneously so uncool. He appears to care a normal amount when really, he cares tremendously.

The Father, The Husband, The Man

Jake Peralta’s growth on Brooklyn Nine-Nine in the final season alone might just be my favorite thing about the character because of how sincerely he grows through everything that he experiences. It’s what makes his decision to leave the NYPD that much more admirable because, for the first time, Jake isn’t doing something for praise or to make someone else think more fondly of him, but he is doing it because he finally understands his purpose in life. He understands how he could be a better, stronger man.

As a man who has wanted his father’s love and attention more than anything, Jake’s decision to leave the precinct in order to be more present in his son’s life is everything that I could want to see and more from his journey. In a world where once upon a time Jake compared himself to Amy Santiago and wanted to one-up her, today, he has no problems with stepping down to take on the role of a stay-at-home parent while she is promoted to the Police Reform’s Chief of Department.

Jake Peralta’s growth comes full circle beautifully when he realizes that he could change his future by altering his present through selflessness. And thus, he makes the utmost selfless decision by choosing his child over the type of glory that his job has so often offered him. And he does so in such a way where his goodbye isn’t so much about him as it is about leaving the rest of the precinct with gifts to show his appreciation. (It’s the Jake way, as honorable as it gets, really.)

In this journey towards finding himself that he had no idea he was ultimately on, Jake Peralta found love, lasting friendships, and the means to make his future better by allowing himself the opportunity to become the type of father he always dreamed of. We often see this type of growth through women on television, and while it’s great because it’s representative of so many women we all know, we seldom see it with men.

We rarely see men give up everything just to be a parent out of their own free will. And that’s what’s so beautiful about this journey because no one, not even Amy tells him to do this—it’s something he realizes on his own because, through the eight-year run, Jake Peralta has grown exponentially more selfless and self-aware.

He’s grown wiser, and somehow more mature while still maintaining his immaturity, and his compassion has been the very fabric of his character. At the end of the day, while he has always cared, this decision showed just how much of that was true.

There is something so achingly realistic about the intensity with which Jake Peralta does everything. It’s not the Charles Boyle level, but there is still something about the way he carries himself with that touches on the fact that he’s trying to make his presence known because he needs to feel like he belongs somewhere. He listens and at times tries too hard, but it’s evidence of the fact that he wants to get to a place where he believes the love in front of him isn’t going to fade in the blink of an eye.

And sometimes it does—the moments where it feels like it’s all going to be ripped from him have such an instrumental impact on Jake’s psyche that you only have to look at Andy Samberg’s performance to see the intensity behind it. Jake might act like prison won’t bother him, but it does, it’s a scary thing to be taken from the team and it’s especially a scary thing to be ripped from Amy.

Whatever the situation, Jake cares deeply about being present because he knows the lifelong aches abandonment can have on a person.

Throughout the eight years, Andy Samberg has not only layered Jake Peralta brilliantly but he’s grown as a stronger actor. His comedic chops know no bounds, but the emotional beats he was able to master through this role have oftentimes left me floored. There could not have been another actor to take on this role because it was always relatively obvious just how much Samberg was learning through the character’s journey. He grew alongside Jake Peralta and in breathing life into the character, Andy Samberg, a comedy prince, brought a whole lot of tears to the audience. Range—that’s what it’s all about. Both the actor and the character have plenty, and it’s led to an exquisite embodiment in every way.


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