Portrayed by: Melissa Fumero
Show: NBC’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Amelia “Amy” Santiago isn’t the kind of character you root for at first. If anything, Amy Santiago is the kind of character you need to get to know to truly love. And yet, once you get to know Amy, once you understand her, once you accept the parts of yourself that are Amy, and how those parts make you better, then you might find that she is really and truly the kind of character you aren’t just happy to root for, but the kind you would be happy to become.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a special series for many reasons, and though they should be commended for the kind of humor that was always grounded on basic humanity and for the diversity of an ensemble that was always played off as normal, the best thing about the series was always the characters, and the journeys those characters took to get to the end point. To that happily ever after that’s truly just a new beginning.
The Amy Santiago we meet in season one cares deeply about her job, and about doing good – same as the Amy Santiago we say goodbye to in season eight. But that later Amy Santiago also understands that, sometimes, the most important person you must be happy with, the one you really and truly must satisfy is …yourself. And that might be the best lesson from a character that brought us so many laughs, and so much love during a remarkable run on a remarkable show.
Amy Santiago, the stereotypical know-it-all
It’s easy to see what makes Amy, well, Amy. In fact, she’s very much the stereotypical know-it-all at first, except the show always allows her experience, her cultural background, to color the reasons why she is who she is. Amy’s got her binders, and she likes information, and even though this makes her the butt of the joke sometimes – particularly at first, this isn’t ever presented as a bad thing to anyone other than the person making the joke, typically Jake. Instead, it’s just the way she is.
Because of her upbringing, yes, but also because, deep down, Amy just enjoys having all the information.
This is particularly important, because though Amy Santiago is, in many ways, a stereotypical Latina know-it-all, and it takes one to know one, in many ways, she also isn’t. Because yes, Amy surely grew up with the same weight of expectations I did. She was also probably brought up to believe perfection was the only acceptable goal. And like me, she probably made herself into someone who truly enjoyed having all the answers. But Amy also went beyond that.
She broke the mold, and she created a new one, one that makes it easier for all of us to still be the things we were taught to be, and yet also be happy.
Amy the perfect daughter, perfect cop, perfect wife and perfect friend is still present in her, but Amy also recognizes that her life is hers, and she must make her own decisions. She cannot always please Holt, or her parents, or even Jake. The person Amy must please, instead, is herself.
This isn’t the type of journey that has an end, of course. It’s the type of journey that endures, but even though we won’t have a front row seat to the rest of Amy’s story, that doesn’t mean it isn’t easy to see where life will probably take her. We have, after all, been part of Amy’s journey for a while. We’ve seen her grow from someone who couldn’t see outside the box of how things were supposed to be, to someone who is not just willing to look outside that box, but to break it and get a new one, if needed. And we have absolute faith that this journey, the journey of accepting yourself for who you are, while still trying to get better is something Amy is going to ace, just as everything else she’s done in life.
Loving Amy, funny Amy and oh yes, happy Amy
But there’s more to Amy to point out than just her personal journey, because she was also allowed so many deep, important relationships that marked her, and made her a much better human. From her love story with Jake, a man so different and yet so compatible, to her friendship with Rosa – another Latina who could not be more the opposite of Amy if she tried, and her professional relationship with Holt, Amy was never just cop Amy, she was many more things.
In the romance department, in particular, she was part of one of the healthiest, most well-developed couple TV has seen in recent history. To talk Peraltiago is to talk about two people who found in each other a partner, a real one. Jake might have made fun of Amy at first, and Amy might have found Jake exasperating, but once they got together, they learned to adapt to each other.
Learned to love each other for their quirks.
There’s nothing about their love story that’s about changing each other. Instead, Jake and Amy found that when you truly love someone, and when you communicate with the person you love, then you don’t need to stop being who you are – all you need is to find a balance between what you want and what they need.
Then there’s the friendship this show allowed Amy to have with Rosa, made even more important by the fact that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen two Latina women have co-lead roles in a show like this. Typically, the conventional TV thinking is that you either get an Amy or a Rosa, because they tend to put Latinos into the same box. Rosa and Amy, however, were never made to be anything other than very different people.
And if their friendship worked it was because of that. They supported each other and pushed each other and, like good friends do, never let each other off the hook. And no, the fact that they were both Latinas wasn’t the reason they were friends, but it didn’t hurt.
Then there’s Amy’s relationship with her mentor, Raymond Holt. Relationships between men and women in mentor/mentee roles are always fraught with …tension. And it would be wrong to say that Holt and Amy’s relationship was always straightforward, or easy. In fact, at times, it felt like the relationship was a bit too unbalanced. Sure, Amy hero-worshiped Holt, put a lot of effort into taking his words, his advice into account, but did Holt even appreciate Amy back?
If the last season made one thing clear it is that all the relationships on this show were even deeper than we thought they could be. In the end, Amy was the only one who could see through Holt when he needed help. And in the end, she was also the only one he wanted to confide in.
These might have been Amy’s most important relationships on the show, but Amy didn’t stop there, because Amy was never just a vehicle for other people’s stories. She was a fully realized character who interacted with everyone, who learned lessons from different people, and yes, who sometimes made mistakes and got a little too competitive, but isn’t that true of all of us?
Amy got to be a cop. She got to be a friend. We saw her as a girlfriend, and then a wife and a mother. And we learned with her, we laughed with her and yes, we loved with her too.
The characters that stay with you aren’t always the ones that do incredible things you cannot even imagine doing, but the ones that do the things you wish you could find it in yourself to do, the ones that learn the lessons you need to learn.
Amy Santiago is the kind of character who stays with you. The kind that, in many ways, reminds you not just of yourself, but of what you can be. And for that, she will always have a special place in my heart.