This week on Brooklyn Nine-Nine: a celebration of women in power. First and most significant, we have Amy Santiago stepping up to become the precinct’s union rep after enduring some pretty heavy duty cajoling from both Diaz and Holt. Second and more likely to take up screen time, the budding romance between Peralta and Sophia (Eva Longoria)—not simply a love interest for our hero, but also his adversary at trial. The episode title tells you the A-plot right away, and indeed, the courtroom back and forth between Samberg and Longoria does take up the lion’s share of “Jake and Sophia.”
But their spats feel a lot less important than what happens in the margins here. Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s second season has, to an extent, been about shaking things up and moving pieces around. Holt’s bid to turn his prototypical band of misfits into a respectable policing unit has been a big focal point since “Undercover”; his campaign has seen Diaz tasked with new responsibilities, too, and in that respect “Jake and Sophia” just feels like the next phase in the captain’s overarching plans for the Nine-Nine. But Holt is a minor presence here, in spite of his plotting and scheming, taking a back seat (or, perhaps, a backwards chair) after last week’s “The Mole.” (He still handily walks off with the best line read of the episode in its opening scrawl, of course. Hot damn!)
So now we’re seeing the department and Brooklyn Nine-Nine both taking shape as woman-centric entities. Among the cast’s male component, only Terry Crews and Andre Braugher have more to do than act like clowns (and even then they’re behaving more like advisors than as direct agents of story progression); Samberg and Joe Lo Truglio goof off alongside Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller. Meanwhile, it’s Melissa Fumero, Stephanie Beatriz, and Longoria who actually get to do stuff. Santiago finally takes measures toward becoming the respected authority figure she wants to be. Diaz, well, acts like Diaz, but in her usual well-intentioned capacity by giving her friend and colleague a push in the right direction (which, incidentally, also plays as a gesture of gender solidarity).
And then there’s Sophia—more than a match for Peralta when it comes to action cinema— going toe to toe with fiery hot wings, and dealing with the criminal element. (It’s worth noting that Longoria could have probably gone her whole career without messily chugging ranch dressing on network television, but she does just that here, and with gusto. In short, she’s awesome.) It’s fun watching them bicker; she’s poised and precise against his foolish bumbling, and they meet halfway to churn up real chemistry as Peralta tries desperately to trump her case. More than that, though, “Jake and Sophia”—now to be amalgamated as “Japhia” (and remember, you read it here first)—puts Peralta’s quest for Amy’s heart on the back burner. Watching Samberg pine for her for the rest of the season’s run might have gotten tiresome. His relationship with Sophia should give him a chance for growth.
Whether Brooklyn Nine-Nine will circle back around to his feelings for his coworker remains to be seen, but that’s probably a “yes” (and you can put decent odds on Sophia’s career as a defense attorney remaining a sticking point for as long as Longoria sticks around). For now, “Jake and Sophia” has shifted the pecking order in ways that hopefully prove meaningful in the long run; in other words, it’s just another solid installment from one of the most remarkably progressive sitcoms on the market. (And how about the Stephen Root/Sandra Bernhard cameo at the end?! Please let their newfound fling recur again and again.)
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing about film for the web since 2009, and has been contributing to Paste Magazine since 2013. He also writes for Screen Rant and Movie Mezzanine. You can follow him on Twitter. Currently, he has given up on shaving.