C: Castle is back! With secret love in the air, and even more importantly, jokes. I have to say, we always complain that this show can’t balance humor and drama—that their serious episodes lack the witty bits that make the show great—but this episode bucked that trend.
E: No sooner did we grump about that in our fall TV preview, but they balanced both elements well! Maybe they do read this blog…
M: While there were jokes at first, which we’ll get to, once “serious Castle” started they were gone. However, like you guys I was fine with that balance, since the serious Castle episodes usually have none.
C: They were definitely weighted towards the start of the episode, but I’m just glad that even though we got more Beckett’s Mom we also got some good laughs. For instance… while Alexis’s first hangover was a little disappointing—she doesn’t strike me as the girl to get wasted at her graduation party—the business of Beckett sneaking out while Castle talks to Martha and Alexis at the kitchen table? Hilarious.
E: Oh my gosh, that was pure, goofy joy.
M: Yes, and Beckett’s facial expressions in the scene where she’s hiding in the closet were priceless. Plus, any time you can have a character tell their mother “I’d prefer to have this conversation with my pants on,” and have it be funny, not awkward, that’s a great thing.
C: Also hilarious: his paranoia that Martha is on to them. The best was when Castle arrives at Beckett’s apartment to follow up on their tryst, and a knock at the door sends him into a panic—“She’s stalking us. She knows.”
M: Yes, that was great!
E: And you can see why he doesn’t want Alexis and Martha all up in his business about it; it’s not that he’s unsure of how he feels about Kate, but who wants their relationship on that kind of display?
C: More like, who wants that degree of teasing! Which is exactly why Beckett’s annoyance that he hid her from his family turns instantly to a desire to hide him from their friends. Castle can barely convince her that the Wonder Twin at the door won’t actually think anything of the fact that they are both standing, fully clothed, in her apartment.
M: Which is true, by the way; he’s been at her apartment before when one of them called or stopped by.
C: Sure, but as Beckett herself pointed out, Castle trying to “act normal” is a waving red flag.
E: Yes. It’s wonderful to see that the fiction writer just cannot lie convincingly.
M: And consistently hilarious.
C: Nathan Fillion’s acting is always great, but he may have outdone himself with that incredibly awkward attempt to simply stand there casually!
M: It looks like that’s something we’re going to get more of next week, if not longer.
C: Bring it on. Bets now, by the way, on who figures it out first?
M:Well, as Beckett pointed out, they are surrounded by detectives at almost all times… so naturally my money is on Alexis.
E: I loved the almost-catch in the preview for next week. Excellent!
M: Speaking of Alexis—the way they introduced, and then immediately brushed away her story was lame. We needed more Castle family time, especially after how great it was at the start.
C: I know. Castle may be caught up in Beckett’s drama, and in his feelings for her, but I can’t see him brushing aside something significant to Alexis. In fact, I’d have expected him to be pretty guilt-ridden that she called him for a safe ride home and he didn’t answer.
E: That’s true. It might be a good thing for them to pick up on later, even.
M: Totally. I really hope they go back to that. Moving to the meat of the episode, though, did anyone else immediately assume when they showed “random” news about the VP visiting and being introduced by their Senator, that the politicians would somehow come back to play a pivotal role in the episode?
E: I expect everyone thought that. Although, actually, I expected it to be the Vice President and not the Senator.
M: I mean, if you’re going to do something like that you have to throw it in a little more subtly, and a little more in the flow of the way the show has been done for the past several years. Maybe first mention it when Ryan needed help and First Lady Palmer told him everyone was working detail for the visit? Have Alexis watching it, while recovering from her hangover, because of a potential political internship she’s aiming for?
C: Those might have been more subtle, but it was already subtle enough that I didn’t pick up on the politicians being important.
E: Wow, I’m surprised.
C: Maybe I wasn’t paying that close attention. I just thought it strange that when they read the name William Bracken in the remnants of the file of evidence against the man behind Mrs. Beckett’s killing, Beckett just happened to have a campaign flier for Senator Bracken literally within arm’s reach. Sure it’s election season even in TV land, but still.
M: I agree, that was one of those “only in TV or the movies” moments, like in Die Hard 3 (yes, I know I’m referencing Die Hard 3, not exactly the pinnacle of quality, but that’s the point) when Sam Jackson is driving 60 mph down a street and happens to look to his right, see and and recognize Bruce Willis at the exact moment that he got shot out a manhole cover by a flood of sewer water.
C: Yes, like that. … And thousands of other silly fictional coincidences.
M: I can’t tell if that’s insulting or being nice to my example.Let’s move on.
C: So this episode saw the end of the mysterious file that Captain Montgomery left as a protection for Beckett after his death. Frankly, I’m glad to see it go—that isn’t the kind of thing you want your plot to hinge on. “Oh no, the file!” It’s just not a great dramatic McGuffin.
M: That reminds me of the plot in the most recent disappointing Bourne movie, which centered around Jeremy Renner trying desperately to get “the chems” (trial drugs), and screaming throughout the movie “where are the chems! I need the chems!” and so on. Wasn’t a strong suit of the movie, or of the Beckett’s mom plot.
E: Not the strong suit, probably, but I am a little bit annoyed that the file was both burned and blown to smithereens. I’d have rather solved the whole thing for good.
C: This episode also saw the end of Helo from Battlestar Galactica as the primary threat to Beckett’s safety (oddly enough, on the night that Sam Anders from BSG—aka Beckett’s former flame Demming—reappeared on How I Met Your Mother)…
M: Which was hilarious, by the way, with Robin rubbing his abs…
C: But of course, a new (yet also familiar) threat took his place right away. I knew I recognized Senator Bracken (Jack Coleman) from something, but it was hard to place him without his horn-rimmed glasses.
E: Me too! That was a torment, trying to place him; when Mr. E called it, it was a profound relief.
M: Oh, I placed him almost right away, with the first clear look at him, and I loved that the big baddie was H.R.G. from Heroes! There was only one season of that show, right? That’s what my memory tells me…
E: That’s the truthinest answer, absolutely.
M: Good. Unfortunately, you know that Bracken’s not really the biggest of the bad guys, especially since Smith, who was very unceremoniously killed off, said he was protected and untouchable. That means someone else is protecting him, and while I would like this to be the last time this same syndicate puts Beckett’s life in danger, I know it won’t be.
C: Yeah, that whole bit—“He’s protected. Untouchable.”—struck me as over the top. I mean, what politicians is really untouchable? They rise and fall all the time. Movies and TV operate on the principle that stability in government is maintained at all costs, but in reality a good sexting scandal or foolhardy Tweet is enough to break a career. I’m sure you’re right that some even more powerful person must be protecting him, but who would that plausibly be?
E: The Vice President? Which, groan.
M: You touched on one TV tenet, C, government stability, but are apparently forgetting another. There is always a mysterious and powerful group of people conspiring to rig political outcomes and put “their people” into positions of power, where they then cannot be touched (in adherence to the aforementioned tenet #1). Doesn’t matter who they are, they are always there, and are always more powerful than everyone else in the world.
C: I know it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
M: Ha, true.
C: Also—and here do I realize I’m picking a fight with the premise of 2 out of 3 mysteries, a genre I adore, but bear with me a minute—why do bad guys always believe that escalating their crimes is the best way to get away with something? In last night’s episode we learn that William Bracken was a D.A. who took bribes, but now that he’s a senator and thinking of running for president, he’s killing people off who could blacken his reputation. Because it’s so much easier to cover up a string of murders than a few shady payoffs (which the “respectable” payees would be as eager to hide as you)?
E: I’d certainly like to think you’re right! Also, why do people in this position never go to the press? I know the press can be leaned on, but who loves a good scandal more than the press? They’ve got a vested interest in helping you find proof of some pol’s guilt.
M: I don’t think they think that’s the best way; they spiral into it. In this instance, remember that they were killing people to cover it up 15 years prior, so it’s not “all of a sudden, now that I’m going to run for president.” In general, though, human nature is to cover things up that we think will get us in trouble. I work with my kids on that all the time, letting them know it’s better to tell us what they did wrong then to lie and have us find out. In the political world, look at Watergate: a fairly minor crime, but a major cover-up that led to a President resigning. You would think people would have learned from that, but no, politicians still try to cover things up left and right.
E: High stakes make for dumb choices. Human nature. And perhaps bad parenting.
C: Ha. I get the rationale, almost, but not the risk. Hiring killers, planning conspiracies, starting crusades—it’s just stupid.
M: Preaching to the choir. Moving back to the episode, I loved that Castle and the Wonder Twins gave Beckett the leeway to deal with him without killing him, but I don’t like them starting to turn Ryan into a trigger-happy-snitch. What he did in last season’s finale was tough for him, and he only did out of concern for Beckett and Esposito. This one seemed different, and I didn’t like it.
E: Leeway in the sense of not turning her in? I don’t see that this was out of trust for her methods.
M: It was, on Castle’s part…
C: Well, it’s a bit much to expect a devoted police officer to stand by and allow vigilantism. I respect Ryan more for trying to curb his friends’ dangerous and often stupid lawbreaking—it sort of makes him the Neville Longbottom of the gang!
E: Neville! Somehow that comparison makes me love him all the more.
M: Who doesn’t love Neville, any comparison to him is a good thing.
C: But the fact that they all assumed Beckett would plug a senator in cold blood (without even covering her tracks!) was weak on their part.
M: That’s more of what I meant; in the end they did trust her to be more intelligent than that, and that was good.
C: Meanwhile, the single tear she drops as she makes her deal with the devil… reflected my own utter relief that this plotline has been (alas, temporarily) laid to rest.
M: I thought that was a really good touch, and good acting. I believed that she was torn about making the deal, placing her own life and safety over justice for her mother. And like you, I am looking forward to a good stretch of “regular” Castle episodes, with the return to nice, light, humorous murder investigations.
E: Amen to that!