Castle Review: “Reality Star Struck”

E: Yes!  The show returns to form!  Ah, the magic that is Castle doing what it does best.

M: Agreed. As we’ve said before, Castle is at its best (in our less than humble opinions) when it is funny and lighthearted. Well, as lighthearted as a show about a murder investigation can be. The other thing that Castle does particularly well is hook in a subculture or pop culture fad and poke fun at it. And this week they got back to that light, fun kind of murder investigation, with a side of real housewives thrown in.

E: Holy cow, what a slate of guest stars!  Captain Mal’s old head of security, Gina Torres!  Professor Landry from Veronica Mars!  Gail O’Grady from NYPD Blue!  Stupendous.

C: I was so excited to see Gina Torres! I’ve been a fan since Alias up through her current role on Suits…

M: …same here…

C: …and I also believe that all Nathan Fillion’s past co-stars should make guest appearances on Castle. How great would that be?

M: Oh, that would be great. And perhaps all his Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog co-stars, too.

C: That’s particularly who I meant!

E: Mr. E and I had just watched an episode of Suburgatory off our dvr, so we got Wash, Zoe, and Captain Mal in close proximity, which was awesome.  Not that I wouldn’t love to see Felicia Day guest on Castle.  Make it happen, please!

M: Now, I have to say, the moment I saw Patrick Fabian (Professor Landry) I assumed he would be the killer. I was very happy that the writers have learned from reading our blog, and did not go back to their old, predictable ways!

C: Yeah, I had the same reaction. But this was more one of those episodes where you don’t figure out the killer until process of elimination has ruled out everybody else.

M: Exactly, but they did a good job slowly eliminating the candidates, to the point where you couldn’t really guess who it was until there was only one person left.

E: Also, Lainie and Espo back together!  Ryan, enslaved to Jenny’s ovulation cycle!  And Castle accidentally hitting on the Captain!  Wonderful.

M: Not to mention Beckett’s gesture at the end. But we’ll get to all that; first, let’s take apart the episode.

E: Oh, fine.  Spoilsport.

M: You know me, always the party pooper.

C: I missed the first five minutes so you guys can fill me in, but from where I picked up, Episode 14 of Season 5 is about a young woman from a reality series being murdered; naturally, her co-stars are the top suspects. The show is called The Wives of Wall Street and is one of two reality shows (the other being an Apprentice knock-off) airing on “the Financial Channel,” which I thought was a stroke of genius. Of course if that were a channel, that’s what they’d air!

M: Actually, there already are two financial channels, CNBC and FOX Business. I think they’d get better (any?) ratings if they did air these ridiculous “reality” shows!

C: The day will come, I bet you.

E: I loathe these sort of shows – a Bravo staple – but I admit that the idea of wives turning into tycoons because their husbands lost the family farm in the crash of ’08?  Kind of clever.

C: Anyway, our victim Hannah plays (or rather, is) a former personal assistant of Penelope (Gina Torres), fired for having an affair with Penelope’s husband but hired on by another of the wives. Naturally, Gina is the first suspect.

M: Naturally. We know from past experience with Castle, the first suspect is often the killer, but only after they go away from that person and investigate other people, then gradually make their way back. Plus, she’s a highly recognizable guest star, so double does of potential there.

C: Now, having expressed my liking for Ms. Torres as an actress, I know you guys won’t take it wrong when I admit: this was a disappointing role for her. She is, simply, too cool to play a loud, dumb, catty, obnoxious reality show wife!

M: I didn’t think she was bad, but yeah.

E: She definitely wasn’t bad, but I can see why you think she was underused.  The best part of having her, actually, was having Beckett imitate one of her table throwing tantrums.

M: Ok, yeah, trying to break the weak-willed husband, that was pretty fantastic.

C: Even her accent was unconvincing.

E: Huh?

M: What accent?

C: Exactly.

M: No, seriously, I didn’t think she was doing an accent. What are you talking about?

C: Not a recognizable one, it just wasn’t her usual accent; she was trying to sound lower-class. You can hear it at the beginning and end of this clip, though it was most pronounced when she was fighting. Though she didn’t quite carry off the part, however, I wouldn’t have cared if they’d only given her some funny interactions with Castle as a freebie to the fans. What a missed opportunity.

E: I genuinely don’t even get how the show failed on that aspect – they’re usually so fan sensitive.

M: Agreed, they needed the throw a nod to the audience, like in the latest Robin Sparkles episode of HIMYM — where Future Ted, voiced by by Bob Saget, commented on always loving one of guest star Dave Coulier’s jokes.

C: That was hilarious! But back to Castle… There wasn’t much meaty crime-solving in this episode; a handy new clue turned up at each juncture to suggest a different suspect, and they cycled through suspects until, as I said above, there was only one person left.

M: Okay, I have to interject here, as I’ve been out of commission for our Castle reviews since last year, and have been wanting to share this for a good two months. One of my college friends — we’ll call him Amish Matt (don’t ask, it’d get FAR more complicated than we can get into) — was pointing out his favorite “feature” of Castle. As he put it, whenever they need to advance the plot, there’s one specific character that comes in and delivers information from things that supposedly happened off screen. This character, who is always providing exposition? Esposito! Exposition… Esposito…. get it?!?!?

C: Hilarious! Wait, no, kinda lame 😉

E: I feel like both the Wonder Twins fulfill that function.  “Here’s what happened to this lead and why it did/didn’t pan out.”

M: Hmm, after two months of waiting to tell you guys that, I’m pretty disappointed in your lack of enthusiasm. I will stand by that it was brilliant commentary, you two are just unfunny. Let’s move on.

C: Whatever. What was pretty entertaining, though, was seeing Captain Gates hanging ’round the murder board, excited to participate because Wives of Wall Street is her favorite series. When she orders Beckett and Castle to go home watch a few episodes for research, you get the distinct feeling she really just wants someone to talk about the show with.

E: And you know who the perfect person is, no matter how much he protests in advance.

M: The idiosyncrasies that they continue to give her character are just downright bizarre. She’s the tough, hardened, ruthless former IA cop who busts their balls, is a stickler for the rules… and loves creepy china dolls and reality housewives, and mugs for the camera when documentary filmmakers are around? Riiiiiiiiight.

C: Gates’s mandate succeeds in sucking Castle into the show…

M: …Gee, I didn’t see that coming…

C: …leading to two of the best lines of the night. First, when Castle marvels that Beckett was able to only watch one episode, like eating just one potato chip, she shrugs and says: “I usually just eat one potato chip.”

M: Great deadpan.

C: She’s so good at that, right?

E: And you know what?  I buy it.

M: Totally.

C: Then when traces on the dead body of an exotic Madagascar plant (really?) lead them to a downtown building, where they walk in on Penelope and her husband knocking boots, Castle gushes: “You two are back together? Spoiler alert!”

M: I love that Castle’s recognition of Madagascar included both the island nation and the kids’ movies.

C: That was darling.

E: As was the little hand-curling gesture that went with the “spoiler alert” crack.  I could just eat him up.  Also?  Are you going to be impressed that it took me this long to mention something I noticed from the start – that Penelope’s hapless husband Bob, who was pretending to have the affair with Hannah, is played by Chris Butler  who has a recurring role as a smarmy prosecutor on – do I even need to say it?

M: I don’t know, could it possibly be – The Good Wife?

E: Got it in one.

M: No wonder you liked this episode. Now, though the murderer wasn’t obvious, and the investigation had some decent twists and turns, I thought that it was obvious all along that they were going to have EVERYTHING that happened on the Wives show be completely made up. The only thing that was a surprise to me was that the smarmy producer wasn’t behind it all.

E: I concur – he seemed the most likely suspect.  Mostly because he’s so good at being slimey.  But he definitely failed the most well known guest star test (either Torres or O’Grady)  – and look, none of them were the murderer!  Amazing.

M: I will also raise a complaint I air frequently about TV shows… the decisions and thought processes that lead to murder are often far too flimsy and unrealistic. The actual murderer, the fake fiancee of Gail O’Grady’s character’s son, thought that she was being cheated on. She confirmed it, killed the fake homewrecker without batting an eye, and had no remorse about it?

C: To qualify that slightly, I think the engagement was only “for the camera” in his eyes, not hers.

E: I quite agree – he wasn’t there emotionally, but she was apparently totally invested.

M: But they didn’t play that part up; they painted her to be caught up in the “reality show” mindset — which is far too frequently the TV killer mindset. Oh, someone did something that might be bad for me? Well, I’ll just have to kill them, that will make everything better and will in no way come back to hurt me! La de da!

E: Yes, and there’s always this element of “anyone reasonable would have done the same, you can’t punish me!” which is pretty silly.  But I guess we don’t tune in to Castle for agony and emotional conflict.

M: Or believability for that matter.

C: I entirely agree that TV murderers are unforgivably optimistic. Maybe the problem lies in having to come up with approximately 22 murder motives a year, on a series which is largely comedic? Without any statistics whatsoever, I’d hazard a guess that most murders are committed in the heat of the moment by people with a history of violence (hard to drag out the solution an hour if that’s your plot) or, if premeditated, for very dark and ugly reasons (hard to make jokes about most of those). That said, one can’t help rolling one’s eyes at the idea of a socialite carrying a kitchen knife across town and stabbing her romantic rival on the street.

E: Um, yeah.  That allows for quite a lot of silly walking around in the street with a big ass knife.

C: Before we close our discussion, we have to talk about the romantic blunder of the night, Castle’s attempt to surprise Beckett with his gift to her by slipping it into the pocket of her blazer… only it’s Gates’s blazer. I have to say, I was agonizingly embarrassed when it occurred to me that, if Kate’s name wasn’t on the note, Gates might think the earrings were for her and be flattered.

E: Yes!  Me too!  Horrifying thought, her getting all gushy.

M: I have to say, I found that whole side plot to be tedious and forced.

C: Thank goodness she raked him over the coals instead!

E: To be honest, I had completely forgotten that Gates was married; hearing her rail about that was quite a relief.

M: I don’t know if you forgot that, I’m not sure we ever actually knew.

C: For me, though, the romantic thrill of the episode was Esposito and Lanie giving it another go. Yay for Esposito having a real subplot again! Even if I am amused that Lanie turned him down at Christmas thinking he was just lonely because of the season, but said yes to a first date on Valentine’s Day.

M: Wait, do we watch Castle for its believability?

One comment on “Castle Review: “Reality Star Struck”

  1. […] every episode of The Wives of Wall Street” line. And yes, I cheated and looked back at our review to find the […]

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