C: No. No-no-no-no-no. You cannot do this to me. No! No no no! That’s Robin Scherbatsky, summing up my reaction to this episode. Guys… did Castle just jump the shark?
E: Er, no? I will agree, though, it was a very disappointing conclusion to last week’s rather thrilling kidnapping episode.
M: As you guys know, I was out of town last week, and not only missed doing the recap with you guys, but didn’t see any TV. So I watched the two back to back, and while it was a disappointing second half, I didn’t think it was as bad as C is making it out to seem. It was HORRIBLY predictable, though.
C: I’m glad you don’t see it so, but I’m anxious. Everything unexpectedly positive about “Target,” the first hour of this two-parter–the glimpses of humor, the unpredictable twists, the smart writing, the empowerment of Alexis–all of that was gone this episode. Disappointing, to say the least. But if that were all, then “Hunt” would be just like one of the B.M.E.s. What about “Hunt” could be worse than the absence of everything that makes Castle good? Try the presence of everything that turned the show Chuck bad.
E: I hadn’t thought of that per se, but you’re right, it felt like an episode from an entirely different show in a different way than the serious episodes usually do.
M: Oh, I didn’t think so at all. Like I said, maybe it was from watching them back to back, but it felt mostly connected and somewhat consistent to me. There were some big time flaws, but it wasn’t non-enjoyable, and didn’t make me forget everything that made me love the show to begin with, the way the last few seasons of Chuck did.
C: Volkov, Volkoff, I don’t care how you say it. Television writers, keep your damned dirty grudge-holding Russians and your bloody ridiculous long-lost spy fathers away from my last good show!
E: The Volkov thing killed me. But you had to have a clue that Castle’s father was somehow involved in the spy service. Didn’t Jennifer Beals say as much?
M: Yes she did, but she was another stereotypical Russian sleeper agent, so there is that.
C: Right? And it was just so stupid — I really hoped they’d let it lie. Now though, it’s out there.
E: They would never let something so potentially juicy lie, never. It was already out there, C.
C: They’ll keep bringing it back, until between Castle’s Dad Episodes and Beckett’s Mom Episodes there won’t be any Castle left that doesn’t make me cringe.
M: I think you’re going too far. I am willing to give them enough credit that they will not now be inundating us with Castle’s Dad Episodes. Plus, the previews for next week look like good ol’ Castle. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
E: Well, then let’s re-start from the start. The El-Masris finally get a ransom call, and are able to redeem Sarah for the low low price of $15 mil. But wait, can it be that easy? The kidnappers promised both girls for the price of one (making me wonder why Castle doesn’t offer to chip in a few bucks) but of course don’t deliver on Alexis.
M: I was surprised that he didn’t offer.
C: He did tell Mr. El-Masri “if you want anything from me” or something like that, which I took as an offer of money.
M: Or of support, I guess it was ambiguous. To go back to last week’s since I didn’t get to say it then, it was silly that they never considered that Alexis/Castle could have been the real target. That seemed obvious, and was inconsistent with the regular tenacity of our regular crew in running down all possible options.
E: Agreed. Now, after going all bad lieutenant on the driver last week, Castle takes off for Paris, leaving a worried Beckett at home to keep investigating on this side of the pond.
M: Okay, one more last week comment. I saw that you two discussed Castle crossing the line on the driver, and C mentioned that she would have a hard time saying she wouldn’t have punched the guy. Well, I’m generally a non-violent person, but watching it as a father and putting myself in Castle’s shoes, my first thought when I saw the wounded guy was “I’d stick my fingers right in that bullet wound in his torso if he doesn’t talk.” Punching just seems too, I don’t know, nice, easy, normal… I would have used his existing pain to make him really hurt if I had to.
C: Oh, I meant I’d have punched him right on the bullet wound.
E: Of course you would have, and so would probably any person in that situation – but that why Beckett done her job, and not let him become a vigilant.
M: Yeah, still, punching seems to kind. AAAAANYWAY, back to this week.
E: Castle haring off on his own was actually my favorite part of the episode, mostly because when we found out where he was going, Mr. E and I started commenting on how odd it was for him to try and be Liam Neeson, and voila, Javi makes the same observation 3 seconds later.
C: Which, as the one moment that the episode was self-reflective about its highly derivative plotting, I appreciated.
M: There is no WAY that Beckett would have let Castle leave her sight. She would not have bought the “I have to tell Martha alone” bit, would have known he was going to go all Harrison Ford (Taken was good, and I liked the Liam Neeson reference, but really Frantic is a more apt comparison, as Castle doesn’t exactly have Neeson’s “unique skill set”) and gone with him.
C: I guess I bought (and liked) her line that he had to act like a father, but she had to act like a cop. From then on, however, the missing-daughter-movie/spy-movie cliches kept piling up with no commentary and no ironic distance.
M: Okay, but remember this, Castle uses genre cliches all the time, so that’s not out of the norm.
E: Yes, but what makes the show enjoyable is the way he relishes them, as a sort of meta-commentary which makes him an audience surrogate, suggesting we’re all in on the joke together. And there is no such relishing now.
M: Fair enough.
E: Okay, back to the so called plot. Using a former source, the worried father meets a nasty, bearded bad dude in a church.
C: Of course a church. Priests must get so tired of desperate men and ruthless criminals tracking in mud all day as they “casually” happen to meet in the pews.
M: I’m with you here, that was pretty weak.
E: We must be lucky that our church is modern and open and has no dark corners for thugs to skulk in. At this point, I thought the show veered into CW territory, because the bad dude took Castle to his lair in the sewers beneath Paris to meet his sidekick, a blind hacker living in a crypt with a bank of computers and a camp bed. O-kaaaaay….
M: And THAT was weaker.
C: Didn’t you know they’re a regular feature of Paris? Can’t crawl into a single crypt without finding a hacker’s nest. Oh, and of course in pure Sneakers (and everything since then) fashion, they’re able to piece together where Alexis is located because of the sound in the background of her brief Skype call home. “Because you know, whenever someone makes a call there’s always bells ringing in the background,” I said to my roommate, seconds before the blind man on the TV said: “Hear that? Church bells.” One of those moments when “called it” is not a cry of triumph but a groan of disgust…
M: To be fair, I love that scene in Sneakers.
C: So do I. It’s fun – and original.
E: I watched Sneakers. I love Sneakers. “Hunt,” my friends, was no Sneakers.
M: Oh, and to bring in another great Harrison Ford movie, the part in The Fugitive when the marshals find where Ford is based on the train station announcement in the background noise was fantastic, too. When done well, it is a great plot device. I thought the problem here was that it wasn’t done well. The score was too loud and heavy, and I couldn’t even hear the bells the blind dude claimed were there.
E: So true – it doesn’t work unless you can hear the ambient noise, too. Now, I was cool with the bearded dude until he told Castle that he really needed to know how much Castle could afford to give the kidnappers.
M: Meh, that was really sketchy, but I didn’t trust him from the start. The beard looked too fake.
C: Nothing makes me trust a criminal less than a fake beard.
E: It’s around this time that Beckett – who’s gone a little Liam Neeson herself – figured out that the kidnappers were after Alexis all along.
M: About elfing time, I was saying that all through the first episode.
E: You were saying elfing? Immediately thereafter, we find that bearded tough guy has decided to sell Castle to the kidnappers. Awesome.
M: Despite not having seen any of the previews for either episode, I knew as soon as he said “once I found out who she is” exactly who James Brolin (whose name we saw in the credits) was going to be playing.
C: Yup. It was signaled like a mile away.
E: Who’s Castle rescuer, who guns down the bearded betrayer and everyone else? None other than the man in the sketch seen leaving the farm house where the girls were originally kept. I can’t express how annoying I found the first bit of the scene, with Castle standing in the woods over the bodies of his enemies, repeatedly trying to walk off without the briefcase full of cash.
M: Seriously, right? All while complaining about the loss of his $200 phone. At least they pulled a Castle and poked fun at that.
E: I was actually surprised he didn’t have a fancier phone than that. But, wait, does this mean that the fingernail pulling and torture was done by the good guy?
M: Good is relative, but yeah.
E: In an adorable Parisian attic apartment, we find out the truth.
C: Who is this older gent who’d been trying to save Alexis? Obviously no hired gun, but her grandpa.
M: And I let out a “called it”, and Mrs M high-five’d me since I had in fact called it out loud many minutes before. Yay me… and boo writers.
E: Oh, yes, that’s so impressive, given that they told us that at the credits at the end of last week.
C: What? Not that I saw.
E: They certainly did tell us Castle’s father was going to be in the episode.
M: And as I mentioned above, I didn’t watch the previews, as I watched the episodes back to back. So there!
C: I’m with M; it wasn’t the previews that gave it away, but the excruciatingly slow and obvious writing.
E: Whatevs. It was there, look it up. Not that I disagree about the writing. Like Poseidon in the Percy Jackson series, Daddy’s been looking out for his boy all these years. He even presented him with Casino Royale in a public library when he was ten – the book that inspired him to become a writer.
M: I don’t think that’s exactly what they said. He said he’s been watching him, and interacted with him that once. Castle’s got to be in his early to mid 40’s, one interaction in 40+ years isn’t exactly “looking out for him.”
E: That’s what bothers you about this scenario? Hello! Those books better be way more tame than the movies, or no one has any business giving one to a ten year old…
M: Yeah, another sketchy moment.
E: Even if that ten year old had been raised by Martha Rodgers!
C: What bothered me was Castle remembering the random stranger who recommended a book to him in the library when he was ten. Do you remember any strangers you met when you were ten? Any at all? I don’t.
M: Look, I watch Revenge, despite a major part of the premise of the show being that two people who spent one summer together when they were 9, and haven’t seen each other since, have been pining for each other for the rest of their lives and are destined to be together. In that context, I think remembering that a stranger gave you the book that made you want to become a writer – which you did – isn’t that ridiculous.
E: Count me in with M on this one – it wasn’t the stranger he remembered, but the impact the book had on his life. Anyway, Rick and Darth Daddy concoct a plan to steal Alexis back from the villain Volkov, who’s keeping her in the midst of what looks like a palace. In a cage. Not so much clever thinking for her to do this week.
M: I have to say, the twist with Castle being captured on purpose and the real bomb being in the walkie-talkie I did not see coming, that was well done.
E: A pleasant surprise, I agree.
C: It was a glimmer of okay in an otherwise lousy development… which brings me back to the point I made above. The TV series Chuck, in case you guys don’t know, was a Quibbling Family Favorite since the pilot episode aired in 2007, with its adorkable hero, witty pop-culture references, and hilarious adventure plotting. But as slowly and subtly as poison in the mind of a king of Rohan, badness worked itself into the very core of Chuck.
M: Ooohhh, excellent LOTR reference sis!
C: Thanks. And by the final season, none of us could bear to watch the reanimated corpses of the characters we’d loved prancing idiotically to some mindless writer’s piping.
M: I watched it, so technically one of us could bear to, but just barely. Get it? Bear… barely… HA! I kill me!
E: Oh yes, very impressive. Count me with you, C – Mr. E and I couldn’t handle the end of Chuck. It was like something ate the writers brains, or alien parasites took over the characters…
C: Looking back, here were the warning signs of Chuck‘s decline: ludicrous backstories for all the characters’ families; improbable twist after still-more-improbable twist; and a mind-numbing level of predictability in the way each twist was signaled. (Including a surprise spy parent for our hero and a feud with the Family Volkoff.)
M: Honestly, I think you’re looking at this wrong. I think it was just a poorly executed episode. I think they had a fantastic first episode of the arc. The underlying problem I saw with the second half was that it should have been three parts, not two. They barely even established the bad guy, the never went into how he discovered Alexis’ identity, they rushed through Castle’s search for her. I even wanted more of their reunion with Martha, Beckett, the Wonder Twins, and heck, even Gates (who had a good moment with “get his little girl back” line early on) at the end. If they had put the effort and time into the second half that they put into the first half, this would have been one of their better “serious Castle” arcs, and none of us would be complaining or comparing it to the demise of Chuck or Happy Days.
E: Huh. Brother mine, I think you might just be correct. It was too much to do in one episode; if they’d given the plot room to breathe, and room for us to care about Volkov and Daddy Castle, then it could have made all the difference.
C: I maintain that if they’d left Daddy Castle out of it forever, it would have been a far better choice. Why does Castle need a dad anyway? I’d have been happy continuing on with the vague idea that he came into being like a creature of myth, produced by Martha and the spirit of ruggedly handsomeness.
M: Or Midi-Chlorians. Oh, wait…