Castle Review: “Valkyrie”

E: Like readers wondering whether Harry Potter would live or die in The Deathly Hallows, Castle fans spent the summer wonder if Beckett would accept or decline Castle’s proposal, not suspecting she too would do both.

C: That was a great moment. So perfect. “So that’s a yes?” “No.” “That’s a no?” “No! Not not-yes… I mean…” And, salving our fears immediately, Castle explains: “I’m not proposing to get you to stay.” Yay! Good man. And so, countering all expectations, Beckett says yes and then goes!

M: I actually found that scene to be the fabulous opposite of the final scene of last season. The proposal scene was overly dour and dramatic, and the proposal itself was dull and lacked the boyish charm and fun with unlimited resources that Richard Castle usually entertains us with.

C: Very true. You would expect him to do the most elaborate proposal ever… under less pressured circumstances, I guess.

E: Plus that kind of proposal is sort of hard to mistake for a break up, which is exactly what Beckett thought was happening.

M: The acceptance/non-acceptance/acceptance, on the other hand, had both Beckett’s usual charm, her ability to put Castle in his place, and also his charm and witty responses (“You do know how this works, right?”) and responses that felt genuine from both of them. I loved it. The rest of the episode… well, let’s get to that.

E: Let’s. We pick up the action a few months later in D.C. where Becket’s partnered with House‘s Lisa Edelstein.

M: Lisa Edelstein… yawn.

C: Hey! I like her, and I thought she did a good job here as a hard-nosed, experienced agent (whom I think is Beckett’s mentor, not her partner, considering she was running a test on Beckett at the beginning).

E: They’re assigned to each other at any rate. I have to admit, it’s pretty cool to see Beckett charging around identifying herself as a federal agent, even if she gets shot in the chest (again!) during a training exercise.

M: That felt phony to me, before I even knew it was a training exercise. Not in a “this is a training exercise” kind of way, but in a “Come on, this is what investigators for the Attorney General are supposedly doing? They’re just trying to make it look as much like previous Castle as they can” kind of way.

E: So much so that I screamed “she got shot in the chest AGAIN?” at the television.

C: Yeah, this foreshadows what I can tell will be a problem this season, or as long as they keep the D.C. angle up — the attempt to keep things “feeling like Castle” while drastically changing characters’ daily lives.

E: Speaking of which: somehow it hasn’t occurred to Rick yet that he can move to D.C. — perhaps because he’s been on a book tour for the last few weeks, or perhaps because this reasonable solution would alter the show’s format too far beyond recognition.  Half-Assed Changes R Us!

M: Very weak. The whole “we haven’t seen each other in six weeks” thing was ridiculous. He would have been there every weekend, and she’d be in training (as they showed), so would actually not have much of a, if any, case load. This would be the time that they WOULD be able to see each other.

C: Well, it seems like his book tour, not her work load, was the bigger problem.

M: But if they start like this where do they have to go? It’s when she starts traipsing all over the country on cases that it’ll really get hard… if he didn’t have an apartment in D.C., that is, which he clearly would.

C: Yeah, come on. There are one or two perks to being a millionaire, I’m told.

E: On the other hand, maybe the two living apart is a good thing, because the boy cannot stay out of Beckett’s casework when they’re co-habitating, even when it’s a little crazy that she has casework (is she training or not?), even when she assures him that snooping here’s an actual federal crime that will get him thrown in jail and her fired at best.

M: Yeah, and that’s the one believable aspect of the episode!

C: He could have his own apartment. But yes, argh, he was so maddening! It was completely believable, and completely immature (hence typically Castle) that he thought he could get away with inserting himself into her classified investigation. What I loved, though, was Beckett’s response. I thought they were going to have her blow up at him, but the writers happily kept things light, with her recognizing — even as she tells him to cut it out — that this is the guy he is.

E: That’s a good sign for their relationship, it’s true.

C: Before we move on to the secondary storylines, though, I’ll just add that the main plot went downhill as the episode went on. It went from a quality episode that had the “light touch” down pat, to a seriousfest 3/4ths of the way in. Booo. They were doing so well!

E: Bah.  Agreed.  And I’ll say again, it doesn’t make sense for her to be working actual cases and simulated cases at the same time.  And I can’t see how the show is going to keep including the NYPD cast members, now that it’s so clear Castle can’t just call up Ryan and Esposito for some help digging. Can I tell you how much I loved to see Ryan swaddling the baby doll he has tucked into a desk drawer, though?  Castle catching him at it over the phone was the best.

M: Totally agree, as was Wonder Twin #2 saying “It’s gonna be a long four months.”

E: Not that it takes four months to learn how to swaddle, but yeah. As far as the family plot is concerned, I’m a little upset at Alexis for hooking up with a drifter, though I’m grateful to him for providing much of the episode’s comic relief with his name (Pi – like the dessert but without the E) and with those papaya “steaks.”

M: That was just really, really icky. Although the line about papaya steaks being juicier than meat was clever, I was just too upset by the plotline to enjoy it. First of all, Alexis is waaaaaaaaay too smart and down to earth to be suckered in by that moron (or, as she called him, genius). Second, I seriously dislike the thought of her hooking up with anyone. Perhaps it’s the red hair, like my daughters’, or just because I’m a prude, or because they’ve made her out to be somewhat of the moral compass of the family. The whole thing just felt wrong to me.

E: The fact that he ostensibly lives in Amsterdam made it that much worse.  Let’s say meeting a guy in a Costa Rican study program and having a fling is one thing, but who brings the fling home so he can sponge off their family?  And assumes that’s all cool?   That’s not your boyfriend, that’s the guy you’re shagging before he heads off to another continent.

C: They’ve played Alexis very differently this past year or two. The smart, overly responsible, mature-for-her-years Alexis was adorable. I loved that she felt worlds of guilt over breaking even the slightest rule, which her dad never even thought of holding her to. I think they’ve given up on that portrayal because Rick has become more responsible himself so there’s less comedy in the contrast, but in the meantime the personality they spent years establishing for Alexis has been replaced by a dull stereotype of a precocious but naive young woman.

E: They want us to see that she’s finding her way in the world – and that her sexual independence is now what’s going to make Rick nuts. But the girl who agonized over her high school boyfriend’s college choice doesn’t seem like the type who’d bring home this package of delight.  Well, anyway.  The Quibbling Siblings: not good with the casual dating.

C: Not good with the out-of-character blaséness or the lack of respect for her father (bringing a drifter in to sponge off him without even alerting him first), at the very least.

M: As for the plot, I’m annoyed.

C: You mean the overall plot of this season?

M: Yes. As we discussed at the end of last season, there are very few options here. Either they allow Castle to investigate with her in DC, blow up the formula of the show, have Beckett not take the job (that went by the boards) or they have her either fail at it or decide to quit.

E:  Beckett won’t back down because it’s too hard or too dangerous, and Castle can’t just screw it up for her or she’ll always resent him.  But what is Castle really going to have to do if he can’t help Beckett investigate crimes?  Growl at Alexis’ booty call of the week?

M: They addressed pretty firmly the option of Castle working with her (though I’m not willing to completely write that off, since he got just as far as them with just one photo and a call to the Wonder Twins, proving just how “best of the best” the people Beckett’s working with are), and I don’t think I want to watch Beckett and the woman from House investigate, while Castle deals with trying not to help, at least not for more than a few episodes.

C: Yeah, as an aside, it was also a little annoying to see rookie Beckett having all the best ideas; doesn’t give you a sense that these people are all that competent.

E: It certainly doesn’t, even if it’s fun to see the technology that replaces the murder board.

M: The hook of the show, for me at least, is the dynamic of the characters I like bouncing ideas off each other while investigating crazy cases. If you take away the bouncing of ideas and make it just a cop show? I’m not sure I keep watching. So, she has to either fail or quit, or they let Castle help.

E: And like I said above, how can they do either without creating resentment or breaking character?  Or the law?

M: If they let Castle help (which the FBI has done before, so it’s not unprecedented), we lose Lanie and the Wonder Twins, which I can live with if they make the new co-workers less douche-y.

E: Yeah, I’m not so sure I can, though I find the new coworkers more grim and bland than nasty.

C: I don’t know, that Agent Hendricks was rather dashing…

E: He did show some spark, but I want the snark and honest girl talk between Lanie and Beckett! I want Castle and the Wonder Twins ragging on each other!  So far the D.C. folks are Very Serious People, not nearly as smart as Beckett or Castle and not nearly as much fun as the Wonder Twins.  But I just don’t know what’s to be done about it.

C: They’ve really written themselves into a corner, haven’t they? Once Beckett got offered her dream job I’d have been mad if the writers didn’t let her take it. But I think they were crazy to offer it to her, and mess with a formula that was working quite well.

M: One parting thought, maybe they’ll actually kill off Castle, like they’re teasing for next week! Then they’d have the show be Beckett and Edelstein, and nothing else left over from the previous seasons! I think that’s pretty likely…

E: Ha ha.

C: To address the point seriously for a minute, I think that on a show like this where you know your lead characters aren’t going to die, serious threats to their lives have to be more about creating deep character moments than about creating suspense. That’s why this cliffhanger was such a bust for me. I might be interested in how Castle’s supposed imminent demise affects him and Beckett emotionally (though I’d be more interested if they hadn’t gone there in the bomb episode just last spring), but I’m never going to be on the edge of my seat just wondering if Castle, of Castle, will survive.

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2 comments on “Castle Review: “Valkyrie”

  1. Gina says:

    Totally with you on Alexis. Why is that the smart, responsible young girls on TV always have to go off the deep end eventually? (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Rory Gilmore.) It’s so contrived and silly.

    • M says:

      We’re working on a post to cover the major points of the past two episodes, and that is going to be a huge focus for us. So infuriating.

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