Castle Review: “Dreamworld”

M: I will start with a GIANT sigh of relief, as I was genuinely worried that Castle was going to kill off Castle. Oh wait, no, that was a sigh of exhaustion with plots like that. Sorry, my mistake.

E: Well, at least we got that silliness over with, so that’s good.

C: What’s good about a lack of silliness?

M: You’re fooling yourself, E, if you think I’m done being silly, but let’s move on. What did you think?

E: I didn’t mean – oh, whatever. I found the episode startlingly unmelodramatic.

M: That is true, they didn’t play it up like they have done in the past, and like most TV shows do. So, that’s a silver lining with this tedious and lazy plot.

C: It’s a good thing there was a silver lining, because this was a truly bad Castle episode. It was probably a pretty good episode of some other show, one about federal investigators and government coverups of war-related crimes. But it was just about unrecognizable as Castle.

E: More than any other lame aspect of this week’s show, what interested me here is how the seasonal plot advanced.

M: Really? Not feeling it. But okay, let’s dig into it.

E: First off, potentially dying Castle gets a break with Beckett’s new colleagues.  They allow him to help them find the antidote to whatever has poisoned him — if nothing else he’s strongly motivated.

C: Well, he can investigate the case of his own fatal poisoning. I don’t think that’s a carte blanche.

E: Understood, but it did get his foot in the door, and he’s pretty tenacious at exploiting even the smallest opening.

M: That was smart from a show standpoint, but it furthered what we discussed last week, the ineptitude of Beckett’s new co-workers. Once again, these people are supposed to be the best of the best. So far they look more like sub-standard cops with better toys.

C: Ha! Perfect description.

M: And, apparently, they need to be shown what to do by a mystery writer.

C: Well, hasn’t the premise of this show always been that Castle cops better than real cops can cop?

E: Indeed it is. And you have to give him a reason to be there, right?

M: But you can only take that so far before all credibility is gone. For instance, I loved the bit with the font analysis, but I knew that info, too — and if I know it, why the heck don’t the best investigators in the country? Plus, if the tech guy (whom I liked, and who seemed at least modestly competent, even if he is no Marshall Flickman) could hack in and get the audio of the air raid, why didn’t he do that right away when they got sent the heavily redacted document?

E: I suppose they needed Castle’s insight to prove the transcript was actually relevant?

M: WEAK!

C: The heavy redactions are a dead giveaway that it is relevant.

E: Yeah, confusing behavior from people who are so concerned with their own classified material not seeing the light of day.

M: Or at least the eyes of Rick Castle.

C: Not… seeing the eyes of…? Eh, never mind. I’ll admit I was not paying the closest attention to this plotline. That said, it seemed like it was bizarrely easy for them to get their hands on some incriminating evidence, while they were totally obstructed from accessing other materials.

E: Yep.  It’s like Counselor Troi being able to sense the aliens’ intentions only when it’s convenient for the plot.  Very annoying.  Not that we come to Castle for logic and consistency, but in the absence of humor we’re forced to pay more attention to this stuff.

M: Too true.

C: Moving on from this morass of dull nitty-gritty… is it just me, or did Beckett’s new co-workers somehow become less developed characters even than the first time around? The few glimmers of personality we saw last time seemed gone.

E: I don’t know about that. I mean, okay, we didn’t actually see any more of the smiling guy you liked last week so I’ll grant you him, but Lisa Edelstein felt pretty much the same. I laughed over Beckett’s new captain wanting a character based on him (a “dashing Colombian-American federal agent” — particularly amusing because I just saw this actor playing a Native American on Bones) in exchange for letting dying Castle help his team.

M: Come on, don’t you know that in Hollywood all non-white, non-black actors, and even some white actors, are able to play any ethnicity? Because, you know, to casting directors they all look the same. I mean, Johnny Depp has played Native American at least twice. Antonio Banderas has not only played every version of Hispanic and European, but has played an Arab.

C: Yeah, don’t let’s get started on how Spain, South America, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent are all apparently the same ethnic origin to casting directors.

E: Don’t forget Italy!  All us beige folk sure look the same.  It seems, however, that the actor (Yancey Arias) is actually half Colombian, so we can lob the charge of equal opportunity brown casting at the Bones crew members and not the Castle team.

M: That’s one point to the good for the Castle writers, in an episode otherwise full of deductions. As for the plot of the episode and the bad guy, we fell back to standard Castle patterns a bit… the most recognizable guest star (in this case, Warren Christie), who was looked at as either innocent or not involved early in the episode, turned out to be the bad guy. Shocker!

E: Oh, well, you had the advantage of me there, because I’ve never noticed Warren Christie before (although I can see from his Imdb page that I’ve seen him).

M: I’ve seen him in a bunch of things, from the weak (but Sam Neill-starring) Happy Town, to the pretty decent Alphas.

E: Don’t forget Battlestar Galactica.  Even if I clearly had…

M: Huh, I had too.

C: Maybe that’s why he looked very vaguely familiar. But the reason I guessed he was involved in the crime was because he was literally the only person they didn’t suspect of being involved in the crime. (Mostly, as far as I could tell, because he was neither a politician nor Arabic.)

E: You have to wonder about that reporter guy, though. Wouldn’t he have done far better to just print his findings through some alternative source, than break into a lab and kill the one guy who actually tried to do right by his fiancee?

M: That part annoyed me to no end, actually. The one guy that tried to help her, and that helped him, was the guy chosen to be the fall guy for the robbery? That makes no sense.

C: Agreed. And killing the Secretary of Defense’s wife just seemed overly nasty for a character portrayed as a truthseeker.

M: Which leads us back to my earlier annoyance: we got to see Castle and Beckett show up her co-workers at every turn. They were useless, other than following her lead and providing backup. If that were the state of our best federal investigators, seeing them forced to take furlough days alone might be enough to make you feel good about the government shutdown.

E: Not quite, alas. Moving away from hapless fictional coworkers and toxic real-life politics, it was entirely predictable that Martha would know her son’s life was endangered because he was too nice over the phone.

C: Though it was still funny when Martha said so.

M: She and Alexis were predictably great in deciphering that something was up. However, I felt they really missed a moment in the end scene in the hospital when Pi chimed in about his Reiki healing, for Castle to make some snide remark about his presence. The “you were there, too” line just didn’t get the job done.

E: Yeah.  When the few attempts at being funny fail at being funny, you know there’s something really wrong. Anyway, the best thing about the episode was Beckett’s distress finding out that the Attorney General’s office intended to hush up all the Devil’s (er, Secretary of Defense) wrong-doings.

M: For those not as obsessed as the siblings are, E is not simply referring to this character being very devilish. The actor who played Secretary Reed played the devil on a very good episode of The X-Files. He played it very well, and seems to be typecast.

C: Really, though, E? I know the bar was set low, but what about that was the best thing? That was such a typical Serious Castle moment: Beckett wants to bring someone important to justice, and everyone around her has to convince her — again — that it’s not possible.

M: Yeah, we’ve NEVER seen that before.

E: I’m just hoping that’s the kind of moral compromise that’ll get her back to New York?

M: That feels like a total cop-out to me. She knows how it works. Like C said, she’s gone after politically connected people before and failed. She knew that she didn’t have any hard evidence on the Secretary’s wrong-doings, or at least any that was obtained legally. She would not be surprised they wouldn’t go after him for obstruction. It’s just ridiculous.

E: Alright, fine, then there’s no way out of this muck and the show will suck forever. Happy?

C: I don’t think that, I’m just not as clear as you seem to be that Beckett quitting is the solution I’m hoping for. A three-episode arc of her in D.C. followed by: “you know, following my badass dreams just wasn’t all it was cracked up to be!” seems very disappointing.

E: They’ve got to get us back to our happy formula somehow, is all I’m saying.

C: Incidentally, is it supposed to be realistic that if anyone holds office of any significant kind, they are exempt from being pursued by the criminal justice system? I know we live in a world where banks can be “too big to fail” and corrupt corporations too important to prosecute, but I get a little impatient with the TV cliche that people in power can entirely ignore the law, with the law’s full collusion (except, of course, Our Hero).

M: It’s not just TV, think of all the movies like Lethal Weapon 2 that use “diplomatic immunity” as cover for all kinds of illegal activities. I’m not buying that diplomats, domestic or foreign, are untouchable for things like, oh, murder.

E: It’s quite a dark worldview for a light show, that’s for sure. I thought at first Beckett would have offended Secretary Reed so badly that she’d lose her job.  Now that would have been worth poisoning Castle.

M: Especially with the promo for next week? Could that look any more forced? Ugh.

C: “We have a case in New York that turns out to be in federal jurisdiction! …The jurisdiction of the D.C. Attorney General’s office!” Yeah, super plausible. But at least the case itself looks like real Castle: a bunch of silliness around a former teen actor’s murder.

E: Yes.  I kind of don’t care that it’s preposterous, so long as it’s fun.

M: I’m not holding my breath; for my taste they need to resolve this whole mess quickly, one way or the other.

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