“Under Fire” – Castle

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 14.03.31We really need to stop beginning reviews with this particular idiomatic pun, but Castle certainly returned from hiatus with a bang! A great episode, and a great choice as first out of the Castle gates in 2014.

The plot was neither here nor there. A serial arsonist shouldn’t be (and wasn’t) particularly thrilling. The beauty of this episode came in its human collateral – Ryan and Espo. We can’t remember the last time we were so emotional after watching Castle. The last 10 minutes of “Under Fire” were tense, edge-of-your-seat, make-your-way-through-a-box-of-Kleenex scenes.

There was just so much emotion to get through – Beckett and Castle on the scene, Jenny going into labor and having to give birth without Ryan, the goodbye phonecall, the fact that Lanie didn’t get to say goodbye to Espo (not that she needed to, in the end, but still), the happy and tearful reunion… we’re wrecks.

If we had one complaint (and we do), it would be that Continue reading

“Get a Clue” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 5.55.54 PMThis episode was quite disappointing after the fantastic one we got last week. We’re not sure we’ve ever come across a series where the Halloween episode is actually less ‘out there’ than the usual fare. And I suppose this one wasn’t, either, but it was less out there than last week’s episode, “Time Will Tell”, and that was kinda unforgiveable. You can’t follow genuine doubt about time travel with a hackneyed and predictable treasure hunt. You just can’t. Not if you’re hoping for people to get excited.

Castle has, in the past, come out with thoroughly enjoyable Halloween-themed episodes – the one with the vampires, the one with the haunted house, the one where Castle dressed up as Nathan Fillion’s other well-known character, Mal Reynolds – but this was not one of them. This felt derivative, playing off Indiana Jones and The Da Vinci Code without ever reaching the heights of either (which is saying a lot [none of it flattering] when you consider that second one). Even worse, it felt derivative of Castle itself, reminding us more than a little of Season 2 episode “A Deadly Game”. Replace spies with secret medieval symbols, and one story is not wholly unlike the other. A few neat red herrings prevented the episode from being a complete wash, but we were still hoping for more.

The only aspect of the episode that was at all worth watching was Continue reading

“Need to Know” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 1.12.26 PMOkay then. Castle. “Need to Know”. Uhm… we got nothing. This was one of those exceptionally rare episodes that is almost impossible to review. Or, at least, impossible to start reviewing (and that’s a big part of why you’re getting this review today instead of four or five days ago).

The episode gave us what we’ve been hoping for since the premiere (even though we liked the DC/New York split) – the old team back together. Sort of. It felt a little forced. Castle deciding he had to work a case at the exact same moment that the AG’s team improbably got called to New York for the same case? It made us happy, but it also didn’t feel entirely believable. Not that we cared too much. Caskett back on screen wasn’t exactly an overly exciting occurrence. They haven’t been apart since the season’s return. But having Caskett reunited with Ryan and Esposito? That was welcome. As, surprisingly, was having grouchy Gates back in the team’s corner. We even liked new detective Grant Sullivan (Joshua Bitton, The Pacific). Yeah, he took Beckett’s place, but he’s an enjoyable character. We did start wondering, though… where’s Lanie?

The case itself was surprising, which was a blessing. The one predictable thing – that the jogger who discovered the body was involved in the murder (predictable because that same jogger was Supernatural’s Dick Roman [James Patrick Stuart, 90210, Pretty Woman]) – was only predictable up to a point, and still surprised. We appreciate Continue reading

“Dreamworld” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 9.34.37 PMNothing too strange or startling from this week’s Castle. As predicted, he survived. How could he not, we all say. He’s the lead character. So, no, no danger. No drama. No suspense (except the suspense of wondering whether or not we’d have to drag this out into a third episode).

What there was, though in far smaller quantities than one would have hoped, was teary emotion. Martha and Alexis, in their ‘final’ conversation with Castle, made us a little misty eyed, but the emotional punch wasn’t there in the way it usually is. Martha and Alexis didn’t know Castle was dying, so that could go part of the way to explaining the relative calm, but it felt like something more. That feeling was compounded by Beckett, who, we felt, seemed thoroughly unfazed by her fiancé’s imminent demise. I hesitate to lay too much blame at Stana Katic’s feet, but surely some acting compromise between stoic composure and abject despair could have been reached? She didn’t have to just pick one. All in all, it added up to a general sense that the actors, like us, have just had enough of will he/she die or won’t he/she.

The big conspiracy, too, was a little less exciting than usual. Perhaps that can be blamed on the current bi-location format. When in New York, Castle and Beckett play off Ryan and Espo as much as each other and, without that dynamic, the drama felt a little flat.

It was the final moments, however, that Continue reading

“Valkyrie” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 1.08.47 PMGood start here from Castle. Good, but not great.

We’ll start by answering that major cliffhanger question: ring or job? Well, as we hoped and expected, the answer was both. Beckett is, after all, a modern woman, and the idea that she could only have one or the other was ridiculous. Of course she said yes to Castle (though that scene felt strangely anticlimactic after three months of waiting). Their love is forever. But she said yes to the job, too. And we’re glad.

As predicted, this leads to a bi-locational Castle, at least for now. We suggested last season that splitting the show between New York and DC would be an interesting way to shake up a story that was at serious risk of becoming stale and formulaic. We suggested that the introduction of Tori Ellis was a means of bolstering a team that would suffer without Beckett. We may have been right on both points.

What we weren’t necessarily expecting was the apparent permanence of the whole thing. We anticipated the writers balking after a few episodes and, through a series of contrivances, bringing Beckett back to New York. And, of course, that’s still a possibility, especially in light of this episode’s ‘cliffhanger’. And yet the team surrounding Beckett in DC is by no means sketchily painted. These are not hastily drawn characters we’re not meant to care about. This feels like something we’re supposed to become invested in. That feeling is strengthened by Continue reading

“Watershed” – Castle

castle-524-watershed-02Fantastic season finale from Castle. The case was stellar and unpredictable, as were Castle and Beckett. And Castle and Beckett were certainly the main focus of the episode. That offer Kate got last week to interview for a position on the AG’s investigative task force? Well she took them up on it. And got an official offer for the job. The only problem? She hadn’t told Castle anything about it.

They spent the episode fighting, and each was prompted to really consider how they feel about their relationship. We know how Castle feels – that proposal! – but we’re left with one massive cliffhanger: will Kate pick the ring or the job? We’re modern women here at Pond Hopping Girls so we reckon she can (and will) pick both.

Last week, we laid out the possibility of a complete format change for Castle Season 6. We’re revising that slightly this week. Castle and Beckett in DC, and Espo and Ryan in New York. A bi-locational show, at least for a while. We’re anticipating Tori Ellis (that tech expert, played by Maya Stojan [EntourageSinners and Saints], who appeared out of nowhere in “The Fast and the Furriest” and seems to be becoming a sneak member of the cast) will be part of the boys’ new team. There has to be a reason for her increasing presence, and this is as likely as any.

We’re looking forward to finding out in just a few months. – K

Quoteworthy: “Whatever happens, and whatever you decide, Katherine Houghton Beckett, will you marry me?”

“The Human Factor” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 10.55.35 AMCastle left something to be desired this week. We don’t know whether it was the episode itself or just the fact that it followed arguably one of the best episodes of the season and failed to rise to the standard set by that episode. But something was missing. Sure, it was funny in places. Sure, there was mystery that wasn’t readily guessed at or solved. And, sure, there was an ending that opened the whole show up to a new format – one we’d be curious to see, and which may be useful for the writers in the fight against the current format from going stale. But it just didn’t grab us like we would have hoped.

We think part of the problem may have been the subject matter – domestic drone warfare. This felt almost of the ilk of recent Glee episodes. This felt like a ratings grab. This felt like the writers sat in a room one day and said, “Hey. There’s been a big to-do in the press over domestic drone activity. Let’s turn that into an episode so we can get a reaction.” We’re just not sure that they’ll like the reaction they got, from us at least. We make no secret of the fact that we resent any effort to tell us what to think or what we should be caring about. This week? Trying to tell us about the dangers of domestic drone use on private citizens? It was a cheap tactic of jumping on the bandwagon of lazy scaremongering. While we’re not the biggest proponent of unmanned warfare, and while the acknowledgement of the ‘human factor’ inherent in current drone strikes (and how that will be lost with the advent of AI) appealed to us, we still feel it had no place in Castle. It felt far too political.

There was one aspect of the show that gave us hope for a better episode next week, but Continue reading

“Still” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-05-02 at 11.26.36 PMWe went into this episode of Castle fully expecting to hate it. The promos positively screamed flashback episode. We hate flashback episodes. Years of witnessing the very worst offences from shows like Friends have given us a bizarre form of flashback-related PTSD. They actually make us angry, at times. And yet this one completely and utterly surprised us. As the first flashback rolled, we tensed, prepared to cringe our way through it for the sake of our art (we are also occasionally prone to grandiose exaggerations about our writing ability), and then suddenly realized something was different. We relaxed.

This episode worked. A flashback episode that worked! We may die of shock. We have a few theories about why it wasn’t a complete disaster. Both fall under the umbrella of one overarching explanation: Castle strayed from the norms of flashback episodes, and did things a little differently.

The first instance of this was the format the flashbacks took. In most episodes like this, the flashbacks consist of whole scenes that are simply being rehashed, making us feel like the writers ran out of ideas and are using their old work to remind us (and themselves) that they could write, once. We resent having to schlep through what feels like an episode we’ve seen before just because they were having an off week. Castle took a new approach. Each flashback sequence was Continue reading

“The Squab and the Quail” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-04-24 at 12.57.01 PMThere isn’t much to be said about this week’s episode of Castle. It focused on Castle and Beckett’s relationship – feeling taken for granted on Beckett’s part, and feeling jealous on Castle’s. The addition of Eric Vaughn (Ioan Gruffudd –RingerFantastic Four – making a welcome return to TV) into the midst made for a lot of tension, mixed messages and possibilities. As the episode draws to a close, we’re left doubting the strength of Castle and Beckett’s relationship for the first time. Martha’s comment about Beckett not having a ring, and Vaughn’s probing questions about how serious the Caskett relationship is, have left us, and Beckett, wondering if this is a relationship built to last. With just a couple of episodes left, will be seeing a Caskett proposal or a Caskett breakup?

The case itself was blessedly surprising. Even though the focus of the episode was, undoubtedly, on all things romantic, the writers penned a skillful whodunit that kept us guessing throughout. There was no immediately obvious motive or suspect. This did (unfortunately) lead to a somewhat hurried conclusion, and an arrest that came a little bit out of left field, but we were glad to have a killer truly sprung on us. It was refreshing. – K

Quoteworthy: “It’s amazing how fate changes lives, isn’t it?” – Vaughn, to Beckett. Has meeting him changed hers?

PS After this episode, we’re adding Ioan Gruffudd to our list, too. Just look at that picture!

“The Fast and the Furriest” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-04-21 at 3.46.45 PMWatching Castle this week, we had a revelation – the thing we love most about the ABC show isn’t the simmering tension between the romantic leads, the camaraderie among the main characters, or the humor inherent in (nearly) every episode. It’s the fact that the detectives solve plenty of crime all by themselves, without needing Castle. Unlike shows like The Mentalist or Psych, the cops hold their own. They don’t have some outside influence solving cases for them. They wouldn’t flounder without him. Sometimes he helps but, mostly, they figure it all out themselves. He’s an ideas man. He sparks inspiration and gives them leads, occasionally, but he’s not doing their job for them. That makes it all the more believable, and rescues the show from the pitfall of its counterparts on other networks. It will never pull a Mentalist and become the Jane Show.

That was never more obvious than this week, when Castle was there mostly as the comic relief. He cried Bigfoot at the start of the episode, and the case did (kind of) relate to Bigfoot, but at no point did his assertion drive the investigation. And it was a great episode because of it. There were many aspects of the episode to enjoy outside of the case, as well, from the natural rapport between Beckett and Castle to the ‘mystery’ of the disappearing food and a nice moment between Castle and Alexis. It was also great to see the return of Greek’s Beaver (Aaron Hill, playing Kurt Wilson) to our TVs. All in all, a very enjoyable episode. – K

Quoteworthy: “Ah, spork. They all laughed at you.” – Castle