Saturday, October 26, 2013

Castle, "Time Will Tell": Tell what, exactly?

Right. Well... That was weird.

I'll admit that I'm kind of at a loss as to what to think about this episode. It's not that I didn't enjoy it. It's just that I didn't get it. Castle has occasionally toed the line separating the general run-of-the-mill non-reality (e.g. Beckett's wardrobe and Tribeca apartment on her salary, Castle's Soho flat, how the 12th looks and is run, the feds' equipment, etc.) from the more totally bizarre, bombastic, ridiculous non-reality (I usually think of "Close Encounters" and the abduction by the feds, because, I mean, come on, what was that (even if it was totally hilarious)?). But "Time Will Tell" pretty much blew everything out of the water, to the point where there were times when I seriously questioning what show I was watching. I felt like I was spending half the episode waiting for Mulder or Buffy to show up, like there was a possibility that at any moment an interdimensional portal was going to open up in the middle of the bullpin or a couple black helicopters were going to descend upon the roof as the voice of Cecile Baldwin started rambling about the Glow Cloud. It was just completely bizarre, and as much as I could've accepted it, by the end the show seemed to really, really want you to believe that Simon Doyle wasn't a nutball. And that...that's just weird to me.

Castle isn't a sci fi show. It's a cop show. Sometimes it's a silly cop show, sometimes it's wildly ridiculous, sometimes it homages and pushes to the very edge of believability, but it's still a cop show. It's not The X-Files. Yet, this week... we went X-Files. In a lot of ways. I mean, come on...
Is-- Is that... Oh my god. It's Ed Jerse.
It's Eddie. Fucking. Jerse.
This is an episode with both David Amann and Rob Bowman in the credits (Bowman who, coincidentally, also directed Never Again), which on its own isn't a particularly special fact, given they've been involved since s1. But the addition of Rodney Rowland (Ed Jerse, AKA the crazy guy with the Jodie Foster tattoo who once tried to throw Scully into an incinerator) and the crazy, sci-fi nature of this plot makes me look at them suspiciously (even if it was written by Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller). And then there's this:
Oh, good god, Beckett. I know the shoulder pads started showing up last year with that crazy black blazer (which I'm pretty certain is the same blazer you wore this episode on day 2), but, come on. Those things are beyond quarterback levels. They're as intense as mid-90s Scully shoulder pads (and to be frank, I didn't think there was anything more horrifying in this world than mid-90s Scully shoulder pads, which always seemed to be the worst in those awful creme suits she seemed to love s2/3). She even has her pants pulled up high just the way they used to do it back in the 90s. I mean, honestly, Beckett. Half of the reason I first got into this show is because you're the best vehicle for coat porn I have ever seen in my life (something I still appreciate to this day), but this week... Good, sweet, baby Jesus...
I mean, look at those things. It's like she's wearing a jet pack.
I'm pretty sure this is the same blazer she wore to her interview in "Watershed" and a few other times ("Recoil" I remember, off the top of my head), though I'm too lazy to check to confirm. For whatever reason it wasn't so glaringly hideous before, but I think that's because this week it followed that white monstrosity.
This isn't exactly substantive commentary, but I can't help myself. This combined with Jerse and the plotline really made me feel like I was watching another X-Files homage episode, just without the direct references. Even the abandoned industrial plant place looked a lot like the set used in "War of the Coprophages." What I can't figure is if all this was intentional or not. It certainly feels like it was, but even if I'm right, and it was, I'm not sure that that really absolves it-- mostly because the episode ends with the heavy suggestion that Doyle really is a time traveler.

And there are a lot of reasons I'm unhappy about that.

The first is obvious. I don't tune into Castle for sci fi, and I feel like it's reasonable to expect that the show never go there. It breaks suspension of disbelief into a thousand jagged pieces to suddenly and randomly be thrown into a different genre. Castle's dealt with the supernatural before, but by wrapping time we're always given a rational explanation for everything, with at most one or two loose threads that tickle us with a playful little suggestion that maybe there is something para about the normal. "Scared to Death" was one of my favorite episodes of s5, as was "Demons" in s4. I love Scully-Beckett, and I really, really love (faux)Mulder-Castle, purposely ribbing Beckett whenever he can for the sake of personal amusement. But episodes like those never forgot that the show is, at heart, a procedural cop show (and "Close Encounters" didn't forget either). "Time Will Tell" did forget. It forgot hard. I don't know if this is a fault of editing or pacing, but even on the second watch I found myself being pushed into believing that Doyle was telling the truth. Never for a second did "Demons" or "Close Encounters" really leave me with that kind of impression. The fact that the episode then ends with him randomly disappearing, leaving his doo-hicky with Castle, and with Beckett creating the stain on that paper... that was just X-Files level of weird. That's actually precisely the sort of thing that XF would've done. The "rational explanation" felt more footnote-y than anything, shoved in there for about three seconds at the end.

And all of this I could sort of accept, except for what this episode is so heavily implying by having it end this way.
Me too, Beckett, though for different reasons.
When it comes down to it, there's one thing that terrifies me above all else whenever I start watching a show and find myself really loving the female lead. And that is the possibility that she is going to get pregnant.

I just... I can't handle it. I hate the idea that a woman cannot just end her story without children. And as petty as it is, I hate it when actresses get pregnant during filming, thus almost inevitably causing her character to also become pregnant. I thanked every god on Olympus, every god everywhere that has ever been conceived when Jill Hennessy's pregnancy only resulted in strategic coat and table placement in s3 of Crossing Jordan, and that Jordan was able to close the show having escaped the fate of becoming pregnant. This is something that Bones' Temperance Brennan did not escape (despite her s1 statement that she doesn't want children and has no intention of having any). This is something that Mary Shannon of In Plain Sight did not escape. This is something that Sydney Bristow of Alias did not escape (to my infinite displeasure, since as ridiculous as that show was I still sort of loved it). Dana Scully couldn't even escape it, despite her canon infertility. The idea of Beckett becoming pregnant with Castle's spawn is so horrifying to me that it honestly makes me feel slightly nauseous.

And "Time Will Tell" is almost blatantly stating, "Yeah, she's totally getting pregnant."

I had been entertaining the nightmare ever since the Caskett became a thing that Beckett was going to get pregnant. When we got through s5 without it ever coming up for even half a second, I heaved a huge sigh of relief. But this episode... between Castle's relaying his want to relive Alexis' childhood and Doyle's predictions, I'm really starting to feel that we're going to close s6 with a positive pregnancy result.

This is literally the worst possible thing that could happen. No matter how much I've invested (and I've invested a lot into the show right now), if it happens, that's it: I'm done. I'm done immediately, no question. I stopped watching IPS and Alias literally the second the pregnancies were revealed.

The problem with "Time Will Tell" in this context is then... everything. The name is suggestive ("only time will tell if Doyle was correct"). The ending is suggestive ("guys, he really is from the future, and he knows that they have three children"). The dialogue is suggestive ("our future" from Beckett, Castle clearly wanting to spend time with tiny!Alexis again, and the later "drive you crazy" comment). It's such blatant fan-service for Caskett fannits who would inevitably support this sort of thing that it makes me feel like I should start lowering the lifeboat off the ship and piling in the life jackets.

The thing is that I don't want to jump ship. I want to keep enjoying Castle until it ends. I want to keep enjoying Beckett, keep enjoying her badassery, keep enjoying how quickly she draws her gun, that look on her face when she leads the way into a hostage scene or a dangerous scenario, when she glares down some dirtbag in the box like she's an attack dog sitting poised at the end of a short length of chain, and I want to keep enjoying casual!Beckett with her flowy clothes and easy smile. A pregnancy won't change Castle much, if it all (he's already a father), but it will change Beckett. It will change her a lot. A lot a lot. And I don't watch Castle for children and family drama, and I certainly don't watch it to see Beckett getting increasingly chained to her desk because of her (unsightly) physical impediment. I don't want to see her angsting about how a pregnancy and a kid is going to affect her life (considering, a) she's a confirmed workaholic, and b) she loves her job), I don't want to see some cutesy dialogue between her and Castle about her having to give up coffee until she has the kid, and I really, really, really, really do not want to see her in any stage of pregnancy, birth, or baby-holding.
Ugh, just shoot me, Beckett.
The reality is, she's a woman living the 21st century. She's extremely independent, a hard worker, embroiled in a dangerous career, with her life hanging precariously on a bluff she made against a man who could easily order her death once he realizes what she did. And she's in a relationship with a man who already has a daughter. A 19 year-old daughter. She doesn't need to have a kid to be fulfilled as a character, and, frankly, the idea of the two of them producing spawn that's a full twenty years younger than Alexis is just disturbing. If Alexis has children, they'll be of comparable age to her own siblings. And Castle would end up being like sixty by the time these kids entered high school (and Beckett may end up just being dead-- becoming, with a brutal irony, her mother to her children (murdered as Jo was)).

"Time Will Tell" is the first episode that's seriously suggested that Beckett is going to be subjected to this shit. What's worse is that it was co-written by the creator of the show (Marlowe). Am I being alarmist in reading into this? Maybe, but I can't help myself, especially since Beckett didn't say anything against the idea of having children. And it's because of this that this episode put the fear of god into me.

As for the rest of the episode, it was entertaining (up until Doyle made his predictions, at which point my brain pretty much melted). I didn't have that strong of a reaction to Alexis wanting to move in with Pi. The thing about Alexis is she's always pretty much done what she wants, just like her father, and I've justified in my head-canon why she's in a relationship with Pi: I think part of her likes his dependence on her, especially since her other canonical boyfriends all left her (from what I can remember; I mean, she broke up with Ashley, but he physically and emotionally left her long before that); I think she likes how casual and non-serious he is, especially in light of the fact that she's such an extreme academic fuddy duddy, because I think she probably finds it comforting (I can totally see her being one of those college students who's starting to fear what she's actually going to do with her life once she graduates); I think it's possible that she's too naive to see that part of what's motivating him to be with her (I'm guessing) is her money. Moving in with him may not be the brightest move on her part, but it's not like she's marrying him (merging assets), and I'm really, really confident that if they two of them have started boinking, she's practicing safe sex. Once things go wrong, I can see it being an ugly break-up, sure, probably even a messy one, what with them living together, but not permanently damaging-- either emotionally, financially, or physically (since Pi doesn't exactly strike me as violent). Do I like the fact that she fought with Castle? No. But, then again, this is hardly the first time they've clashed over her decisions regarding her relationships (I have a feeling that she may have internalized Castle always telling her that she's "the smart one" -- to the point where she believes that she truly is better at making decisions than him). I'm sure in a few episodes she'll show up in tears on Castle's doorstep telling him what a mistake she's made, apologizing for acting rashly and impulsively, for not listening, and everything will be fine. I mean, for god's sake, Castle is rich enough to buy any attorney in the nation, and his fiance is a cop. If there's anyone who could get out of a messy relationship with very little real blowback, it's someone with Alexis' resources.

At any rate, that's pretty much all I have to say. To be frank, I just really, really hope "Time Will Tell" was nothing more than tease, because I'd love to rewatch it ten episodes or a season from now and laugh at how ridiculous my reaction was to it, since it was otherwise a hilarious episode on the face of it (I mean, come on, the only thing more annoying than ghosts or demons or Big Foot or aliens or the CIA would have to be time travelers when it comes to working with Castle on a case, especially if a lot of the evidence piling up is only supporting Castle's whimsy when all she truly wants is to find the living, breathing, skin-and-bone explanation for everything so she can close the case and go home and take a bath and go to bed). Joshua Gomez' (Doyle) performance was a lot of fun to watch. I loved watching Beckett getting tackled like a quarterback (to match the shoulder pads), finally dragging herself up from her daze with gun and temper raised high. I'm finding it amusing that this is the fourth time Castle has almost died in as many episodes (since, again, I consider 6.01 and 6.02 to be one episode canonically). I'm wondering what happened to Gates and Sully, but to be honest it doesn't bother me that much that Beckett got her desk back and hasn't been relegated to a new place. Overall, it was good, fun, solid.

It's just... yeah. You get it, you know what I'm concerned about. I just hope I'm wrong, overblowing the whole thing because I'm on high alert.
Please just shoot Bracken in the face before something worse has the chance of happening.
At least give me the pleasure of watching you pull that trigger if things are truly going to go the way I fear.
And then you can go ahead and shoot me too.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Castle Screencaps, 6.04 ("Number One Fan")

Screencaps from "Number One Fan":

Castle Screencaps, 6.03 ("Need to Know")

Screencaps from "Need to Know":

Castle Screencaps, 6.02 ("Dreamworld")

Screencaps from "Dreamworld":

Castle Screencaps, 6.01 ("Valkyrie")

I took a lot of screencaps for the metas, though I ended up using relatively little. I figured I'd post some of the better ones, in case anyone finds these images and wants to use them (since I'm seeing I'm getting traffic from google image results).

From "Valkyrie" (6.01):

Castle, "Number One Fan": Because things get glued back together

And so we hit week four, and, to my great surprise, nothing has derailed yet. I had been expecting Beckett's rehiring to be a far more painful process, something I'd have to witness between the slits of my fingers while moaning "Uuuuuuuuugh" until I ran out of breath (continually). I'm not sure what, exactly, I'd been expecting, but I'd definitely been expecting it to last longer than a week and for the problem in her rehiring to be something more complicated than just "hiring freeze." "Number One Fan" instead just went for the easiest possible route back to the way things were, which is something I have mixed feelings on.

I mean, on the one hand, I'm glad that it was a clean and simple deal, that everyone including Gates wanted her back, and that she got her job back so quickly, because (as I've stated (implied?) before) the idea of Beckett going through this annoying, angsty plotline where she has to try to re-prove herself or work under some sort of probationary period just kind of annoys me and it would've dragged like a dead tire. On the other hand, I think I'm still kind of annoyed at how quickly the whole FBI ball was dropped. I feel like back in s5 the writers were throwing the idea of her working for the feebs around, and they committed to it before they'd really thought it through, so once premiere time came they had to figure out the fastest way to make their mistake go away. I can get writing yourself into a wall, but nobody likes witnessing an unsteady dismount (or a mixed metaphor, for that matter), so I guess that's where my discomfort with the past two episodes is coming from (because otherwise I truly did enjoy them -- a lot more, actually, than I remember enjoying sections of s5, especially toward the end). The whole of it comes off feeling vaguely gimmicky and extremely show-y (i.e. this is the sort of thing that would only ever be done on a TV show), which isn't really foreign territory for Castle (let's be real), but that doesn't make it any less cringe-worthy.

Am I criticizing? Well, yes. I feel like if they really didn't want to go down the FBI route, then they shouldn't have brought it up, should've found a reason for Beckett to turn it down in the finale (it would've been really easy for her to encounter an agent and for her to realize that that isn't who she wants to be, or for her to encounter another Joanne Delgado (1.07) and realize the true reason she got into this, or...whatever), instead of the rapid hiring/firing/hiring. I excuse it because I can't say I didn't enjoy the ride (because god knows seeing Beckett working with another woman, and Lisa Edelstein at that, really did make part of my fangirl heart), but it's just...poor storytelling. Again, not anything new for Castle, but... I guess sometimes I entertain this vague hope of seeing a real mytharc appear in a murder-of-the-week show (not that I'd truly been expecting it for a half a second).

Anyway, whatever. Beckett is back on the force, and that's really all that matters. I look forward to finally getting back to regular installments of Kate Beckett's Coat Porn: All the Leather, Wool, Buttons, Buckles, Loops, and Cuffs You Can Never Never Ever Afford to Wear (because god knows I was feeling deprived with all those damn blazers), and also to just generally seeing Beckett work with her people again. And now that she's back, I can once again start actively nursing my weekly hope of seeing a Bracken reappearance.

And while we're on the subject of Bracken and my delusions...
What is up with this season so far? Castle's almost died twice, and both Beckett and Castle have been shot directly over their hearts in the span of four episodes. Indulge me here for a second in some epic fanwanking, but could this be foreshadowing Bracken's eventual return to the story? I mean, I know in my soul it isn't, but part of me just wants to believe that this is purposely calling our attention to what happened to her at the end of s3 so that when shit starts hitting the fan again we'll be already be primed.
...okay, so it's a stretch, but I'm holding onto my delusions. If Caskett shippers can eventually get what they want, then, who knows, maybe I can too... (all I want is for Bracken to realize she doesn't actually have the file and she's bluffing so that she's forced to take drastic action)

With all that said, let's talk about the actual episode already.

For starters, I actually really liked the plot for this one. There was something oddly compelling about Emma's story. I really enjoyed the actress' performance and her stage presence. I can't say why exactly it spoke to me -- maybe it's just because my previous die-hard (though die it did) fangirlism was vomited all over Bones' Temperance Brennan (s1-mids3), and so part of me has a soft spot for storylines involving a woman coming from foster care -- but speak to me it did, and I found myself actually looking forward to the scenes at the dental office just because I really enjoyed her dialogue and her interactions with Castle. It all ended a little too happily-ever-after for my taste, but, on the other hand, part of me can see how the reunion doesn't necessarily solve any of her problems, and the road ahead for her is probably one that's largely unpaved. If this was a show that could get away with it, I'd half hope to see her make a return.

I was also really pleasantly surprised by Gates, same as I was last episode. Gates never really integrated with the group in s4 or s5, and she always seemed so far removed from the cast and the story that half the time I sort of forgot she existed (I mean, I didn't, but at the end of a lot of s4/5 episodes I would go "Huh, Gates wasn't in that episode, was she?" and then I'd have to go scrubbing back through the episode to confirm my realization), yet so far in s6 she's been so...nice. Beckett and her have gotten along in a really legitimate way -- they actually seem to like and respect each other. This episode we seem them sharing a drink together at the end of the day, something Beckett used to do with Montgomery, presumably holding a social conversation. It's really nice to finally see these two bond, especially since two years ago to the episode Beckett was flipping her off (literally).
I wonder if this little snippet made it into the British broadcast of this episode (4.04) ...
I'm hoping this is the start of beautiful friendship (to be intentionally clich├ęd), since I'd really like to see Beckett having friendships with more women. For the past six years, it's really only been Lanie, and it'd be nice to see her sharing with Gates the same sort of camaraderie she has with her (all male) team, that she had with Montgomery. I had really similar feelings about McCord (a hope I wasn't able to nurse for too long), so I'm hoping there's some transference.

More generally, I also just really liked Beckett this episode (of course, that's not saying much; I always like Beckett), because, I mean, come on...
Look at how happy she is here. Being back at the 12th, being back working a case seems to make her so happy, like she's finally back to doing what she's meant to be doing. She's positively giddy at getting her badge back. The only thing that seems to make her even half as happy as she is at this moment is maybe a handful of scenes with Castle. And that's something I really like, something that feels really encouraging to me about the progression of this show -- that Beckett hasn't been reduced to being fulfilled by Castle (because I was getting genuinely concerned that that was the track this train was heading down), that her job is still deeply fulfilling to her and she loves what she does despite all the hell it's brought on her.

And, I mean, I just like seeing her happy. Don't get me wrong, I love seeing her miserable (obviously), but it's fun to see her grinning like a fiend as she clasps her badge and proclaims "I'm back." We never saw her this happy in DC, and we rarely see her this happy period (outside of, again, shippy scenes), and I really like the reminder here that Beckett loves being a cop.

Other than that, I don't have much of substance to say beyond "I really enjoyed it" (I never seem to have much of substance to say unless I'm complaining...). The fact is, I just really liked Castle in this episode. I liked him bringing the doughnuts into the hostage situation (because I'm 110% sure it was his idea to bring those in; that's right, I'm so sure that my sure-ness occupies a statistical impossibility); I liked his awareness of the situation, his willingness to empathize with Emma and his cognizance of the danger that Die Hard Guy posed; I loved the fact that he's apparently still too soft to do anything about Pi (big surprise, given Martha's still able to do pretty much whatever she wants with his flat whenever she wants); I loved him cracking morbid jokes about the bullet that almost killed him.
I loved Pi's tiny little scene, paired with Beckett's incredulous "Why is he still sleeping on your couch?" I loved Gates allowing Beckett full access without a breath of hesitation. I loved Beckett writing on the murder board and taking a seat at her former desk, rooting around until something that was "once a bagel" falls from the pile to the floor. I love that Sully is the only one to laugh at Castle's jokes. I love Esposito and Ryan's admission that they miss working with Beckett. I just loved a lot of things, which is exactly the sort of thing I like saying about an episode.
And I really, really, loved this moment:
"What am I gonna do? Just sleep in every morning and screw around 'til the phone rings? What kinda life is that?"
Why did I love that so much? I have no idea, but I listened to it probably ten times in a row. It's almost like just in that tiny fragment of exchange, they managed to sum up 90% of the pathos I've felt for Castle since s1. The fact that Beckett has to live in his world for a few days and realizes how much she hates it speaks to me, for whatever reason.

And now that I've arbitrarily decided that I've reached the end of the post (because I've run out of even semi-cogent things to say), you want to know what else speaks to me? I bet you could guess (assuming "you" exist, and have read my other posts)...

Hey, Beckett, know what could turn that frown upside down?
Shooting Bracken. In the face.
I mean, true, the upturning would be extremely temporary, but, come on, just for a moment, it'll feel really, really good...

Friday, October 11, 2013

Castle, "Need to Know": Because things fall apart

Oh, "Need to Know." So many feelings. So many, many feelings. So many I'm not entirely sure where to start.

I guess my first jumping off point is the speculation that this was an episode written to give Stana Katic less screen time for whatever reason. She was in very little of the episode, which is actually a first for her as far as I can remember ("Hunt" as possible exception?), since she absorbed lead capacity back in s2 despite NF's continued first billing. Because of this I'll admit that as funny as I found the episode, there were definitely times where I couldn't help but pine for her back, and afterwards I couldn't help but reconstruct the episode mentally to try to fill in what she had been doing while the boys had been off doing their things. It's not to say I didn't enjoy the episode, but I think I might as well restate for the record that I construct Castle around Beckett, so the vast majority of my fanwanking and meta and thoughts are tied to her, not Castle. (and I only point that out because this meta is, once again, going to largely be centered around her)

Let's start with my brief, more shallow comments. Starting with the obvious:
Oh, sweet, baby Jesus
I'm sorry. This guy is just endlessly hilarious to me. The thought of him having put down stakes in Castle's living room, the thought of him endlessly rambling to Alexis about his dreams of hitchhiking across the States with nothing but a smile and an upraised thumb, the thought of him having some highly garbled concept of spirituality that no doubt blends the sensibilities of a 70s stoner with a Westernized brand of Hinduism-- everything just makes me laugh. I can see the uber pragmatic, highly academic, stuffy Alexis finding comfort in the airy ramblings of Pi and his vague promises of an uncomplicated future, as he lies back and proclaims something to the effect of hakuna matata to the ceiling (it means no worries, for the rest of your dayyyyys). The fact that Martha seems to view him as some amusing but temporary fixture in the house is funny enough, but add tousle-haired Castle driven from bed by a juicer at what I can only assume is 7:23AM and that's it. I was roaring, near crying into my pillow as random possible scenarios involving Castle and Pi or, better, Beckett and Pi (because part of me is convinced she dated a guy just like this back in the mid-90s) flashed through my mind.

Whoever conceptualized and cast this guy, thank you. I just hope you weren't responsible for the first of my complaints:
Er... Morning, Professor Trelawney
What was up with this chick? The last time I saw overacting as painful as this performance was on Once Upon a Time, which on multiple occasions drove me to cleaning my kitchen just so I didn't have to look fully at the screen. 2013!Trelawney (because that's all I could think when I looked at her) was just miserably bad, made all the worse by the awful anti-90s at her back. And while we're on the subject...
90s failed conception versus actual 90s
As a child of the 90s, I can't help but find it bizarre how far afield Castle fell in portraying the 90s. The time frame they were shooting for was less than twenty years ago, and I feel pretty confident in guessing that there are few, if any, people working on set who didn't live through it. The 90s was overalls and wrinkled overshirts, logo'd t-shirts and jeans up to the waist. Everything was three sizes too big, striped or tie-dyed or animal print. The 90s was chokers and spandex and hair clips and fuzzy sweaters and weird make-up and shaggy hair and leather jackets and leather everything. I mean, all anyone had to do was flip on a Buffy rerun circa 1997 to get wardrobe ideas, and a quick run to a Goodwill easily could've fulfilled the need.

I guess in the larger frame of things, it's not that important, but seeing the suspender-clad, clearly modern (and clearly un90s) hipsters in a 16:9 aspect ratio filled me with a lot of strange, unexplainable feelings. Why write about a mid-90s show that holds nostalgia for several characters (Ryan and Martha, at the least) without also allowing the viewers the same pleasure? Castle in the past has been very good at call-backs and references; probably one of its more shining moments was (at least in my eyes) "Close Encounters...", which brought back for me a hundred feelings from The X-Files. Yet here the best they came up with is the pathetic "2 Cool for School," reminding me rather unpleasantly of the 80s attempts at the 50s in a long series of terrible movies. Maybe this is just one of those inevitable pitfalls of the media, which seems to have the attention span and memory retention of a squirrel on meth, but it just made me suddenly fear the days we'll be inundated with "90s" films that feel about as authentic as Dewey's orange suspenders.

At any rate, let's move on to what I actually want to talk about: Beckett.
While I'm on this picture, what's up with all the wide angles in this episode? The amount of fish eye in shots like this one (and I can think of a few others, such as Esposito's confrontation of Castle in the break room and some shots in the Brooklyn warehouse) are pretty jarring. I don't know if it was intentional by the director (if there was some underlying metaphor I wasn't really getting), or what, but it was really disorienting.
What I found most interesting about this episode is how very not funny it gets once you switch POV characters (from Castle, who drives the episode, to Beckett, who sidelines), which is precisely what I did. I was struck immediately by Beckett's isolation, by the giant hole she'd left in the precinct, and by the fact that on her return she's unable to fill that space again. During that initial crime scene scene, I couldn't help being struck by how male everything is without her, and how noticeable her absence is (made even more obvious by Lanie's absence, with Perlmutter there in her stead -- I have a feeling this was intentional). It feels wrong to be at that crime scene without her. It was interesting to me to watch a random episode from a different season after that, because it's so clear how much Beckett utterly dominates the spaces she occupies. Crime scenes feel like her crime scenes. Her corner of the precinct feels utterly hers, and hers alone. It was jarring to be at a crime scene with Castle but without Beckett. No one was commanding or directing the flow. It was like they were all waiting around for her to show up and tell them what to do.

This is of course followed up by our return to the precinct, where my heart was promptly shredded upon seeing the corruption and defilement of Beckett's space.
Sidenote, did Beckett gift the ever absent Dt. Wallis one of her elephants?
It was like walking through a house I used to live in. The most important things are the same (the desk, the chair, the phones, the location), but all the details are wrong. I immediately was reminded of Spender and Fowley's take over of the basement office. I mean, all of this was clearly intentional -- Sully seems to have been cast specifically because of his not-Beckett-ness, and his desk hygiene would never be tolerated in a real work space, especially given anyone going to see Gates in her office would inevitably be walking by it -- but that doesn't change how I feel about it. I winced with Castle every time I saw it, thinking back to a hundred scenes that had taken place on that desk, to scenes I had written there in fic or conceptualized in random thoughts. The fact that Beckett at the end of the episode relinquishes her territory to him seems to make it worse somehow, like she is personally shoveling the last bit of dirt over her past life in the precinct and has every intention of moving on (which, in the context of the last minute of the episode, brings to the surface a lot of implications; I'll be addressing those momentarily).

When Beckett finally does arrive, there's an overwhelming sense of separateness. We see her through the slats in the breakroom, where Esposito is murmuring accusations of Judas-ism, we see her running giddy to meet Castle at the breakroom because someone there actually wants to see her, we see her sidling up to the whiteboard with coffee mug in hand, wanting to get in on the conversation, but immediately frozen out of it (then utterly abandoned there after McCord approaches).
I love this one in particular; it's like she's hiding in the break room
There's a real feeling like she truly has moved on, like this place is no longer quite what it was for her. There's this real sense of camaraderie between her and McCord, like they're the new unit.
While I'm on this picture, it was really interesting to see Gates coming to the defense of her people against the judging forces of the Other (McCord and, to a lesser degree, Beckett), and it was interesting to see Beckett's silence as she leans against the table, torn between old loyalties and new (especially since she was the cause of the problem)
I became fascinated by the constant mirroring between them, like to some degree they're the same person. In most of their scenes, they were able to immediately make a space feel like it was theirs alone, no matter how many other people were in the room. It's not just that both actresses have powerful screen presence; it's the fact that they would constantly turn to each other and away from other people (physically turn toward each other, not just look), that they'd often mirror each other physically. Within the span of three episodes, I completely bought them as partners. Beckett and McCord are what I wish Rizzoli and Isles (Jane and Maura) would be.

And, then you know, this happened...
Bu- but... my head canon, my plans.... Mc- McCord! NOOOOOOOOOO!
Oh, god, why. I mean, we all knew Beckett's appointment with the feds would be a temporary one, but I hadn't expected it to be dropped this quickly. Given the first two episodes were a TBC (and, thus, were one episode to me), we've only really gotten two episodes of Special Agent Beckett, and I feel robbed. I fucking love McCord, and I love Beckett's energy around her, and I'd been hoping to go at least another two or three episodes before things fell apart.

And then there's just how abruptly things fell apart. Beckett does a small leak, is immediately found out, is immediately fired. It all happens in like three minutes, so quickly I barely had time to figure out what was going on before it was done. I'm hoping next episode we see some back-tracking and explanation, because this plot-line right now ended so quickly it was like we were cruising at 70 mph and slammed into a pole (part of me feels like it was thrown in at the end without it really being planned; there's just so little warning). There's no build up, no realization scene by McCord, no discussion between Beckett and McCord about it. All of this leads me to strongly suspect that the writers regret ever having started down this plot, that they wanted to drop it as quickly as physically possible, and they jumped onto the first possible train out to accomplish this. It really makes me believe that the writers didn't have an over-arching plan for Beckett's time in DC (even more so than I already did), and I can't stop the disappointment. I knew it was going to end, and I do want Beckett to rejoin her family, but I didn't want it to happen this quickly, especially because now we're going to end up in that squicky situation of Beckett somehow magically getting her job with the 12th back again, which I know is going to be an annoying plotline and I was hoping to have it put off for a few more episodes.

I mean, overall, I really did enjoy the episode. Castle and the boys were hilarious (Ryan's matter-of-fact wearing of the crew hat was great); the Beckett/McCord, Beckett/Castle dynamic were extremely entertaining ("Are you bribing me with a latte?"); I love Beckett struggling with her isolation and her growing concern that she's being corrupted by her new job; I love Castle taking my words from last year out of my mouth by admitting he could work from anywhere so why not just live in DC with her. Were it not for the last twenty seconds of the episode, I would've loved it.

But, unfortunately, those twenty seconds did happen. So now I guess I'll have to sit and wait for Monday to see the fallout.
While you're in New York, Beckett, I know we've been here before, but...
You could make a little side trip.
Go over to Albany or wherever. Check out the scenery, go to a park, shoot Bracken in the face.
Come on, Beckett, I'm just gonna keep pushing this until your mytharc resurfaces.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Castle, "Dreamworld": In the land of blue lights and green, green trees

And so we hit week two of "Everything is Going a Lot Better Than I Had Originally Projected," to my pleasure. Can everything still go horribly wrong? Of course it can, and I am suitably braced, but right now I'm feeling pretty good. Why? Well, that's what this post is for (besides personal indulgence).

So, Dreamworld. I'll just get it out of the way: yes, cheesy plot is cheesy as hell, but I have never been one to complain about contrivance -- the reality is, everything's been done already, and any correlation between quality and predictability is spurious at best. Yes, we all know going in that Castle is going to be fine, just as we all know that this engagement with the AG (or the FBI? to be honest, Beckett's job description is pretty vague) is temporary. I know I couldn't help muttering aloud to Castle at least once during initial viewing, "Don't worry, Castle, you've plot armor. Denser than lead." But that doesn't matter for the same reason that everyone knowing the resolution to "Knockout" long before it came doesn't matter, for the same reason we can watch a MOTW for years on end despite the knowledge that 99.7% of the time the murderer will be caught at episode close: because the journey's all that really matters. And I liked Dreamworld's journey.

For starters, I like the world of the AG/FBI that the show is building. I had fully expected that the office would be a cold, bloodless hell, that the people working there would be awful, distant, unrelatable, and unkind. I had expected to see Beckett trapped in the prison she'd unknowingly fallen into, homesick and pining for family. Yet that hasn't happened at all. The only thing that's really matched expectations is that the place is as gloriously ridiculous as I had imagined, with its massive touch-screen and the beeping computers and the hundreds of random, glowing blue lights (but, hey, it's TV, and Castle on top of it). But besides that, the people working there are perfectly personable, and Beckett herself seems comfortable there, at least professionally. What's more, her partner is likeable.

Let's talk about McCord for a second here, since she was a big part of my takeaway.
I like her a lot, for a variety of reasons, few of which I touched on my discussion of "Valkyrie." She's integrated well with Beckett, they seem to respect each other, and I'm getting sadder all the time that their relationship is going to end up coming to a close, since I can really see this growing into something. What did I like? Well, I liked that it was McCord who instigated the first meeting with Reed, not Beckett. I had fully expected it to be Beckett leading the charge against the Defense Secretary (given, well, she's Beckett), yet it was McCord who actively took the first strike ("Where are we headed?" "To talk to the one person who might actually know what's going on..."). I like that she already knows Beckett well enough that she's able to take the hint to leave just from the look on her face (see: 12:23). I like that she doesn't interfere with, protest against, or otherwise work against Richmond's illegal dump-mining. I like that she was given a scene in which she (attempts to) comfort Castle. I like that she trusted Beckett's hunch about Reed's wife despite not knowing her "play," that she ended up saving Beckett's life (probably). I like her "That's what partners do."
She's even giving Beckett coffee, because partners don't just back plays and save each other's lives, they do small stuff like this.
Given the show's love of contrast, I had fully expected Beckett's federal partner to be cold, indifferent, arrogant, unapproachable, and I had fully expected Beckett to hate him (because I had definitely expected a him). Yet McCord is very quickly being built into a sympathetic character -- someone similar to Beckett, just older and more cynical about the world. Part of me is already building head-canon for her: she'd been partner-less for awhile (perhaps because her last one transferred to another department or retired or died, but that was several years ago); she grew up locally, though she doesn't speak to her mother anymore (who moved to Charlotte); her dad's dead; she smoked for ten years but quit sometime in the mid-90s shortly after ending a mutually destructive relationship with a lawyer she met at a bar where a lot of government-types closed their evenings. She's fun, is what I'm getting at. And the fact that she likes and gets Beckett is a huge plus for me. I couldn't help but cheer a little at seeing that McCord has apparently already realized Beckett's coffee addiction.

I also like that Villante (the chief) is being built in a similar, likeable fashion. He seems to already respect Beckett, and he hasn't taken it upon himself to be a thorn up her ass. There's no reprimand from on high for her push to have Richmond illegally data mine from the military (which just surprised me even more than McCord not ratting about it), and he watches the clearly illegally-obtained footage/audio without comment. When he confronts Beckett about her run-in with Reed, he very quickly moves to complimenting her once he sees her plan. No threats, no leash pulling. He's even nice to Castle (not only granting him amnesty and haven within the office, but asking him to find a place in his next book for a "dashing Colombian-American federal agent"). In two episodes, Villante has reached the place that took Gates half a season to reach (if she's even reached it yet). I can actually see Beckett eventually building a relationship with him, which isn't something I feel could ever be achieved with Gates (one could make the two lionesses in one den argument, and I could go with it, but that would take too long and we're talking about "Dreamworld," not Gates). He's not Montgomery (of "Knockout" or before), probably never would be to her, but I can see them sharing a beer or something, eventually.

Also, I mean, come on:
Richmond is just hilarious. Yes, his presence borders on the painfully stereotypical, but there's something vaguely enamoring about the techie who only seems to ever move the six yards between a few different computers. It's true, he's no Marshall Flinkman, but I like that even despite how limited his screen presence has been, he's still willing to bend the rules for Beckett -- a woman he's known barely two months. He's even the one to suggest bending the rules/breaking the law. I've gotta give the guy some credit.

Overall I've just been really pleased with how overwhelmingly positive the job has been. I can see Beckett being dissatisfied with it on some level, since despite the big step up in her own power, she's no more able to take down powerful people than she was in New York (RE: Bracken), but I'm surprised at how well she's integrated, how nice everyone is being. If I didn't know better, I could see the show staying here, and I could see Beckett being okay for it, especially since for once she seems to be around equals (don't get me wrong, I love the 12th and I look forward to her coming back into her family, but the reality is that Stack was right in noticing the glaringly obvious, that she was working below herself there; as much as I love Esposito and Ryan, sometimes they're nothing more than her scut-monkeys, and she clearly doesn't always respect their counsel). I don't see McCord cowing to her, just as I don't see Beckett feeling like Villante is an obstacle, and I'm really liking the shift in dynamic (though this could (and probably will) all change).

But moving beyond the AG/FBI, one of the other things I really liked about Dreamland was Martha's little subplot.
There was something really attractive to me about early s4, when both Martha and Alexis had an almost open dislike for Beckett and her world, because to them she represented a real threat to Castle's life. I was disappointed that this never went anywhere, but I like that here we see it resurface, if with a slightly different manifestation, because the reality is that Beckett does represent a real threat to Castle's life. Castle's brief visit and his tiny bit of bored, curious digging into a case nearly does lead to his death. Her world is just as toxic to him now as it ever has been, if not more so, and I like that when it came to Martha's subplot, for brief moments Beckett almost seemed like the villain of the tale.
Reasonable Esposito calling to gently ask what's going on, only to slam into the brick wall that is Defensive Beckett.
The audience can understand why Beckett's brusque here, but Esposito and Ryan are probably aware within a word that everything is most certainly wrong. From the perspective up in New York, Beckett is a lying, unreachable and immovable force, and I can only assume that the first time she calls to tell anyone the truth is when Castle's at the hospital, having only just barely avoided death. I'm disappointed we didn't have a scene in which Martha confronts her for her behavior. It's not to say I feel Beckett is to blame for any of what happened, but I can definitely see how Martha might feel she is (similar to how Alexis felt in one of my all time favorite moments of the series, during "Cops and Robbers" when she's glaring at Beckett, telling her Castle and Martha are "all she has"), and I really like to see the concerns surface again.

I think part of the reason why is because we're reminded again through the "Valkyrie"/"Dreamworld" TBC that Beckett and Castle's relationship probably isn't going to end in the usual way (divorce, time, old age): that one of them is almost certainly going to die prematurely before they're able to. I say that because we open "Valkyrie" with Beckett getting shot point blank in the chest multiple times and we close "Dreamworld" with Castle lying in a hospital bed. I think Martha is painfully aware of this, and I bet this is something both she and Alexis have been struggling with for awhile now (or, at least, I like to imagine that).
And that's exactly the sort of stuff that makes me get my fangirl on.

You know what else does? This guy.
"I know a guy at the ACLU!"
Ugh, Pi, you're so precious, I just want to smush you like a ball of fresh dough and then run it over a few times to make sure it's good and dead.
Actually, he really doesn't. He's just fricking hilarious, and I couldn't figure out a segue.

Anyway, for real this time, you know what else gets my fangirl on?
All this.
I loved Beckett in "Dreamworld." She was the fierce, never-say-die Beckett who captured my attention at some point in s1, whose actions in "Knockdown" pretty much cemented her place in my heart. I loved her going after Reed without seeming to really care about the fallout, I loved her staring at him with an open hatred that probably would've shriveled a lesser man's balls. She seems to have grown into her new position, especially as she bellows "national security!" and "federal agent!" as if they hold the power to unlock any door. And I loved her refusal to even entertain the possibility that Castle might not live through the day, even as he sits there making increasingly unfunny jokes about it. There was something about Beckett leaving Castle on Reed's perfectly manicured lawn to go after Parker that spoke to me -- because she's a woman of action, not one to sit there beside him holding his hand and waiting for McCord. We see in her pain and retribution, but not helplessness.

To be frank, there was nothing in "Dreamworld" that I truly didn't like, and I've run out of cogent analysis. For once I feel no need to complain. I was really happy with the episode. At this point I can only hope that the next episode is as good.
Hey, Beckett, you know who probably couldn't get the drop on you?
Please just shoot him the face already.