Castle: “Setup/Countdown” – Tick, Tick, Tick…Boink.

(This post’s title brought to you by last year’s excellent Castle doubleheader and by a childhood spent reading Bill Watterson*.)

Translation: I am highly disappointed in how “Setup”/”Countdown” turned out.

The biggest problem is the premise of the entire thing. Castle and Beckett have no business hunting down and diffusing bombs. They just don’t. Taking down a smuggling ring or a gambling operation or something mob-related, I could potentially understand. But a terrorist threat? No. Just no. Castle has definitely rewritten the book (…so to speak…) on homicide procedurals and done a phenomenal job of that, no question. There is, however, a limit to its powers. A line, if you will, that has just been crossed.

To be fair, the team at Castle did embrace the chance to do what they do best and put a new, more personable spin on the whole counterterrorist genre. Sort of. Plenty of shows and movies before have explained the stress that Homeland Security types are under to do their very difficult and very dangerous jobs without completely losing all grasp on humanity/reality. Maybe it’s just that I’m more receptive to explanations of these things from Castle than I am from, say, Jack Bauer, but I will admit that I did have a bit of an emotional-context paradigm shift thanks to the Castle-and-Beckett breakdown of Agent Fallon’s baggage-sum-behavior. A bit.

The second greatest disappointment for me was the incredible lack of originality in “Setup”/”Countdown.” And by “lack of originality,” I guess what I mean is “predictability.” Perhaps my lack of surprise is due to the fact that I have seen every single episode of 24 and most similar movies, to the point where eighty to ninety percent of the counterterrorist genre resides in my head. Perhaps it is merely because Castle has established a pattern over the past two and a half years and, I flatter myself, I’ve pretty much got it down at this point. But I was surprised by nothing over the course of two episodes. And that is just sad. Seriously though. Having the Middle Easterners not be terrorists and having Castle and Beckett be the only ones to believe it? Not stunningly original (by genre standards). Having Castle and Beckett go rogue because they have a different idea, and then rogue-er when no-one believes them? Typical (by show and genre standards). Putting Castle and Beckett in a near-death situation only to have Ryan and Esposito rescue them at the last minute because Alexis made a call and started a chain reaction? Flat out lame (by Castle standards).

And, unfortunately, that standard of predictability colored my view of the whole thing to the point where I couldn’t even fully appreciate the bomb-stop-by-dumbass-luck purely on principle of “I saw that coming.” To be clear, that decision, which would probably be considered a cop-out anywhere but on Castle, is not something I consider an indication of lameness. That was, in fact, a quintessential Castle moment. A level of sheer ridiculousness, if you will, that no other show can get away with. The moment itself, and the immediate emotional reaction by the lead actors/characters almost made the whole two episode lead-in worthwhile. But only almost.

My final complaint with “Setup”/”Countdown” is a bit of a double-edged sword, actually, and it extends beyond this two episode storyline. It is, in brief, The Whole Doctor Motorcycle Boy Thing. That arc has been bothering me for all of S3 for a several reasons. Some of those reasons I will let go (and by “let go” I mean “just mention so you think about it on your own but move on with my larger point for the sake of this post”), like how Victor Webster is completely underused (even when you take into consideration that he’s moderately talented at best), or how calling Beckett/DMB updates “sporadic” would be generous on a saintly level.

What I can’t let go is the general feeling that the entire relationship and its place within the greater storyline of Castle is nothing more than a token romantic conflict. In a show that hinges entirely on the should-be romance of its two lead characters, the presence of a romantic rival is vital to the development of that central relationship and to the maintenance of fanbase interest. The problem is, Castle doesn’t hinge entirely on the should-be romance of Castle and Beckett! Obviously their relationship is the central element. But, newsflash, that relationship goes a lot further than Ooooh, They Want To Be Together But Can’t. Personally, I feel like the more platonic elements are actually stronger and more enjoyable than the almost-romance. I fullheartedly embrace the day-to-day snarking. The Kiss is not a moment that I’ve been living and dying for since day one, and it didn’t totally rock my world when it happened.

BUT I DIGRESS. Point is, “Setup”/”Countdown” gave the Beckett/Josh relationship a raise from Lame Background Story to Lame Forefront Story. And yes, that is a problem. If the counterterrorism two-parter was predictable, then I don’t think I know a suitably hyperbolic synonym for how boring the next developments in this love triangle plotline are going to be. We all know how it is going to end. I wish Castle would just get on with it and get it over with, for all our sakes. But not as much as I wish it had just never happened in the first place.

The DMB issue notwithstanding, there are elements of this two-parter to be grateful for. Little points of light include but are not limited to, the “Would You Just Let Me Drive” exchange, the “Best Dad Ever” moment, and the latest installment of “Ryan And Esposito: Bros For Life.” There was also the unparalleled excellence of “You’ve never heard of The Serenity?,” which gets double points for being both a Firefly/Serenity and a Star Wars joke. And, my personal favorite, the guest appearance by Adrian Pasdar, who I have been missing dreadfully in an inactive way since he was FINALLY killed off on Heroes.

It is possible that my overall disappointment with “Setup”/”Countdown” is the natural result of having high expectations that just aren’t met. I expect more of Castle, period. More originality, more nuance, and more elegance in storytelling than was displayed. Also more jokes. After last year’s “Tick, Tick, Tick…”/”Boom!”, this two-episode event was a letdown in comparison. I guess everyone is allowed an off-day, so to speak, so I certainly haven’t lost faith in the series as a whole. I’m just glad this particular moment is over with. Better days ahead.

*For those of you who didn’t make the cognitive leap on your own: a link.

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  • laets  On March 2, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    I’ve got to agree with you. Setup/Countdown fell short on being an event. It was boring, boring. Most of it was predictable and all in all nothing really worked, not the comedy, not the action, not the romance.

  • Boycool  On March 2, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    Meltedbrain, I thought you had died.

    • meltedbrain  On March 2, 2011 at 1:43 PM

      Inorite. I have finally returned, ready to fully embrace my day-late-dollar-short methods.

  • Sandy Cheeks  On March 2, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    I totally agree that this two-parter was lame. The freezer exposure should have resulted in hospitalization and major frostbite; instead there was a one hour recovery. And, why is a cardiac surgeon (Josh) responding to a paramedic call? Beckett’s reaction to Josh’s presence was extremely disappointing – one more chance! The Castle/Beckett relationship just made several huge steps backwards. And, Castle discovered ALL of the clues making the rest of the perfectly capable police presence look ridiculously dumb. The ending of this episode was worse than the end of Season 2. Gag me.

    • meltedbrain  On March 2, 2011 at 2:10 PM

      I am so glad that someone agrees with me on the S2 finale! You are my new favorite Castle fan.

      • Sandy Cheeks  On March 3, 2011 at 8:10 PM

        I’m not worthy … I’m not worthy.

  • ferryperson  On March 2, 2011 at 2:36 PM

    I agree – the whole two-parter was predictable and disappointing. (really? He lost his wife on 9/11? whodathunk?)I love Castle – I love the Firefly shout-outs (I always look for them!), Alexis is adorable and I love the relationship between Castle and Beckett. The DMB sub-plot is not flying with me – send DMB off to Indonesia or someplace to Do Good and let Castle/Beckett proceed either as friends or lovers – just PROCEED!
    The end of Season 2 – also agree! A predicable twist – the ex-wife? really? – made me want to throw something at the TV (but I only have the one, so…) And when Castle slept with the Nicky Heat actress…creepy.

    • meltedbrain  On March 2, 2011 at 2:47 PM

      Except he didn’t sleep with her? Did he?

      • ferryperson  On March 5, 2011 at 1:02 PM

        Oh, don’t make me doubt my memory! I have enough trouble as it is! I distinctly remember…oh wait! Maybe that was the actress who *wanted* to be cast as Nicky Heat! The one who was cast in the role (a later episode) was kind of a man-eater and freaked him out.

  • Boycool  On March 6, 2011 at 11:49 AM

    I couldn’t help but smile at Castle’s reaction to “You’ve never heard of the Serenity?” I actually liked “Countdown”, though the change to the show’s normally perky title sequence was depressing.

  • Sandy Cheeks  On March 14, 2011 at 8:16 PM

    Is Nathan Fillion ill? He has such big circles around his eyes and he looks like he has gained 50 pounds since the first episode of Castle. Maybe he needs a new girlfriend …

  • Sandy Cheeks  On March 14, 2011 at 8:38 PM

    Does anyone know who the following “Unknown man” is for
    Kate Beckett’s character?


    * 1 Background
    * 2 Biography
    * 3 Relationships
    o 3.1 Richard Castle
    o 3.2 Will Sorenson
    o 3.3 Tom Demming
    o 3.4 Josh Davidson
    o 3.5 Unknown man
    * 4 References
    * 5 External links

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