Castle: “Rise”

This week’s review of Castle is brought to you by the letter CAPS LOCK.

After watching the Castle S3 finale (in July…), I had a few general hypotheses about where the S4 premiere might go. By “hypotheses” I mean less predictions, more like “extrapolations of what might happen, based on well-worn cliches.” These were not, I stress, not things I was hoping for. Just things I was expecting.

1) We’d start after a time skip, when Beckett returned to work.

2) The new captain would try to split up Beckett and Castle/get rid of Castle.

3) Beckett wouldn’t remember the shooting, and she definitely wouldn’t remember the I Love You desplaration.*

So…how’d I do? Not too badly. Unfortunately, that means the folks at Castle didn’t do a whole lot better.

Let’s start with item #1: Time Skip. You could argue that I was flat out wrong about this. The episode did actually begin the moment immediately after the funeral, with Beckett being rushed off to the hospital in a high-stress, higher-drama sequence with some pretty sweet moving and handheld camera work. Effective way to get the audience’s blood pumping and recapture summer-muddled attention immediately, so props for that. However. However. I think it needs to be pointed out exactly how stupid the entire scene really was. For one thing, talk about a no-risk scenario. At no point was there any doubt that Beckett was going survive and be Just Fine. So, WHY EVEN BOTHER. (I actually rolled my eyes at the flat-lining. Most unnecessary melodramatic thirty seconds ever.) For another thing: Josh. All of that. He had more screentime in that opening scene than over the entire past season, and yet somehow I cared Even Less. Because first we see him being all That’s My Girlfriend! I Will Save Her! heroic (melodramatic cliche bullshit in its purest form), then we see him being Grar Macho Man I Blame You Castle! douchey (out of character, and we – the audience – didn’t like him anyway so why bother giving us a reason?). My final reason why this first scene was a terrible idea is probably the most important. The only important-to-the-story thing that happened in the entire thing was Beckett’s “I’ll call you in a few days (read: not).” And you know what happened then? The Same Damn Thing That Happens Every Summer Break On Castle: Castle and Beckett part ways, at least one of them angrily, and then reconcile. TRY SOMETHING NEW. Seriously. I don’t think this first scene – any of it – needed to happen at all, and the five-or-six minutes spent on it might have been more useful for development elsewhere. Like, say,

Item #2: New Captain**. I feel pretty justified in saying that I totally called this one. Which makes me sad, because it is about as cliche and predictable as you can get. The new authority character who everybody hates/fears, who is ultimately destined to either become a watered-down sympathetic shell of their former self OR who will get killed off/promoted/made gone. I don’t care that the authority character is, by-only-semi-unusual-choice, a woman. I don’t even care that that woman is Penny Johnson Jerald (one of the greatest parts of 24 S1). This narrative choice, even with the sneaky twist of her jealousy of Beckett, is kind of like the ancient family butler of the cop-drama genre. He’s perfectly effective, but even if you put a new, shiny, affirmative action vest on him, he is showing his age and maybe you should let him retire peacefully and choose something more interesting to take his place. Like a robot. Or a house elf. THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

Now, finally, item #3: Beckett Amnesia. I was flat-out wrong about this one, but I didn’t realize until the very end of the episode because the writers were tricky as fuck. Beckett didn’t black everything out: she remembers Everything. This is maybe slightly unrealistic (I don’t have any firsthand experience with getting shot at a funeral, but I don’t think memory loss is unusual after, you know, dying, even temporarily), but it is potentially a great starting point. Especially when it gets revealed during my hands-down favorite scene of the episode, Beckett talking to her new therapist, Michael Dorn. This was the scene of the episode, for two reasons. One: MICHAEL DORN (I mean really, does it get any better than having Lieutenant Worf as your therapist? No.) Two: This shows promise. Here more than anywhere else in the episode, I see potential for Castle‘s story actually growing and developing. Beckett, already a fascinating character played by a highly capable actress, has great potential for personal growth and development. And, as in real life, her admission to herself that she has problems and needs to deal with them is the place where change is going to start. She isn’t Sydney Bristow, required to go to therapy and spending all her energy on resisting. She’s human, admitting her own weakness, and striving in a believable way to build up strength. As far as character development and progress in the interpersonal storylines, this might be the most brilliant choice of the series so far. So writers, DON’T FUCK IT UP.

I didn’t hate this episode, but I can’t say I liked it. Too many poor choices, not enough redeeming factors, and a homicide case backbone so nothing I barely even noticed it was happening. But, looking past the way “Rise” was reacting to last season and moving on to how it is setting up for this season, I’m actually pretty excited. Castle‘s development has been, a few trip-ups aside, on a permanent uphill trajectory. And while that is a wonderful thing, it starts to make us nervous around S3 when we start asking ourselves the inevitable question: “When is it going to reach the top and start going down?” I don’t think it will be this season. If Castle keeps up the solid episode-to-episode work and really digs in to the new character choices (Beckett’s therapy, as I mentioned, and also the newfound more-adult, more-aggressive Alexis we got a glimpse of), this season still could be the best yet, the show could still keep growing. BRING IT ON.

*That’s a mashup of “desperate” and “declaration”, incase you didn’t get it.
**Haha, I just had a funny moment in my brain where I realized when I’m talking about something related to Nathan Fillion and use the word “captain,” I immediately associate it with him, even when that’s completely incorrect.

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  • Boycool  On September 22, 2011 at 3:40 AM

    My mind goes to the Dr. Horrible villain, Captain Hammer, but you’re almost certainly referring to Firefly…

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