Castle: The G.D.S. – Total Recall and Blindspot have a Baby (Review)

2016 is the year for Total Recall homages, or at the very least borrowing the “message to yourself” plot device from the film. Castle: The G.D.S. uses the “pre-recorded message” scenario

NATHAN FILLION

2016 is the year for Total Recall homages, or at the very least borrowing the “message to yourself” plot device from the film. Castle: The G.D.S. uses the “pre-recorded message” scenario.  Blindspot has also used the device, something that was absent from the Philip K. Dick book that inspired both the 1990 and 2012 versions of “We Can Remember it For You Wholesale.” It does feel a little like Total Recall and Blindspot had a baby.

Sidenote: To be fair, at the end, just before the “message” part, Rick says that the whole Hayley/LA scenario feels like a Philip K. Dick story. 

While the main storyline of Castle this week is all about Rick trying to “find” his lost time in Los Angles, the serial killer plot line, which allowed one great cameo from Gerald McRaney who is rapidly becoming the face of Gravitas on television and a great guest spot for Summer Glau, Fillion’s former cast-mate from Firefly and Serenity.

Although in the intense of Rick Castle, his message may well contain the information that he has “done this to himself” (wiped his memories) but we find out the reason. (In Blindspot Jaimie Alexander’s character still has no idea why.)  Richard jettisoned his memories because he was investigating LokSat.

Before the revelation that Castle quite probably sentenced Kate’s investigative team to death because of his interference, he has to solve the murder of a deceased D.G.S. member.  The Greatest Detective Society, far from being the myth  that Hayley Vargas declares it to be, is real and its leader (McRaney) has offered Rick and San Francisco P.I. Kendall Frost (Glau) a chance to become members.

The catch is the they must compete to find the killer of former member Phillip Harris.  As Rick, with the assistance of Harley (Toks Olagundoye) investigate both the murder and Castle’s missing time. Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) is along for the ride and she also investigates her father’s  missing time.

Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) is missing from the proceedings, even when Javi and Ryan are called in to help with the investigation (There is a New York connection) the only other member of the 12th to be seen is Lanie (Tamala Jones).  In New York, the two detectives track down the East Coast serial killer in a pretty satisfying stand off with an impressive end. 

The two play a practical joke on Lanie that gets them both in trouble with the M.E. and in Los Angeles, Alexis makes a startling discovery about Hayley.  It turns out that Vargas is a lot more than she appears and that she and Rick have a previous connection.

A deadly one.

Despite the fact that the episode used the Total Recall “message in a video” device (sans wet towel) all the threads were neatly tied at the end. Revealing that, apart from appearances to the contrary, Vargas is a “good guy” and that she has her own reasons for working with Rick and Alexis.

At least according to Hayley she does…

There  is a clever twist  in the end where the Hollywood type who destroyed the Nikki Heat film turns out to be much more, and less, than a top notch studio head.  Interestingly, Castle’s father (played brilliantly by James Brolin, Josh Brolin’s father) is mentioned again in connection to the LokSat issue. Considering the amount of “verbal” airplay “Daddy Castle” has been getting lately it may not be too long before Brolin senior makes another appearance on the show.

After last week’s episode Castle: And Justice for All, where it looked like Alexis may be shoved to the side, Molly C. Quinn got quite a lot to do in this episode. At one point, it did look like Vargas might be a threat to her new chum, but that was soon sorted out.

It does still look like things may turn bleak, if not deadly, for Stana Katic’s character, especially if one reads between the lines and remembers that one year contract

The whole invitation to the “Society” as well as the competition between Glau’s character and Rick, with plenty of screen time for Toks Olagundoye’s character was entertaining and fun.  Any plot that enables the talented Toks to  show off her acting chops is a good one.

While the storyline of solving Harris’ murder was what drove most of the action,  it did allow time for Castle to search for his missing time. On a sidenote, the Lanie practical joke was funny.

Castle: The G.D.S. does two things very well. It ties Rick into the LokSat investigations solidly and implies that he inadvertently put Kate in danger. The plot also allows Fillion to drop the bumbling buffoon that his character has become in this season. A nice reminder that while Rick is not a “tough guy” he is capable of being serious and deadly.

Glancing at the upcoming titles on Castle, the season finale’s Dead Again, is a tad foreboding, but as it was Rick who was presumed dead before it may not indicate a grisly end for Kate Beckett as much as for the series.

Castle airs Mondays on ABC. Tune in and see if there are any clues as to whether Rick and Kate will return for another season.

 

Castle: The G.D.S. (Sneak Peek)

In Castle The G.D.S. (which stands for The Greatest Detective Society) Rick heads to Los Angeles to track down the mystery of his missing time.

NATHAN FILLION, GERALD MCRANEY, SUMMER GLAU
In Castle The G.D.S (which stands for The Greatest Detective Society) Rick heads to Los Angeles to track down the mystery of his missing time. After finding the clue in last week’s episode a’la OldBoy, Castle knows that Korea Town in LA was a clue.

He brings Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) and Hayley Vargas (Toks Olagundoye) with him and as seen in the first sneak peek, the ladies decide to drool over the delivery men while Richard gets an invite to The G.D.S.

Hayley tells Rick that the society is a sort of private detective fairy tale.

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Castle is recruited to help solve a murder and he, along with Hayley begin to follow the trail and Rick meets with an old acquaintance as part of his investigation. Things turn deadly once he agrees to look into the death.

The G.D.S. features Nathan Fillion’s old friend and cast-mate Summer Glau and former Longmire and Agent X actor Gerald McRaney

Summer Glau plays Kendall Frost, a stimulating and exciting private detective fromLos Angeles that tries to beat Rick to the punch at solving the murder. McRaney is Mason Wood, the head of the G.D.S. aka the Greatest Detective Society. Bad Boys II actor Jason Manual Olazabal is Detective Menendez.

In the second sneak peek Desperate Housewives actor Doug Savant appears as the new studio head that Castle has dealt with before; Victor Nigel, the man who brought “Heat Wave” to the screen and in the sneak peek below Nigel tells Rick, and Hayley that their showing up is “fate.”

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The G.D.S was written by Alexi Hawley and is directed by John Terlesky. The episode airs Monday on ABC.

Agent X: Finale – A TNT Slap in the Face

Perhaps the fashion that TNT handled the last ever Agent X, with its two hour finale, clearly shows how the network feels about their “former” series.

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Perhaps the fashion that TNT handled the last ever Agent X, with its two hour finale, clearly shows how the network feels about their “former” series.  The last two episodes were put together for a two hour, in reality slightly less, extravaganza where John Case questions would be, hopefully,  answered.  Sadly, as the old saying goes John Case and his world was fleeting, so much so that only one of the two episodes can actually be viewed upon “demand”  from the TNT website, the day after.

What a slap-dash approach toward the fans of the show.  Where if they did not have the wherewithal to record or watch live the demise of their series, TNT gave no option to view the last two episodes the day after on their own network site. Is it any wonder that the show was doomed to fail?

Agent X was beginning to feel like the red-headed stepchild of TNT, before being given the axe.  There were things that could have been done to improve the overall “awesome” factor of the show. For example, having Fred Dryer (old “Hunter” himself) showing up, not once but twice and having some excellent comic banter with Gerald McRaney was a good thing.

Sadly, like the reintroduction (finally) of Olga Fonda, it was too little too late. On a sidenote here, it was great to see that busy, busy actress Kristina Klebe as a cornrowed villain (Do not tell Amandla Stenberg…Kay?) who got to kick a little butt before Fonda’s character won…

Fonda and Jeff Hephner made a great team and should have been put together as much as possible while on the same token less could have been seen of Ms. Stone and her “boss” John Shea. Neither of these two ever really meshed properly.  Sharon Stone is understandable, she is “big screen” and downplays as a matter of course, sadly this worked to her disadvantage in the series.

(There are other examples of “big time” stars and actors who have a hard time performing outside the medium of film. A perfect example is Lance Henriksen. On the big screen, Henriksen is a master at what he does. *He was also damned brilliant in the small screen “X-File Clone/wannabe” “Millennium”  as Frank Black – 1996-99.*

In 2009, Lance played General Shepherd in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. At least one CoD player was super excited that Henriksen was on board as an “in-game” character. Until, that is, Shepherd opened his gob in the game and spoke.  The actor downplayed his performance so much, he seemed to be reading his lines and was apparently bored out of his skull while doing so.  Big screen technique just did not work for the video game VO and this seems to be what Stone has suffered from.)

Shea, however, is a flat out miss. The actor is a TV performer, but he just failed to “spark.” C’est  la vie.  Some things just do not work in the area of casting…

Sadly, Agent X being terminated after its one season, leaves Jeff Hephner out in the cold. Hephner was more than capable in terms of acting and looking damned impressive whilst doing his stunts.  As stated before, McRaney (an old hand at the game) was spot on and Hephner had no apologies to make at all.

Andrew Howard as the  villain, did a good job given the OTT dialogue he was given and considering that in the last episode (available to be seen from TNT thus far – Penultimatum and not the “real” end episode Fidelity) he worked in pitted him against an abysmal acting partner the actor did very well.

It is harsh and unpleasant to point out, but  John Case’s gal Pamela (Carolyn Stotesbery) may be lovely to look at and delightful to hold, but the young lady’s acting skills would leave her trapped inside a wet paper bag.  To be fair to the performer, perhaps the lines never felt right, or…something. 

How sad that Agent X has gone out on a note where the wooden love interest of Agent Case is saved  (In the first half of the final episode that is).  Not wishing her harm but, if Pamela expired in that cargo container, Olga Petrovka and John Case would have made a “killer” couple…

So long to John Case’s short lived world, t’would have been nice to see the entire two hour end episode, but the end result is the same, another one bites the dust. TNT slaps its show in the face, or more accurately the show’s fans. Nice one chaps.

 

Agent X: TNT Sends Secret Agent Series to the Bench

TNT have axed a number of shows, two new and one that had returned with a drastically changed premise and cast. The secret agent series Agent X has been sent to the bench along with Public Morals, another new series.

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TNT have axed a number of shows, two new and one that had returned with a drastically changed premise and cast.  The secret agent series Agent X has been sent to the bench along with Public Morals, another new series. Legends, which had returned with Sean Bean as the “solo” actor to return from season one (apart from Morris Chestnut as FBI agent Tony Rice), has also been sent off the field.

Out of the three who have been cancelled, only Legends was no real surprise. While the first season squeaked into a second chance, the premise of a deep cover agent who had real identity problems could have worked, but not after taking out so much of the cast. Bean is an excellent actor but the chemistry between he and Ali Larter and Tina Majorino worked well, their removal felt like a coup of sorts instead of a re-imaging of the show’s plot line.

Public Morals was entertaining in a niche sort of way, Irish cops and a time when the beat meant taking bribes and under the table payments to look the other way. Criminals were handled and tolerated in this show and it could have been interesting to see how things were going to turn out.

Of the shows relegated into anonymity  Agent X showed the most promise, despite a rather tepid performance by figurehead star Sharon Stone. Jeff Hephner gave a performance that entertained even then the show’s writers left his character to stumble. Part of the problem had to do with  the show wanting to run before it could walk.

Time spent allowing the character of John Case to develop was minimal, instead plot devices were used to endanger the character before the audience ever really cared. Stone, as the vice president underplayed her role so much that she could have been sleepwalking. Gerald McRaney was good value, as was Olga Fonda, but this was not enough to guarantee a huge audience.

Sadly, the two characters with the best chemistry, Fonda and Hephner, were not paired up enough. Granted the inclusion of Andrew Howard, who was eliminated over on Agents of SHIELD,  turning up as “Bond-ian” villain Volker/Ray Palmer, was a nice touch but once again the audience was expected to really care whether Case won over his old colleague.

The shooting of President Eckhart (John Shea) also did not really accomplish much apart from allowing Stone to awaken from her slumber a second time. (The first being in an earlier episode where the actress got a little action in with a sidearm.) Of course the plot line relied upon a conspiracy to kill the president, but sadly, we never saw enough of Eckhart to like him, let alone care that he had been shot.

In the previous episode, it is revealed that not only Eckhart, but Millar (McRaney) as well, are not very nice people. This revelation means that the near-death of the president is even less bothersome than perhaps the creators had hoped for.

Agent X had the best viewing figures, but apparently not high enough to keep the show going.  It seems that “action” genre shows are not meant to be in 2015. NBC cancelled their slow starter The Player (which incidentally also had a film star figurehead, Wesley Snipes; who “got it” a lot faster than Stone) right after it settled into a decent pace and gave us more interesting characters.

Perhaps the demographic aimed at by TNT and NBC do not want action.  Something must be keeping the viewing figures down, each show, Agent X and The Player, and Legends to a degree, had impressive fight scenes, stunts and car chases.  It could well be that with insanely paced action films like Furious 7 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation on offer, small screen versions just cannot keep up.

With the Internet and On Demand streaming, Netflix, Hulu and a plethora of other channels and websites  competing with television , it looks like the networks need to “up their game.”  That said, there also appears to be no real bench mark to aim for. Shows like Quantico (Miss World and Mr Universe put on FBI badges)  and Blindspot (which is basically “let’s solve a tattoo a week”  show) have fared quite well.

Still, Agent X will be missed, as will Sean Bean and those Irish cops in Public Morals. There was enough diversity in each show that the series offered something in the area of entertainment.  Things have changed in the viewing stakes, there are other shows with viewing figures comparable to Agent X‘s 1.7 million per episode. While these numbers are not overly impressive, they are more the norm for viewer figures across the board.

In the meantime TNT have, apparently, allowed Agent X the luxury of finishing out its only  season. Unfortunately it is difficult to watch a “deadman walking” series and drum up any enthusiasm.  Ironically, Sunday’s episode, Angels and Demons, brought back Olga Fonda but sadly it is a case of too little too late.  RIP Agent X and John Case.

Agent X: Long Walk Home (Review)

After watching the second half of the Agent X two-parter, Long Walk Home where it looked like John Case might just be exterminated with extreme prejudice by his captor, Ray (Andrew Howard) some things about the show were clearly missing…or about to be.

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After watching the second half of the Agent X two-parter, Long Walk Home where it looked like John Case might just be exterminated with extreme prejudice by his captor, Ray (Andrew Howard) some things about the show were clearly missing…or about to be. Sharon Stone, for example was barely in the episode and the president, John Shea playing the leader of the country Thomas Eckhart, lay bleeding out on the carpet. 

Agent X is, thus far, the show that everyone seems to hate for one reason or another.  Certainly the viewing figures are abysmal, a paltry 1.07 million in the show’s targeted demographic which is a good .09 less than the already cancelled Franklin and Bash. 

The spy show with a twist, the agent belongs exclusively to the VP, is pretty entertaining…in parts. Jeff Hephner has always given his all and is a great action actor who looks at home either in the training dojo or manufacturing MacGyver type bombs in a downed helicopter. The problem clearly does not lay with the lead but with the show’s creator W. Blake Herron who appears to be flailing about with the direction/storyline arc of the series. 

Granted the entire show revolves around a plot to kill the president as well as Vice President Maccabee (Sharon Stone) both learning about her pet secret agent man and then deploying hm on special errands.  Not too surprisingly, it turns out that the men in the White House are not sparkling clean upright representatives of the country.

It seems that Eckhart (Shea) and Millar (Gerald McRaney) are covered in some pretty heavy dirty double dealings which come to light in the most recent episode. To be fair, apart from the CG looking explosions, this second half worked very well in terms of action and some of that “for mature audiences only” gore and violence. 

Nothing was over the top, but Millar finding the dead “hacker” was pretty sobering stuff.

It has to be said that in terms of FX, while the explosions and fires all “look” computer generated and therefore slightly rubbish, the blood spilt, which is minimal, does not look to be CG at all. The drips and splatters of “claret” look like practical “fake blood.” This is a nice touch and one that helps to sell the fight scenes.

The end of the episode leaves the viewer wondering who John Case’s new boss will be when Maccabee becomes the new Pres. While Eckhart may survive, it is clear that this president has very dirty hands, as does his right hand man Millar.  Stone moving over into the lead slot may change the dynamic of the show, but no one will be around to see it as this one looks doomed to be a no starter for another season.

The casting has, overall, worked well. While Andrew Howard’s character may, or may not, be dead, his vicious villain was in great contrast to the dogmatic and moral John Case. Certainly Case could be cold blooded when needed, bad guys were not eased gently into the next realm but he was the good side of the same coin.  The show could have used more Olga Fonda as the agent who played ball with Case at the start of the series.

Regardless of the latest change in direction, (one that appears to be putting Gerald McRaney in the his almost obligatory role of bad guy – does no one else remember how “good” McRaney was as a “good guy?” Simon and Simon, Major Dad? Anyone?)

Still, typecasting aside, the episode posed some interesting questions. The main one being just who will take Maccabee’s place as the boss of Agent X, aka John Case.  The whole thing might just be a no brainer with the figures being so low.  TNT usually allow a show to find its feet before letting the axe fall, one can only hope that the network will at least let Agent X finish the last three episodes.

It would be  a shame to let the series die after Stone finally remembered that wildly underplaying her role did not equate to some  sort of gravitas by osmosis.  Stone is an actress with chops…big ones. She only just got to show a glimmer of them in the episode where the negotiations on a helicopter ended after an EMP cannon blast.

Agent X airs Sundays on TNT tune in and watch it while you can.