Castle Season 8 Two Part Premiere (Review)

Stana Katic

Right off the bat, it needs to be clear that Castle is an all time favorite, the characters, the actors and the storyline (the basic one, Rick and Kate) all feel like family. Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Molly C. Quinn, Susan Sullivan, Jon Huertas, Seamus Deaver and Tamala Jones all feel like close relatives that we cannot wait to catch up with in each new episode.

It was therefore a little disappointing to see that Team Casket opted for a season opener where someone, this time Kate, goes missing. Granted, the feeling of deja vu all over again (as the late Yogi Berra used to say) does not last quite so long and Captain Beckett knows where she is but Rick did not. The other difference is that, as pointed out in part two, Kate is only gone for 36 hours and not eight weeks (in Castle time).

In many ways this was  a pretty excellent season eight open. Regardless of the “OMG one of them is missing” staleness, the show moves well. Plenty of shooting, with a couple of cheats. (Really guys?? The shootout at the theater is behind closed doors with just the sounds of gunfire? Really??) Still, the gun device in the desk gag along with Esposito and Ryan popping out of that “oh so cool” hidden office space makes up for the cheat  a little.

XX picked up where XY left off. Kate is in a safe house with Vikram and the baddies are headed straight for the two of them.

*Sidenote* Having missed last week’s season opener and those spiders (which rather interestingly seems to be theme on television this week with Gotham having a threat of “spider on face in a box” as well. What happened when these scripts were being written? Did someone in the writer’s bullpen watch repeats of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here?) that Rick endured since he had no idea where Beckett was.  It was surprising to get a lot of flashbacks this week. Overall the “what Kate got up to”  scenes had a sort of  Resident Evil 4 feel to it. For those who do not get this reference, play the game, or at least read up about it. all will become clear.

Jack Coleman was back at that nasty bit of work Senator Bracken, but not for too long. Bracken gets to snarl at Rick and freak out when he talks to Kate about “LokSat.” The disgraced politician ends up very dead in isolation to be discovered by Rick and co later in the second half of the two part premiere.

The two parter featured a storyline that had Kate’s life threatened because of Bracken and and Beckett’s temporary posting to the Attorney General’s office a couple of years back.  The suspense was nicely done  but there were so many red herrings and suspects on offer that they all began to feel like rabbits being pulled out of a hopped up magician’s hat.

Annoyingly, Kate is “saved” by Jackson Hunt’s wife, aka Rick’s stepmother. A heretofore unknown family member. Apparently James Brolin was not available to play Castle’s dad; the super-spook and CIA agent who dropped by in 2013 and 2014. Coyly, the show’s producers have opted to keep the actresses name off of IMDb who played “Mrs. Hunt.”

Toks Olagundoye
Olagundoye as Hayley

The stunning, and very capable,  actress Toks Olagundoye was back as Hayley Vargas, the security expert who aided Rick in the first half of the two part open. It has to be said, if Stana Katic is to be “apart” from her new husband for any length of time, it would be very nice if Olagundoye became a more permanent part of “Team Castle.”  She and Castle, as well as Molly C. Quinn as Alexis, have great chemistry.  Although it is doubtful that Kate will be gone for too long.

However…

The second half of the show went to great lengths to show how both Kate and Rick think alike and work as a team, even when they are apart. Is this a hint? Are the two going to have separate storylines this season?  Or…Will they break up over this. Nathan Fillion as Rick,  looked pretty angry at Kate’s decision to leave…

Leaving the plot questions alone for a moment, it was nice to see Susan Sullivan back this week as Rick’s mother Martha.  Granted, Susan was only there for a moment, but Castle without Mother Castle is like Castle without Alexis. It just feels a little…less.

It is unclear as to whether this “a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do” plot device is merely a feint or if someone thought this would create enough conflict to keep things interesting.  A word of warning to the producers, these two are platinum together, keeping them apart is not a good thing for fans.

Castle is so much more than creating tension between the two main characters. The writers manage to allow each episode to shine with clever dialogue and moments that stand out.

Example:

Near the show’s end, Kate is forced to lay on the ground by her “assassin” (the chap who put a bag of spiders over Rick’s head last week). As the frustrated killer points his gun at Kate, he says, “Lady, I have never worked so hard to kill anyone in my entire life.” The man’s frustration is written all over his face.

This whole scene in Rick’s new office  makes the entire second half of the two parter.  Esposito and Ryan save the day by popping the would be killer with tasers and there is moment for a very short comic interlude before Hayley shows up with another assassin in tow.

Cue that ultra-cool moment where Rick’s new toy, the spring loaded gun device in his desk, saves the day.  These are the moments that define Castle, like his childish delight at how great the secret room turned out in last week’s episode for example.  Just like the increased comfort and interaction between Kate and Rick. (The fetching line at the beginning of XX for instance.)

STANA KATIC, NATHAN FILLION, JON HUERTAS, SEAMUS DEVER
The gangs all here, but not for long…

As the end credits roll, Kate is ready to leave complete with clenched jaw and a determined look in her eyes.  There cannot be many fans who were not shocked by this ending. The deja vu feeling of having been here before is annoying.  Let us not go back over old plots and just shuffle the points around to make them seem fresh.

Still, annoying plot devices aside, kudos go  to Fillion who still delivers each week and to Katic for those massive chops. Mad props  to Quinn, who also gives noteworthy performances on cue, and to guest star Toks Olagundoye.  This actress could just become this generation’s Dame Diana Rigg…Just saying.

Castle airs Mondays on ABC. Fans of the successful series will continue to tune in and for those who have not watched before, the new season can be enjoyed, but may be a little confusing  to the newest viewers. A bit of binge viewing may be required. Enjoy.

 

 

Westworld (1973) The Original Terminator

Cover of "Westworld"
Cover of Westworld

Written and directed by Michael Crichton and starring Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin, James Brolin, Dick Van Patten and Majel Barrett in a cameo as the Brothel owning Miss Carrie, Westworld  was a breath of fresh air in the Science Fiction genre.

Released in 1973 the film has admittedly not aged as well as it could have. Despite having the distinction of being the first feature length film to use digital image processing, a lot of the special effects, especially those dealing with the computerized hardware on the robots, are very dated. The transistors and ‘chips’ and wiring are ludicrously huge compared to today’s computer technology.

This doesn’t hurt the film though. A good story with excellent acting can overcome a lot. I remember watching this film in a drive-in as a youngster and ‘the gunslinger’ scared the crap out of me.

He still does.

Westworld is set on another planet and it is just one of three adult ‘theme’ parks. There is also a Medieval world and a Roman world. Guests pay a thousand dollars a day to experience these worlds. Each one is as realistic as possible and is populated by incredibly life-like android robots. The only part of the android that is a complete give away are the hands. “They haven’t perfected the hands yet,” James Brolin’s character wryly points out.

Richard Benjamin is lawyer Peter Martin, freshly divorced from his wife and she’s taken him to the cleaners. James Brolin is John Blane, Peter’s best friend and a ‘regular’ to the adult theme park. A shuttle takes the new guests to the park’s reception area. While on the shuttle guests are given a coloured badge to signify which world they will be staying at. Blue equals Westworld.

The two men get settled in and John teaches Peter  how Westworld actually works. He finds out that the guns won’t work on real people after he has a gunfight with Yul Brenner’s gunslinger. While the film is focussing on the two main guests, John and Peter, we are able to see ‘behind the scenes’ and witness how the park is maintained.

We also learn that the park is experiencing problems with the androids and other robots in the various worlds. The Chief Supervisor (Alan Oppenheimer) is concerned ,as it appears that the robots are ‘transferring’ the problems, “like a disease.”

The main focus of the film are of Peter and John and the gunslinger. Played chillingly by Yul Brynner, the gunslinger is malevolent, un-stoppable, and damned scary. He is the first terminator. While watching this film for the first time, my daughter stopped it about halfway through. She looked at me and said, “Without this film there would have no terminator.”

I agree. Brynner’s mechanical treading towards his victim is undeniably scary. Combined with the overlaying soundtrack making a noise like a ruler being thrummed on something (a description my daughter came up with to equate the sound to) he sounds mechanical and menacing.

In fact the music of the film helps to set up each world, but the music for Westword, so evocative of say Ennio Morricone or Dominic Frontier intermixed with the computerized and mechanical music sells the action perfectly.

I have read that Warner Bros are still talking about doing a remake of Westworld and I hope it never happens.

Where on earth are they going to find an actor of Yul Brynner’s calibre. Brynner was paying a homage to his role as Chris in The Magnificent Seven, that brilliant remake of Seven Samurai and one of the best westerns ever made.

Are there any actors out there at the minute who can fill Yul’s boots?

I don’t think so.

Walk of fame at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis...
Walk of fame at the Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tennessee. Yul Brynner (Photo credit: Wikipedia)