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: And Justice for All – Shifting Alexis Out? (Review)

Castle: And Justice for All was, in many ways, cleverly done; but the plot was flawed in that the killer was easily guessed in the first act. However, leaving all that aside one cannot help but feel that Castle is shifting Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) out.

KARAN OBEROI, NATHAN FILLION

Castle: And Justice for All was, in many ways, cleverly done;  borrowing bits from Good Morning Vietnam, Hot Fuzz and Oldboy, and The Equalizer but the plot was flawed in that the killer was easily guessed in the first act. However, leaving all that aside one cannot help but feel that  Castle is shifting Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) out.

In this episode, a group of “English as a second language” students are being extorted and one of them, Eddie; a former El Salvadoran “corrupt cop,” is murdered.  Rick is suffering from writer’s block, since he cannot openly consort with his muse, Kate.  Eddie, the Equalizer of the English class is murdered savagely at the zoo and his body put in with the poisonous snakes.

Castle goes to his P.I. office for inspiration and while complaining that the cases Hayley Vargas and Alexis are working equals boring, he sees the news item on Eddie’s murder.  Rick wants to get involved and learns, to his surprise, that Perlmutter really does not like him.

Ryan and Javi go to speak to the fellow students of the murdered man, one of whom sent him a threatening text, with garbled syntax, using the school’s wireless network. None of the students will speak with the police, due to corruption issues in their home countries, and Rick goes undercover.

Ryan and Javi’s entrance to the classroom sets up the Good Morning Vietnam reference where the students all repeat, by rote, the two cops’ opening statements to the teacher.  Later, Hot Fuzz was given a nod and a wink with the “Geordie” translation scene  where  Toks Olagundoye‘s Hayley Vargas translates the Newcastle enforcers almost incomprehensible accent.

Sidenote I: While the whole thing was funny, it really made no practical sense for a Geordie to be taking an English class, never mind that the chap was a enforcer from England…

While the “Geordie” accent, which featured quite a lot of mumbled “street” slang on top of the  Newcastle patter,  was a bit “dodgy” the Rick Castle Canadian-French accent was a kissing cousin in terms of “not quite there.” Still, for comic effect alone, it worked.

The next film to be referenced was Oldboy (although to be fair, it was done very well) where Rick eats a bite of kimchee noodles and has a highly visual flashback to some of his “missing time.” Granted, the food ingested is not dim-sum or even a Korean version of it but the reference is clear. All the more so when he tries to replicate the sensation by trying a plethora of Korean kimchee noodles, a’ la Dae-su Oh.

Sidenote II: Anyone remember the missing time bit? That was pushed to the back burner with Kate’s mission, and own disappearance, re: LokSat.  This episode’s plot devices feel a little “kitchen-sink-ish.” N’est-ce pas? (And for the record, Rick does not say “J’accuse” despite his excitement at the prospect.)

During the investigation, Javi and Ryan go to a bus station locker after finding a key to said locker in a suspect’s wallet. The two are arrested by the FBI after Ryan says he really cannot take any further excitement after such a busy day. The bus station locker and the FBI connection could be seen as a nod to Get Shorty, but honestly this scenario has been done so often that is surpasses cliche status.

The ruthless FBI agent blusters and threatens initially but finally, after a great little scene where the English class members, Castle and Vargas attempt to get information from a  judge the Feds want to bust, gives in to make it a joint NYPD and FBI operation.

In all honesty, the scene with the judge, where the FBI agents tailing the suspect are repeatedly interfered with by the students felt maddeningly familiar.  Anyone with suggestions as to what film that may be “homaging” please feel free to share.

The episode continues with a false lead, corruption uncovered in high places and a Kate’s LokSat partner Vikram Singh (Sunkrish Bala) gets to have a moment…or two.  Beckett’s case is solved, once again with the help of Rick Castle, and another sub-plot dredged back up. 

Rick now realizes that the kimchee flashback revealed that he was in Korea Town in Los Angeles and not the actual country and he feels the need to investigate.

This ending was the kitchen-sink icing on the cake for this episode and it is a great way to tie back into the previous subplot from earlier. However, what may be the most important part of the whole segment was neatly and,  almost unobtrusively, slipped into the English class party scene.

After the class learn that their teacher was  arrested for Eddie’s murder they query who the new instructor may be. One of the students reveals that the electronic ledger for the class says “Castle.”  Rick goes on to say there must be some mistake and Hayley interrupts to say that it is another Castle; Alexis, who will be teaching the class.

When season eight began, Molly C. Quinn had moved up in terms of plot involvement and screen time. As the season progressed, however, Alexis has spent less time on the show, as has Susan Sullivan. Is the move of Alexis to English teacher for immigrants a shift to move her character out of the show?

Certainly there has been less father/daughter time, and father/mother time,  while Rick and Kate go through their pretend separation for his safety. There are three episodes left in season eight. The final one, the finale, is titled Heartbreaker.

Could this be a sign that a major character will be signing off?

In the meantime, Castle airs Mondays on ABC. Fans of Firefly and Serenity should tune in to see an old friend of Nathan Fillion’s turn up in an upcoming episode.

 

Castle: The Blame Game Episode 12 – Saw Revisited? (Review)

In Castle: The Blame Game, aka episode 12 of season eight, one could be forgiven for expecting Billy the Doll, from the Saw franchise to suddenly roll up in a shot.

 NATHAN FILLION, STANA KATIC

In Castle: The Blame Game, aka episode 12 of season eight, one could be forgiven for expecting Billy the Doll, from the Saw franchise to suddenly roll up in a shot. As this seemed to be Saw revisited, sans the overwhelmingly gore or Danny Glover from the first in the series, or indeed, missing the over the top terror…

This episode, despite being helmed most impressively by director Jessica Yu, felt like a re-tread of sorts.  Another episode where either Rick, or Kate, or  both,  get stuck in an impossible situation and must think their way out…or work together to overcome odds to escape a locked room.

In this case, there were others placed in the looked area for them to play off of and each one was  locked in a separate room with different playmates.  As in at least one Saw plot, one of the other captives was actually the perpetrator, aka “Jigsaw” played in the many film sequels  by Tobin Bell,  but in this episode the baddy was portrayed by Kevin Christy.

The Blame Game also owes a little to the Marvel verse. Specifically Jessica Jones, a hit on Netflix that has been approved for another season, where former Dr. Who star David Tennant played a character whose parents experimented on him as a lad.

During the episode, while the women are trapped in one “kindergarten class room” (and the men in another identical room) a prisoner mentions some sort of study.  Regardless of this misdirection, the plot is pure Saw.  Puzzles to solve, that can be deadly if one does not “think outside the box” and objects that do not act as expected.

(For example, there is a gun rigged to kill the shooter. The weapon was located next to a note that stated, “the last one standing leaves.”)

At the start of the episode, Richard excitedly bursts in on a little tea party between Alexis and Martha to tell them about a meeting with Stephen King to “collaborate” and the two women ask about whether King is still angry with Rick.  This “meeting” is not real, but merely a ploy to trap Castle, along with three other prisoners.

There are some entertaining moments.

Rick standing in a rat infested hallway in a clearly condemned building watching the lights go out, the darkness moving toward him like any number of horror films and his terrified face as the last light goes out is a great moment.  Another impressive moment is the gun, that kills its operator and even without the gore, is entertaining as well as surprising.

One highlight of this episode was the re- appearance of Toks Olagundoye, finally, after being listed on the credits for a number of episodes as a regular.

The plot for this particular episode did feel a little “old-hat.” Whether this was down to the many sequels of Saw or the Netflix series Jessica Jones is not clear but one thing is for certain, Rick and/or Kate being kidnapped is definitely getting old. Even Alexis mentions that her father gets taken hostage on a semi-regular basis.

By the end of the episode, Rick and Kate are working as a team and this enables them to defeat the monumentally screwed up captor who insists that one of them die with him.  Martha, who appears at the start of the show, is not around to comfort Alexis, who actually leads the cops to dad and Kate.

It is Hayley Vargas (Olagundoye) who placates the distraught Castle offspring and the two go out to paint the town pink.

Castle airs Mondays on ABC and still has a few episodes to go for this season. News is not out just yet about the likelihood of another season, but it is to be hoped that if there is another one in the cards, that the plots are that bit more original…

 

 

 

Castle: Tone Death – Carrie, Reality TV and Secrets (Recap/Review)

Castle returns with Tone Death, where Beckett and Rick are carrying on a secret dating relationship, mainly to keep Castle safe from Kate’s “extra curricular” investigations, and having a wonderful time.

NATHAN FILLION, STANA KATIC

Castle returns with Tone Death, where Beckett and Rick are carrying on a  secret dating relationship, mainly to keep Castle safe from Kate’s “extra curricular” investigations, and having a wonderful time.  Before the couple begin their day though Martha is rehearsing her show and as she begins “The Things We Do For Love” a stage hand starts the snow machine and a “Carrie” style blood shower hits the backup singers.

A human corpse is the source of this blood “bath” and she was part of a reality TV musical contest. The victim was also an ex con. Castle’s mother is very upset by the death of the girl, whom she met the day before. She asks Richard to personally look into who murdered the young performer.

The dead girl’s name is Robyn King and it looks initially like her mother may have something to do with her death until Ryan discovers that King’s mom died when she was a child. So the woman who turned up and argued with the girl, whom she called “momma” is a stranger.

Kate and Rick have a fake argument in front of Ryan and Esposito tells the three who “mamma” is, a drug dealer that Robyn worked for back before the girl’s prison sentence.  The cops also learn that King was going up to Spanish Harlem regularly. Mamma’s alibi is tight and as Rick and Kate talk, she slaps him when Ryan turns up to maintain their “cover.”

Martha wants to help Rick to find Robyn’s killer and he reveals the emoji message on the dead girls cell phone  that he took a picture of.  Alexis has to help translate the text as neither Castle nor Martha “speak” emoji.  The three solve the puzzle and learn where in Spanish Harlem Robyn was going. Alexis and Rick head down to investigate.

MOLLY C. QUINN, NATHAN FILLION
Alexis and Rick investigate…

Castle gets rattled and texts “911!!!!” to Espo just before finding a group of young people rehearsing musical numbers which segways into a “riff-off.”  After Ryan and Javi turn up with the cavalry, Alexis and Rick learn that Robyn belonged to an ex-con group of singers, the ACA Cons, who are competing in the AAC (All American A cappella  competition) and that one of the group was angry with the dead girl after being kicked out.

The kicked out singer, Agnes Malina becomes a new suspect and while the cops look for the missing woman Kate speaks to the sponsors of the ex-con group to get more background on the singers and the dead girl.

During the investigation, since Ryan saw Kate slap Rick, he and Javi decide that Castle has been cheating. To get the guys off his back (or chest) Richard lies and says he is having an affair with a Russian fashion model.

The three men find Agnes at boyfriend Dexter’s apartment (a pretty funny scene where Rick keeps looking in the wrong spot for the hiding girl) and  when she is questioned about Robyn it turns out that she is innocent. Later, Javi and Ryan sympathize with Kate about Svetlana, and offer to throw Rick down the stairs.

The investigation takes Esposito, Ryan, Beckett and Castle to the competition rehearsals where they speak to the head of the singing reality TV contest, Dr. Larson (John Billingsley)  and then Javi (Jon Huertas) gets into a sing-off with Hunter (Corbin Bleu) which Castle messes up. 

Kate hears Rick in the next room and it turns out that Hunter, who initially runs until Kate stops him mid-flight with a clothesline maneuver, paid off Dr. Larson to fix the competition so that Robyn’s group would not win.  As Larson is questioned by Ryan and Esposito he reveals that the ACA Cons  intro video upset the victim and she cut short the meeting with the head of the competition.

STANA KATIC, CORBIN BLEU
Kate clotheslines Hunter…

This last bit of evidence leads the detectives and Castle to the killer as they track down what happened the night that Robyn was arrested. Evidence showed that the dead girl was innocent and when she went to confront the real culprit she was murdered.

Tone Death allows for some nice bits of comedy with Ryan and Espo telling Kate that in the  break up Beckett “gets them.” It also allows Jon Huertas to show off his “pipes” in the mini sing off.  Seamus Dever proves that he is still adept at comedy with his various reactions to the Kate and Rick separation.

The entire “secret dating” schtick cannot last long, however, as it requires too much stupidity on the part of Kevin and Javi.  Although Beckett’s fake boyfriend “Doctor Livingstone” provides a cute ending to the episode.

Susan Sullivan (Martha) gets a chance to make up for her lack of time on the new season thus far and in this episode, Molly C. Quinn also gets a fair amount of screen time as her character Alexis helps out dad and grandma.

Sadly, the newest addition to the Castle family Toks Olagundoye (who plays Hayley Vargas) gets credit but no screen time, hopefully this will change in upcoming episodes. It also appears that Kate’s investigations have been put on hold for the time being. 

One item of complaint has to be that Nathan Fillion is playing his character of Richard Castle increasing for laughs, losing that “cop by osmosis” plot thread that had appeared. Surely there must be a happy medium where the actor does not feel compelled to constantly engage in prat falls and silliness.

Kudos to John Billingsley (who this writer watched in action on another set, woking on another show; Stitchers) who managed to make his cameo a masterpiece performance  despite having little screen time. What a consummate actor.

JON HUERTAS, SEAMUS DEVER
Javi and Kevin upset at “mommy and daddy” splitting up…

Castle airs Mondays on ABC.  Tune in and see where Rick and Kate are headed next in their relationship while they solve crimes together…Like the good old days.

 

Castle: Mr & Mrs Castle – Finally (Review)

It is difficult not to watch Castle: Mr and Mrs Castle and heave a sigh of relief whilst simultaneously muttering a heartfelt “finally.”

NATHAN FILLION, STANA KATIC

It is difficult not to watch Castle: Mr and Mrs Castle and heave a sigh of relief whilst simultaneously muttering a heartfelt “finally.” Not so much for a return of the old “standards” which work so well for the Caskett team in the past, but more for the writers finally giving Toks Olagundoye a chance to do what the performer does so well.

Exuding that aura of cheeky classiness that simply overruns everyone else in front of the camera in her scenes, Toks rocks it feeling like a character that has been on the show for years.  After presumably making the actress a new regular, it has taken  a little time for the writers to work the character of Hayley Vargas into the storyline until this latest episode.

Mr and Mrs Castle also wraps up, albeit with a bit of a rush toward the end of the episode, the whole “breakup” of Rick and Kate. (As review this will go out before the episode airs, but only just, the ending will not be discussed any further to avoid running full tilt into spoiler territory.)

The main plot deals  with a shipboard dancer on a theme ship winds up in the drink in period costume and a bullet in her head. At the Lanie-less autopsy, performed instead by Arye Gross as the vitriolic and sarcastic M.E. Perlmutter, a bag of pure uncut heroin is found in the woman’s body.

Cue a tie in to Kate and Vikram’s case, the one that necessitated Beckett moving out of the family luxury apartment.   Captain Beckett goes to the ship to investigate and soon learns that “Top of the World” Castle has joined her. The two split up, as the ships heads for open international waters and the couple have one hour to investigate.

This gives Nathan Fillion a chance to show off his comic roots (Fillion is an adept comic performer who built up his chops on Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place (1991-2001). Rick questions the ship’s dancers, doing a comedy riff with a  dance rehearsal where he plays Miss Congeniality‘s Sandra Bullock (in a deleted scene, watch the film’s featurette) to great comic effect.

Kate and Rick show that they still work better together and after they get a recording of a crew member smuggling heroin they separate. Kate to follow leads and Rick to team up with Hayley and her hacking expertise so he can learn who sent the “anniversary text.”

Castle
Rick in the Dance Rehearsal scene…

The scene where Hayley (Olagundoye) almost hacks Vikram’s firewall defenses feels like a cross between the Bond battle in Never Say Never Again and any other “hacking themed film” where both sides fight “to the death.”  Sadly, Molly C. Quinn is only seen for a split second but Susan Sullivan does get a bit more to do in terms of the running breakup subplot.

This episode lacked the feeling of fumbling desperation of the previous episodes of season eight, although it has to be noted that seeing Adam Baldwin sing and show off his comedic chops in the previous episode was not disappointing by any means.

It now seems that Olagundoye will become a firm regular on this season of Castle, and please may the writers learn what this  performer has to offer.  Hint to the writers:  Watch old episodes of The Avengers (the ones with Emma Peel, aka Dame Diana Rigg) and the scales will be lifted…

Mr and Mrs Castle has less of everyone peripheral; Javi, Kevin, Alexis, Martha and, thankfully, Vikram, all have minimal screen time, with Laney showing up not at all.

Kudos have to be handed out to Sunkrish Bala as Kate’s new partner. This actor is skilled at being both  amusingly annoying and the spanner in Rick’s marriage. 

If there can be any complaint, it is the very rushed ending of this episode where things finally fall into place.  That said, Lucy, the home system that Castle bought when Kate moved out, does manage to get the final gag.

This episode feels like a return to the Castle that fans know and love. The interaction between Rick and Kate during the hacking scene was spot on; funny and comfortable as well as a return to form. Castle airs Mondays on ABC and season eight has finally picked up the dropped reins of character arc and storyline and moved forward. Tune in and bliss out.