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.

Castle: What Lies Beneath (Review)

)MOLLY QUINN, NATHAN FILLION

Last week’s episode of Castle had a much more comic touch and focussed more on Rick and Alexis.  What Lies Beneath continues the new formula (of Castle and Daughter P.I. LLC) and while Molly C. Quinn does have much more to do, (and please let this continue) there is more Javi, Ryan and Kate interaction, although Stana Katic’s is quite minimal. This segment dealt with a pathological liar who was murdered as he prayed.

What made this installment that bit more clever was that, like the title, most of the main characters were actively lying.  Of course that could be the theme of the entire season. Kate is, after all, telling a lie of omission to her husband. Her lack of explanation for leaving  Rick, which has him trying to “win her back” is still a type of lying.

In the show, Ryan lies, first to Javi about the sergeant’s exam, then to the entire precinct when he agrees to work for Castle as a mole, for $500 per week.  The victim, Dave Johnson; who was a pathological liar,  had “fallen off the wagon” (the dead man was a member of PLA “Pathological Liars Anonymous”) and was telling tales to everyone.

To Johnson’s wife and his priest  he was the elusive, and eccentric author PJ Moffet ( a favorite of both Rick and Alexis), to a local “mobbed up” sanitation magnate he was Jimmy “Two Guns” O’Malley. In reality he was a former accountant whose lies got him fired and he worked as a janitor at City Hall. The deceased was then fired from his post at City Hall after an “incident.”

The man’s blind priest, also lies to everyone; the “Father” pretended to be blind to have his choice of parish and to get away from Tampa.   As Rick and the guys explore the case, they find out about the priest, who then tells the three men what Dave was really up to at City Hall.

Johnson hacked into the the city’s financial data base to falsify records saying  the priest had paid his parish’s bill. While inside the system, Dave found a hidden slush fund.  Before the man could reveal what he learned, he was murdered.

Once all the clues are put together, Rick, Javi, Ryan and Alexis plan to capture the city official who set up the illegal slush fund using the “Midnight Run” ruse. (Another lie.) The ruse, based on the 1988  film’s plot, the team, sans Kate who would be in trouble if she was connected to the scheme,  is to tell their suspect that the jig is up and all the proof is on a thumb-drive.

SEAMUS DEVER, NATHAN FILLION, JON HUERTAS
The Midnight Run strategy…

The suspect falls for the scam, goes to steal the thumb-drive  and is caught. At the end of the episode, Kate is given a coffee made by Rick. She takes a sip and tells him that she cannot make her coffee taste that good, even though Rick showed her how. Castle reveals that he lied about the recipe, because if he told her the “secret ingredient” she would no longer need him.

What Lies Beneath still had some comic moments, but not many that can be classed as overly funny and at least one touching moment. Susan Sullivan again made a very short appearance as Martha, and it was her scene with Kate that was offered some lovely sentimentality.

Ryan and Javi have a falling out that is stopped short by Captain Beckett revealing that she put both her detectives in for the sergeant’s exam.   The only main characters who do not lie in this episode are Lanie, Javi, Martha and the “Irish hit-man” who Rick is having breakfast with.  (Arguably Alexis is also “lie free” as the referenced untruth that Castle mentions in the show happened before the episode.)

By the time the end credits roll, a plethora of leads have been followed and disregarded and lot of lies have been told and the revealed. It turns out that the pathological liar’s wife did him in and Castle and Kate are a little closer to working out a solution where they can at least work together…maybe…

Beckett is still chasing the case that she and Vikram Singh started back in the first episode of the season.  This plot line took back seat in this episode with just enough of a presence to remind the viewer that Kate is not leaving this one alone.

Alexis is still proving to be the adult in the partnership with her father and the show allowed Nathan Fillion to do what he does best, be Rick Castle.  Stana Katic had very little screen time, but it is a testament to her chops that she consistently delivers with  minimal effort.

Castle airs Mondays on ABC, tune in and get your Caskett fix.

Castle: PHDead (Review)

STANA KATIC, NATHAN FILLION

PHDead follows the two-part season open of Castle with a step back to the show’s earlier formula, after a fashion. Kate is still not at home and Rick is desperately trying to win her back. The move back to its roots  is suggested by Lucy the home operating system in the opening sequence.  Martha (Susan Sullivan) make a welcome return in this episode later as she attempts to help Rick deal with Kate’s leaving.

While the episode itself feels a little redundant, in terms of heading back to the beginning of  the series,  the comedy moments were well done. For example:  Rick excitedly unwrapping the pyramid home operating system which introduces itself as “Lucy” and Castle replying that his wife has left him. The system responds:

“Yikes, sucks to be you Rick.”

Definitely worthy of a chuckle or two, as is the 22 Jump Street gag with Esposito and Ryan, where the suspect pegs them without even looking up from his tablet as “over 40” cops.

Just as funny is the whole Alexis “dressed as a dirty angel” scene in the frat house.  While this was not the whole gag, Beckett showing up to “own” Rick as he is about to lose at beer  pong against Frankenstein’s monster, is the punch line.

While the underlying thread of season eight is Beckett’s continued partnership with analyst Vikram Singh (Sunkrish Bala) as they try to smoke out the dirty CIA operative,  the other side of the Caskett coin is Rick’s misinterpretation of his wife’s decision to move out of the marital home.   

There is also the usual odd-ball murder to be solved and in this case a university student  is murdered while dressed as a convict. After discovering that the man is not an escapee from the local prison, they believe that the orange jumpsuit is a costume. As Kate says  “in university” Halloween is a month long event.

Ryan and Esposito and Rick all head to Hudson U to question suspects and classmates of the murdered student.  Castle “buys” his way on to the faculty and Kate orders Ryan and Esposito not to work with him.  Cue the 22 Jump Street approach as they try to unobtrusively question the main suspect.

As the show continues, Rick and Alexis discover a BDSM den that the dead student used with his lover.  However,  before they find the “50 Shades” lair, Castle’s P.I. partner goes undercover to question the suspect that Ryan and Avi strike out on.  She learns that he did not kill the victim and where the dead man’s “love nest” is.

Later Alexis heads to a frat house party, dressed as  (as Avi  puts it) a dirty angel,  and Rick goes in after being wound up by his two friends.  They learn about Peter’s faculty girlfriend; a Dr. Lillstrom who is head of the psych department.  Alexis and Rick head to where Lillstrom’s phone was last triangulated and they discover that the department head is conducting an illegal prison study funded by the military.

After the usual Castle-style investigations and hunches, which has Rick placing Lillstrom in cuffs and under citizen’s arrest, the real culprit is caught. The dean, who welcomed Rick with open arms as a guest lecturer was having an affair with the late Peter who was murdered by one of the other prisoners in Lillstrom’s Army funded study.

At the end of the episode, Kate hardens her resolve to keep searching, even after her informant “Michael Smith” tells her, firstly how to track the CIA operative and then finishes by saying that this will get her killed.  Rick is still confused about just why Kate has left and is still trying to “win” her back.

Perhaps the best bit of the season so far is the increased presence of Molly C. Quinn as Alexis. The grown-up daughter teaming up with her dad is funny and the two have an excellent father-daughter chemistry (These performers have always come across brilliantly as the immature dad with the parent kid.) which comes over as cute and touching.

One note of complaint is that it feels as though the show’s new runner has opted to make Vikram a “Rick Castle clone” in terms of “manliness” issues. In other words, the chap being overpowered by the stronger Kate, check out the punching bag scene and see if, in your head, you can’t see Rick in Singh’s part.

MOLLY QUINN, BRETT WYMAN, NATHAN FILLION
Alexis, Frankenstein’s monster and Rick

Still, the season is just starting and the whole thing may work out fine.  The question is whether the recipe of more Alexis and less Kate (and Martha) will please long term fans. Castle airs Mondays on ABC and is still addictive viewing for fans of Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic. Tune in and enjoy.

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.

 

 

Castle Season 7 Finale and Stana Katic’s One Year Contract

Promo still for Castle with Fillion and Katic
So Castle’s season 7 finale was pretty well done in terms of allowing the viewer another little slice of Rick’s childhood and “the reason he became a writer of mysteries.” On the same day that Hollander’s Woods aired it was announced that Season 8 was fait accompli and that Stana Katic had signed a “one year” contract which would enable her to return for at least one more season.

While that little tidbit of news begs the question of just how long will Katic continue to stick with Castle if it keeps being renewed for an indefinite amount of seasons.

The season finale on May 11, had Richard facing a childhood demon, almost literally, Kate being wooed to become a Senator while she waits to see if she makes Captain, and Alexis trying to find her way to her own passion. There is also a thread where the newlywed couple show just how far, they have each other’s back.

In fact, one of the best scenes in the show has Castle’s outstretched hand shoved under the barn door; palm up, wedding ring shining, fingers outstretched. “Kate!” he says and she slaps her service revolver in his waiting paw allowing him to kill the madman who is centimeters from making Mrs. Castle a widow.

Good stuff certainly. The nice thing about the season 7 finale was that it could be watched without worrying about the rest of the season. The brilliant cameo from Lance Reddick (Fringe, Bosch) where he attacks Kate during an “interview” gives a splendid recap of the entire season. Although going back to binge watch is not a bad thing in the Castle-verse.

It is amazing that the show has survived for so long. After the first two seasons the show slowed down and lost a bit of its impetus. Season six picked things up nicely and the beginning of this season saw Rick become persona non gratis at the precinct which put a completely different slant on things. This was, of course, after his vanishing act which was a two part cliff hanger started last season.

Stana Katic continues to look more glamorous in each new season and Nathan Fillion looks to have lost a substantial amount of weight. As the show keeps being renewed it is all too easy to picture an older glam couple who each use a zimmer to chase down suspects and Alexis having the unenviable task of picking out a home for the aging crime-fighting duo.

While Castle may not go on quite that long, it is an alarming thought that all the stars of the show could end up pretty long in the tooth before the network finally decides enough is enough. Until then, the idea of another season will please all existing fans. Although the news that Katic only signed a one year contract seems to indicate that if the show goes on past season 8 it may well do so without “Kate.”

Season eight should be interesting. Rick’s “killing a villain” count has gone up by one, (and it is interesting to note that he pumped the mask wearing nut job with what seemed like the entire clip from Kate’s gun) Martha may be moving out and Alexis may also become a “long distance” regular, since she is searching for her passion. A change of showrunner will obviously keep things moving forward and it remains to be seen where Rick and Kate will be heading in the new season.