While everyone is happily watching the GLEE premiere episode and I am over here in Britain where we have Jammy Dodgers, sure, but have to wait inordinate amounts of time to see episodes of musically cheerful television, I thought I’d weigh in on the season premiere of Castle, which I watched this afternoon.
Episode: Season 4, Episode 1. “Rise.”
Castle has to deal with – and its creators discuss this often – the Moonlighting complex. You know, the Beatrice and Benedick-esque couple, quarreling their way through some work arrangement that the two of them initially claim to hate but over the course of which discover they are better as a pair than they ever are apart, and the chemistry flows between them like so much such-and-such, and their verbal sparring is like sparks on steel, and we know from the first minute they will eventually get together so by season five you’re gnashing your teeth and wondering why you do this to yourself, why you watch every episode in the vain hope that someone will come along and present the perfect opportunity at the perfect time for your two main characters to kiss, and then just when they get close, like inches close and they can smell each other’s breath, someone gets shot or a phone rings or someone’s cutesy family member comes along to destroy the moment. And all you do is think, Maybe next week.
I’ve watched too many romantic television shows.
The thing is, this trope is all well and good and serves a purpose: the tension keeps us coming back. So what happens when you snap the tension? Well, in Moonlighting’s case, everything got boring. The whole show was built around the bickering, their not-together-yet-ness. And so when they got together… you gave out the payoff, and we don’t need to watch anymore.
So what’s happening on Castle?
I go back and forth with this show. I love the acting so much: Nathan Fillion in anything is worth an hour of my time. He’s got such a lighthearted spirit as an actor: that’s always rewarding, because it’s so often funny. Funny trumps most things, don’t you think? Beckett is interesting too, even if she is an unbelievable cliche – damaged woman gone tough, has to get through her issues before she can open up to the man she loves, woman on a mission yadda yadda. It’s not really them, the characters, that worry me about this show: it’s the sometimes ridiculous plotlines. When they were running around New York last year stopping a dirty bomb from turning the whole island into a microwave, I was actually laughing out loud; but again, it was saved by the charm of the actors and their chemistry, because if there is one sure way to make yanking the plugs out of a dirtybomb barely believable and quirkily funny, it’s to make Nathan Fillion do it.
All that is to say, my particular leap of faith with Castle o’erjumps the weird plot. I don’t mind so much that this latest caper has corruption going straight up to the government (little bit predictable – maybe it could have been going up to the Jersey Shore beach house or something. SNOOKI SCANDAL!); I’m more interested in how the relationship is developing and what’s going to happen when they finally pull the trigger.
Because it’s coming. It has to. This isn’t How I Met Your Mother, where you can gleefully make a joke about how the whole premise of the entire plot is getting a bit overextended but you’re well past the point of minding logic (that line in the premiere about how they are totally not near the HOW I ACTUALLY MET YOUR MOTHER moment was hilarious, but more on that in some other post). This is, for all its tongue-in-cheek, a show trying to tell a linear story of two characters’ lives. It has to retain some modicum of emotional believability. We’re on season four: time is running out. It’s this year or next, before we officially go all Bones on them and start shouting, “Oh, COME – ON!” every few minutes.
I think the premiere is treading that line very dangerously. Kate got shot, Kate was close to her mom’s killer, Castle admitted he loved her, she heard it, she hid it, she broke up with her boyfriend, she told him she didn’t hear it, she ignored him for three months, he got time away to cool off, she came back into his life by necessity, he essentially “took back” his tell (by not reminding her what she supposedly didn’t hear)… etc. All the star-crossedness makes Romeo & Juliet look like a straight-lined RomCom. (Well. Not Com. R&J is pretty Traj. RomTraj. Can that be a new thing?)
The question for me is, are the characters moved forward at all since last season? Now one has admitted he loves the other, which is a big step. But they’re still in that gelatinous holding space: each carefully treading the peace by not mentioning the thing they both know. Was that any different than last year? They both knew they loved the other, pretty clearly, last year. Is the saying what makes it different?
It’s going to be a tricky season. The writers have a lot of things in place for the Big Moment, and then after it have to figure out how to make sure the Big Moment doesn’t doom the show to whocaresedness. They have to do it without making us feel like we’re just watching older characters do season one. Or two. Or three. And when they do decide it’s time for the Big Moment, they have to re manufacture all those tense moments they had to work so hard to pull themselves out of in this hour.
It’s like what Robin said on HIMYM: If you have chemistry, you only need one otherthing. Timing. (Another reason I think HIMYM is one of the best shows on television in the past five to ten years. But that is ANOTHER post…)
What do you think Leakies? Will they ever get the timing or is this a latter-day Moonlighting waiting to strike?