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Castle – “A Deadly Game” – review
Weak! That’s harsh, but it was my immediate reaction to the season’s end. Not the case, which was actually pretty spectacular (more in a bit), or to the episode as a whole, which was pretty good, but rather to the conclusion (by which I mean lack thereof) of the romantic tension between Castle and Beckett. This whole second half of the season has been building up Castle and Beckett’s feelings for one another, and the episode was advertised as one that “changes everything.”
Spoiler: it didn’t.
In a way I appreciate the tactic the show employed—prevarication so next season can keep the same dynamic—but in a way I thought it was cheap to build up and build up and build up…and then cop out. I guess the producers realize they have a good mix of tension and possibility and don’t want to upset the balance, and they did find a way to do it. But as a fan of the show, I was exasperated that they backed down from picking a direction and sticking to it.
Sort of. I think they did pick a direction by having Beckett face her feelings for Castle and cut things off with Demming in order to explore them. Even if Castle shut that down, for now, by reconnecting with one of his exes before Beckett could say anything, she has at least self-evaluated enough to see where her feelings lie, as Castle did the last couple episodes as she was getting involved with Demming. I expect, then, that next season will be about the two of them actually acting on their feelings. It was interesting to see the way in which this episode had been written to allow for the show to end, if it got cancelled (I guess in that universe Beckett chose Demming), just like the last episode of season 1.
The case this week was pretty intricate, involving a man on a “spycation” who is actually murdered. It was one of their more elaborate crimes, in terms of layers, and that’s saying something for this show, which thrives on multiple layers of suspects and information. It was also the second week in a row that brought up a cultural point I feel strongly about (apparently I have a mental doppelganger who writes for this series): last week was consumer education about product ingredients/label-reading, and this week it was underscoring the consequences of the expectation that women who become mothers should give up themselves in order to be mommy. To hell with that. Martha had it right, making Castle fix her bloody marys and ice packs instead of pancakes on the Sunday mornings of his childhood.
In terms of personal development, I thought this episode was really about Beckett. The AGD was hardly in it at all, although Esposito had a great moment when he tells Beckett that “whatever reason Castle’s had for following you around all year, I’m pretty sure it’s not to watch you spend time with another man.” I thought Beckett played that scene well—she seemed genuinely shocked, like she hadn’t actually thought of that herself. And she seems the sort of down-to-earth woman who wouldn’t. (Especially because Castle seems so very flighty. He really couldn’t handle going away for the summer alone? Really? Is he a grown man or a 12-year-old boy? Maybe that’s not giving enough credit to 12-year-old boys. I mean, if he’s going to the Hamptons to write, it seems like even having Alexis or his mother there would be distracting. And if he’s worried about spending evenings alone…um. If he owns a place there, wouldn’t he know some of the other people who own places there, who all converge there for the summer? His extroverted ADD neediness seemed kind of extreme.) She was actually great throughout the episode, every time Castle dropped an emotional bomb on her–come to the Hamptons with me! I’m leaving for the summer! I’m taking my ex-wife and publicist with me on short notice! Beckett played all of them with really marked vulnerability, which is something we haven’t seen a lot of from her, and she did it really well. I thought it was a great choice to make her face her feelings because Castle won’t be working with her over the summer and that, if Esposito is right, he might not be back at all. It prompts her to actually make a choice about which guy (Castle or Demming) to pursue. I still find it annoying that she is having to do all the work and make all the sacrifices in pursuit of a relationship with Castle, but maybe he will man up at some point next season. One can only hope.
His scenes were all over the place this week. The ones with Alexis and Martha teasing him about what she might get up to a summer program at Princeton were pretty hilarious. As was his poker game with the same crew of (actual real-life) mystery writers that cameoed in the first episode of this season: James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Stephen J. Cannell. The jokes about mystery writing were greatness…the three of them ragging on him for only writing “one book a year,” and Castle making cracks like “he’s probably using the time to write another novel” when Martha tells him Patterson called to say he’d be late. It’s fun to see Castle contextualized into his contemporaries the same way other aspects of pop culture are regularly pulled into the show (TV references, music, etc.).
In all this was an episode that brought decent closure to the season and gave us room to believe we’re not missing anything important while they break for the summer. And if I found it a bit unsatisfying to still leave the romantic potential between the two leads hanging, at least we have 22 episodes next season for them to get it worked out….