Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Castle plays "Cops & Robbers"

     In the latest installment of ABC's Castle, "Cops & Robbers," Castle (Nathan Fillion) and his mother, Martha (Susan Sullivan) are at the bank when it is taken over by four robbers in hospital scrubs, using famous television doctor names as aliases. Trapper John (Darren Pettie, Mad Men, Ringer) seems to be in charge, and catches Castle on the phone with Beckett (Stana Katic). Thus, Beckett becomes the bad guys' line to the outside, much to the chagrin of the hostage negotiator, Captain John Davis (Dean Norris, Breaking Bad). But Castle realizes that something strange is going on when the thieves ignore money, bring explosives, and purposely trigger the alarm. In the end, with the villains having blown themselves out, Castle and Beckett put together what is really going on, and save an abused woman and child.

     The concept of a main character in law enforcement ending up inside a bank robbery, while their partner on the outside manages to get involved in the hostage negotiation, is far from original. It has been done on numerous occasions, with a number of small twists, but basically, all such stories are the same. Except for "Cops & Robbers." Castle throws a huge twist by making the bank robbery just a cover. In fact, there's a significant portion of the episode that takes place after the explosion, and the leads must still solve a real mystery. In this way, Castle puts its own spin on a familiar trope.

     The chemistry between Castle and Beckett, steadily growing over several seasons, is near bursting at present. Beckett is still lying about remembering Castle confess his love in last season's finale, but it's very clear how much she cares. The duo work together during the hostage situation, sending secret signals, but their understanding of each other goes much deeper than normal co-workers. Many series with two simmering leads keep them apart for many years, and then eventually give in down the line. Only in season four, Castle seems poised to make the shift early, much to its credit. If Beckett doesn't say something soon, and admit she has romantic feelings for Castle, something very obvious, and that he likely already knows, it will be a surprise, and a tragic mistake.

     While on the subject of love, Castle's daughter, Alexis (Molly C. Quinn), ends her own long-distance relationship with boyfriend Ashley (Ken Baumann) this week. Ashley is not seen on screen, nor has be been through much of the drama this year. Their relationship breaks down slowly, and it's more than time for it to come to a close, once and for all, by this episode. Not sure exactly went wrong here, but this story didn't gel all that well, and despite the break up almost seeming forced and out of place, it is still welcome. Is the actor who plays Ashley just not available to give Castle what it needs to make the arc work? Baumann was already starring in The Secret Life of the American Teenager when cast, so it seems unlikely the writers didn't realize consistently getting him was improbable. Or was the point just to make Alexis seem more grown up to her daddy? In that, it worked. As a realistic story one can care about, it does not.

     Martha gets wonderful focus in "Cops & Robbers." Not only does she get to flirt with a bank man, and talk about her acting self, but she gets in on the action, and gets to be there for her son in a way she usually isn't. Fillion and Sullivan have wonderful chemistry, usually featured only in tiny scenes as they cross paths. Witnessing them together in a dangerous situation, seeing them care about each other, and yet still be completely in character, is very gratifying. It may all be a bit contrived, but let's hope the series finds ways to involve Martha more heavily in the future.

     It is fantastic to see Dean Norris in this episode, despite the fact that he is wasted quite a bit, and gets nowhere near enough screen time. He serves a purpose, to be sure. But when landing someone as talented as versatile as Norris to be in your show, you should really take advantage of the gift. Instead, he does the expected, typical thing, and is barely an obstacle for Beckett. Nor does he play any serious important role in the crisis. Ah, well. Still good to see Norris.

     Watch Castle Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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     To order the Castle DVD, or purchase streaming episodes, please click here.

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