Castle "Significant Others" Review: The Ex Factor
After a few weeks away from television following that delightful little Christmas episode, Castle returned last night to the viscous mixture of relationship-hagglin' and procedural murder-solvin' that has largely dominated this season. I'm going to be brutally honest here: I'm maybe ready for a change of pace.
No, I'm not talking about anything too dramatic. We're way too early in Castle and Beckett's new relationship to shake things up too significantly, and it's understandable that the writers are still trying to hash out all the usual "early relationship craziness" plots before they continue on as if Castle/Beckett: The Couple is just an established thing. But I'm really starting to get a tad exhausted with all the quirks, bumps, and ill-advised decisions that seem to keep happening, week in and week out, for the sake of minor relationship drama.
Take this week's episode, "Significant Others," as the prime example of what I'm talking about. Early on we learned that Alexis's planned vacation to Paris with her flighty, possibly insane mother Meredith (Darby Stanchfield, whose actual resemblance to Alexis still freaks me out) had been canceled due to a tragic case of mono. However, instead of being allowed to tend to his daughter's health in peace, Castle suddenly found himself foisted upon by the aforementioned mother, who'd decided to come stay at Castle's place to care for her sick daughter.
Who in Sam Hell would ever agree to such a thing? Castle would, apparently. Never mind the generally amicable nature of Castle's divorce; this was just weird. Beckett was standing right there, and he just let Meredith traipse her way in and set down her luggage like it was all totally cool. Beckett was understandably pissed, Lanie had a conniption fit when she heard about it, and Ryan and Esposito spent half the episode staring bug-eyed at Castle and making exploding noises to signify how badly the situation was going to blow up in his face. If Captain Gates had been in this episode, I'm pretty sure she would have just punched Castle in the face on principle.
It was such a stupid idea, and literally everyone in the episode saw it. Even Castle saw it! But once Castle goes into armadillo mode in lieu of a minor conflict, that's it. That's your entire episode. The second he goes prone, you know you're in for an entire 42 minutes' worth of him hemming, hawing, and goofy face-making as he tries to do literally everything except the one thing that would solve this whole issue: telling Meredith to take a hike.
I love Castle's inherently affable charm, but his inability to handle conflict is something that is maybe a tad overused in this series. After all these years working together, the idea that Castle can't just tell his ex-wife, "This is really inappropriate" when Beckett is clearly seething is, frankly, insane. It was a lame excuse for a comic misadventure, and it was only held together by the comedic talents of the cast. Yes, I loved watching Esposito and Ryan read Castle the riot act over what a dumbass he'd been, but I also feel like the whole situation was purposely arrested development for the sake of yuks. Yuks, I might add, that were only sporadic throughout the night.
Granted, a lot of screen time went to the mystery of the week, which pertained to a murdered divorce lawyer and her bevy of clients (and jilted opponents). This lawyer had evidently dug up inadvertent evidence of a crime committed in the past, one so bizarre that it involved a fake boyfriend (who was actually spying on her for a rival law firm), a disgraced former athlete suspected of killing his wife years earlier, and scads upon scads of angry divorced people smashing things. Literally, an entire five-minute scene was dedicated to a divorced couple destroying each other's property while Castle and Beckett looked on, astounded.
In this regard, "Significant Others" was about as shrill an episode of Castle as I've seen in a good long while. It had laughs, but I can't help but feel like the laughs often took a back seat to Castle just being an idiot, which is not really why I watch this show. Even the "We're all good now!" coda felt kind of lazily tacked on. I'd have much rather witnessed the dinner scene between Beckett and Meredith, where they got to know each other and apparently became entirely friendly. Instead, we got to watch Castle pace around nervously, wondering aloud to anyone who would listen what terrible secrets Meredith might be telling Beckett. We, the audience, would have loved to have known too. No such luck, it seems.
Rather, all we were privy to was a brief exchange at the end, where Meredith explained that Castle's inability to open up to her about much of anything ultimately guided her decision to divorce him—though, unless I'm completely remembering this wrong, I'm pretty sure she ALSO had an affair, right? This left Beckett wondering how much she truly knows about this man she's dating. You know, besides pretty much every detail of his family life, his career, his financial situation, etc.
We're obviously building to something here, and that's great. But unless that build-up is for something coming up real soon, I think maybe I'd love it if we just got a couple of episodes where Castle and Beckett went back to solving crimes, with the relationship drama put on the back burner for a couple of weeks. Is this an unreasonable thing to ask for? Probably, but I'm gonna ask for it anyway.
– Speaking of things this show might be building toward, we're about to reach the 100th episode. Considering Meredith dropped a reference to Castle's unknown father, I have to assume we're headed in that direction for such a milestone event. Which would be great, and I'm looking forward to it, honest. But again, can we have just a short frivolity break here, and keep the Important Things off the table for a week or two? I'd really appreciate it.
– This week DID return to one of this season's funnier running gags featuring Esposito and Ryan. Their constant state of incredulity over Castle's boneheaded decision-making mostly mirrored my own—and I assume, the rest of the audience's.
– The fact that this week's episode featured Ryan getting hip-tossed onto a car hood and Esposito delivering an actual karate kick to a suspect was a totally unnecessary, but kind of awesome little flourish. It was all so ludicrously pointless, but impossible to dislike.
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