Saturday, August 27, 2016

TV on DVD Review: Castle - Season 8



Stars: 2 out of 5
Pros: The actors, a few of the episodes/moments
Cons: Set up for the season ruins everything we love about the show.
The Bottom Line:
Characters we love
Ruined by writer’s choices
For bad last season




“You, Me, and a Crime Scene – Just as Nature Intended.”

I have been a fan of Castle since season one, episode one, day one.  The mix of banter, romance, and mystery was perfect for me.  Okay, so the mysteries weren’t the strongest, but I fell in love with these characters and couldn’t wait to revisit them week after week.

Which is why I am still trying to wrap my head around what the writers did to them in season 8.

Yes, I was actually one of the many who was glad the show was canceled when this season ended so we were all put out of our misery.  There were parts I enjoyed, but for the most part it felt very forced this season.

And I’ll warn you now that this review might devolve into rants a few times.

The season opens with a brilliant two part episode that finds mystery writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) investigating the disappearance of his wife, newly promoted NYPD Captain Kate Beckett (Stana Kantic), with the help of two of her detectives, Kevin Ryan and Javier Esposito (Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas).  Then, in the second part, we get Beckett’s side of things until both halves come together for a wonderful climax.  Well, it would have been wonderful if they hadn’t decided to completely mess with the show.

See, the plot of this two parter revolved around Beckett learning there was more to the conspiracy surrounding her mother’s murder, something I thought we had finally put to bed a couple of seasons ago.  Beckett learns that she is in danger, and in an attempt to keep Castle and his mother and daughter, Martha and Alexis (Susan Sullivan and Molly Quinn) safe, she announces she needs a break for their marriage and moves out.  No explanation to Castle about what is really going on.  Nothing.

Now, this is supposed to recapture the old magic of the show when Castle was pursuing Beckett and she was resisting.  And they returned to Castle working as a PI to bring him into these cases of the week.  But seriously, let’s go back to that premise for a minute.  What bad guy is going to stop going after your family because you left them a week ago?  A month ago?  Seriously?  You think that’s going to keep them safe?  They are going to go after them to get at you just as much today as they did before you left.  Plus, with no warning to them, they are in more danger.  If you stayed or at least told them why you left, they’d be more on their guard, so better protected, than if you just walk out of their lives.

Not to mention that this show is as much romantic comedy as it is mystery show.  After watching the will they/won’t they tension and the building of their relationship leading up to their marriage last season, I don’t want to see things go backwards.  I actually liked the show after it got Castle and Beckett together because it showed growth for their characters and built a solid relationship between them.  This was a huge step backwards.

And frankly, this overshadowed the case of the week aspect of the series.  While might have had a bit more overarching storyline this year, there were still plenty of cases of the week, but the spark wasn’t there because I was so frustrated by the breakup.  Still, over the course of the season, we get mysteries such as the death of Castle’s writing idol, a murder aboard a cruise ship that has just set sail, and a corpse that the theater where Martha’s latest show is rehearsing.  Many of these individual episodes are good and have great moments, but overall they can’t rise about the premise of the season.

Of course, with Beckett as a captain now, Castle shares more detecting scenes with Ryan and Esposito, and that chemistry isn’t the same, which doesn’t nothing to help the show.  Mind you, I love the characters, but they aren’t Castle and Beckett together.

Fortunately, the complete breakup didn’t last all season as Beckett did finally clue Castle in to what was happening, leading to a repeat of season 5 where the two where sneaking around.  Are you sensing a theme here?  Reruns.  No new ground, nothing but reruns.  The writers did try to tie in Castle’s missing memory from last season to the mystery this season, but it just felt forced.

And speaking of forced, this season’s big bad is also very forced.  The payoff for all the angst was so underwhelming it left me scratching my head as to why anyone thought it would be a good idea.

Now I’m not pointing my finger at any of the actors.  They all did a great job with what they were given, and when they had a moment to shine, they took full advantage of it.  Praise also much go to new actors Toks Olagundoye and Sunkrish Bala who had the thankless job of stepping into roles in a season that the fans didn’t like.  I have nothing against them, but the changes they represent to the show on the other hand….

Late in the season, word came down that Tamala Jones, the actress who plays medical examiner Lanie Parish, as well as Stana Katic were not going to be back for next season.  While some started cries of sexism (and that might be the case, I don’t know), I spent all of my time trying to wrap my head around doing this show without Beckett.  Oh, I know the show is called Castle.  But reference my earlier comments about this being a romantic comedy.  If budget constraints were the reason (and that’s the reason ABC gave), then you fire the rest of the cast and retool the show to just be about Castle and Beckett.

Fortunately, ABC came to the right decision and canceled the show at the last possible moment, giving us a chance to see the ending that wrapped things up instead of the cliffhanger.  (Two different endings for the season were shot.)  However, that ending felt so tacked on and forced that it left me feeling cold.  You want a good ending for this series?  Look back at the season finale for season 7.  That was a great ending to the show, and that’s where I intend to stop with Castle.  This last season?  It was a fevered dream I had about fan fiction featuring the characters and nothing more.

For the record, if you are looking for this set, you’ll find 22 episodes here in widescreen and full surround sound.  In the way of extras, you’ll find a couple of audio commentaries, deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a featurette showing the cast of the show trying to solve puzzles to get out of an escape room.

If you are a fan of Castle, do yourself a favor and skip season 8.  It is a mess that ruins the characters and the legacy of the show.  Even this completest collector plans to skip this season with a clear conscious, which tells you just had bad it truly was.

Season 8 episodes:
1. XY
2. XX
3. PhDead
4. What Lies Beneath
5. The Nose
6. Cool Boys
7. The Last Seduction
8. Mr. & Mrs. Castle
9. Tone Death
10. Witness for the Prosecution
11. Dead Red
12. The Blame Game
13. And Justice for All
14. G.D.S.
15. Fidelis Ad Mortem
16. Heartbreaker
17. Death Wish
18. Backstabber
19. Dead Again
20. Much Ado About Murder
21. Hell to Pay
22. Crossfire

2 comments:

  1. I heard that they removed the cliffhanger moment in "Crossfire" out of the DVD edition of the episode. Is this true? I don't know what they did with the tagged on series ending then. If not, maybe it was changed for the box set edition, maybe?

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    Replies
    1. There was no Crossfire cliffhanger because of the tagged on scene at the end, at least when it aired on TV. However, I am not buying the DVD set, so I can't tell you what they did or did not do there.

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