Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Castle: Season Three

Read my other reviews from Castle!
-Season One
-Season Two
-Heat Wave

Castle very quickly climbed to the top of my list of favorite shows. But even as I was watching season two, and seeing how much the show could make me laugh right before making me cry, my friends warned me about season three. No warning they could have given would have really been enough. There are a few episodes that really aren't up to snuff, but for the most part it's just a very long, very good ride.

When I left off talking about season two, I said that I didn't like the way the show handled the "we must separate them for a little while" plot line. I still don't like the way that season ended, but I do like the way season three picked up that thread and ran with it. Especially because it gave us not just Beckett's reaction to Castle forgetting to call, but also the rest of the team. The show always makes sure to give Esposito, Ryan, and Montgomery plenty of time to flesh out the story, and I love them for it.

Season three also makes sure to give Stana Katic enough to work with so that we can see what a phenomenal actress she is. Her performance in "Under the Gun" is nothing short of amazing. Somebody start giving her some awards already. Nathan Fillion gets to have fun too, and of course his interactions with Alexis and Martha are always wonderful. But this season really belongs to Beckett.

I could have done without the episode "Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind" really, even though it was funny it just didn't feel like it was keeping the pace the rest of the season was setting. I was pleasantly surprised though to see how the show handled Beckett and Castle's alternate romances. Despite Castle being obviously a bit jealous of the new guy in Beckett's life, he handles it in a really mature way, and it was really nice to see after how much I disliked the Demming storyline.

I also have to say, the first half of the episode "Nikki Heat" where we meat the actress playing a character based on Beckett started out kind of embarrassing and hard to watch, but quickly became one of my favorites. I'm a sucker for behind-the-scenes type stuff and the jokes in this one were pretty spot on. The same goes for "One Life To Lose," which had a crazed fan character that I'm pretty sure I've bet at some point in my life.

I did like parts of the episode "To Love and Die in L.A." for the same reasons, but the fact that it was almost entirely built on the old trope of "I'm not really investigating this thing you told me not to do and now I'm working against law enforcement even though we have the same goals because nobody can just communicate" really killed it for me. It was good, but it wasn't great.

But the writing really shines with "The Final Nail," an episode where Beckett and Castle have opposing opinions about a murder suspect, who happens to be one of Castle's old friends. When I was watching it, I was convinced there was no good way for the episode to end, because they had set up the conflict far too well. If the man was guilty and Beckett is right, then Castle's faith and humor take a hit, making him less like the character we love. If Castle is right and the man is innocent, Beckett's instincts and dedication to policework and doing her job at all costs is seen in a bad light. Neither is good, because it was each character's best qualities that were making them disagree. The fact that the writers managed to resolve the conflict without knocking down either one, and still make it heartfelt and upsetting is a testament to how good they are.

The thing is, this all leads up to the season finale, "Knockout" which does not let up and does not let you go. Even when you think the episode has destroyed your emotions enough for one hour of television, there's more. The character development, the plot development, everything about it is astonishingly good. If I had watched this when it aired and had to wait through an actual hiatus for it to start up again, I would have wanted to throttle the writers.

And I mean that as a compliment.

Being Elmo

I really, really wish I had watched this movie ages ago when it first came out. But I didn't, so oh well. I put it off even further because I was convinced that recent events would color my opinion, but I actually don't think that was what happened.

Let's pretend I managed to write this review a year ago. I would have opened by saying that I really admire Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo on Sesame Street. I would have pointed out that while I never really warmed to Elmo, I never really hated him either. He was a well done character, I just prefer Oscar or Grover, because that's what I grew up with. I also would have said that I saw Kevin Clash once, at a book festival, and watched the way he and Elmo interacted with the kids that came for him to sign copies of his then-new book, My Life as a Furry Red Monster. There was something great about it, the way the kids reacted, the way he talked to them.

I probably would have mentioned how I thought that Kevin Clash was a great example of the sheer amount of inspiration there was in Jim Henson, and how great a mentor and creator Henson was. Clash has always talked with great respect about Henson, and that made me respect him, no matter what I thought of Elmo.

Then, of course, Clash recently turned out to be a little less respectable than everybody thought (no matter how the court cases shake out, what truths he's admitted to are still disconcerting). Which makes me sad, and I thought would make me view Being Elmo in an unfair light.

But the thing is, Being Elmo is a good documentary, but I wouldn't say it's a great one. To me a great documentary is one that reveals things you never knew, or where it could be about a person no one has heard of but still be fascinating. A great documentary could take your neighbor and make them fascinating. Being Elmo was handed it's topic on a silver platter, and it did well, of course. Technically, there's nothing to complain about. It's an interesting film and I'm glad I watched it.

Maybe I just know too much about Sesame Street and Elmo. Maybe I know too much about Henson from being a lifelong fan. Maybe it's because I have at least skimmed Clash's book. But the only revelation in the film is the very brief discussion of his relationship with his ex-wife and his daughter, which the film touches on quickly and runs away from like they were afraid of saying something unkind about their subject.

Which is another aspect I didn't think worked with the film, because everything in it was glowing adoration of Clash, it came across like he had produced the film himself. Everything was just so nice that the film became so very even that it stopped being emotional very quickly. You don't get excited when he gets to start working in New York because everything was already so good, you weren't worried that it wouldn't turn out great. Where were the trials? Where were the struggles? Well, apparently still to come, but that's not the point.

I suppose that is the one thing that colored my viewing of the film, because now we know that Clash's life is not, and probably never has been, perfect. So having this very pleasing portrait of him isn't just a little bit boring like it would be if I didn't know, but it feels more like a lie.

So in the end, the film is interesting, especially if you don't know too much about Sesame Street or Henson so that the information would be a little more new and fresh to you. If you want to learn more about Clash, perhaps this will give you a different viewpoint. If you just like biographies and learning about different people's lives, it does a fairly good job of that.

But if you're looking for something in depth, hard hitting, or with a good bit of conflict, this isn't a good place to go.