Something Smells Awful
In the above photo the look on the face of Castle guest starÂ Stephnie WeirÂ expresses exactly how I felt watching CastleÂ Season 8 Episode 5, “The Nose.” Â I want to say from the top that Weir did an excellent job with the character she had and all that was going on. Â This review is not about bad performances by her or anyone on the show.
That being said this I found that “The Nose” – more than anything we’ve seen thus far – has me more disappointed than ever about Castle. Â What happened to the smart show with the witty banter and sly innuendo? Â When did Castle become such a sexist and immature hour of television? Â There’s certainly been hints of this sort of thing before, but this episode, penned by new Castle writer Nancy Kiu is the worst I’ve seen on the show. Â (Proof that sexism has nothing to do with what gender you actually are.) Â What I saw displayed in “The Nose” is exactly the kind of humor and attitude that is being discussed in this Bustle article: Â “Why Isn’t There More Diversity In Comedy”?
I think a good place to start with this question is discussing the popularity of Daniel Tosh, Dane Cook, Seth McFarlane, and others in that same ilk. Their sophomoric comedy is typically misogynistic, xenophobic, and just plain mean-spirited.
But there are promising signs that this frat boy humor is becoming obsolete. A salient example: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler‘s Golden Globes’ hosting was lauded by critics, but Seth McFarlane’s Oscars duties received criticism across the board.
Jaclyn Perlmutter (New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Peoples Improv Theatre)
Well, clearly it hasn’t gone obsolete enough. Â Frat-boy humor is not an unpopular genre in American culture. Â The comedians mentioned in the quote are well-known and very successful. I’m not going to get into whether this type of humor is good or not. Â My problem is it’s not whatÂ CastleÂ has built it’s brand on. Â Had Castle started out as being a low-brow comedy I would have never gotten into it, and I doubt the ten-plus million viewers that watched live for six seasons would have done so either. Â Maybe it would have developed a different audience, but the facts are that the audience the show had built up over six seasons has been steadily eroding as this time of humor has increased. Â One does not try and re-brand a show in its seventh and eighth seasons and that’s what Castle has been attempting to do. Â As the ratings have shown, it hasn’t been going well.
Bringing Down Beckett
One part of this “rebranding” of Castle has been the systematic attempt to make the character of Â detective/captain Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) a weaker, dumber, and less important character than writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion). Â The first blatant onslaught of this strategy was in CastleÂ Season 6 Episode 23, “For Better or Worse.” Â I still remember reading the words of Â Castle creator (and at the time showrunner) Andrew Marlowe about why he chose to ditch six seasons of story canon and have Beckett suddenly discover that she’d been married before:
A lot of it had to do with resolving some aspects of Beckett, so when Beckett and Castle move on, there can be a little more parity. So with “Veritas,” we very much felt like we needed to close off Beckett’s mother’s murder arc in order to free her up in order to move forward. But she also always occupied the moral high ground with Castle and his previous relationships. And this is a way to humanize her a little bit. To take her down a peg in a way that’s very endearing to Castle (www.givememyremote).
At the time these remarks were infuriating and it was easy to blame Marlowe for the decision. Now seeing how low the show has sunk in its portrayal of Beckett it’s clear Marlowe was following some kind of directive to “take her down a peg” because this season is a thousand times worse and Marlowe isn’t even writing for the show and characters that he created.
What exactly am I talking about? Â How about this entire CastleÂ Season 8 story arc that has Beckett making decisions that make no sense and make her seem at best illogical and at worse obsessive and narcissistic? Â In a scene I found highly amusing – although it wasn’t meant to be – Castle opens the door to his loft to be met by a man pointing a gun at him. Â Why is he doing this? Â The man knows Castle is married to “Captain” Beckett and he wants to use Castle to get Beckett to give him the stolen painting currently in police possession. Â So much for the whole, “Beckett needs to leave Castle in order to keep him safe” story! Â These tweets said it best:
Wait. Beckett left so Castle wouldn’t be in danger for being married to her. And now this guy goes after Castle… for being married to her.
– Stana Katic Brasil (@BRStanaKatic) October 20, 2015
This storyline almost makes me wish Katic wasn’t such a great actress because she completely sells the whole, “I love him, I miss him, and this is breaking my heart” story. Â There’s no question she nails it in every frame. Â The scene at the end where she’s buried her face in his jacket and is wrecked is emotionally raw and heartbreaking. Â The problem isÂ that plot-wise it’s still all a Jedi mind trick – because the story reason still makes no sense. Â We just saw how ridiculous the idea driving this plot is less than five minutes ago. Â Soft music and a voice-over of Weir’s character saying, “Now, what you and Beckett have? Â Now that’s the genuine article” does not fix that this this storyline has been thrown on top of the characters of Castle and Beckett in a vain attempt to reset the series. Â (I’ll get to the Richard Castle problems in a bit.)
The fact that it’s Mia Laslow (Weir’s character) doing that voice-over is even more annoying because she’s had nothing pleasant to say about Beckett for the entire episode. Â It makes her sudden burst of unicorns and rainbows seem totally disingenuous.
Speaking about not nice things to say about Beckett, within the first ten minutes this episode managed to make three negative comments Â that are in turn objectifying, insulting, and sexist. Let’s recap:
2:58Â We get a shot of Beckett’s butt as she’s looking inside of a car for evidence – which is cut in with Detective Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) quizzically taking in the view.
Beckett: “So, what do you think? Maybe he was corporate security?”
Ryan: Â Â “Not with that tiny back seat.”
Just in case the audience missed the “joke” Beckett gets a peeved look on her face and when she turns to look at Ryan he gets uncomfortable and embarrassed while trying to explain what he meant.
Ryan: Â Â “I mean, there’s no room for a guy to get in there.”
Now, Castle is no stranger to sexual innuendo, so what makes this different? Â Agency. It’s one thing for Beckett to own her sexuality and use it, like in one of last season’s better scenes where she goes to Castle’s P.I.’s office as says, “I’m just a girl looking for my own private dick.” It’s innuendo, double-entendre and sexy. For a clearer example, let’s go back to Season 3, where Beckett deliberately makes a spectacular exit from a pool to get a criminal’s attention.
Having Beckett objectify herself to try to get information is a moment of the audience seeing her as being powerful. Making jokes about her “tiny back seat” is a way to take that power from her because she has no say or control in the matter. (For a longer explanation check out this great cartoon/article:Â Empowered vs Objectified).
6:43Â While interviewing Mia, it quickly becomes apparent to Beckett that she’s very sensitive to smell. Â Mia suggests Beckett should call herself “Captain Obvious” and then tell her to go look up the medical term for the condition, “hyperosmia.” Â We get it, the character is obnoxious, but it’s also a way to make jokes about Beckett.
Maybe the “Captain Obvious” thing wouldn’t be bad if weren’t sandwiched between the prior car incident and this next bit of commentary.
8:52 Castle and Mia are standing by the 12th Precinct elevator together when she out of nowhere gives him some information.
Mia: Â Â “She’s clearly got the hots for you.”
Castle Â “Who?”
Mia: Â Â “Captain Hoochie Momma.”
The term is highly derogatory. Â Going with the tamest definition source, here’s what Merriam Webster has to say on it:
(If you want the full urban definition click here)
Last week we had Beckett in a short dress lying down on the couch in her office with a subordinate in the room giving her a report. Â This week she had on pants and a jacket. However, at the precinct she takes off the jacket to reveal a black low cut blouse with gauzy sleeves…. Â Remember back in Season 5 when Beckett didn’t want her outfit looking sexy? Â Apparently being captain means that she absolutely should. Â What’s upsetting is that Beckett has always looked good and had great clothes, but now it’s like Beckett’s job is all about her sex appeal. Â That certainly seems to be the idea coming from this Castle writer’s assistant:
Fun Fact: Captain-Hoochiemama is actually a higher rank in the NYPD #Castle
– Nick Hurwitz (@HickNurwitz) October 20, 2015
From a powerful police detective to “Captain Hoochie Mama”? Â It may be meant as a joke, but it’s not funny.
Bringing Down Ryan
On a secondary note, CastleÂ Season 8 has a new sexist wrinkle to it. Â Kevin Ryan has always been the show’s “decent” guy. Â He’s the one who’s found a nice girl, settled down, got married. Â More than that, he also is the one who back in Season 4Â was cool about the fact that early on in their non-exclusive dating relationship his wife had a one-night stand with a guy that a murder-victim. He did what was right and went to Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) about what Beckett and detective Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) was up to. Â Esposito was furious, but it saved Beckett’s life. Â Ryan’s been the character with a strong sense of ethics. Â Esposito has been the wanna-be ladies-man, the tough guy. Â They really broke down the characters’ dynamics in Season 5’s “Swan Song.”
Ryan: Â Â Â ” I know how this might look, but we actually make a pretty good team because we each have, uh, different strengths.”
Esposito: “That’s true. For example, I’m former military, which makes me an expert marksman. I’m usually first through the door.”
Ryan: “Well, yeah, but somebody’s gotta know which door to go through. I’m a little bit more, um, circumspect, uh, than my partner here. I’m kinda like the… the nerve center of the team.”
Both of this guys had a way of being both cool and silly in a unique way.
Last week we say Ryan lie to Esposito about the sergeant’s exam, and agree to go against Beckett and give Castle information on Cases for five hundred bucks a month. Â This week it’s Ryan fails the sergeant’s exam while Esposito passes it, and then Ryan accidently shoots Esposito in the butt. Â Aside from the annoying teenage boy amusement about being shot in arse, the past two episodes seem hell-bent on taking Ryan down several pegs in favor of the the macho Esposito. Just like what’s been the case with Castle and Beckett lately it’s apparently it not okay for them to have a yin-yang balanced relationship.
If watching what’s being done to Beckett makes me want to hit something watching Castle maneuver in this strange new version of the show makes me want to scream!
Castle: So, Beckett and I have been married almost a year, and things were going great and then suddenly she says she needs space.
What?! Â That’s not what happened! Does Castle still have amnesia? Has he forgotten the whole, “wife’s former team was murdered, they tried to kill her, they kidnapped and tortured me to try to get information from me about her” drama that took up two entire episodes? Â I’m pretty sure I brought this up in last week’s review,Â but I’ll mention it again. Â While many people are upset that Castle isn’t showing more anger at Beckett for just “walking out on him,” I’m mad as hell that Castle is being portrayed as being so dumb that he can’t put two and two together. Â Meanwhile every since it happened Beckett’s said it’s not about him, Â we’ve got Beckett looking miserable every time she does something that breaks his heart, and people telling Castle she still loves him. Yet all Castle can focus on are goofy ways to try and “win her back.” Ugh!
Where is my smart and curious Castle that loves puzzles and mysteries and knows Beckett better than anyone? If he’s going to mad it should be because he knows she’s doing something dangerous and shutting him out, not because he has no clue. Â Remember the charming guy who got the case files off of Beckett’s desk in the pilot episode, “Flowers for Your Grave”? Â Why isn’t Castle doing everything he can to figure out what she’s up too? Â There could be lots of comedy mined from that. Â Instead he’s amored with his stupid home security system. ( I ranted about LucyÂ when it was first introduced so I’m not getting back into it now.)
To try and make up for this cluelessness this episode has a B-storyline of Castle being the one that understands that Mia has been hiding away from life and really wants to get out there and experience things. Â He makes a real difference for and, thanks to Castle, now she will. Â So, Castle figures out Mia’s entire psyche in less than a day – but he can’t figure out what’s up with Beckett?!
The Wrap Up
The Castle we have now is overly silly, full of humor about smellyÂ flatulence. getting shot in the butt, and Beckett’s beautiful behind. Â Once again, the positive highlight of the episode and the only comic moments I really enjoyed was with Castle’s Mom Martha Rogers (Susan Sullivan). I especially loved her scene with Mia. Martha’s always happy to meet a fan – no matter how strange!
This episode also had Castle’s daughter Alexis Castle (Molly Quinn) and whatever for hire Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye). Â The good news is they weren’t working together. Â Alexis was a benign presence this week, which was a lovely change. Â As for Hayley, it still doesn’t make sense that she’s around or that she knows Castle well enough to figure out he knows the people to call if one needs to get rid of very expensive cars. Â It was strange that Beckett was so willing to let her in on the case so intimately.
Yes, there was a case. Â Buried under all the slapstick and fratboy humor it may even have been a good one. Â Who knows? Â What I do know is this new direction of Castle hasn’tÂ helped the ratings any. Â It’s practically the anti-Castle. Â The show will be on a three week hiatus – returning in early November. Â For the first time ever I can honestly say I won’t miss it. Â Hopefully something is being done to future episodes to get this show back on track.
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[Photos via ABC]