Episode 14: Reality Star Struck
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
I was excited when I tuned in to Castle because Reality Star Struck is exactly the kind of episode that this show can do well. It's a kind of episode that serves as a parody and love letter to pop culture. Reality Star Struck tackles the infamous reality shows. I'm not talking about Survivor but shows in the vein of Real Housewives. They're about backstabbing women who will do anything to get on top. It has a solid idea but Castle refuses to do anything new with it. One of the big “twists” of the episode is when Castle and Gates learn that one of the biggest twists in the show was staged in order to get the participants more screen time. This reveal that reality shows are scripted to this degree is supposed to be turning point in the case but it's just so obvious that it's confounding on why the characters didn't get it earlier. This is a twist that any viewer should have seen coming and the writers knew this. It might have come across as a complete surprise to the characters but it felt like the show was following a formula. I'm not talking about the formula that the average Castle episode must follow but rather one that a series is supposed to take when tackling reality shows. The writers felt it would be fun to do a reality show episode but they just crossed things off a list rather than try to inject some actual fresh ideas into the episode. It all comes out to a predictable weekly case that becomes forgettable and crushes the expectations I had coming in.
I could pinpoint the point where I realized that this episode was a massive disappointment. There was a scene where Castle derided the fake reality show. He claims to have watched for a minute before he got tired of all the petty backstabbing. He was going based off the reputation of the shows. It's not a bad moment for the episode but I made a small joke to myself: “He's going to fall in love with the show.” It's a joke because it's a move that hundreds of shows have done before. It's just so easy to do but it often states very little about character. Does the show prove me wrong? Of course not. When he stays up all night watching the reality show, I realized that Castle was just being as predictable as possible. What's worse is that it wasn't offering it's own opinion on the genre but rather just stating what's been said before: they're a guilty pleasure for a reason. I understand that it's not always easy to offer a fresh perspective but it is essential if you don't want to be stale. That's exactly what this weekly case was: it was stale. It didn't even have the manic energy that was present in the very fun “Significant Others” to keep me entertained. If anything, it actually took the investigation a little bit more seriously than it should have. There were moments where I laughed but the jokes were largely absent from this episode. The ones that were present were usually hit-or-miss.
The good news is that this episode wasn't just the weekly case as we got some personal drama as well. It's Valentine's Day week which means that the characters are going to celebrate the holiday. This is going to be the first Valentine's Day that Castle and Beckett spend as couples. They make a big deal about their gifts. This leads to a scene where Castle predictably puts his gift in the wrong jacket to try and surprise Beckett. The jacket belongs to Gates and it threatens to reveal their relationship. There's the predictable scenes of Castle trying to get the present back before failing and Beckett finding out about the situation. In the end, Gates discovers the gift. I'm just about to give up on the idea of this show being able to surprise me but it does. Is their secret kept because Castle didn't write Beckett's name? Of course but it has a great reveal that Lanie and Esposito are going on a Valentine's Day date together. Not only that but there's an incredibly great scene where Beckett gives Castle the perfect Valentine's Day present: a drawer. I think we all know what that means.
Reality Star Struck might have a good ending but it's an episode that is so stuck in covering all the reality show bases that it forgets to actually have fun. The weekly case is predictable, stale, and forgettable. The scenes where Castle tried to get the gift back was painful to get through. This wasn't necessarily a bad episode of Castle as I could see a lot of fans being happy with this show. I, on the other hand, have high expectations and this episode didn't even come close to meeting them. Oh, well, at least Richard Castle has a drawer. That'll have to keep me happy until next week's first half of a two-parter.
Let's hope that Target is a much better episode of Castle-because it's current streak of forgettable or bad episodes is a troubling sign.
I'm considering dropping Castle from the review roster. I love the show and I still think it's great but I'm finding it more and more difficult to write about the normal Castle episodes. I might also just take the normal Castle episodes and turn them all into mini-reviews.