Episode 15: Target
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
Nathan Fillion is a great actor. He has a lot of charisma, is attractive, and can sell the humor very well but he can also do dramatic scenes. He has a lot of versatility in him which explains why he's been able to get so many lead roles. Target is an episode that requires him to basically freak out when Alexis is kidnapped and he manages to sell that he's actually dying of worry. There's a specific scene in the episode where Castle is going to torture the information out of a suspect in order to find his daughter. The way that he threatens the suspect is subtle but he gets his message across. When the suspect threatens to press charges, you believe Castle when he states that he doesn't care. It's rare that I comment on the talent of an actor but Fillion's skills were essential to this episode. He needed to be able to sell it in order for the stakes to feel real and for the emotion to get through. He rose to the occasion. A huge part of the reason that Target works is because of his acting. The other big reason is because it's directed very well. It's paced efficiently and the editing is crisp. There is one little complaint where Castle thinks that the blood in the van might be Alexis'. The camera angles are meant to show that he's falling apart as his world potentially tumbles but it came across as distracting-as if the show was trying too hard. It's a good thing that the direction and acting was good because the writing was uneven.
I'm not sure what's been happening in the writers room for the last few episodes but it seems like they've been stuck in a rut of mediocrity. The episodes have stopped being fun. It shouldn't matter whether an episode is dark or light as they should all be entertaining but I've been finding my joy in Caslte waning over the last few weeks. Target was an improvement and it had scenes that were well written but it wasn't enough to really break the mediocre trend. As this season has gone on, I've slowly found myself falling out of love with this show. I still like it and I'm going to stick with it for a bit longer but it's stopped being a show that I really looked forward to. This might not have ever been that great of a show but at least it's been able to remain consistently entertaining until recently. There's some good episodes but I can't feel like this season has been a total letdown. I think comparing this episode with “Pandora”, “Setup”, and “Tick, Tick, Tick...” is a good idea because they were all thrill rides. They worked at increasing the narrative momentum, they made me want to see the resolution immediately, and they were simply fun to watch. I was being entertained. Target might have had good acting and direction but I can't say the same about it being entertaining. The narrative momentum doesn't kick into high gear and I'm not exactly dying to find out what happens next. There's elements of Target that work but it simply doesn't come together to create a cohesive whole as there's too many weak points.
The episode begins when a guy is run over by a van as he's shooting a gun at it. That's actually a pretty engaging way to begin the episode. It cuts to a scene where Castle basically reveals he's allowed himself to let Alexis go. This is to keep Castle in the dark so that the series could later employ the twist that Alexis was kidnapped. The weekly case begins like normal and the police are quickly able to figure out that a wealthy Egyptian's daughter was kidnapped. The idea is that it might be money for ransom but they might also be seeking revenge. The stakes are pretty clear and Castle is able to relate because he has a daughter of his own. The episode takes a while but it eventually does reveal that Alexis is kidnapped. Castle is worried and there's even a part where he thinks she's dead. Once it's resolved that she's still alive, the episode cuts to Alexis and the Egyptian girl trying to figure out what to do. It was a smart decision to give Alexis her own agency to escape as well as having to convince the Egyptian girl to be of some help. So while Castle is looking for his daughter, she tries her best to engineer her own escape plan. The big twist at the end of the episode is that Alexis isn't in the country or the city but in Paris, France. Ridiculous and a bit shocking? Yes-and it's a cliff-hanger that would have worked except for one thing.
I understand that Alexis has been kidnapped and that she needs to be rescued. The problem is there is no urgency. The captors want her alive and they haven't made any indications that they even plan to hurt her. Are they bad men? It would appear so but not to the point where I'm worried about Alexis. I know she's going to be rescued and that she'll survive this. She might have some issues that she's going to need to talk about but she'll get over this. I'm not saying that the show should actually threaten her life because the stakes might have been too high then but there should at least be some credible threat to her well-being. I care about Alexis and I want to see her rescued but I'm not exactly dying to find out how it happens. This lack of issue with the stakes wasn't a problem at first because we hadn't cut to Alexis at the kidnapper hideout. We had no idea what happened to her so her life might very well have been at stake. As soon as I realized that Alexis was going to be okay and that she was in no immediate danger, the tension dissipated. Was it smart to give Alexis agency? Yes-but it wasn't smart to basically reveal that she's not really in harm's way.
Target is an episode that ultimately undermines itself. It sought to create a high-stakes story but it didn't pan out because it showed too much. What's ironic is that it hasn't really revealed anything. We don't know whose behind the kidnappings or what they want. It makes sense to keep things a mystery and the story didn't need to reveal the bad guy. It's just that if this is supposed to be such a well-operated kidnapping ring then why was Alexis able to reach the roof in the first place? It might have made for an exciting shot but it didn't serve the episode well-just like the entire Alexis side of the story. Target wasn't a bad episode but it's just another one where I'm starting to realize that maybe Castle's ratings aren't falling because of it's leads but because the quality of the writing has sharply dropped.