Castle season 6 episode 12 review: Deep Cover

Review Laura Akers 16 Jan 2014 - 07:02

Laura puts Castle and the so-called Moonlighting curse under the microscope in this week's review of a derivative but well-acted episode...

This review contains spoilers.

6.12 Deep Cover

Two years ago, Nathan Fillion expressed his concern on Good Morning America that bringing Castle and Beckett together was a mistake: "You know what my personal view is, if they get together… I am old enough to remember Moonlighting. The 'Moonlighting curse.' I aim for a long, long Castle run.”

Ah, yes. The Moonlighting curse. The assumption that despite the fact that most television viewers marry, pinning our hopes on happily ever after, the last thing we actually want to see is what happens after that wedding day. Which has always struck me as odd.  It’s true that about half of marriages fail. But television is equal parts fantasy and identification. So it seems completely reasonable to suggest that half of us fantasize about having a happy, loving, fun relationship and the other half can see themselves in one portrayed on-screen.

His comment might have been provoked by the fact that a similar series, Bones, had only a couple of weeks earlier - at the beginning of series seven - allowed its romantic leads to start building a life together. The show is now in series nine, about to be renewed for its tenth and final series, and despite a recent move to the difficult Friday night, has brought enough of its audience with it to still win its new time slot. Happily ever after has been anything but a death-knell for the show.

Which may also be why Fillion retracted his statements less than a year later, publicly chastising himself with a “Shame on me.” (Check out precisely how wrong Fillion was about the reasons for the supposed Moonlighting curse). And thank goodness he’s now behind a real relationship between the mystery writer and the detective, because the first few minutes of this week’s episode are pure gold.

Castle and Beckett are trying to decide on a date for the wedding, their comic patter familiar but still holding its spark. We all know this couple in our own lives - the one which verbally spars with an ease and humour that speaks volumes of the love and admiration between the two. They struggle to find just the right date, somewhere in the “Goldilocks zone” between scorching New York summers and frigid New York winters, eventually coming up with nothing. But they aren’t giving up, even when Martha offers “a little unsolicited advice…” (“Do you give any other kind?” her son quickly responds): go down to City Hall right now and get hitched.

But of course, they don’t. After all, both they and we have waited a long time for this. There’s no reason to rush it. This is simply a new sort of anticipation to be enjoyed… on both sides of that fourth wall.

Unfortunately, this adorable opening dissolves into a fairly average episode, made more disappointing by the appearance of Castle’s father, played by James Brolin. Disappointing largely because, unlike the Paris adventure that is repeatedly referred to, Deep Cover lacks real urgency and doesn’t give Brolin, a man who has a real talent for dominating a space, the chance to really use that to the episode’s advantage.

This waste comes largely from the derivative plot, swiped from Mission Impossible (I believe they share the line “We can’t let the NOC list get out in the open!”) and based on the Wounded Gazelle Gambit (with a twist—Jackson Hunt gets himself hurt to fool his son, rather than the bad guy, into thinking he’s incapacitated). Castle’s father is on a mole hunt and intentionally involves his son and Beckett. It’s unclear whether this is so he can play on his son’s desire for a father in order to better control his own long game or because he wants the opportunity to hang out with his estranged son. Probably, considering the last scene, both.

Castle has always been a fairly derivative show. The very premise reads like something created in a random generator online. Hard-boiled female detective, playboy mystery writer, permanent ridealong. Not that that’s necessarily a problem. Certainly other shows have stayed on air a long time based on less original foundations.

The difference, and one they’ve never really taken advantage of: Castle is a mystery writer and his love of narrative often allows him to connect a case to a fairly well-known (or well-worn) story. But this level of consciousness is only applied to the week’s mystery. The story of the story, how Castle and Beckett solve the crime, is often also very familiar, but rarely acknowledged. It leaves me wishing the show would borrow from just one more: Supernatural.

Where Castle’s writers seem to want to keep their narrative pilfering (and let’s be clear: most writers indulge in this) under the radar, Supernatural all but celebrates it. Both shows are highly referential, and often about the same things (all the great geek and cult classics). Where Supernatural’s writing excels is in waiting until almost the exact moment when we catch on to what’s being referenced, and then cracking wise about it to let us know they are in on the joke.  Those writing for the Winchester boys are continually winking at the audience in this regard, turning what could be a weakness into one of the show’s greatest strengths. Some of us tune in just to see where they’ll steal from next.

It’s a lesson that I wish Castle would learn because it has so much more potential in this arena: Writing stories about a writer who solves crimes by creating stories…there’s a good deal of meta-possibilities to work with. 

Luckily, as always, whatever weaknesses the show has are dissipated by its great characters and now, by Castle and Beckett living their happily ever after for all to see. Whatever your own relationship status, the chemistry between the two leads is irresistible and has gotten more, rather than less so since they’ve hooked up. And a lot of this has to do with what those in successful long-term real-life relationships get to enjoy: after the chase, when you’re finally sure of each other, the initial spark and flare-up become something warm and easy. We’ve waited a very long time for this both in terms of this show and the history of romantic television drama. Bones and Castle have finally and definitively broken even the illusion of the Moonlighting Curse. 

Read Laura's review of the previous episode, Under Fire, here.

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