This review contains spoilers.
7.17 Hong Kong Hustle
They say that women are their own worst enemies. If they aren’t tearing themselves down, they are tearing each other down. In truth, it’s usually both, as this week’s episode of Castle illustrates.
One of the really good things about the show is Kate Beckett. In the first season, the show’s premise all but required that her character be a stereotype that we’ve seen again and again on television: the tough-as-nails female cop who has had to be better than the men around her and who, as a result, has developed a virtually impervious, no-nonsense shell (that exists largely so the male lead can be seen as valiant by breaking through it).
But then something sort of wonderful happened. On a show that seems intent on flitting from cliché to cliché, Beckett gradually emerged as far more than the cookie-cutter character she was initially drawn as. Instead, she has revealed herself to be warm, witty, protective, intelligent, and most of all, dynamic. In fact, in many ways, despite the fact that the show bears the name of her partner, it’s Kate who has had the most interesting storylines and the most dramatic development.
But occasionally, and for no Earthly reason, the writers of the show will suddenly forget entirely who Beckett is and suddenly give us a woman that we don’t recognize. This week, this is exactly what the writers did.
Called to the scene of a murder in the park, Beckett and company get a witness description of a killer that seems a bit out of character for what initially looks like a mugging gone wrong. When the boys do their due diligence by canvassing the apartment building where the victim lived, they find themselves face-to-face with the woman matching that description: a regal-looking, well-dressed, and beautiful Asian woman who gets the drop on not one but both of them (quite humorously), despite the fact that they surprised her in the victim’s apartment.
The suspect turns out to be nothing of the kind. Instead, she is actually a highly successful officer with the Hong Kong police department, who, by the by, also works at the Hague with the International War Crimes Tribune. That is, when she’s not enjoying the company of her movie-star husband and ultra-cute kids. And she’s on the trail of the killer herself, requiring that the two women work together to solve the crime.
Except, for the first time ever, really, rather than Kate being frustrated with yet another “temporary” partner she doesn’t want to be saddled with, she instead appears to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by turning green with envy at Chief Inspector Zhang’s quite impressive life and accomplishments. She bemoans her relative lack of professional achievement to Castle (more than a little hinting that she finds her personal life also lacking) who in turn, worries aloud to Esposito and Ryan about Beckett getting into a bit of a pissing match with the visiting officer.
Our feeling that such a thing is out of character for her is confirmed by those on the show who have known her longest, Ryan reassuring Rick that “Beckett would never do that.” Esposito backs his partner up on this point as well. “Yo, bro. This is Beckett we’re talking about.” It’s ironic when writers choose not to listen to their own words coming out of their characters’ mouths.
Beckett’s insecurity has her questioning her life choices, including quitting her DC job. Which is odd. Because she was fired. But, hey, who cares about plot continuity any more than character consistency, right?
Luckily, while there are a few moments in which Beckett is obviously discomfited by the fact that Zhang is every bit as good (possibly better) an investigator than she is, the episode admirably sidesteps the trap of woman-on-woman hatred. It’s clear that Beckett feels that she is somehow missing out because she has not accomplished what Zhang has, but she limits herself to holding herself responsible rather than finding a reason to take it out on her temporary partner.
Which is good, because as Zhang admits (but only after actively inflating herself for Beckett’s good opinion), her life isn’t all it appears to be on paper. There’s trouble in her marital paradise and she feels she’s shortchanging her kids. Her career seems to be the only thing on track, though even that is questionable considering how she’s misled Kate on these other issues. A woman really cannot have it all, it appears. Compromises have to be made. (Unless you’re a man like, say, Rick Castle.)
If it appears that I’m giving this week’s mystery short-shrift, that’s only because the episode does as well. There’s less attention given to it than usual, in favor of Beckett’s existential crisis, which is not a problem. What is a problem is the way that the killer’s identity and motivation undercut the storyline between Zhang and Beckett.
Because while Zhang does initially undercut Beckett’s confidence (likely unintentionally), the two women eventually confide in each other and walk away with some sense of female solidarity. The killer, however, is one of two unfortunate women who were lied to about the price of their tickets to America. Instead of the promised land, they find themselves in de facto indentured servitude from which there is seemingly little hope of escape until one of them catches the eye of the victim. He falls in love with Suyin and contrives a way to help her pay off her debt and escape, but her “friend,” unable to face the thought of being left behind, kills Suyin’s savior.
Ick. What could have been a nice little story about women helping each other becomes precisely the opposite.
Which is really too bad because it takes away not just from the Beckett/Zhang storyline, but some really cute moments as well. Deaver and Huerta are at their comic best in the looks they give Castle when he tries to claim his mastery of marriage by saying he’s been wedded thrice. And the hot-but-funny chemistry of Katic and Fillion is literally never better than at the end of the episode when Rick’s reassurance to Kate that “you can never leave behind what is always at your side” leads to her amorously punctuated rejoinder: “You’re so much better than Patterson.”
It’s a good thing that that–and not the mysteries–is the real reason we watch Castle.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, The Wrong Stuff, here.
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