Well it had to happen sometime and hopefully this will be the last time. This week’s Castle is a total mess from start to finish making for a weak return after a month of reruns. It tries to go for the gut with its tearjerker storyline but it instead comes off as a half-baked tribute to Backdraft.
When fire investigator Blake McCann is found overcooked in a fire caused by arson, Beckett and company catch the case. Soon they realize that the case is far bigger than they thought and that McCann was close to something. He was close to catching “The Phantom.” Castle is enamored with the whole mystery of the fires and Nathan Fillion is at his best when his alter ego is engaged and interested in a particular crime. However even Nate’s undying enthusiasm cannot save “Under Fire” because it is too weighed down by fire movie cliches that we have all picked up over the years. I wrote in my notes who I thought was the killer 10 minutes in and I nailed it. But to be honest I hate when I am right because it means that a show is, at least to me, phoning it in.
Castle and Beckett are their usual selves but their relationship is beginning to feel stale and boring. I think it is because die-hard fans are just waiting for them to get married already. It has been a long engagement at this point and I think that the inevitable “wedding episode” is anchoring down the overall narrative. Esposito and Ryan are also on the case and manage to actually find the firebug’s lair before getting caught in a device he designed that blows up the building they are in. It is a massive explosion but it is hard for it to heat up any suspence because we know that the guys are surely okay. And just like that the episode shifts into the “Espo and Ryan stuck in a basement running out of air while Jenny is about to deliver” episode. This plot device has been used so many times that it is so easy to predict.
And yes, Jenny is 9 months pregnant and just about ready to pop when the explosion happens. The episode even uses the “12 Hours Earlier” device at the beginning of the episode adding to the cliched offenses. When Caskett gets a lead on the fire from a website called “Pyrolicious.com,” the duo spring into action. Only then do they realize that their boys are stuck inside. No real surprises play out in the episode making it simply “so-so” as a completely ordinary episode of Castle. I was very disappointed because Castle and company have not been that formulaic since the shows inception. In fact one of the things I liked best about the show when I first started watching was its originality. However in this episode it sinks down to a level that makes you want to watch something else because there is just nothing there to challenge the viewer.
I think that the Jenny & Ryan having a baby part of the episode was nice and sweet but felt a little out of place. I guess I just thought that when Jenny did deliver it, the would be gang caught up in some hospital hijinks with first-time father Ryan at his manic best. Can’t win ’em all I guess. I think that they were genuine in their efforts to try to bring something new to this particular sub-genre of the 10 p.m. drama. Any cop show will touch on arson at least once in their TV tenure. That’s all well and good but at least make something with a little bit more for us to chew on. But I of course will forgive Castle and the gang for this week’s episode because it is the type of show with such lovable characters that any reprieve is short-lived.
In the end, good triumphs over evil in a conventional episode that does not offer us anything that we have not seen before. I did like the swell of emotions amongst the group when they genuinely believed that Ryan and Esposito were mortally wounded. The fire may have seemed hokey but the performances were solid despite knowing the outcome in advance. I’d love to see Castle start writing again or having some episodes tie-in to his work. At this stage in the game he should be getting paid by the NYPD instead of collecting book royalty checks.
Den of Geek Rating: 2 Out of 5 Stars