I’m of a mixed mind on alternate reality storylines. I have a comfort zone regarding my favorite characters, and while it’s good to leave your comfortable place every now and then, sometimes they go too far, or just don’t work for one reason or another. Sure, it’s great in things like Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I mean, “Mirror Mirror” was one of the five best episodes of the series, and without “The Wish,” we never would have gotten “Doppelgangland” and sexy, gay, vampire Willow.
But for every one of these successes, there are probably a dozen failures, so I entered this episode with some trepidation.
It turns out I didn’t have much to worry about. While not a typical “OH MY GOD!!” sweeps episode, it was just enough off-kilter to shake things up a little, and while I could sit here and tell you all the little nice parts of the episodes—where’s the fun in that? Besides, didn’t I read somewhere that you have to tear things down, before building them up, stronger? SO let’s start with what I didn’t love about this episode.
The principal conceit of alternate reality storylines is usually to explain how the absence of a person or event in the alternate reality made everyone’s life terrible. It’s to allow the protagonist to realize the difference they made in the lives of those around them. Well, clearly the Castle folks didn’t get that memo, because apart from Alexis, who was living in LA with her mother and clearly not very happy, the only miserable one here seemed to be Castle himself.
Not only that, an alternate reality gives the actors a treat. Playing the same character for years on end can be a drag at times, but with these episodes, it’s like they get to cheat on their real characters for a while. Unfortunately, everyone in this episode was only a slightly altered version of themselves, to wit:
Ryan? Not with Jenny, maybe a little lonely, but not appreciably different. Javi? Not with Lanie, and sad about it, but still basically the same guy. Beckett? Single and maybe a little wistful, but the youngest female captain in NYPD history. Martha? A famous, Tony-winning actress.
Where was Ryan’s Van Dyke beard and Beckett’s torture device? Why isn’t Javi a hopeless shell of a man, with a drug problem? Okay, maybe I’m going a little too far, but you get the point. It’s essentially a regular episode of Castle, with a few small twists.
That being said, I did really like the way Castle lurked around the precinct, adding bits to the investigation. It was nice to see that he was a key part of the team, even when they didn’t want him there. I mean, we know he’s great, but it was still nice to see.
And last, but certainly not least, us Caskett shippers finally got the wedding we’ve been waiting for. Well, maybe not the wedding we’d been waiting for, but it was a wedding, and after last season’s disaster of a giant, over-planned affair, the only obvious choice was to get ‘er done! At least we got some beautiful, heartfelt words—and yes, I got a little teary. Didn’t you?
The bottom line? I liked the episode, but the wedding earned it an extra 10 points, for me. I just didn’t feel like the alternate world was, well, alternate, enough.
Some random thoughts:
• The cop Castle worked with six years ago was not Beckett, but McNulty. A nod to The Wire, perhaps?
• “House Seats” is a great nickname.
• Ryan and Jenny, Beckett and Castle. Are Javi and Lanie next? May sweeps, perhaps?
• I wish Jeffrey Nordling had more to do as real estate developer Marcus Lark. I love his work and, considering we were dealing with an ancient artifact, perhaps there could have been a little more of Castle’s Indiana Jones to Lark’s Belloq?
Mark Rabinowitz is a Louisville-based freelance writer, film producer, and regular contributor to Paste. He is the co-founder of Indiewire.com and a former film critic for CNN.com. He worships at the shrine of swine. Praise the lard. You can follow him on Twitter.