Deeper Into the Darkness

Dark-Swan-PosterONCE UPON A TIME
Season 5, Episodes 7, 8 & 9 (Nimue)(Birth)(The Bear King)

5-7Aha, so this is where the story is headed!

When we learned that Merlin was entombed in a tree by the Dark One, it was not a great stretch of the imagination to connect the Dark One with his lost lover. The episode Nimue was less a story of suspense and more one of operatic caution and regret. Taken together with Birth, the two stories demonstrate both the origin of Excalibur and the Dark One’s dagger, but also remind us that love can lead to great tragedy. By the end of these two episodes, two relationships have been shattered all because someone wanted to hang on to romantic, earthly love. Furthermore, more than two souls have been corrupted and several hearts have been broken.

The B-plot running throughout both of these episodes involves the Charmings, along with Regina & Robin and Hook, discovering what Emma’s plan appears to be. While Hook goes off on his own to try to confront Emma, the others continue to try to figure out what happened to them during the missing six weeks. Meanwhile, Emma speeds up Zelena’s pregnancy so to rid her of an innocent child. While we have yet to find out the name, we do find out that the baby is a girl. Emma whisks away Zelena, but after she frees herself, the Wicked Witch does not immediately return to her new daughter. It stands to reason that for all her wanting to start over again with her daughter alone, Zelena also cannot resist petty villainy. It remains to be seen how much of a fight she puts up in later episodes. For now, it is safe to assume that the baby is being cared for by Robin and Regina, but I doubt that we have seen the end of that struggle. Before being kidnapped by Emma, Zelena managed to get a parting shot at her sister, calling her green with envy over the baby. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be holding your niece, fathered by your lover, when you cannot have children of your own. At least Robin has no love for Zelena herself.

In Nimue, the main plot is that of a flashback to Merlin’s past, where we meet his lover, Nimue, and where we learn the origins of Excalibur. Suffice to say, it is no surprise that the first Dark One is born because said individual wanted revenge and immortality. Merlin allowed himself to be blinded by love and failed to see that while his own idea of regaining mortality to die with his love was what he wanted, it was not what Nimue ever wanted. Their love was doomed when they embarked on their quest. Merlin is thus much wiser when he cautions Emma, but she still ignores him and succumbs to her desire to reunite the dagger with Excalibur.

What her motive is becomes clear in Birth, when it is revealed that there is more than one Dark One. Back in Camelot, Emma’s plan to rid herself of the darkness was ultimately thwarted by her own selfish desire to have her happy ending with Hook. Yes, Emma has been cheated out of happiness from birth onward, but like Merlin, she did not truly consider her lover’s own desires in carrying out her plan. Against Hook’s own wishes, she saved him from death…by turning him into the one thing that he has spent centuries seeking revenge against. Perhaps she felt that they could live happily ever after as the Dark Couple? While I think that could be an interesting story, Emma failed to listen to the fact that Hook did not want to do that! He knows what darkness is like. He has fought to reform himself from the miserable man he used to be. However, that miserable man is comfortable – I have no doubt that he will revert back to being that man now that he has supernatural powers. Hook was a dastardly villain when all he had were his wits and his sword – imagine what he will be like with power!

It is no wonder that Emma did not want Hook to remember what she did, but did she think that they could live together in immortality together and he would never figure it out? Or did she truly think that he would thank her for it? Such is the deception and delusion of darkness!


By contrast, The Bear King is a relaxing standalone episode centered on Merida, Mulan, and Red Riding Hood. While the previous episodes are primarily about romantic love, this story is all about honour, filial piety, patriotism, and loyalty. Merida is being crowned Queen, but feels unworthy to fill her father’s throne. Then she finds out that her father may have used a magical helmet to force his soldiers and subjects to do his bidding and die for him. On a quest to both find the helmet and prove her father was a good king after all, she enlists her old friend Mulan (who taught her how to swordfight) and Red Riding Hood, whom we find out returned to the Enchanted Forest to find other werewolves rather than remain in Storybrooke. She was not yet successful in finding other werewolves, but she instead finds a new comrade in Mulan and they leave Merida to embark on a new adventure once her quest is done. It was a nice visit for sure, but like having relatives home for the holidays, it was a relief to see them go, knowing that they could come back another time for another round of turkey.

King Arthur and Zelena are the villains of the episode, showing off how low Arthur has descended in his madness. He wants the magical helmet so that he can command his troops with absolute loyalty. He has no qualms about using magic to maintain the illusion of a perfect kingdom. He has no qualms about killing others just to get his hands on random magical objects. He is a greedy man with no honour, unlike Merida’s father, whom he needlessly slays (really – he could have probably just asked for the helmet!). Did we need a whole episode to tell us this? No, but it was a good story.

It was brilliant timing to air both Birth and The Bear King on the same night. The former episode was dark, operatic, and a lot to take in. The latter was one that would have been disappointing on its own, especially so late in the story arc, but was a refreshing, lighthearted tale about some of our background characters. It kept the audience entertained. It also ensured that we got to delve deeper into the character of Merida without having her detract too much from our ordinary main characters, as well as a wonderful contrast between Arthur and a good model of kingship, namely King Fergus and later Queen Merida.

One of the running themes of the entire show has been choice. Evil is not born, it is made. It is always a choice to embrace the darkness. It is always a choice to commit atrocities. It is always a choice to act on love. In all of these episodes, choice is paramount. Both Nimue and Emma choose darkness for immediate gain. Hook, by contrast, is forced into the darkness – akin to assault. Meanwhile, the clans of DunBroch follow King Fergus and then Merida out of loyalty by choice, not by force. Death is always an option. Love sometimes means letting someone go. Above all, it is selfless – something that darkness cannot comprehend.


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The Coroner is In

Season 9, Episodes 4 & 5 (Barenaked Ladies)(24 Hours Til Doomsday)

9-4Dr. Ogden is back! (In a truly forward-thinking but correct fashion, she is still called “Dr. Ogden” and not “Mrs. Murdoch” or “Dr. Murdoch” – actually, it is truly forward-thinking for her to be working at all, considering that she is married. Someone in the police must have pulled some strings with the city to get her back on staff!) After several seasons (four, perhaps?) of her being at the hospital, in private practice, or consulting somewhere in between, she is back in the role that she was in at the beginning of the series. The main difference now? She is married to Det. Murdoch, so they can continue their investigations and theorizing at home. It is refreshing to see a happily married couple working together. There is little tension portrayed in these episodes, although they do disagree upon occasion – mostly on when it is time to quit and go to bed. On the other hand, their sexual tension is still maintained and can even be discreetly resolved. They are happy to be lovebirds – even in public, which was quite shocking at the time, particularly for older couples. However, it is nothing nauseating. They are truly a meeting of minds as well as body. Their scenes where they discuss the cases of the week are just as fascinating and given just as much weight as their domestic scenes, and sometimes they are one and the same.

Barenaked Ladies gives us a puzzle to solve, with naked women killed and then displayed in public in copper plating. Their poses are deliberate, leading to Murdoch (and Ogden, for at least part of the night) pulling an all-nighter with his case files, books of art, and Bible to figure out the message that the killer was trying to send. Some episodes lend themselves to being more audience-friendly than others. This one is great for following along the clues and trying to solve alongside Murdoch. We are presented with several suspects, conflicting motives, and lots of assorted clues. After the first three episodes wherein Crabtree is exonerated shortly followed by Dr. Grace’s departure, Barenaked Ladies is good fun and restores our dynamic of Murdoch, Ogden, Brackenreid, and Crabtree. It also introduces Miss James, a cleaning woman with a keen interest in anatomy whom Dr. Ogden takes under her wing. She is spunky like Dr. Grace, but more refined like Dr. Ogden. She provides a new face in the crowd, but she is more historically accurate for unmarried women in the early 20th century. Whether or not her character becomes overused will remain to be seen. For now, she is a new character to explore.

24 Hours Til Doomsday once again welcomes eccentric inventor James Pendrick, spy Terrence Myers, and American agent Allan Clegg to the story. We also get to see Prime Minister Laurier again as Murdoch and colleagues prevent an all-out war from breaking out between Canada and the United States. This episode is a steampunk adventure that plays off of modern security concerns as well as Cold War motifs. It is not about historical accuracy, but about “what-if” and the scientific capabilities of various nations in the Edwardian era. Tensions between countries are getting higher as we get closer and closer to the First World War. [While it would be another decade of this show before we got to WWI, it would be nice to see a TV movie or a flash-forward about our characters dealing with the war.] In 1903/04, the United States was very much still on an imperial binge of its own and still had its sights set on acquiring Canada, which was still seen as British land. My one criticism of the episode is that it treated Canada in the sense of a modern nation independent of Britain, even though very few people thought of the country in that fashion at the time. Anglo-Canadians in particular were very fond of Mother Britain. However, this is also an episode involving rockets aimed at New York.

Both of these episodes are light and comic compared to the first three episodes of the season. The season is plodding along nicely and we can enjoy our adventures. Are they a bit silly? Sometimes, but they show us a world at once familiar and foreign, and give us plenty of opportunity to solve clues and laugh.


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Covering Tension With Humour


Season 8, Episodes 5 & 6 (The Nose)(Cool Boys)


From these two episodes, it is fairly clear that without Beckett by his side, Castle is growing more and more unhinged. Both The Nose and Cool Boys have outlandish if plausible plots. Both rely on having supporting guest characters that are rather strange. Most importantly, the character of Richard Castle behaves with increasing desperation as he tries to solve the cases.

In The Nose, the otherwise ordinary murder is complicated by an important witness with a highly sensitive sense of smell. Due to her enhanced ability, she is a recluse who really does not want to help out the investigation any more than she needs to, but Castle gets her to help him determine whether or not Beckett still really loves him. (After all, she can smell pheromones…) Unsurprisingly, Beckett still loves him. We as audience members know that – her break from him is entirely work-related. But Castle, in the dark as he is, might very well have suspected that she was having an affair, or that she no longer loved him. By the end of the episode, his faith in their relationship is somewhat restored.

What is enjoyable about having Castle and Beckett working separately is it gives us a chance to watch Castle interact with other characters on a one-on-one basis. We get to see him team up with a highly-sensitive witness, an independent British investigator, and in Cool Boys, a returning rogue Detective Slaughter. Slaughter is a maverick macho cop who seems to think that he and Castle are friends, despite his nearly getting Castle killed the last time that they worked together. Their dynamic has shifted somewhat, since Slaughter needs Castle to help him solve a case to prove his own innocence.

Beckett is entirely absent from this latter episode, thus pitting Castle and Slaughter against Esposito and Ryan. Castle is in turn quite rude to his friends (if one can simply call stealing a car “rude”) and has very little regard for his own safety. It is as though he does not care what he does now that Beckett is temporarily out of the picture. |

That isn’t to say that these are dour episodes – in fact, they are highly entertaining! But one cannot help but feel the tension underneath the humour. There are lots of jokes, Castle and Slaughter breaking out into West Side Story to elude execution, and Ryan and Esposito get a lot of chances to be in the spotlight. This last plot inevitably leads to much more tension, as Esposito passes his Sergeant exam while Ryan does not. The former lords it over the latter, while the latter accidentally shoots him in the midst of a case. This leads to lots of resentment that is not resolved until later episodes. Again, more humour to cover the tension – namely that Esposito gets shot in the posterior.

Despite the tension and the downright cold attitudes between Castle and Beckett, these are enjoyable episodes. They are not the dynamic that we have come to expect on Castle, but they are different and equally interesting. Castle gets to branch out more and we get to see more of the supporting cast. Do I want this to continue? No, I hope it gets resolved soon. I hope that Beckett comes to her senses and realises that at the very least, she can trust Castle with her mission and why she is doing what she is doing. Castle is completely lost at the moment, and it might very well get him killed or put in jail.

Or maybe just shot in the posterior too!


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Being the Hero

Dark-Swan-PosterONCE UPON A TIME
Season 5, Episodes 5 & 6 (Dreamcatchers)(The Bear and the Bow)

ONCE UPON A TIME - "Dreamcatcher" - In Camelot, as Mary Margaret and David attempt to retrieve the Dark One dagger, Emma uses a dreamcatcher to look into the past to see how Merlin was transformed into a tree. Together, Emma and Regina figure out the critical ingredient they must acquire to free Merlin, but it's a race against Arthur, who does not want Merlin released. Meanwhile, with encouragement from his moms, Henry musters up the courage to ask Violet on a date. Back in Storybrooke, the heroes break into Emma's house hoping to locate Gold, but what they find will give them a glimpse of Emma's end game. Far from prying eyes, Merida sets about the mission Emma has tasked her with and begins molding Gold into the hero they need to draw Excalibur, on "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) JENNIFER MORRISON, JARED GILMORE, LANA PARRILLAThere is a fine line between heroism and stupidity – usually depending on whether the individual in question survives their ordeal and whether the outcome of their actions have an overall positive or negative effect.

Naturally, as Emma descends from hero to archvillain, her actions increasingly have negative impact on the rest of the characters, even as she still sees herself as doing the right thing. That is what evil does – it manipulates and rationalizes. The Dark One is a master manipulator, but in order to do so, every Dark One must manipulate their own self first. Emma may be doing terrible things, but at least in Camelot, she still thinks that she is doing it for the right reasons.

In some way, she is – in the sense that she keeps the plot moving forward.

In Dreamcatchers, Emma works with Regina to free Merlin from the tree. They make a great team – it is too bad that Emma double-crosses her. In truth, Emma is simply being prepared – knowing that Regina’s own tears would likely not work to free Merlin (since her pain is not fresh anymore), she sets the plan in motion to break Henry’s heart. Of course, Henry’s fresh tears work and they all get to claim some form of heroism in saving Merlin from the tree, but Emma’s plan is eventually discovered – and Henry’s trust in her is ruined.

Henry’s greatest weakness is his trust (or faith). He is, after all, the Truest Believer. But trust is also his great strength. Without his faith, the first curse would not have been broken. Regina would likely have been killed. Various characters would not have forgiven each other. The previous Author would not have been defeated. Henry has been a hero thus far primarily because he has great faith and trust.

But that faith has wavered. Yes, he still believes that Emma can be saved, but part of him has begun to doubt. He is still young and impressionable – he could easily be swayed to villainy. After all, when we met him in the pilot episode, he had stolen a credit card, run away from home, and invited himself into a strange woman’s apartment – even rummaging around in her kitchen! All without a smidgen of remorse, because he was convinced he was helping bring back the happy endings. Yes, this kickstarted the story, but he comes from a long line of villains as much as heroes. It isn’t hard to picture Peter Pan doing the same thing, or Rumplestiltskin (only after he embraced the darkness).

Ultimately, Emma has lost an ally in Henry. He is going to be reluctant to trust her again. For that matter, neither is Regina. Like Emma, Regina took a long time to trust others. She was just beginning to do so – especially letting her guard down with Emma. Really, only Snow and Charming have blind faith in their daughter now. Even Hook is growing desperate.


The Bear and the Bow is a diversion episode, shifting focus to Belle and Rumplestiltskin. It is reminiscent of their first episode in the first season, in which the backstory was entirely theirs. Belle is not much of a team player. Personality-wise, she is independent and quiet. It is nice to have her central to the plot of an episode every once in awhile. The main cast treat her like an extension of her books – useful to consult when they need her, but otherwise an annoying tagalong. This is unwarranted – except that they do not fully trust her because of her relationship with Rumplestiltskin.

Belle has a strong point when the others characters refuse to forgive Rumplestiltskin or even trust him at all – despite them seeing the darkness leave him with their very eyes. Emma may be the newest incarnation of the Dark One, but she is still the Dark One. She has as much ability to control her power as Rumplestiltskin did. They both have fought with the darkness. Rumplestiltskin was so adept with it, in fact, that he survived 300 years, more than other Dark Ones in the past. He committed many atrocities in that time, but Emma has not done so yet only because of her newness. She just has not yet had the chance. They are both human beings who did wrong and need forgiveness.

Of course, the Charmings disagree because Emma is their baby girl. Hook disagrees because he built up so much hatred for Rumplestiltskin that he cannot possibly equate his lover with him. In their eyes, Emma is both a heroine and a damsel in distress, but she is not a villain. Their love for her has blinded them to her evil. Belle, on the other hand, has little love (or hate) for Emma. She knows what it is like to be blinded by love for the man behind the Dark One.

Merida fits well into the subplot of the episode. In the past, Belle helps her save her brothers and reclaim her throne without resorting to villainy. In the present, she figures that Belle will be the catalyst to reveal Rumplestiltskin’s heroic side. Merida forces Rumplestiltskin to face his fear and his cowardice in order to save his wife. As an outsider, she has no love for any of them. Using an existing character would have been awkward. Merida has no skin in this game except that she wants her heart back from Emma. Like Belle, she is an independent spirit. She would not get along well with our main heroes.

In the end, it is the last scene that is most crucial to the overall story: Rumplestiltskin succeeds in pulling Excalibur from the stone – even as he knows that if he is unworthy, he will die in the attempt. Emma thinks that she has won. However, she has also forced Rumplestiltskin to confront his weakness and turned him into a hero. He is not working for her. He has every reason to work against her. He knows how the darkness operates. He has faced it before. He has a sharp, analytical mind and vast knowledge – that was him, not the Dark One. All that he has lost is his power. He has gained Belle back, as well as some confidence of his own. It will be interesting to see how this new dynamic plays out.

Dark Emma thinks she is very clever. She also has the fact that her family loves her and thinks that she is worth saving. These two episodes chip away at both of these, but she does not yet care. Being Dark Emma suits her for now.


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What Now?

Season 9, Episodes 2 & 3 (Marked Twain)(Double Life)

9-2bWell, that was certainly an interesting way to continue the season’s storylines after the premiere!

If it is a tendency to go back to the status quo in the second or third episode, with the eventful finale and premiere all but forgotten, Murdoch Mysteries cleverly managed to both bring us back into the routine while reminding us that much has changed.

Marked Twain is a comedic episode featuring William Shatner as Mark Twain, long past his prime but still a fun character to watch our main cast interact with. He is a devout anti-imperialist, which clashes with the renewed sense of pro-British sentiment present in Edwardian Toronto, but also with American sensibilities at the time. Because he is the target of a shooting, the audience is safe knowing that he is not the killer, so we get to enjoy spending time with him, as do Murdoch, Ogden, Crabtree, and even Brackenreid – who is under significant political pressure to get rid of him.

9-2Even as this episode does not feel particularly special, Constable Crabtree takes his new demotion particularly harshly. Constable Higgins lords it over him, purposely passing off Crabtree’s work as his own and pushing for preferential treatment from Brackenreid. Murdoch eventually notices, because when Crabtree approaches him, he reminds him that everyone still thinks of him as a first-class policeman – and Higgins gets knocked down a peg. Meanwhile, Dr. Grace is still making plans to move to London.

9-3And surprisingly, in Double Life, she does just that! Talk about not just resetting the status quo – for the first time in several seasons, Dr. Ogden will be back in the morgue, as the elderly replacement coroner had a heart attack. This sets up an interesting dynamic that should play out in subsequent episodes: like in early seasons, Murdoch and Ogden will be working closely on cases, but now they are a married couple. The sexual tension will hopefully be amusing rather than awkward.

As an exit episode, Double Life provided a dramatic conclusion to Dr. Grace’s tenure as a coroner in Toronto. Her lover is killed and further exposed as leading the titular double life, leading to Dr. Grace being exposed as being romantically involved with a woman – at least to Murdoch and Crabtree. Brokenhearted, Dr. Grace leaves for London once the case is solve. Her story ends on a hopeful note: she has the promise of a new life, and there is always room for her to return for a guest appearance in the future.

What is heartbreaking about this story is how secretive Dr. Grace has to be. While Brackenreid is in the know regarding the real nature of her relationship with Lillian, the majority of the characters presume that they are merely good friends. Dr. Grace cannot act as though she lost the love of her life; rather, she must put up a brave front. The trip to London will undoubtedly give her time to properly grieve away from prying eyes.

Initially, we are led to believe that Lillian has a sinister past that has led her to a double life and running away. Dr. Grace is furious at how little she knew of Lillian’s background, and how much she feels like the fool. However, it becomes clear that the only thing that Lillian was guilty of was homosexuality. Like Constable Giles last season, all of her dirty laundry stemmed from trying to protect her secret. In reality, she just wanted to live a normal life with the woman she loved. Whatever her actions, she was trying to protect herself and her lover.

Like women voting, homosexuality has become widely accepted as normal in Europe and North America. While it is still bothersome to many, it is only the extremely bigoted or ignorant that believe that homosexuals should be banned from existence. The idea that we can all coexist together is not recent, but the idea that we can all openly coexist together is. From a modern perspective, Lillian’s dark past is problematic: an affair with a married woman, the murder of a private investigator sent to find her or said married woman, and keeping all of this from her current lover. However, divorce was not easily obtained or a financially feasible option, the investigator could have ruined countless lives needlessly, and burdening Dr. Grace with any of her secrets might have put her at risk professionally. In fact, the last issue was the only thing that Lillian could be said to have erred on. There was little that she could have done differently otherwise.


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Camelot! Camelot!

Dark-Swan-PosterONCE UPON A TIME
Season 5, Episodes 3 & 4 (Siege Perilous)(The Broken Kingdom)


Our foray into Arthurian legend continues with Prince Charming embarking on a quest while Lancelot makes a surprising return. In the present day, Dark Emma reveals that her plan to pull the sword from the stone involves using Merida to train the disenchanted Rumplestiltskin into a valiant hero. I have to admit that after a long absence, it was a refreshing bit of continuity for Dark Emma to rip out Merida’s heart to control her. Without even realising it, Dark Emma has become truly villainous – perhaps worse than her predecessors because she believes that she is still on a righteous path. She has been the hero before. Like all of us, she still thinks that she is the hero of the story. Noble intentions justify ignoble methods. Rumplestiltskin knows all too well that being the Dark One is not heroic and can never be so, but there is little that he can do to stop her. He is even too cowardly to kill himself.

Back in Camelot (I can’t help but think of the musical), Prince Charming has an identity crisis and appears to be easily conned into friendship with King Arthur. While he and Snow are eventually convinced by Lancelot that the King is not trustworthy, Arthur, Guinevere, and their loyal guards outwit them. At the end of the fourth episode, Lancelot and Merida are in Camelot’s dungeon (nothing like the song), the Charmings are under a spell, and gullible Regina is virtually ready to hand over the dagger of the Dark One to Arthur to use for his own nefarious purpose.

Initially, it seems that Arthur truly cares for his kingdom. In some respects, he does. However, it becomes clear that his attention stems from a personal obsession with proving himself worthy of Excalibur and the throne of Camelot. Even though he pulled out the sword, he is driven mad by the desire to make the sword whole again by reattaching the Dark One’s dagger to it. His kingdom is neglected. Only a deal with Rumplestiltskin (brokered by Guinevere, who exhibits more love for her subjects than her husband) makes him realise that he can have his perfect kingdom and marriage while still hunting the dagger. All of Camelot is thus built on illusions and lies – and Arthur will kill anyone to keep it that way. Thus the fate of the dagger rests currently with Regina, who once killed to hang on to power much like Arthur does. Arthur is arguably more evil than she ever was in the past, because like Dark Emma, he is still convinced that he is a hero.

Most poignantly, Hook is primarily focused on keeping Emma from slipping into the darkness. He knows about dealing with inner demons, although none apparently quite this powerful. The scenes of Hook and Emma together in Camelot remind us that darkness can be fought. The light can still get in. It is important not to give up on our loved ones as soon as obstacles appear. Emma is not beyond redemption. Yet, she fully embraces the darkness of her own choosing. It is not the darkness that consumes her. Light has to be chosen, and power is incredibly seductive.


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Back to the Status Quo?

Season 8, Episodes 3 & 4 (PhDead)(What Lies Beneath)

8-3Well, we are somewhat back to the status quo with the premiere out of the way. I can see where the writers are going with the story and what they had hoped to accomplish, even if a lot of viewers are disappointed. As storytellers, the writers and actors want character growth, change, and interconnected plot development. The show has been around seven years already! But as viewers, we want more of what we enjoyed over the past seven years. Castle used to make fun of other crime shows, but like a cynical teenager now grown into mature adulthood, it has become what it used to mock. But is that a bad thing?

I certainly do not think so. There is only so much mocking one can do before one is just annoying – or overly comedic, in the case of a television show. Castle is a dramedy, not a satire. By lasting to an eighth season, it is only natural that it has exhausted the novelty of making fun of itself. That really would not be funny anymore. It would just limit storytelling.

Likewise, by taking the characters in new directions, the writers are merely making the story more interesting. Castle and Alexis are spending more time together. Beckett is working on a case while she otherwise sits in the Captain’s office. She is no longer required to appear at crime scenes, so having her continue to work on the case from the premiere on the side gives her something more intriguing to do than simply pop her head in on Ryan and Esposito every once in awhile, without our having to watch her do administrative work. Seriously, no one wants to watch someone else do paperwork!

PhDead gives Castle an excuse to go undercover on a university campus. He and Alexis team up to work a case parallel to the detectives. I think that he has the wrong strategy to try to win Beckett back, but it is heartening to watch him try nonetheless. This episode hearkens back to earlier, sillier, more whimsical storylines. Castle is reliving his college years – much to Alexis’s (and Beckett’s) chagrin. Despite being a light and fluffy episode, it is darker than earlier seasons. Castle is at a loss to understand what is wrong with him and Beckett. So are we. For that matter, so is Beckett.

What Lies Beneath brings Martha in to the precinct to talk to Beckett on our behalf, because she articulates a lot of what viewers are thinking about their relationship. Unlike a lot of viewers, however, Martha seems to better understand her daughter-in-law. Martha was not one for marital commitment or success. She can relate to Beckett and her need to be independent and fight her own demons. However, she also knows that her son has lost two marriages already. She knows that she has very little influence on either her son or his wife, but she wants to help as best as she can. Her words of wisdom are welcome, reminding us of the ongoing marital crisis, but otherwise, the show settled back into its new status quo: Castle & Alexis working parallel with Ryan & Esposito (despite Beckett’s annoyance) to solve the case of the week while Beckett helps out, does paperwork, and investigates Senator Bracken’s death in the shadows.

We are back to normal for now.

CASTLE - "What Lies Beneath" - When Castle's idol, a famously reclusive author, turns up dead, Castle is determined to solve his hero's murder. But as he and Beckett dig deeper, they discover that truth is stranger than fiction. "What Lies Beneath" will air on MONDAY, OCTOBER 12 (10:01-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Greg Gayne) MOLLY QUINN, NATHAN FILLION

CASTLE – “What Lies Beneath” – When Castle’s idol, a famously reclusive author, turns up dead, Castle is determined to solve his hero’s murder. But as he and Beckett dig deeper, they discover that truth is stranger than fiction. “What Lies Beneath” will air on MONDAY, OCTOBER 12 (10:01-11:00 p.m. ET/PT) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Greg Gayne)

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