WEEK 3 – Light Smashing with Regrets

CASTLE

Season 5, Episode 3 (Secret’s Safe With Me)

This was a sweet episode, albeit in a quirky way that saved it from being too sentimental.  The case of the week was sufficiently convoluted to keep the audience guessing, but it was not particularly memorable, which was in keeping with the show’s formula.  The third episode of the season is not usually all that outstanding, and this was a case in point.  The first episode was filled with drama and tension, in keeping with it being the second part of the previous season’s finale.  The second episode was extremely light and fluffy, almost to reassure us that we are still watching a dramedy.  At the third episode, the audience just wants to have fun.  In other words, this was a classic murder mystery puzzle punctuated with character development.

If I had thought too much about this episode, I might have found it extremely dark.  An entire family is tragically dispatched in order for the mystery to resolve.  Alexis, Richard Castle’s beloved only daughter, is moving out to go to college.  Castle smashes Captain Gates’s beloved collectible doll without her permission in order to solve the case.  To this, Gates’s reaction is suitably heartbreaking for the viewer: she sounds like a vulnerable child whose dreams just got crushed.  Castle really ought to have promised to find her another doll to replace hers (he is rich and well-connected, after all) and I wonder why the writers failed to include a line to such an extent.  Really, Castle – did you think that smashing the doll, even to find a vital clue, would go over well?  His reaction to the situation went beyond “typical insensitive man” and veered into the territory of “idiot looking for attention.”  I certainly did not find the scene funny.  Other than that, however, I enjoyed the story.

Note to all sleuths, both professional and amateur: if an object is concealed in another object after that second object is made, the first object can be extracted without destroying the second.  There might be damage involved, but not of the smashing-beyond-recognition variety.  Also, when said objects belong to your superior and you have no reason to suspect their involvement in the crime, ask for permission first.

MURDOCH MYSTERIES

Season 5, Episode 4/6 (Who Killed the Electric Carriage?)

Apparently, this past Monday was my night to be depressed by my favourite television shows.  However, this episode of Murdoch Mysteries first depressed me back when it aired in the summer.  I tried to rewatch it, but I decided not to torture myself after the first commercial break.  Sometimes, there are episodes that you don’t need to see again.

Thinking of all of the fifth season’s episodes, this is the only one that I would not rewatch.  Why?  Because it is designed to elicit a certain emotion in the viewer, specifically regret.  I hate regretting things in fiction.  We all have very real regrets in life and they are necessary for our emotional development, but fictional regrets we can do without.

The plot of the episode is exactly its title: who killed the electric carriage?  The murder victim is a battery-maker whose designs were sought after by both electric car manufacturers (which, although those in the episode are fictional, did exist in the Victorian/Edwardian era) and Henry Ford.  Since we all know who is not a household name, it is a foregone conclusion that Ford wins.  The inventor of the electric car in question, however, is just as visionary of the future as Ford (and is somewhat of a friend of Murdoch) and thus his demise is all the more pitiable.  We know about it from the outset, and yet the episode still tugs at our heartstrings.

As I said last week, history is mostly “what has been” and “what might have been.”  Exploring the latter is unfortunately dodgy and, if what might have been is preferable to what actually happened, often depressing and misleading.  Surely a world based on electric vehicles would have had its share of problems – but such a world was killed at the outset.  This episode may be fictional, but the technology is and was not.  Yes, there is a bit of an obvious bias in this show, but it takes place so far in the past as not to be intentionally insulting.  It is merely exploring another historical possibility and also addressing a question: would a twentieth-century with electric cars been much different than it was?  Could we adapt an old idea to work for the present?

Thankfully, next week is back to harmless tinkering with the supernatural  and ancient Egyptian curses…but that is another kettle of fish entirely.

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