Season 3, Episode 6 (Ariel)
One could argue that adding new characters to an already complicated plot and large ensemble cast would cause problems for the story. The beauty of this show is that for the most part, the writers and directors bring in new blood to enhance the storyline of the major characters. New blood ends up thickening the plot, as it should, rather than watering it down. In Ariel, we are introduced to the eponymous mermaid and she dives right into the midst of things both in the past and present.
While Ariel has her own story, she really serves to bring out aspects of our main characters. She saves Snow White and in turn, we get to see Snow White as a helpful, friendly, confident young woman. In saving Snow, Ariel also attracts the ire of Regina, who is at the height of her evil insanity and is thus petty enough to decide to keep Ariel from Prince Eric because the little mermaid would not cooperate with her.
While the backstory was primarily about hope, love, and friendship, the main storyline was one of fear. In Neverland, fear of giving into her dark emotions keeps Emma from embracing her magical potential, even if it would help get Henry back. Fear of losing Henry drove Regina back into the clutches of her dark godfather, Rumplestiltskin. (Incidentally, for the first time, her choice turned out to be a good thing.) Fear of hurting anyone caused David to keep the fact that he had been lethally injured and now could never leave Neverland from his wife and making her doubly miserable. Fear of facing her past heartbreak made Emma hope that Neal was dead.
This episode was a nice contrast between the two above storylines. The whimsical story of Ariel is a classic twist on a fairy tale that harkens back to the first season’s episodes. It is lighthearted, hopeful, and sweet. Even the Queen seems laughably petty. Meanwhile, the Neverland plot was dark, disturbing, and realistic. The game is getting interesting for Peter Pan, but it is growing wearisome for the other players. The fears that Hook, Snow, David, and Emma express are relatable. Their secrets drive them apart. By the end of the episode, little has actually been accomplished other than making everyone miserable. Fear does that.
One last observation: Peter Pan confronts Rumplestiltskin and presents him with poached eggs, saying “they used to be your favourite.” That is a bit of a strange phrasing. If Peter used to be a childhood or teenage friend of Rumplestiltskin, I would have imagined him to say “you used to love them” or “I remember when you/we always ate these”, or other words to that effect. Knowing that Rumplestiltskin’s favourite food used to be poached eggs and trying to use them as a peace offering or bribe seems to be something someone with a more intimate connection to him, such as an older brother or parent. So, what did happen to Rumplestiltskin’s father?
Season 6, Episode 7 (Like Father, Like Daughter)
Finally, an episode that confronts head-on the new family dynamic for the Castles! I enjoyed a feel-good story that explored the relationship between Castle and Alexis without being overly saccharine or preachy. Both father and daughter are put to the test, put in their places, and put in a position to discuss their futures. As an adult, Alexis is no longer one for road trips and ice cream, but she is still a dutiful and loving daughter. Castle is still her dad, but like all parents, he has to learn where he fits in her adult life. This is especially difficult for him because of how close he and Alexis once were.
In this episode, Alexis takes the place of Beckett when it comes to solving the case of the week, which is proving the innocence of a man on death row awaiting execution in 72 hours. While this is slightly unnerving – especially for Castle – it is nice to see a change of characters once in a while without a drastic change in the formula of the show. We also get to see how much Alexis and Beckett are alike. Hopefully, in the future, they are able to get along as friends.
Furthermore, Beckett finally asks Alexis why she didn’t come to her for help with the case. Obviously, it hurts Beckett that Alexis does not really look at her as anything more than her father’s girlfriend-turned-fiancee, particularly when she and her colleagues could have been particularly helpful. However, on a professional level, the precinct is still her dad’s territory. Alexis is trying to find her own path and not rely on her father’s friends anymore. Was she right? Maybe not, but this was a necessary mistake for her to make.
Overall, this episode was an ordinary Castle episode with the exception that Beckett was relegated to the sidelines and Alexis took her place. It was funny, dramatic, able to be solved by the audience, and a good exploration of character dynamics.
Season 7, Episode 6 (Murdochophobia)
Spiders, why did it have to be spiders?
In what was probably the cruellest death portrayed yet on the show, a woman appears to be frightened to the point of leaping through a second- or third-storey glass-paned window and breaking her neck. When the murder is solved, the actual scene is so terrifying that I could easily imagine myself doing the exact same thing. The poor woman probably thought she was still having a nightmare.
What is worse? That the murderer will likely be acquitted because he “only intended to frighten her” and because he was only acting like a good husband (according to 1901 standards) to protect his marriage. Indeed, there would still be a debate today over whether he intended to kill her.
Phobias are irrational, but they are usually brought on by rational causes. Spiders, snakes, and other poisonous creatures are obvious examples – we are afraid that they might hurt or kill us, and we extrapolate that fear to absurd levels. Threats are exaggerated or invented due to unfortunate circumstances, such as having something associated with a painful memory. Fear of drowning is quite rational, fear of water in general less so, but quite understandable if the said sufferer nearly drowned as a child.
Dr. Ogden is studying phobias and her practice is a significant plot point. Many at the hospital want her to fail because of her being a woman and because psychology/psychiatry is not yet a respected field of study. In fact, the latter is more of an issue, and Dr. Ogden’s gender plays much less of a role than one might have expected in the earlier seasons. The head of the hospital takes Dr. Ogden’s word over that of her colleague. Dr. Ogden is well-respected for her work. I found this to be refreshing, because by now we get that female doctors were a rarity 112 years ago. It was nice to see her struggling a little, but having the struggle be mostly about her actual research. Idealized and unrealistic? Maybe – but far more entertaining and intriguing in the long run.
Finally, Detective Murdoch is put in a situation where Dr. Ogden starts to analyze and treat him for his fear of butterflies. If this does not set their relationship back further, I am not sure what would. He never asked to be treated. Analysing is one thing – she would not be able to help that – but actually trying to cure him? Is she his mother? She already has two strikes against her when it comes to Murdoch, namely that she is more educated and more wealthy and socially-connected than he is. I would have liked Murdoch to get visibly angry with her. Even nowadays, her behaviour would come across as manipulative and belittling. It was especially so in 1901.
But I liked the butterflies – it really was too bad that they focused so much on spiders.