House ‘Two Stories’, Castle ‘Setup’ (plus Fringe, Smallville, Episodes, Spartacus)

These two strong episodes on House and Castle had an annoyance in common – that rather overused device – a dramatic teaser followed by ’36 hours earlier’ or some other flashback.

House broke from the usual collapsing patient of the week to show us the grumpy doctor sitting outside the principal’s office at an elementary school and gradually revealed how he got there. Two Stories was a definite echo of the standout season one episode ‘Three Stories’ where we found out how House sustained his leg injury, and like that one, it began with House telling the story of a patient to a bunch of students, or in this case a fifth grade class.

However, the real story was his problems with Cuddy. She angrily tells him their relationship is off, and we eventually find out it is over seemingly trivial things – not taking out the trash, using her toothbrush and basically not showing care for her or her life. House is genuinely puzzled so does his usual daft thing and steals her laptop to read her journal. He realises she wants to get Rachel into a particular school so volunteers to do a careers day talk. Of course, this being House, he tells an outrageous story that begins hilariously as a shot for shot remake of a Pulp Fiction scene. I loved that!

Meanwhile, he tells this story to a couple of kids who manage to help him address the real issue – what he did to upset his girlfriend and why she was mad. The children are ridiculously perceptive and articulate as only tv kids are.You know in real life they would have given him a ‘whatevaa!!’ and ignored him. Anyway, I liked the change of pace and the humour as we saw the story from his point of view, complete with lecherous Chase/Foreman/Taub hitting on patients and more rip off movie scene.

I like what they are doing with House and Cuddy, showing us a real relationship and a House who really IS making an effort (most of the time) while also being the usual idiot over the little things. Poor Cuddy can’t get to do her yoga or even brush her teeth and it was perfectly believable that it would be an accumulation of the little annoyances that would get to her. There was also a rather nicely satisfying resolution to their problem as House tried to apologise with as much humility as he is capable of, and Cuddy thankfully responded. I don’t want the show to descend into pointless bickering over petty things. House admits to the principal that he needs Cuddy, and even Cuddy admits he might love her. It is still sometimes hard to get what she sees in him though. Yes he is handsome in a scruffy way, but he is a pretty high maintenance boyfriend for a busy, single mother career woman.

While not quite the classic ‘Three Stories’ was, I enjoyed this episode hugely. The show can get a bit stale in the formulaic way most episodes play out. It is the personal relationships that add variety after all these years. Coughing up a lung was pretty gross though!

Meanwhile, over on Castle, the episode opened with Castle and Beckett thrown in a contamination room before we flashed back to a pretty gripping case. This was the first half of a two part story that saw Nathan Petrelli himself, Adrian Pasdar show up as a slightly untrustworthy homeland security agent.

Beckett and the team investigate the murder of a taxi driver who may be a terrorist set to plant a dirty bomb. However, all is not as straightforward as it seems and Beckett and Castle are suspended from the case. Following their own leads, they manage to locate the device before idiotically hiding out in a freezer during a shoot out. Surprise surprise they get locked in as the baddies drive off with the bomb before Castle or Beckett can call for help.

Castle is a fun show largely due to the always charming Nathan Fillion. I’m still struggling with the over glamorization of Stana Katic as Beckett this year. The early-Olivia-Benson look – short hair, leather jackets – has been replaced with fashion editor heels and fancy clothes and she just looks inappropriate as a cop in my opinion. Anyway, the show can walk a fine line between entertaining and silly at times, but the last few episodes have  been pretty good. The long standing mystery of Beckett’s mother’s murder reoccurred recently and while they have backed away from the Castle/Beckett attraction (take note Bones!) they still manage to address it. A recent episode saw a big kiss – but only as a distraction, while in the same episode Castle’s mother almost called him out on it, asking him why he was still following Becket around when he really has all the background he could ever need for his books.

In tonight’s episode, Beckett revealed her doctor boyfriend was heading off overseas to help Doctors Without Borders, something she wasn’t happy about, wondering why she couldn’t find someone to be totally involved in. However, unlike CERTAIN other shows (Booth, Brennan….) it was played in a very restrained way.

On the other hand, that final scene was silly! As soon as they found the bomb they should have called in, and backing into a lockable freezer that undoubtedly has no cell phone coverage – just dumb. Adrian Pasdar always has an air of authority about him, and more importantly for this show, a seriousness. Too often the team are comic foils, so it was good to see a meaty case. Looking forward to the resolution.

Quickies

Episodes finished this week after a seven week run. I am still not sure how consistently funny it was, but intermittently it worked. I still giggle at Tamsin Greig hooking up with Matt LeBlanc.

Last week’s Fringe was so X Files, I almost expected Skinner and Scully to show up. Interestingly, our Walter seems to be getting a bit meaner – more Walternate-y! Olivia dragged Peter off to bed by episodes end, so what will he do when he finds out about Fauxlivia’s pregnancy? (HOW will he find out?)

Smallville addressed the Clark Kent/Superman identity issue by having Clark say he IS the Blur and Clark Kent will have to become his assumed identity. Yes, the glasses were back and even a slightly more diffident air. But are we really going to end the series with him still calling himself the Blur? Hardly a Super name? I did like Lois attaching a hoodie to his new red leather jacket and suggesting hairpins to keep it on.

Spartacus: Gods of the Arena aired episode 5 – just one left – and we finally got a few meaningful deaths. Melitta and Titus were poisoned by Lucretia (poor Melitta by accident mind you) as she revealed what some of us had suspected for a while – that she had been lacing her hateful father-in-law’s honeyed wine with something not so sweet for a while. The evil Tullius had sent over a gift of wine, a sort of ‘sorry I committed murder at your party’ apology, which Lucretia saw as an opportunity. Knock off the old man and pin it on the bastard who bashed in her friend’s head. Win-win! Gannicus, who had totally fallen for Melitta had earlier purposely lost a fight against Crixus, who we also saw being put into service by Lucretia after more jibes about her lack of baby production. Erm, I know the show pretty much ignores racial issues, but wouldn’t a baby who looked like Crixus be a bit of a give-away that Batiatus wasn’t the daddy? Just saying..

Lucy Lawless was phenomenal (as she always is, but especially so here) as she gradually revealed her motives to Titus. I just so wanted her to go all Xena on him though – a slap or two, chakram to the skull, the pinch..’I’ve just cut off the flow of blood to your brain, you’ll be dead in 30 seconds.’ Ah, if only.