Thursday, October 8, 2015

Castle: PhDead

by Michael Seese

OK, so it wasn't what I thought it would be. At the end of "XX," I thought Beckett was going underground, and in my review opined about "Caskett On The Run." Instead, she was just moving out of the apartment in order to protect Castle & family.

And in an obvious effort to lighten the tone from the previous two installments, "PhDead" was a really funny episode. I loved the subtle humor in the imagery of the dozen or so arrows stuck in the door frame, as Castle practiced his archery. 

We also FINALLY got "lividity" from Lanie. Of course, the first two shows this season didn't have "found" bodies, so there wasn't the opportunity.

I nearly ran out of room writing down the lines.

Great concept: The CDRK, aka, the Castle Depression Rescue Kit which, per Alexis, contained "video games, Sumatra coffee beans, enhanced Blu-Rays of the original Twilight Zone, and this..."
Martha: "9 Woof Woof?"
Alexis: "Puppies at your doorstep in 30 minutes or less."

Castle: "I can't recall if I saw things other than a body with a gruesome wound."

Scott Powell: "You didn't really think you could Jump Street the prime suspect, did you? Your partner is growing ear hairs right before my eyes."

(I had to cite the IMDB entry for the show, since it was MUCH better than the movie.)

Castle: "You, in the printed non-ironic tee, beside the too-friendly blonde."

Alexis: "I'm getting fitted for an iron lung in the morning."

In the bondage room...
(Castle's look)
Alexis: "What? I read 50 Shades, and so did Peter."
Castle: "I'd say this is less 50 Shades, and more Fatal Attraction."

Castle (over the walkie-talkie): "In your face, Frankenstein."
(Beckett's look.)
Ryan: "We can explain."
Beckett: "I ask one thing of you guys."

Quick aside: Maybe things have changed since I went to college, but Halloween didn't last a month back then.

Frankenstein: "You're pretty hot for a cop."
Beckett: "I have a gun."

Castle: "You're indoors and it's dark. Take off the sunglasses. You look stupid."

Castle: "When you say it in that tone, I sound like a bad parent."

A few nitpicks (with a SPOILER) thrown in:

- Regarding Beckett, Castle was being a baby. (Much like a few seasons back, when Beckett decided to move to DC, and he thought it would be the end of them.) I get the whole "we're a team" thing. But she's not talking about separating; she's talking about protecting,

- Castle was far too easily rattled by Scott Powell. Richard Castle is a multi-millionaire, best-selling author who has faced death many times, and he lets a 20-year-old punk dress him down? I DON'T THINK SO.

- Likewise, the initial prison scene had a few issues. Let's see, Castle and Alexis find a prison in the middle of Midtown, staffed by obviously young people. One takes his wallet and phone and shoves him into a cell. And Castle lets him? And the "guard" didn't think, "You sure don't look like a student." Not too mention, Professor Lillstrom was video monitoring it all; she didn't see it?

- You mean to tell me that Emily, an emotionally broken 110-pound girl, threw a man onto the tree branch with enough force to impale him? Uh-huh.

Still, the above were not so egregious as to tank the whole episode.

What did you think about "PhDead?"

Monday, October 5, 2015

Castle: XX

by Michael Seese

The second part of the Castle season opener, "XX," played out pretty much as I figured it would, albeit with a few twist, otherwise known as ...



I thought the way they wove in the backstory of what happened the day of XY -- with Rita saying, "Tell me what went down" --  was a neat idea. And I thought it was a really cool technique to move the camera out into the alley next to the theater and hear the gunshots -- and Beckett's grunt -- through the closed doors. Unfortunately, I missed a detail or two in the laundromat scene, as I had to close my eyes while Beckett was sewing herself up. (Yes, my wife told me I was a sissy.)

Quick aside: I liked Ann Cusack in this role. I didn't even know there was another acting Cusack.

So the first twist was Bracken winding up dead. I guess they figured the character had pretty much done all he could.

The second twist -- which disappointed me somewhat --  was Beckett's decision to leave at the end. Yeah, I get her whole "fight for justice and truth" attitude. But Rita was right. She now has other important people in her life, and the "suicide" gave her the out she needed to walk away. Though I have to say, I will be curious as to exactly how "Caskett On The Run" will play out.

A final note: I enjoyed the goodbye exchange between Alexis and Hayley. I could see her coming back every now and again. (And I STILL could see her and Esposito having a relationship.)

Not a lot of lines, but a few:

Vikram's comment that he didn't expect to be "hunted for sport by the Zero Dark 30 all stars."

Rita: "Oh god, no. I work for a different three-letter agency."

Castle: "OK, so did you guys get lost? Or were you waiting for the last possible second to save us?"
Esposito: "We were distracted in there. You've got a fully stocked bar, satellite TV."
Ryan: "We ordered some sushi on your credit card, so I hope you don't mind."

That's about it. Feel free to share your thoughts on "XX."

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Flash! Friday: Events Triggered & Collections

by Michael Seese

For this week's Flash! Friday, the novel prompt was Macbeth. So of course, my story HAD to feature a death, or two.  In case you'd forgotten all the details of the Bard's classic tale of treachery, here are the elements we had to incorporate.

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific, even though pretty much all the women in this play DIE)
* Character (choose at least one): an ambitious general, an overly ambitious wife, a soothsayer, a doomed king, a drunk porter
* Theme (choose one): ambition, dangers of power, fate vs free will
* Setting (choose one): a battlefield; a castle; a cavern; a mysterious forest

Here is the photo we could have used. 

I came up with the idea for the second one below first. But I knew it would be more metaphorical. (Or maybe it's allegorical.) And I wanted a concrete, straightforward story as well. That led to "Events Triggered"

It wasn't supposed to end like this. Of course, when naïveté and firearms are thrown together, things rarely go as planned.

For years, my husband begged me to come along on a hunting trip, despite my professed incompetence – no, clumsiness – with guns. Finally I tired of the badgering and relented.

He decided I should learn "in the field," rather than on a shooting range. He tried to coach me, to reassure me. But my hands wouldn't stop shaking. The second I pulled the trigger, we both realized this whole thing had been one big mistake.

Screaming for help was no use. Couldn't call 911, either. Zero bars.

Then the other hunter stumbled upon us. He saw my husband lying there, bleeding. "Let me get help," he said, pulling out a satellite phone. The bullet between his eyes made me a double murderer. I hated taking an innocent, but he would have ruined my plan, my perfect plan. I should be living the life of a rich widow now. No, it wasn't supposed to end like this.

"Does the condemned have any other last words?" the warden asked.

"Yes," I said. "Please tell your executioners to hit my heart. Quick deaths are so much more humane."

Since the scene with the drunken porter is one of my favorites, I tried to think about how to base a story on him. I started with the first stanza you see below. Then while cooking dinner, I brain-wrote the rest of "Collections."

Knock, knock, knock! Who's there,
i' the name of Beelzebub?

I rehearse my favorite Shakespearean line as I push my luck down the street in a rickety shopping cart. The daily migration of empty human casing scurrying through life circumnavigates around me. Insanity, I have found, is a comforting buffer against humanity.

I derive a certain twisted amusement from watching them, and contemplating the inherent irony in knowing that they prefer their lives, their demons over mine. The devil you know, I suppose.

I collect whatever tickles my fancy. One man's trash is another man's pleasure. Into my cart go the unpunished good deed. The occasional good intention, which comes in handy, as my road desperately needs paving.

And souls. The people in this city rarely use them, and won’t miss them.

Until Judgment Day.

But by then, it will be too late.

Knock, knock! Who's there, in the other
devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator...

Faith is a funny thing. People ignore it, then manage to lose it, like spare change in the couch cushions. They vow to find it. Some day. But the devil is in the details.

And walking down the street in their midst.

So which is your favorite play by Shakespeare?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Castle: XY

by Michael Seese

After a summer of reruns, Caskett is back. Well... sort of, as


they weren't really much of a team in the season opener XY because Kate is on the run from bad guys and her friends, not to mention (ostensibly) the entire NYPD.

The show starts with a murder, up close and personal. (Word to the wise, guys: if a woman you've never met crawls into your lap and start kissing you... RUN!) Then on to a scene of domestic bliss at the Castle residence, where we learn she is now Captain Beckett. She goes to work, he stays at home, and then the sh!t hits the fan. (Or is that the blood and bracelet hit the floor?) We then follow Castle as he tries to track down his beloved, putting himself into harm's way several times over, before a hazy reunion at the end. We are left with the setup of a bang-bang beginning to the second part ("XX") as we see a gang of armed men storming Beckett's (no longer) safe house.

What will happen?

Prediction: she doesn't die.

Real prediction: she was enlisted by the FBI to help ferret out an evil insider; they needed her, because she had been trusted and now was the cliched "one person we can trust."

Lighter prediction: I see a future romance between Esposito and Hayley Vargas.

We shall see.

A couple of noteworthy scenes.

I loved the BS routine that Alexis fed the paramedic in order to get him to review the tape with her.

If I may say "loved" again, I loved that Esposito and Ryan updated the child's game to "Knife, Gun, Kevlar."

And finally, kudos to Espo for not just kicking in the door, but knocking it down.

Considering it was a darker episode (of course, any episode with Bracken immediately takes on a midnight hue) I thought there was a lot of humor.

Castle: "What am I going to do, sit outside your office and fetch you coffee?"
Beckett: "Yeah, you're great at fetching. I've trained you well."

Castle: "You've closed four cases? That's more than I have."
Alexis: "I know. Step up your game."

Castle: "You're going to call off your dogs, right now."
Bracken: "Or what? You going to write something mean about me?"
Castle: "I'm going to start a scholarship in your name and offer it to the children of the first inmate who shanks you in the prison laundry."

Assassin (yes, that's how the character is listed in IMDB): "Your earlier stuff was better. You got soft once you met the skirt."
Castle: "Everyone's a critic."

So what did you think of XY? And what do you think will happen in XX? (Please answer within the next 120 minutes.)

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Janet Flash: The Scarecrow

by Michael Seese

A quick hitter here, before I go cook dinner. This weekend was another Janet 100-word contest. Our five keywords were:


From them, while Cub Scout camping with my sons, came "The Scarecrow."

The Scarecrow had it coming.

Beginning when I was around six, I'd see him there. Outside my window. At night. Spying on me.

He'd whisper, "Sssh. Our secret." Then he'd climb in, cross my room, and go out my door. He probably left the same way. I'd be asleep by then, though.

One night, a bit after he came by, I heard a loud bang. Weapons fire? Probably just a dream, I mumbled. The next morning, my sister was gone. Dad said she'd be going to a "special school" for a while. I never saw the Scarecrow again.

In hindsight, I wish to integrate the word "weapon," I had said something like, "Weapons fire! Hold your ground, men! Dreaming..."

Oh, well.

Coming next, a review of the Castle season opener.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Two More For Flash! Friday

by Michael Seese

After last week's sad story, Cry The Beloved Country, we were given a lighter tome this week.

Douglas Adams’ wacky scifi classic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which the rather ordinary but not overly eager to be annihilated human Arthur Dent is swept away on galactic adventures. The prompts to work with were:

* Conflict: man v man (not gender or species specific)
* Character (choose at least one): an ordinary person swept away on an epic adventure; a depressed robot; the worst poet in the universe; a charismatic hedonistic narcissist; a professional hitchhiker
* Theme (choose one): satire, foolishness, science, adventure, miscommunication
* Setting (choose one): a house about to be bulldozed; a spaceship; an odd restaurant

And this photo, should we choose to:

I immediately picked up on the depressed robot, and came up with "If I Only Had A Heart." 

I'd be friends with the sparrows
And the boy who shoots the arrows
If I only had a heart 

I identify completely with the Tin Man.

How cruel an existence. An eternity encased within a metal shell, condemned to wistfully witnessing sunrise after sunrise after sunrise, yet never actually feeling the warmth of the orange orb's glow.

For more than half a century, I've watched a parade of handlers arrive young and depart old. I, in contrast, remain stationary, fixed and, in many regards, a fixture.

Mr. Ryle coined the phrase the "ghost in the machine" as a criticism of Descartes' dualist belief that the mind and body were distinct entities. Indeed they are. I see it. But they do not.

So when the doctors walk in and say, "Good morning, Ms. Middleton. Sixty years and counting," I smile and let them hold onto their delusions, as if a lifetime spent "living" in an iron lung is somehow a blessing. 

For reference, I looked up Iron Lung in Wikipedia and found

On October 30, 2009, June Middleton of Melbourne, Australia, who had been entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the person who spent the longest time in an iron lung, died aged 83, having spent more than 60 years in her iron lung.

Then, I thought I'd try something with the restaurant, and wrote "The Restaurant At The End..."

Even despair comes here to die.

Is there any place on Earth more devoid of life than a diner on the barren road between emptiness and nowhere?

Lonely patrons stirring their coffee in absentia, a perfect metaphor for lives going nowhere but in circles. A decrepit jukebox that plays only "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and the entire Elliott Smith catalog. Food so bad even the flies say, "Let's try the next one." Outside, a neon sign humming and flickering under a sweltering welkin, seemingly trying to decide if it wants to die.

So back to my original question.

Is there any place on Earth more devoid of life than a diner on the barren road between emptiness and nowhere?


I work there, at a government-sponsored suicide cafe. And each time I serve up Kevorkian Cocktail and watch a relieved customer down it in one gulp, I wish I could find the strength to order one for myself.

There is also a Janet Reid contest today, and I've got a Cub Scout event. So I'd better get cracking.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Flash! Friday: Judgment and The Shepherd

by Michael Seese

I'm pretty happy with my duo of Flash Friday entries.

This week, our task was to capture Alan Paton’s "profoundly moving exploration of pre-apartheid Johannesburg," Cry, the Beloved Country. The story elements were:

* Conflict: man v man (not gender specific)
* Character (choose at least one): old priest fighting to hold on to tradition, father searching for his son, young man accused of murder, a civil rights activist, a pregnant girl
* Theme (choose one): reconciliation, racism, injustice, repentance
* Setting (choose one): a decaying village, a wealthy city in moral decline

As an aside, Cry, the Beloved Country was one of two books that I was assigned to read in high school, and simply could not finish. The other was I Heard The Owl Call My Name. Please don't tell Mrs. Brunswick, my tenth-grade English teacher.

We also could work with this picture. I didn't.


In the shower, I wrote about 75% of "Judgment."

I think he saw it in my face. Real pain and real fear are hard to fake.

"Who did this to you, Charlotte?"

I cradled my belly, good practice, I figured, and wiped my eye. "It was my Daddy."

"That son of a bitch," he said, angry as a lawman and angry as a parent. "Tell me what happened. Without going into the... ugly details."

"Since Momma died, he's pretty much always drunk. And he's a mean drunk. It started with yelling. Then the back of his hand. Then fists. And then..."

"Looks like I've got some work to do. You got anywhere else to go?


"Then stay here."

"Sheriff, he sleeps with his shotgun next him. Right in the bed. I thought you'd best know that."

"Thanks, Charlotte. Andy, you'd better come with me. And wear your vest."

I'd have to stop at the church later, and 'fess up to telling a lie. It wasn't all a lie. Just the part about who got me pregnant. But things happen for a reason. My Daddy is a real bastard. So now the Sheriff has an excuse. And me and Andy, and our baby, will have a place to live.

Then at lunch, "The Shepherd."

"Repent, evil sinners! Repent or face the wrath of the Almighty!" Froth flew as the Reverend delivered his vitriol. Shades ranging from crimson to magenta washed across his flushed face.

"I know you are full of sin. I know you are carrying lust in your heathen hearts. I know you fornicate!"

The assembled eyes averted, as his icy stare bore holes through their alibis. The Reverend could tell he was reaching them. Perhaps this would be the sermon that turns the tide. They really are sheep, he thought. Modern distractions – their Internet, their cell phones, their social media – have drawn them to the far and fearful corners of the meadow. And it is my mission to lead them back to the safety of the flock.

"You have strayed. You have sinned. But God loves you. And I love you as well."

"Shut up, you psycho!" someone yelled, as he disconnected his call to 911.

Taken aback, the Reverend knelt down on the cold steel of a manhole cover. And the "congregation" went about their business, paying no attention whatsoever as the police escorted the Reverend away from his street corner pulpit.

Say it with me. "Win #5! Win #5!"