As I was trying to condense my thoughts on Tuesday’s Teen Wolf into a tweet, I realized they weren’t terribly positive thoughts. Because let’s be real, this week’s episode was basically 44 minutes of nothing happening. Or at least 44 minutes of nothing happening that moved the story beyond a point we already knew existed because we saw it in an ill-advised flash forward weeks ago.
Which raises the question: At what point do you give up on a show and stop watching it?
I’ve learned over my lifetime of TV watching that a show has to do two things to make me leave:
- Give me stories that I hate.
- Ruin or underuse characters I love to the point that they can’t make up for the stories that I hate.
Teen Wolf, while I haven’t been wild about the stories or the telling of them in the past two years, hasn’t done both of those yet. Sadly, ABC’s Castle has.
I watched the premiere of Castle this year, and that was enough. I was done. Coincidentally, I had the same reaction four years ago, and for essentially the same reason: Too many secrets (shoutout to Sneakers). Then, I couldn’t stand Beckett’s secret about remembering Castle’s declaration of love or Castle’s secret search to find her shooter while urging her to give it up. And now season 8’s here and I have zero patience for whatever shady-ass thing Beckett’s doing and lying to everyone about.
I just don’t care. But what’s the difference between then, when I reluctantly got sucked back in by January and now when January’s come and gone and I still haven’t watched an episode of Castle since Sept. 21?
Ryan and Esposito.
I came back on the promise of a Ryan wedding episode, and while that’s not actually what we got, it was still hilarious. They were great, Castle and Beckett were on point, and it was followed up with a series of the quirky episodes Castle does best. So I was back in. I even really got to like Castle and Beckett again, and — Moonlighting curse be damned — their relationship really worked for the show, I thought. So I hung in there as they kept it from everyone. I hung in there while obstacle after ridiculous obstacle was thrown their way. I hung in there when Castle was presumed dead for a little while but was really part of a secret government plan to do something I don’t remember, and then when he decided he should be New York’s most ridiculous PI.
And I did it because I loved the characters again. But all the while, I could see things I loved slipping away. Sure, Castle and Beckett were all right. But, excepting for a handful of episodes, Ryan and Esposito were slowly being deconstructed into unrecognizable characters with go-nowhere arcs.
Esposito became a giant jerk, with zero trust in Castle and always willing to blame him for everything that goes wrong, and Ryan followed right along in the trust department. What’s more, is as the latter half of the series progressed, they didn’t even really seem to like him. All of their interactions were “Oh, you want help? We want courtside tickets to this game. We want to drive your fancy car, we want you to be our rich lap dog,” and while there’s always been a little bit of envy over Castle’s wealth and toys, it had never seemed as unfriendly as it had in season 7. They didn’t seem to like Castle. They tolerated him. (Ironically, that’s kind of how I started to feel about the show around this point.)
What’s more, even attempts to give Ryan an arc (because let’s face it, Esposito rarely gets to do anything but stand there and look surly), failed spectacularly. In season 6, the Ryan baby was born. I actually really liked the episode (6.11 Under Fire), because it was very much a “teammates in peril” episode, and those are my jam. And I was hopeful for future episodes, especially after spoiler sites started talking about a story line where Ryan wasn’t sure he could keep putting his life in danger every day as a cop when he had a little baby at home.
But that story never came to pass. Between 6.11 and 8.01, we’d seen one picture of Sarah Grace, and her affect on the story amounted to Ryan freaking out not about the present, but about having the money to send her to college nearly two decades from now. It wasn’t good for the character, and it really wasn’t good for the story.
Because sure, that fear led to a few fun moments and one good episode, but it didn’t feel organic. It was weak manufactured drama that felt like weak manufactured drama. And when season 8 revealed the pending Ryan Baby No. 2…I couldn’t be bothered to care. Why should I believe the show can build a good, emotional arc around a second baby for a supporting character, when it couldn’t build one for the first baby, let alone build a satisfying story for its titular character?
In short, I don’t believe in Castle anymore. And rather than keep watching so I can complain about it week after week after week, I quit watching it. I’m not to that point with Teen Wolf yet. Sure, I’ve got my complaints, but the show has yet to ruin Stilinski, Melissa and Argent. It survived a friendship fallout between Scott and Stiles. It’s trying really hard to tie itself to better seasons.
And I really hope it succeeds.
I guess if you want to boil everything down, hope is why I keep watching shows and why I quit watching them. As long as I have hope that something will stay good or get better, I’ll be all in. I know that’s a pretty broad parameter, but it seems to be working.
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