The Catch Wraps Up And Shakes Things Up
There's a wedding, an almost-wedding, and a painting someone should have dealt with earlier, OBVIOUSLY, ALICE, JEEZ.
Tonight's double-episode finale put a wrap on the first season of The Catch, the sexy heist show for which people were only sort of clamoring. This show was marketed as some kind of emotional and metaphorical jiujitsu match between Alice and Ben, where control shifted back and forth from week to week: she'd cede a bit of her heart and a measure of her trust, but rock things back in her direction by, say, keeping the item he needed for his con. It was a cat-and-mouse game, and eventually, one of them would have to win. So where are we now, and who has the power as the season draws to a close?
Definitely not Alice, despite what she said while pointing her gun at Rhys in the Disney Concert Hall roof garden. Alice ends the season in handcuffs, with her life literally in shambles: the FBI has raided her house and the agency's offices, thrown her stuff everywhere, connected her with the painting Ben stole and hung in her bedroom and which she kept (we'll get to that in a minute), and arrested her on a perfectly good warrant. She has her friends' loyalty and Ben's love, and that's about it. For a protagonist and a person who repeatedly declared herself in charge of the situation, Alice Vaughan is a disaster. This might be a problem; there's no indication that this show is Chinatown, and the assumption is that we're rooting for Alice, despite whatever frontal-lobe brain worm she has that prevents her from doing any actual investigative work or making reasonable choices. Obviously, she can't get everything she wants by season's end (though the finale was almost certainly long written by the time the show was renewed, making this kind of ending risky), but the fact that her stated expectations are so different from what happened, and that nobody called that out, seems worrisome. Are we supposed to believe in Alice or not?
Ben's not doing much better. He ends the season by turning himself in and confessing to stealing the painting, assuming the authorities will believe him and let Alice go. To be fair, imminent jail time aside, things could be worse for him. In a sense, he's playing a different game from everybody else--he doesn't really want any power and never has, at least in the time period covered here. He isn't interested in maintaining his position with the Firm or keeping up the con-artist life (as an independent con-tractor?). He just wants to leave his life of crime behind and be with Alice. Incidentally, that makes him an awkward wrestling opponent for Alice and a weird structural element within the show; she keeps saucily telling him she 's in control, and he doesn't try to contradict her. Which is either terrible jiujitsu or really great jiujitsu, depending.
If anybody ends this season with actual power, it's Margot, but even that feels half-baked. Obviously Margot wants authority and responsibility, and as the new head of the Kensington Firm, she has it -- but not because she spent all season working an elaborate scheme to take over from her mother, which would be a great way for her to end the season and ascend to greatness. Ultimately, she was just better than her ne'er-do-well brother, and Sybil (Lesley Nicol) realized she'd made a mistake naming him in the first place. Isn't Margot a little embarrassed? Sure, she deserved the job all along, but all she did was make a phone call reporting a legitimate crime. That's got to hurt.
On a different show, all these thwarted power dynamics might form some kind of thesis, but I don't believe that's what's happening here, and I think a refocusing might be in order. Power-wise, this show isn't about Alice and Ben; it's about Alice and Margot, the two people linked by Ben. In this case, they split the difference: Alice got the guy, but Margot probably put him in jail. The worst thing is, a confrontation between the two has been brewing all season -- and then it never happened, unless you count two seconds with a gun at the currency exchange. That's a huge waste of an opportunity and of two terrific actors.
All of these things considered, one thing that's as steady as the L.A. sun? Alice and Ben remain terrible at their jobs. I mean, BEN. You have taken on the identity of a gay wedding planner who is madly in love with his partner in both business and life. I know it's hard to understand, but I'm going to need you to put your con-man brain to work and follow me, here: this is not the time! This is not the time to make out with your lady in full view of hundreds of wedding guests, the couple who hired you, and the crime syndicate you're working for but trying to escape! What are you doing? Is it possible that Alice's brain worm is spread through kissing?
Speaking of Alice and lack of cognition: I thought the painting would show up again in some cool, fraught-with-meaning season-ending heist, maybe to return it to the museum. So imagine how satisfying it was when...oh, wait. None of that happened. Alice kept the painting, because she's Alice, and then she got in trouble. The end. Her excuse? "I was going to put it back when I figured out how." It's comforting to know that whatever changes on this show, Alice will never think anything through, or use any of the sneaking-around skills we're told she has in any successful way. Sunrise, sunset, Alice is not good at this.
The Catch has been renewed for a second season. Despite evidence to the contrary, I still think this show has the potential to be good, or fun, or both, and a long hiatus (it'll come back next winter) might be just what the team behind it needs to...what's the term? Right: make a better show. With any luck, the first order of business would be deciding what tone they're going for and figuring out how to nail it. Are they trying to be a smart and sexy heist show? Off the top of my head, they should speed everything up, make everybody thirty to sixty percent smarter, and convince the network to spring for a few more of those expensive heist scenes. Are they trying for light and fizzy? They should, I don't know, write some jokes? If they can do both well, they should. Whatever they're doing now, they should consider it very carefully and probably stop doing a lot of it.
What this show does have on its side is onscreen talent. Mireille Enos clearly has more in her than we're seeing here, Peter Krause does that mushy happy twinkly face so well, and they genuinely have terrific chemistry when they're onscreen together. (Incidentally, it's also nice to see sexy middle-aged people allowed to be sexy and middle-aged together; Mireille Enos is only five years younger than Peter Krause. Obviously, they both look great.) Sonya Walger and Rose Rollins are also doing terrific work, even when the material isn't great -- just think of what they could do on a show that gave them more to work with. Hope springs eternal, at least for one more season.