“The Package,” the last episode of The Catch before next week’s two-part finale, has trouble coming together like a, well, complete package. It’s clunky and uneven. There’s some decent character work in there, but it gets overshadowed by the elaborate plot workings. If the episode is meant to build momentum for the finale next week, it falls very short of that goal. Broken down into small pieces, there are some individual scenes and moments in “The Package” that work quite well. But there’s a structural deficiency that prevents it all from coming together.

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The Catch consistently struggles when it comes to the cases Alice and Val take on week-to-week. Some of the better cases have been the ones that eventually brush shoulders with the rest of the show’s narrative web. It’s the purely self-contained subplots that fail to take off, and the writers just haven’t seemed to find the right formula for making these work. This week, Alice and Val help out Kelsey, a friend of Sophie’s who finds herself caught up in contractual bullshit when her label refuses to release the album she has recorded with superproducer Nathan Ashmore. Nathan turns out to be a skeezy liar, as men often do on this show, who filmed secret sex tapes of his artists without their permission as a marketing ploy. He drops the sex tape when he drops the album, ensuring that all eyes will be on the artist. It’s a chilling story about how women in the music industry are manipulated and devalued in the name of selling albums, but the whole time I was watching, I couldn’t help but think just how much deeper the story would go had it been featured as a case of the week on The Good Wife. The Catch writers, like the writers room for the late CBS legal drama, are very good at putting an incisive edge to their cases. They’re not afraid to have their opinions come through. But The Good Wife always had finesse and complexity with its more political and acute storytelling. The Catch fumbles, merely scratching the surface of the issue. It fails to really ground the issue in compelling character work.

Even worse is the fact that subplot is strangely a vehicle for more relationship “development” between Danny and Sophie, which is hands down the worst part of The Catch’s first season. No disrespect to either Jay Hayden or Elvy Yost. Both are doing the best with what they’ve got, and Yost in particular brings a breezy charm to her character. But the writers have failed to make either character interesting at all, especially since they really only exist within the confines of this weak, drawn-out love story. Tonight, we find out Sophie is secretly a great singer, but even that just unfolds as a way for Danny to fall deeper into his crush on her. If that final moment where he opens the video of her singing, despite the fact that she adamantly tells him she doesn’t want to show him such videos, is meant to be romantic, it does not succeed. Danny is increasingly petulant, and his particular brand of longing for Sophie just doesn’t have the depth or allure of Ben’s complicated longing for Alice. The Danny and Sophie flirtations just seem so trite and lifeless on a show that generally is great at depicting complicated, dynamic relationships.

It’s a shame that the writers can’t really seem to figure out how to plug fully realized and engaging characters in its cases of the week, because the best corners of The Catch’s universe really thrive because of the characters. Some of The Catch’s plotting can be very contrived, but it’s buoyed by the characters and relationships. Specifically, Rhys and Margot’s sibling rivalry has emerged as one of the best parts of the show over the past couple episodes. Margot’s mostly working from the sidelines in tonight’s episode—except when she’s moonlighting as Alice’s therapist—but like Rhys did last episode, she actually emerges as the surprise champion in their ongoing game of high-stakes chess. Rhys introduces the latest heist pretty late in the episode, which contributes to the wobbly pacing, but the ultimate payoff is great, especially since Margot does essentially the exact same thing he did last week, coyly outsmarting him and making a major power play. Nia Vardalos (!) guest stars as Leah Wells, a master counterfeiter attempting to make a deal with the feds in exchange for testifying against her former boss Jordan Hamlin. Rhys sloppily attempts to use her love for her dog Paul McCartney to pressure her into striking a deal with them instead, but it’s Margot who effectively nabs Wells. The way Rhys and Margot talk about their sibling rivalry as if it’s a playground skirmish cashes in on the exact kind of soapy fun I want from The Catch. Rhys threatens to tell their mummy that Margot stole from her, and the more Kensington family members involved in next week’s finale, the better. Particularly because Sonya Walger and John Simm are giving the most exciting and playful performances on the show, every time they’re on screen, things just come together, making The Catch feel like the bouncy caper it strives to be. Both characters are behind the most fun-to-watch parts of “The Package.”

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“The Package” also throws Margot and Alice into the same room for the first time, with Margot posing as Alice’s new therapist. That reveal from last week remains the best executed twist on The Catch, as improbable as it may be. These scenes touch on some very real and intricate emotions both women have toward Ben, but the writing is so broad and clunky that they don’t quite hit with as much force as they should. Walger and Mireille manage to save it a bit, both giving performances that manage to add some nuance and life to the scenes. But the flashbacks are unnecessary. The idea that Ben was playing both Alice and Margot at the same time, that both have been hurt by his betrayal, and that both are somehow trying to reconcile their feelings for him with the fact that they’re also two independent bad-ass bosses is an interesting idea for the show to play with. Neither one wants to believe they could have been fooled by him, and they’re both trying to make sense of how to move forward. But their scenes together are just a little too heavy-handed about those parallels, coming at it so forcefully that it ends up diluting the point. I had high expectations for these scenes because of how commanding both characters usually are and how magnetic both actors are, too. But while they do briefly reach the kind of juicy tension they warrant, these therapy scenes just ultimately don’t add enough of an emotional backbone to the episode.

“The Package” ultimately suffers from a lack of focus. There are some fun—and even some emotionally meaningful—bits in there, but it just takes on too much and doesn’t give any of it the space to breathe. And despite a bunch of things going on at once, in the end, it doesn’t even seem like much has happened. Well, one major story and character moment does emerge at the last second. Ben decides he does choose Alice after all. He shows up at her apartment with Dao, promising to help them take down the Kensington family. The most effective part of “The Package” is how it builds to Ben’s decision. There’s a sense throughout that he’s trying his best to handle the whole situation in a way that keeps Alice out of danger. He concocts a plan to get both Rhys and Margot as far away as possible, but he fails. They see right through him. They know about Alice, after all. The events of “The Package” believably push Ben over the edge, finally convincing him to join forces with Dao. He’s playing a new game. The Catch likes to change up the rules as much as a toddler just trying to win Candyland. Those narrative switches can be fun, but The Catch has to have the character development to back it up. Really, it’s the character dynamics of The Catch that shine much brighter than all the heists and cons. And the writers are still trying to find the right balance between all the intricate plotting and the more emotional parts of its characters’ arcs. Let’s just hope that the finale brings more energy and excitement than ”The Package” does.

Stray observations

  • ABC renewed The Catch for a second season today. But ABC also cancelled Agent Carter, so ABC is dead to me.
  • Ringo Starr apparently owes Rhys a favor.
  • Reggie and Rhys’s banter is pretty fun.
  • Val and Dao have so much palpable chemistry that maybe they’re part of why the energy between Danny and Sophie feels so dead. I love that Alice can even pick up on it, but I don’t love that Val’s lying to her! I still wish there was more of a focus on their friendship in the show. That’s definitely at the top of my season-two wishlist.

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