The Catch

The Catch ended its first season with a two-part finale, but at no point does it ever really deserve to be that long. “The Happy Couple,” more or less, sets everything up, while “The Wedding” knocks it all down, but even though the story twists and turns with betrayals and more mind games, the stakes are confusingly low and everything’s pretty easy to see coming. The cliffhanger, at least, manages to be an emotionally resonant character moment, but both episodes are more style than substance, suggesting The Catch writers still haven’t fully figured out how to balance soapy storytelling with strong character writing.

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In some ways, The Catch needed the two hours to get through all the story that has been set up this season. There are a lot of characters at this point, and the finale adds some, including the Kensington matriarch (Lesley Nicol), her silent henchman Jameson (Nick Hounslow) and the latest Kensington marks, a happy couple played by Zachary Knighton and Sally Presson. The wedding heist and Ben’s new pledge of allegiance to the FBI and AVI stirs up many conversations on love and relationships throughout both episodes.

The conversations about love and marriage between Rhys, Ben, Morgan, and Stephanie don’t add much and go on for way too long. The themes come through much more effectively in a scene between Val and Alice, when Val points out that even though she doesn’t trust Ben, they have no real way of knowing whether he’ll hurt her or not. It all plays into The Catch’s trust-no-one philosophy, but there’s also some truth to it. Every relationship brings significant risk. Becoming open and vulnerable with someone else is a scary thing. Of course, the fact that Ben’s a con man with an everlasting love for cons makes him a riskier romantic partner than most. But I thought the emotions and sentiment of Val’s words still landed well. Scenes between Val and Alice are always too short. That’s where The Catch should have really taken advantage of the extra air time. Of all the relationships on the show, Val and Alice’s is one of the most compelling. It’s a relationship that’s built to last.

Thankfully, Val finally gets to play a more active role in the story. She finally exists outside of the office and her bed, and her holding a gun to Margot’s head is one of the most genuinely exciting moments of the episode. I love that it’s Val and not Ben who saves Alice from Margot. There’s an interesting theme of friendship and family throughout the finale that in some ways resonates more than all the romantic relationship stuff. Ben and Rhys have a friendship almost as sturdy as Val and Alice’s. Reggie’s betrayal genuinely hurts Ben. Margot and Rhys both have classic mommy issues that are only exacerbated by how high-stakes their family drama is.

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The finale’s sense of humor, at least, is on point. The Catch’s ebullient tone sets it apart from the rest of Shondaland’s lineup, which is quite dark and heavy these days. Part of what saves The Catch from being too silly is the sense that the writers know exactly what kind of show they’re making. There’s a self-awareness there. The show never takes itself too seriously. That doesn’t excuse the occassionally abysmal dialogue, but it does let the show have a lot of fun with some of the more over-the-top plot details and characters. Nicol is unsurprisingly wonderful as the terrifying Cybil Kensington, who brings a hearty dose of British congeniality to her gangster ways. She’s a broadly written character, but she works well, adding even more tension and tangled knots to the sibling rivalry between Margot and Rhys—one of the best sources of drama this season. Nia Vardalos returns as master counterfeiter Leah Wells, also supplying a lot of the episode’s funniest moments. Leah’s involvement in the finale suggests the character might be a bigger player next season. I’m not so interested in the heavily foreshadowed romantic storyline between her and Reggie, but Vardalos brings a spark to Leah that makes her as fun to watch as Walger’s performance as Margot.

But all the finale’s problems really just boil down to the fact that all the characters are kind of acting like idiots. For supposed professionals, none of these people are particularly good at their jobs—on the good side or the bad. Margot overtakes her mother pretty easily in the end. I’m thrilled to see Margot as head of the Kensington firm heading into the second season (although I was starting to hope for a rival firm led by just Margot, Leah, and Reggie), but it almost happens too easily. Alice and Ben are still playing each other even though they’re on the same side, but their chess moves aren’t all that impressive either. It takes Danny, of all people, asking a basic question for Val to realize Alice probably isn’t actually sick. Aren’t they supposed to be best friends and know everything about each other? And then Alice and Ben are just chilling at the wedding, getting all kissy face out in the open, even though they’re surrounded by enemies. Reggie catches them on camera, because duh! They weren’t even trying to be undercover. The champagne toast that mirrors the one from the pilot is a nice touch, but seriously, why are these idiots trying to have a serious relationship moment when the stakes of this operation are so supposedly high? It kind of sucks the stakes away.

It’s not just that the characters are being stupidly reckless but also the fact that some of them aren’t really acting like themselves—a far worse offense on the writers’ parts. By the end of the episode, Rhys and Alice are plotting together and smiling like they’re old pals, which makes no sense. Rhys is a killer just like his mum, and to have him chumming around with Ben and Alice at episode’s end is just inconsistent writing. Alice wouldn’t work with Rhys even if they are united by a mutual love for Ben. The fact that Rhys does care about Ben enough to risk his own position at the firm makes him a more complex character, but that ending just takes it a little too far. The Rhys of the finale is a different Rhys than we’ve seen all season.

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And then there are some downright dumb developments, like Sophie’s sudden confession that she returns Danny’s feelings. That has been the single most sloppy storyline of season one, and Sophie’s is entirely unconvincing. And the Sean stuff is weird too, almost like the writers just made him gay for the joke of Danny’s confusion about the whole situation. The Margot-Jameson kiss is equally dumb and unnecessary to the story.

The finale suffers from poor time management. It’s astonishing how many scenes there are in which characters literally recap something that has just happened to another character. And in a way, there are almost so many betrayals that it’s hard to get all that invested in all the back-and-forth. And then in the end, everyone’s pretty much on the side we could have expected them to be on. Both episodes focus a little too much on the game and not on the players or the motivations behind their moves. When we do get little glimpses into the characters’ headspaces, it works very well. I just wish that some of those moments had more space to breathe. It’s too densely plotted to give enough attention to the parts of the story that are working the best on a character level.

Alice has been on a mission all season to regain control over her life, and that all comes to a head in the finale. She doesn’t let Ben get away with his “I lied to you to protect you” bullshit. Even though he’s coming from a good place when he tries to keep her away from the wedding, that’s still him calling the shots in her life, which isn’t what Alice wants. Ben does ultimately bail Alice out in the end, his final, indisputable declaration of love. But he doesn’t come off as her valiant knight. He’s just owning up to his shit finally. As many issues as I have with the finale, I applaud The Catch’s team for constructing an ending in which Alice gets Ben but doesn’t lose her agency in the process. Never once does she come off as a damsel.

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Shondaland shows across the board are great at portraying fiercely independent women who don’t suddenly become less independent just because they fall in love. Alice is no exception to that. I think it’d be an oversimplification to call Ben her “weakness.” If anything, they’re each other’s weaknesses. Despite the fact that the show’s impetus is Ben duping her, Alice has always been on equal ground with him. Every time he underestimates her, she proves him wrong. All season, they’ve taken turns being the cat and the mouse, ensuring that the premise isn’t too limiting after all. The finale embodies a lot of the character development for both Alice and Ben that has been carefully crafted all season, but the games they play here just aren’t nearly as thrilling as they should be in the finale of such a twisty drama.

Stray observations

  • And thus concludes season one of The Catch. It has been an interesting ride. I know I’ve been harsh in some of these reviews, but I actually do love this show and its wacky premise. I think it can be a lot of fun most of the time, but I hope season two focuses a little more on the characters. See you then, and thanks for reading!
  • Through all the ups and downs, Sonya Walger remains my favorite part of the show.
  • I kind of miss the days of angsty phone calls between Alice and Ben. I think another reason the finale feels a little weird is because despite the fact that so much of the plot is centered on Alice and Ben, they don’t actually have that many scenes together. And the ones they do have are full of the not-so-great dialogue that plagues this show. Mireille Enos and Peter Krause are still fantastic together, but there’s almost more chemistry between Ben and Rhys and between Alice and Val in these episodes.
  • Alice having a gun under the table while she’s with Rhys is another one of the finale’s few thrilling moments.
  • Why couldn’t it be Margot and Leah kissing at the end?
  • Damn, Alice really does not hold back in her attempts to get back at Margot. That last therapy session was brutal, and I loved every second of it.
  • Rose Rollins and Enos’s costumes have been perfect all season. Oh, Walger’s, too. The costuming is just great on this show, especially the dresses.
  • I kind of thought Danny was going to die in this finale. I kept waiting for someone to die in this finale.

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