The Catch haters fail to understand what Shondaland is all about
I'll admit it: I avoided Grey's Anatomy for a long time. The medical soap opera genre has never been my favorite and I didn't expect that Grey's would deviate from the norm. But I'm a sucker for quality LGBTQ representation on television, so once I heard that Callie Torres was the greatest openly bisexual character to ever grace the small screen, I knew I was in for a Netflix binge.
That binge didn't turn me into a superfan; I've only been a sporadic Grey's viewer in the years since I caught an episode for the first time. But I did develop an appreciation for the show and for Shonda Rhimes' specific brand of storytelling. What I discovered is that the illnesses of the week that plague Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital each season aren't really the point — just as the latest political maneuverings of President Fitz aren't really the point of Scandal and Annalise Keating's clients aren't really the point of How to Get Away with Murder. No. We watch HTGAWM to see Annalise's maternal affection for Wes develop. We watch Scandal to understand Olivia and Fitz's love for each other. And we watch Grey's for incredibly dynamic and complex characters like Callie Torres. (It's true, she really is the greatest openly bisexual character on television.)
So when I started reading reviews of Shondaland's latest series, The Catch, I was shocked by how many critics were bogged down by plot. "The main problem is that we’ve seen this movie many times before, down to the feds being on Ben’s tail and the suspicions harbored by his partners in crime," reads Variety's criticism. "A shred of logic means the show would be over before it starts," adds the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "[I]t fails to be anything more than a slickly filmed, appealingly casted collection of plot points telegraphed so far in advance, even Mr. Magoo could spot ’em," argues TV Line.
Um. You guys have seen a Shondaland show before, right?
Of course the plot's not original. Of course the chain of events are flawed and unwieldy. Of course the pilot was predictable. Who cares? None of that is really the point.
The reason to watch The Catch is to watch Alice (Mireille Enos) and Christopher/Ben (Peter Krause) as their incredibly complicated romance unfolds. On the surface, the pilot is entirely about breaking the two characters apart — Alice discovers that her fiancé, Christopher, is really a con-artist named Ben, aka the mysterious "Mr. X" she's been trying to track down for ages. Now, Alice and Ben are nemeses, trying desperately to bring each other down. These subsequent cons are likely to be the cases of the week of each new episode this season.
But those stories aren't the reason to care. The reason I'm excited to continue tuning in each week is to better understand Alice and Ben's love for each other. It feels real. It feels deep. It feels dark. There's a moment in the first half of the episode when it seems as though Ben may very well give up everything in his life to protect Alice and the sanctity of their relationship. Perhaps that's his attempt to con the audience, but I don't think it is. I think his love for her is less of an act than he'd like us to believe.
Likewise, Alice's love for Ben is extremely real. She may have loved the nonexistent Christopher first, but she also loved the glimmers of Ben that existed in her fiancé. How is she going to reconcile that now that this love is her rival? If she has to destroy or kill or hurt him, will she be capable of that? Will she be manipulated into harming her friends and colleagues because of her devotion to him? How will her continued love for a man she doesn't entirely know shape her journey this season?
It's early still, but I'm loving these characters. I want to see how their relationship develops and changes over the course of the season. To me, Alice and Ben's dynamic is so clearly the heart of the show, so why would the details of the plot — which are wildly implausible, to be sure — get in the way of my pleasure? Like any Shondaland show, The Catch is about the characters and their connections with one another, and I can't wait to see how they grow as the season progresses.