REVIEW: Republic of Doyle - "Rusted Steele"

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If only there were speeding tickets for TV episodes. Last night’s episode of Republic of Doyle was a case study in the danger of doing too much at once. “Rusted Steele” brought back the guest character Garrison Steele (Victor Garber), introduced Jake’s sister Kathleen and tried to play off the Jake-Nikki hookup from episode three - all in one go.

As a result, there were far too many mini-plots for the episode to have any satisfying focus. It led to a slap-dash installment that was more annoying than entertaining – a situation that wasn’t helped by the perpetually drunk version of Garrison Steele.

“Rusted Steele” opens with two “intruders” into Doyle family life: Jake’s sister Kathleen (Krista Bridges) turns up unannounced with a mystery man, and the arrogant author Steele camps out in Jake’s apartment. Steele claims to be on another fact-finding mission for his latest novel, involving some intrigue at the local Danish consulate, and hires the Doyles to help.

Jake soon finds that Steele is in trouble with a couple of creepy creditors, including a dim-witted erotica publisher named Javier (Raoul Bhaneja) and an international smuggler named Gerhardt (CBC stalwart Peter Keleghan). Meanwhile, Rose and Tinny are unsure of how to take Kathleen’s sudden appearance, and Nikki pesters Jake about the “mistake” they made at the end of “Hot Package”.

In the past, Republic of Doyle has been able to sort through these “shotgun blast” kinds of stories, pulling out some fun character work. Unfortunately, “Rusted Steele” comes off as scatterbrained instead. The villains are once again too thick to be interesting (or all that funny) and in a strange turn, the drunk routine with Garrison Steele gets old really fast.

Normally, Steele is very funny as Jake’s occasional tormentor, popping up to meddle in his life for story ideas. The character is typically clean-cut and charming. The twist here was for Steele to run into money problems and devolve into a weepy, alcoholic mess.

The initial laughs from this reversal were fun, but drunk Steele wore out his welcome in about five minutes flat. His passive-aggressive crying fits and pathological kleptomania were so irritating by the end of the episode that I could no longer suspend my disbelief – would Jake really put up with all this, and only smack the guy once? What’s worse, Steele’s snap decision to clean himself up at the end only cheapened the whole story.

As I mentioned, the villains weren’t all that captivating again this episode. The blonde crook who was constantly punching Jake was funny in a “caveman” sort of way, but my question is, why doesn’t Jake ever face off against smarter criminals?  I’m not expecting Holmes-ian mysteries here. Let’s have a few opponents who can be a bit menacing. Republic of Doyle is ostensibly a detective series, not just a show-up-at-location-and-get-punched show.

Unlike in “Hot Package”, the main story duelled with the side-narratives this week. What could have been an interesting introduction to Kathleen Doyle was pushed to the side, giving me little incentive to be excited for her future appearances. All we can glean is that she’s in a spot of trouble, and the show will get back to her story when it’s convenient.

The discussion between Jake and Nikki about their latest tryst didn’t need to be in this episode at all – we could have easily waited and resolved that thread later on. The episode ended up cutting between the plot threads much too quickly – in fact, I think I spotted an embarrassing jump cut about 26 minutes in, when Nikki seems to suddenly disappear from the frame.  Technical mistakes like that don’t reflect very well on an already strained episode.

Thankfully, Des helped smooth out some of the wrinkles in this episode. Even when I was getting frustrated with the other characters and the story execution, each of Des’ scenes cheered me up. That’s why I’m glad Republic of Doyle has started a series of video diaries by Des on their site – he’s easily one of the best characters, and the more we see of Des, the better.

This week’s episode loses some points for its rushed pacing, silly villains and the irritating drunk version of Garrison Steele. Despite some funny slapstick and good scenes with Des, it leaves “Rusted Steele” with two stars out of four.

How do you feel about the fourth episode of Republic of Doyle Season 3? Am I being too hard on the series? Did you like Victor Garber’s drunk routine as Steele?  What did you think of Kathleen Doyle? Join the conversation in the comments section! If you’d like to catch up on my previous Doyle reviews, follow the links below:

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Episode 1: “Streets of St. Johns” | Episode 2: “Head Over Heels” | Episode 3: "Hot Package"

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