Despite charismatic leads and an excellent supporting cast, the first episode of "Castle and Castle" doesn't make a good first impression.
When Ebonylife TV announced "Castle and Castle," 'Nigeria's first legal drama series,' it was obvious that it would certainly be compared to the popular American legal TV series, "Suits."
Not just because it's a legal drama series, but something about the promo photos projected the series as a Nigerian equivalent of the foreign courtroom series.
But "Castle and Castle," at least in its first episode, is nothing like "Suits."
"Castle and Castle" follows the story of a married couple, Remi and Tega Castle – two lawyers who met 20 years ago when he taught her in law school. While Tega is passionate about pro bono cases, Remi prefers wealthy clients.
With strong leads and an excellent supporting cast – which includes RMD, Dakore Akande, Blossom Chukwujekwu, Etim Effiong and Deyemi Okanlawon – "Castle and Castle" fails to make a first good impression with its pilot episode.
The season opens with Remi and Tega making out in a filling room and damaging the shelves in the process. When they stop, they banter with each other and adjust their outfits into a more professional look for a meeting.
The meeting is all about Mike, played by Effiong. He is the best lawyer in the firm, hugely ambitious, and has just won a big case worth millions of naira for their biggest client, MNG. While celebrating their latest win, Remi's father, played by Bimbo Manuel, walks in and wants to know why there's a celebration without him and why Mike hasn't been made partner yet. Apparently, he is an investor in the firm and going by his attitude, he is not a fan of Tega.
"He is not a SAN. He is not even a professor," he says during a conversation with his daughter.
Mike threatens to leave the firm if he isn't made a partner. While Remi thinks he deserves it, Tega thinks he is being ungrateful and too ambitious. He is skeptical about having him become a part-owner of the firm, sharing in the profits and making decisions.
Just like Remi, Mike is also against the pro bono cases often taken by Tega. In one of the scenes, she gets into an argument with him over a case about a woman about to be sentenced to death, which he wants to take up for free.
Mike eventually resigns, taking with him the firm's biggest client. This would mean tough times for Castle and Castle.
In the first episode of the series, there's no engaging workplace or even personal drama, no massive case to deal with, no courtroom drama and no twisty plot moments. While there's a sleek quality to the episode, it doesn't make any effort to get viewers invested in Mr and Mrs Castle, their law firm, or employees.
The case of the episode seems more like a comic relief which falls flat more than it works. It's about a pastor, Reverend Doctor Pius, played by Seyi Law, and two choristers from his church, who approach the law firm to sue an estranged member of their church, Dehido, for stealing their song, which was inspired by the 'holy spirit.'
During their meeting with the lawyers – Nneka (Eku Edewor) and Kwabena (Okanlawon) – flat jokes are cracked, shades are thrown at wealthy Nigerian pastors, and the scene delivered with so much cringeworthy dialogue, music, and acting.
In the scene, Chigurl who plays one of Pius' choristers repeats his words in a way that seems to mimic Charles Okocha's viral hype man. And as Dehido, EmmaohmyGod delivers a remarkably bad performance.
In the first episode, "Castle and Castle" doesn't establish what it wants to be; a serious 'legal' series? A comedy that is also capable of serious drama? Or an outrightly comical series?
With characters like Stella (Anne Icha), Monday and Captain, viewers are offered exaggerated performances aimed at eliciting laughs. But they are unsuccessful.
The first episode of "Castle and Castle" doesn't signal an intriguing legal drama series. Of course, the cases, if they are subsequently nothing like Pastor Pius vs Dehido, would be a source of compelling conflict, but not in that energetic way you'd wish.
The episode promises a show that would, perhaps, interestingly take viewers through the lives of the Castles as they fight each other over what the firm should or shouldn't be. In the official synopsis, we are told that their marriage will be put to test, as a host of family issues crop up and affect their work.
Nevertheless, it's still the first episode and maybe it's too early to pass a verdict. There's a good chance that the series would eventually deliver on its promise to be the 'first legal drama series,' and find a way to superbly balance the characters' personal drama amid courtroom clashes.
Produced by Isioma Osaje and Temidayo Abudu, "Castle and Castle" is directed by Niyi Akinmolayan, Tope Oshin and Kenneth Gyang.
You can watch episodes of "Castle and Castle' on Ebonylife ON for 150 naira per episode.