Shonda Rhimes has always reserved a special side-eye for marriage. Her two most famous protagonists, Scandal’s Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) and Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), were willing mistresses for years to men in dysfunctional unions. How to Get Away With Murder, which Rhimes produces, killed off its main character Annalise Keating’s (Viola Davis) husband in the first season and exposed him as a cheater to boot. Grey’s Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) -- whom Rhimes describes in her wonderful memoir, The Year of Yes, as “the walking validation of my dreams” -- barely enjoyed three years of wedded bliss. “We should never have gotten married in the first place,” says Cristina’s soon-to-be ex Owen (Kevin McKidd) as they’re on the verge of divorce. “When we did, we took something beautiful and we put it in this box.”
Rhimes also movingly recalls her decision to break off a recent engagement in her book. “I do not think I’m ever going to want to get married,” she declares, equating all the work that a successful marriage would require with a “downgrade [in] my creativity.”
It’s no surprise, then, that The Catch -- created by Jennifer Schuur and Helen Gregory -- spoke to Rhimes, who executive produces the glossy cat-and-mouse chase. Premiering during ABC’s Thursday-night Shondaland block, The Catch’s fizzy pilot (only this first episode was made available to critics) is powered by the promise -- soon broken -- of matrimony. Alice Vaughan (Mireille Enos, The Killing), the head of an elite private-investigation firm, is abandoned on her wedding day by her boyfriend Christopher (Peter Krause). As she discovers, her partner of one year wasn’t just a blandly handsome DILF in expensive neutrals, but a criminal who’d targeted her.
If you know the first thing about the show’s premise -- that Alice will pursue Christopher, or whatever his real name is -- the pilot won’t hold any surprises, no matter how many twists it throws at its viewers. But there is a revelation: Enos, who plays Alice with a disarming rom-com girliness that conceals her toothy determination to get her men. By the end of the hour, she’s grinning, her instincts to play and to win taking over. That makes her unflappable. As Rhimes might write, she is without flap.
The rest of the slick pilot lays the groundwork for the rest of the season: the young, chatty employees; the FBI agent (Jacky Ido) with whom Alice resists working; and Christopher’s seemingly genuine affection for his former fiancée. But The Catch (love that pun) would be wise to rely on its surest bets: the winsome Enos, who’d make a sparkling rom-com heroine if the film industry had any interest in women over 30, and a healthy (and ever-relevant) skepticism toward marriage. The introduction of wedding rings can bond two people for life, while their absence can transform that same pair into strangers. Alice, probably not for the first time in her life, is pursuing a third way: her own.