I’m normally not a police procedural kind of guy, at least not of the Bones, CSI, or NCIS variety. I am, however, a devoted follower of the Church of Fillion, which is why Castle proved to be the exception to the other procedurals for me as a viewer. I’ll admit I still have a chip on my shoulder that he was passed over in favor of David Boreanaz for Angel on Buffy, but what elevates Castle to a more entertaining level than its formula-dwelling peers is its titular character. At its best, Castle puts Nathan Fillion’s charisma, charm, and chemistry with the rest of the cast on display in the perfect blend of kick-back-and-relax television. Much like Phil said in his review of Castle’s fourth season premiere, I don’t watch this show for “sprawling conspiracy plot lines” or “Emmy-bait performances.” Tonight’s episode unfortunately leaned a little heavily on the emotional drama and held Fillion away from the center of the plot, instead putting Seamus Denver’s Detective Kevin Ryan in the eye of an emotional storm that never really clicked.
Unlike last week’s episode, which took the still derivative but more inventive case of a crime scene missing a body, “Kick the Ballistics” used a far more obvious case of the week. It starts with a girl in a cement mixer, with double tap gunshot wounds suggesting a professional hit. When the ballistics information comes back, the bullets are traced to Ryan’s gun, the one that was stolen from him when Jerry Tyson, the serial killer from last season’s standout episode “3XK” knocked him out. That episode was full of thrilling self-reflexive twists and a great guest performance by Michael Mosley. Since he’s now over on Pan Am, it didn’t seem viable that Castle would get him back for a guest spot in time for the early episode, but it does suggest that somewhere down the road the show will resolve that cliffhanger from the middle of last season.
Instead of leading to Tyson, the investigation leads our team to the victim’s roommate, a boyfriend, and to her tutoring students, one of whom is Ben Lee, the youngest son of a mob boss. There’s an undercover narcotics agent and some suspicion that the girl worked as an informant but then an all-too-expected romantic reveal: The victim and the mob boss’ son fell in love and were planning to run away, but the family couldn’t let him leave the business and set out to do something about it using Ben’s older brother Philip. Several characters start referring to the case as a Romeo and Juliet-type situation, which is a painful misunderstanding of that classic. Ryan gets a lot of screentime to emote, trying to solve this case to track down his missing gun and get information on 3XK, but a lot of it is just wheel spinning and hot air, the kind of stuff seen on every other procedural. The insistent melodramatic music doesn’t do the show any favors either when it rises to eye-roll levels whenever somebody takes a cup of coffee and prepares to deliver an ill-timed anecdote.
I was reminded of an episode of Shawn Ryan’s one-season wonder The Chicago Code when two actors from that show – Lost’s François Chau and Billy Lush – made guest appearances here. In Chicago Code episode “O’Leary’s Cow”, Chau played the unofficial mayor of Chinatown, and tonight, he played Chinese mob patriarch Clifford Lee. His most famous recurring role as Dr. Pierre Chang never really called that much attention to his race, but that guest spot on Chicago Code broached the subject in a way that was culturally grounded in Chicago history. Castle just used him as any that guy from Lost, which was disappointing.
There’s very little of Castle getting to do his thing when Ryan is busy spouting off emotional monologues to Beckett or becoming too involved in a case where his own gun was the murder weapon. Most of the time it’s easy to overlook the blatant disregard for procedure or believability when Castle gets to drop one-liners everywhere, but when his featured scenes are superfluous excuses to fit his mother and daughter into the episode and elsewhere he’s mostly in the background, Castle isn’t putting its best foot forward. The show needs balanced and well-rounded characters, I understand that, so I’m willing to cede episodes like this that don’t quite measure up in exchange for others that are heavy on the Castle/Beckett partnership with lots of romantic tension and Much Ado About Nothing-level barb-throwing.
As for the 3XK cliffhanger, it turns out Philip and Tyson once shared a cell in prison, and Tyson sold Ryan’s gun as a sort of revenge plot to get Philip in hot water once he put the gun to use. In the only really nice Castle/Beckett scene through the whole episode, Castle deals with feeling like a member of the team without actually being a cop. When he tells Beckett to call off any deal for Phillip in exchange for information on Tyson that might not turn out to be reliable, it’s a good tag that highlights the strength of the show’s two leads.
- Glad to see Billy Lush getting some work as a guest star. I thought he got a lot better as Liam over the course of The Chicago Code, and man, do I miss that show, it really had potential.
- Castle snaps a picture of Ryan/Esposito’s ridiculous outfits from when they used a diversion to get Ben’s bodyguard/minder away so Ryan could talk to him. Nice.
- Don’t worry. Phil will be back next week. Thanks to him for letting me fill in for this episode; I’ll never turn down the chance to write about a show with Fillion in the cast.