The previous episode of Castle was this show at its best: loose, funny, and sexy. It was a chance to watch Nathan Fillion, the suddenly likable Stana Katic, and some well-selected guest actors goof around while tossing pieces of a mystery plot back and forth. Tonight’s episode is the show at its worst: straining hard for seriousness, and achieving humorless dumb-assery. Castle doesn’t usually swing so hard from one extreme to the other like this—the bulk of average Castle episodes tend to have some fun moments mixed with some lame ones—and when it does, it’s enough to give the viewing audience a collective case of whiplash. The real mystery is, how can the same basic creative team that sees the appeal of something like the Castle-in-the-Hamptons episode, and can even pull it off when it sets its mind to it, think there’s good reason to make something like this?
It begins with a body. The body in question is that of a young woman who has been drugged, strangled, had a symbol carved into her forehead, and strung up on the ceiling with barbed wire. Esposito takes in the crime scene and pronounces it “pretty damn freaky,” while Castle offers the sophisticated analytical observation that, for the killer to have gone to so much trouble, it seems a safe bet that “he liked it.” But it gets even freakier than that. It seems that Castle’s fingerprints were on the doorknob of the woman’s apartment—a piece of information that rates a dramatic little music cue. Beckett says that Castle must have gotten sloppy and touched the doorknob without gloves on while he was checking out the crime scene, but here’s the thing: The CSU people found Castle’s prints on the doorknob before he and Beckett arrived at the crime scene. This news is accompanied by another dramatic music cue, but Beckett and her fellow cops can’t hear it, and so laugh it off.
But then, the cops fasten onto a piece of jewelry found in the victim’s apartment, and discover, from looking at the security-camera footage, that Castle bought it. The best, and most Nathan Fillionistic, moment in the entire show comes when Castle opens his door to see Beckett and a small army of sour-faced police standing there and says, with a big smile, “Did I throw a party and forget again?” The cops march right in and go straight to the big box filled with wire and other materials used in the murder, which Castle says doesn’t belong to him, but which he also never noticed was just sitting there in his apartment. The cops drag him downtown and throw him in a cell, an act that, from everything we’re shown, inspires very little curiosity from representatives of the New York media, including Castle’s agent and publisher, and whatever other well-connected friends he may have accumulated over the years.
A little more digging finds emails between Castle and the dead woman that indicate they’d been having an affair, one that began a few weeks after he and Beckett first slept together. Plus, Castle had apparently been working on a story about a killer who “gets away with it by staging a crime scene so bizarre, the cops can’t see he’s hiding right under their noses.” It’s a very strange line of thinking, especially coming from Castle, since every other week, he and Beckett come across crime scenes so bizarre that the prime suspect might as well be Dr. Phibes, and this never stops them from catching the killer. The closest thing to a grace note in all this is that, at least, Beckett never flirts with the idea that Castle may have really done this. Even Captain Gates is having a hard time processing it. Even though she herself is, she points out, “no fan” of Castle’s, “I’m having trouble believing he could do something so heinous.” Roll that around on your tongue for a while. Castle has been working alongside the men and women of the NYPD for three-and-a-half years now, he’s such a famously nice guy that he’s played by Nathan Fillion, and she’s having trouble believing that he not only murdered a woman, but cut a random symbol into her face and strung her up on the ceiling. Even if he’d ever given any indication that he might be that sick a fuck, where is his very public, very famous, crime-solving, novel-writing ass supposed to have found the time?
The real killer is Jerry Tyson, the satanically clever “3XK Killer” from a couple of seasons back. He is played by Michael Mosley, trying hard not to come across as charming or appealing, since that doesn’t seem to work out well for him. (Mosley’s last regular series gag was as Ted Vanderway on Pan Am, a show whose cancellation left his character suspended in time on the cusp of New Year’s, 1964, having just learned that his fiancée was a pregnant lesbian.) He is sore because, in that previous episode, Castle and Beckett exposed him as a serial killer and spoiled all his fun. Summoning up all the strength he can muster, Fillion manages to get out a line so hoary that it must tear at the throat of any actor forced to deliver it: “If it’s revenge you want, why don’t just you kill me?” This gives Tyson the chance to launch into his “No, no, no, don’t pass out on me now!” number. “People think it’s killing that I like,” he says. “It’s all about the anticipation, the planning, watching you and your daughter taking a walk, you and Beckett making love, standing in your living room, looking at your life, knowing that I’m going to take it all away.” Yeah, I can see how that would… wait, you’ve watched Castle and Beckett making love!? Ewwwwwww….
Tyson’s plan, which involves hiring a man who doesn't look anything like Nathan Fillion to impersonate Castle, is to have his minions murder the writer once he’s been taken to the Tombs. Castle’s friends wring their hands over this, because there is nothing they can do to save him from being stuffed in with the lowlifes and miscreants going through booking, and once he’s in the system, he’s a goner. Men come to take him away, and they can only fight to hold it together, bravely. Then, after he’s gone, the real men who were supposed to take him away arrive. Here’s what the world is like on Castle: A fabulously rich, famous celebrity author with connections in the police department and the mayor’s office can’t get around being treated like a common thug when he’s accused of a crime nobody close to the investigation believes he committed, but he can arrange for a daring escape from the police building.
Castle and Beckett reconnect on the outside, clear Castle’s name, and then have a run-in with Tyson on a bridge. It ends with Castle flamboyantly firing lead into Tyson—not something you expect to see from the guy whose police-issued bulletproof vest has the word “WRITER” stenciled across it, and for that matter, not something he should ever do. But have we seen the last of Jerry Tyson? Castle thinks not. He tells Beckett that, now that Tyson has gone over the railing with six slugs in him, it’s clear to him that this was really the plan all along: Frame Castle for murder, wait for him to escape and clear his name, then stage a confrontation in which Tyson could appear to be killed, so that he could resume having fun as a serial killer, safe from suspicion now that the cops think he’s dead. It’s may be the single stupidest supposition ever spoken by the hero of a crime show. At the very least, it shatters the previous record, set something like 40 minutes earlier, when the cops were considering the dead woman’s boss as a suspect but found it unlikely that anyone who’d planned and executed such a meticulous crime wouldn’t have arranged an alibi for himself. Well, of course, says Castle, he must have thought that his crime was so meticulously planned that he wouldn’t need to think up an alibi, which is usually the first thing an especially meticulous planner of crimes would do…
- Did everyone catch last week's 30 Rock, with its joke about how watching Castle is a sure sign of being old and uncool? Harsh, cruel words, and, on some nights, not entirely true.
- Sadly, this concludes our week-by-week coverage of the new season of Castle—sadly, not because this is the kind of show that really cries out for that kind of coverage, but because, if only we’d planned on shutting this feature down one episode sooner, it could have ended on a high note. Still, I have to admit that the Castle-Beckett romance, which I was so dreading, has done nothing but rejuvenate the series. God knows I’m looking forward to next week’s episode, which has a Comic-Con setting, and was directed by Jonathan Frakes. Given the potential for in-jokes, the drinking games should practically write themselves.