Castle’s schizophrenic tendencies, which have mostly been under control over the course of its fifth season—getting Castle and Beckett into a sexual relationship having unexpectedly turned out to be the show’s Ritalin—are in full bloom during the opening minutes of the season finale. First, there’s the set-up for this week’s murder mystery, which, thankfully, has nothing to do with any conspiracy going back decades involving the murdered loved ones of the leading characters. A blonde woman with a tattoo on her lower back, enough bracelets on her wrist to pull her arm out of its socket, black fingernail polish, blue toenail polish, and a toe ring staggers out of bed and steps into the shower. (It’s soon revealed the setting is a squalid Skid Row hotel frequented by hookers and their johns, and I guess all the tacky-exotic baubles and skin decorations are meant to signal the viewer that this nameless woman is recovering from one more walk on the wild side, but she looks like every woman who’s ever sold me a sandwich at the New York branch of Schlotzsky’s—or the Austin branch, for that matter.) She turns on the water and what look like strings of red spaghetti come pouring down. One trip to the roof later, and the body of a dead woman is found floating face-down in the water tank, which would make a terrific opener if David Lynch ever wants to reboot Petticoat Junction.
Cut to—WTF?—our nation’s capitol, with a quick series of establishing shots of the most revered symbols of our democracy: The Washington Monument, the Capitol dome, and Stana Katic, standing in some official-looking waiting room and facing a window. (I think she’s meant to be taking in the grandeur that is her view of the city. However, the director, John Terletsky, seems to have at least one eye on the clock, so he doesn’t recognize how distracting it is that her reflection in the glass, which is the first image of her face in this episode, has a red-eyed greenish-tint, so she looks as if she were turning into She-Hulk, albeit She-Hulk on an unusually pensive day.) She’s greeted by Kyle Secor, his handsome features more gaunt than in his Homicide days and his lips an alarming shade of cherry red, who offers her that Very Important Job with the FBI that Carter didn’t get on Person Of Interest.
The music accompanying their conversation is dramatic and portentious, as it should be when one cardboard cutout of a character is offering another one a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to keep out nation safe and free. Then the music switches to goofy, whimsical mode as the show cuts to the overprotective Castle, in his Manhattan lair, postponing a talk with his daughter about her plans to traipse off to the untamed wilds of Coasta Rica, by inviting her to help him decide between green and magenta cover designs for his next book: The green one “kind of looks like a giant green lizard is attacking the city. Which is cool! But it’s not what the book’s about. So I either rewrite the book…”
As usual, Alexis talks sense into her dad and is rewarded for her trouble by having her subplot wrap up before it started and being dismissed from the set early. Then Castle, Beckett, and the supporting-cast mouth-breathers all report to the scene of the water-tank murder where they conclude the murdered girl was a hooker. Except that she was a Harvard honors student from a good family. Wha? “Maybe she broke under the pressure of being perfect,” Beckett speculates. “Or maybe she just needed a change.” It may be due to the flatness of the direction that I couldn’t tell for sure whether that line was meant to be funny or not, but it should have led directly to a scene of Castle running home and bricking his daughter up in her bedroom. The mystery deepens when the detectives find a CD of Donna Summer-style sexy-moaning noises in the dead woman’s room. She used to play it every night so that people would think she was hooking while she was really doing… what? Trying to move this thing along, Castle deduces that she must have been a computer hacker, engaged in some kind of personal undercover cyberspace espionage operation.
The detectives put the pieces together pretty quickly: The murder victim was investigating the death of a friend of hers, and once Beckett figures out which rich and powerful New Yorker was responsible for the friend’s murder—a conundrum she solves by meeting one of the likely suspects because “I just needed to see his eyes”—she deduces who must have served as the hit man on the grounds that someone like that doesn’t get his own hands dirty but also can’t hire some thug who might blackmail him. So she drags the suspect’s black-sheep brother into the interrogation room, and it’s such an easy thing for her to break him that the show wouldn’t dream of insulting us by depicting the actual moment when it happens.
Who cares, right? The murder mystery is just the padding for the moment the shippers have tuned in for, when Beckett either tells Castle she’s going to work in D.C. or she’s staying, and he either vows to keep their love alive or gets all pissy about her having kept it secret that she was reviewing the job offer in the first place. Based on past experience with this show, I have a strong hunch about how it all plays out, but it’s only a hunch, because ABC withheld the closing minutes of the show from the screeners it made available to reviewers, a move that suggests a serious lack of trust on their part. Between this and the cancellation of Happy Endings, maybe it’s not the relationship of Castle and Beckett that ABC and I should be worried about.
- Sure, the other detectives who work with Castle and Beckett get to have their own lines of dialogue sometimes, because Nathan Fillion’s generosity knows no bounds, but did you also know they have their own personal lives, with families and developing relationships and everything. At one point here, Esposito, who doesn’t know about Beckett’s big job offer and is breaking his brain wondering why she’s been acting funny, speculates that she might be pregnant. Ryan pooh-poohs the idea, but does take the opportunity to inform him that his own wife is pregnant. Esposito says, “Wow, congratulations, bro. That’s great,” and Ryan thanks him. Then they immediately go back to feeding Castle straight lines and holding up their end of the exposition.
- Early on in this episode, one of the detectives chides Castle for using cartoonish, obviously made-up names for the characters in his novels. They could have slipped this exchange into any episode of Castle, but no, they had to wait and save it for one that features a spoiled-rich-boy villain named Colin Rigsdale III.