**This Castle review contains spoilers.**
It’s impossible to see Rick Castle surrounded by second graders while sitting in a classroom for a case and not be reminded of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarden Cop. But while Rick’s childlike enthusiasm and easy manner with kids produced a few winning moments as he crouched down into the world of princess tea parties and imaginary army adventures, the latest episode of Castle felt off-balance because Kate Beckett and Rick were so distant from each other.
When I say distant, I don’t mean that we’re suddenly getting a deep look at Kate’s feelings over Rick’s mysterious absence. The only one who seemed to be still affected by the disappearance in this episode was Alexis, who doted on her father throughout. No, Rick and Kate are fine as a couple, their distance has more to do with the producers decision to have Rick infiltrate the school on his own while Kate worked within the more grim realities of the case that they were pursuing.
In some ways, I suppose it makes sense. Castle is at its best when Rick and Kate can play off of each other, but they’ve also been proven to be strong characters on their own at times and they don’t have to always be together to propel the show. This time, however, it feels like we’re getting two halves that don’t equal a whole.
Maybe it has something to do with the contrasting tones of their dueling stories. While Rick spends his time in a warm classroom surrounded by innocence, Kate is unraveling a basic but grim tale that starts off with a murder in the back of an ice cream truck, a missing pint sized witness (hence the school) and a growing number of bodies.
When all is said and done, the murder of the ice cream truck driver winds up being tied to a fugitive war criminal and a fake passport operation that an ex-cop, the ice cream truck driver and his girlfriend were running in an effort to help Russian immigrants. The girlfriend is the half-sister of one of Rick’s students – his pint-sized nemesis, who is actually a bit of an asshole, if I do say so myself.
There are no real twists or false starts on the way toward resolving the case. Everything is clean and drama free until the very end when Rick and Kate have a somewhat violent tussle with the killer in Mrs. Ruiz’s classroom.
As the protective teacher, Michael Hyatt is fantastic. I’ve loved her work for awhile, though, so I’m biased. You may remember her from a 6 episode turn on The West Wing where she played Angela Blake, a trusted associate of Leo’s who comes into the White House as an outsider. She was also Avon Barksdale’s ferocious sister on The Wire. Castle doesn’t get enough credit for the meaty guest roles that it offers, but drawing a talent like Hyatt proves that people recognize the opportunity that the show can give them to showcase their talents a little.
Sadly, that generosity doesn’t extend to Esposito and Ryan in this episode as they do little more than elevated grunt work. There is also no Lanie appearance. Alexis, on the other hand, got a decent B-story, even if her actions were a bit over-the-top and not all that timely since, by now, Rick has been back for some time and she already accompanied him to Montreal. Something that would seem to contradict her present state of protectiveness.
Overall, this is middling Castle episode that plays up Rick’s charms while downplaying the driving force of the show’s charms. It’s the weakest episode of the season so far, but if that’s still the case by season’s end, this will be an outstanding season.