I’ve been complaining all season that the Castle writers weren’t giving Ryan and Esposito enough to do, but in last night’s episode, they finally gave me half of what I was looking for with an episode that put the spotlight on Javier Esposito and actor Jon Huertas.
In “Kill Switch,” the majority of the action takes place in a cramped subway car where a seemingly asthmatic hacker has decided to hold a group of people hostage. Detective Esposito is one of the hostages, having followed the man — a person of interest in a murder investigation — onto the train.
The hacker’s name is Jared Stone, a former Occupy Wall Street activist whose only demand is the release of his hacktivist girlfriend, Erin Wilson, from prison. To nudge authorities into compliance, Stone has attached a bomb to his chest and put a dead man’s switch in his hand.
Throughout the episode, Kate, Rick and Ryan work to figure out who Stone is and how his actions are connected to the death of Paul Reeves, a government waste investigator who had previously been in contact with Stone. Meanwhile, a hostage recovery team is waiting for a chance to make their move and take out Stone.
In Esposito, they obviously have an ally, but their play to take the train is interrupted when Stone senses that something is imminent and freaks out, destroying the camera that had been secretly monitoring the inside of the train.
Assisting Esposito is a transit cop whose service revolver Stone was able to wrestle away from her at the start of the stand-off. Unsurprisingly, Esposito is charming in his interactions with the cop, but it’s clear that his mind is on Lanie and getting out of the situation alive.
Prior to the stand-off, there is a nice moment between Esposito and Ryan where the former talks to his partner about possibly being ready to “move forward” and maybe follow in Ryan’s footsteps and start a family. Esposito plays it off with a joke, but it’s obvious that the writers wanted this stand-off to feel like a tipping point for Esposito and a call to grow up a bit and cherish what he has. After seven season, it’s Esposito who is arguably the most unchanged character on the show.
Putting Esposito in a place where he may have his future and someone else on his mind while he is down on that train also has the added benefit of making the audience care and maybe worry a little bit more about him. As he sits on that train with this mad man who Kate and Rick can’t quite figure out, one’s mind does begin to wonder if this could possibly end with devastation. This is the benefit of Esposito’s relatively small footprint on the show — he can be put into a scary situation and, unlike with Kate or Rick, we can feel a sense of danger because side characters die all the time and this show has dispatched a longtime supporting player before (Captain Montgomery).
As you likely know, that didn’t happen. Esposito makes it out alive after he and the transit cop rush Stone and wrap a shoelace around the kill switch, but there is a complication that Lanie turns Kate and Rick onto: Stone isn’t asthmatic, he’s sick. This leads Kate and Rick to discover that Stone has the deadly H5N1 flu virus (aka Bird Flu) and everyone on the train could also be infected.
With just a few minutes left in the episode, this twist had me wondering if the “White Knight” puppet master that had been discovered during Kate and Rick’s investigation might be some kind of white collar hunting big bad that would linger for a few episodes, but instead, the episode resolved with a fizzle.
It seems that Reeves’ boss had worked with an executive at a pharmaceutical company that made an over-abundance of H5N1 flu vaccines. An overage that Reeves investigated before he was rubbed out. Her stock portfolio fat with shares from the pharmaceutical company, Reeves’ boss infected Stone without his knowledge and set the love drunk shut-in out into the world to make a scene and unsuccessfully try to get his girlfriend sprung while in place long enough to infect whoever he was in the room wth.
It’s a “stroke your white cat on your lap” kind of James Bond villain plan that felt out of left field for an episode that felt grounded and intense throughout, but overall, this is still one of the better episodes of this season thanks to a strong leading performance by Jon Huertes. I just hope that the producers remember that going forward and give Esposito more to do and the Esposito/Lanie relationship more of a chance to bloom.