At last, our first straightforward case of the season. No disappearance shenanigans or cutesy gimmicks.
What we do have is a throwback episode that fits like an old Kangol hat and takes a timely, though occasionally clumsy, swipe at social media stardom, online anonymity and cyber bullying.
Actor Jared Kusnitz (various horror films and one of the “A-Duh” kids from Community) plays Adam Lane, a victim of cyber-bullying whose classmate posted an embarrassing video of him on MySpace six years prior.
To exact revenge, it is implied that Adam killed his mother and the bully that was responsible for the video less than a year ago. Kate (Stana Katic) and Rick (Nathan Fillion) discover those deaths after following the clues (a pictogram that leads to an article about super rich brats and their bragadocious social media posts) and the trail of blood leading to one social media star’s apartment and the luxury car of a mimbo (I’m making a judgement!) who had his throat slit.
Another, albeit less bloodied, victim is Bill Garrett (David Marciano). Garrett is a former web crimes cop who was booted off the force and went into furniture restoration because that seems like a natural evolution. Garrett is discovered after the clues form an arrow pointing at him for the first murder. We quickly discover, however, that this is just Lane messing with the police (one of a few instances) and Garrett, who he holds responsible for the release of the high schooler who bullied him. As Garrett explains, cyber-bullying laws weren’t strict back then when Lane was abused so it’s not his fault. He also shirks responsibility for the lesser years of Due South, and once again, I’m going to believe him because the evidence supports his innocence.
As I said, Lane also finds a way to tweak Kate and Rick, releasing a picture of them to the press that shows them engaged in a bit of cup touching and that is not a euphemism. The shot is taken before the case’s beginning, but the suits at police headquarters are on edge and they give Captain Gates some grief for it. This leads to what almost feels like a monologue by Kate about the evils of internet anonymity and the maddening way that anyone can post anything on the internet. Unsurprisingly, Kate does not have a blog, but Ryan does.
I love that we’re getting these little crumbs that may someday lead to a cookie with Ryan. He blogs and he works nights as a bouncer at a shaky bits bar. It’s a wild time to be living on the fringes of the C story.
Unsurprisingly, Kate and Rick track down Lane, who is creepily waiting for them to arrive in his charming basement apartment. Smug, Lane has a surprise for the detective and her author friend: the two men guys who run the Instagram-esque social media site that Lane’s victims have been using are tied up with defibrillators taped to their chests that is set to a countdown clock. It’s very Jokeresque.
Fortunately for the founders of Snapamatic, no one has ever died in the history of television from such a concoction, but Kate and Lane give us a good show in the interrogation room.
I’m going to give Kusnitz points for his cocky serial killer portrayal. It’s stock, but effective as he tells Kate that he wants notoriety and to be bigger than Manson. The wheels fall off the wagon, though, when Kate begins to push his buttons and play on his anxieties about being bullied. Lane starts to melt, with a pronounced eye twitch and a cracking voice. This is maybe 10 seconds after his smirk begins to fade and it really takes you out of what should have been a very tense moment.
I also have to say that, while I of course think cyber bullying is abhorrent, there isn’t a voice in this episode that stands up and says that what Lane did is an extreme reaction to it and that something snapped in Lane and turned him into a serial killing monster. It’s implied by the nature of his crimes, but it would have been nice to have someone actually say it so that it didn’t seem, even in the slightest, like his tough past was an excuse for his murderous behavior. It’s also a bit cynical that, ultimately, the killer wanted what we all seem to want on the internet: to have a legacy.
There’s this growing cultural trend that is empowering people to look down on internet plebeians who gather on social media. They judge them as addicts and vapid fame seekers. The problem is that the internet and social media have outlived the statute of limitations on the word “fad”. Everybody partakes and most participate. So in railing against social media oversharing and the scarring effect of techno-fixation, some look like hypocrites and others simply fumble the ball because they lack the stick-um of a nuanced approach. In short, the comments about the dangers of cyber bullying and the questions about oversharing and people’s motives for doing it are valid but this episode of Castle had hams for hands.
Still, for a show that has been lost in its own universe for awhile, it’s nice to see something that looks out into the world, even if it was only for a moment. The trailer for the next two episodes seems to point inward again with a tricky take on the amnesia storyline and, hopefully, a fun episode where Kate and Rick go on their honeymoon. Those episodes air on back-to-back weeks starting on November 10th. Next week will be a re-run and perhaps a spa day for Jason.