This review contains spoilers.
6.3 Need To Know
Okay, didn’t see that coming.
The ending of this week’s episode was surprising, if only because of the kind of show that Castle has established itself as being. For the most part, Castle treats its cases less as crimes with emotional, familial, and economic consequences for the friends and family of the victim and more as puzzles designed to amuse the main characters.
This is not hard to see in this week’s episode, which focused on the death of an actor from a Saved by the Bell-like television programme to which Detective Ryan is addicted. In this case, the show’s resident Screech character is found dangling at the end of construction hook, evidently impaled as he plummeted from the ceiling of his apartment building. Gruesome.
But, as with virtually all crimes on the show, this merely provides opportunities for laughter. “Former child star literally getting the hook. Hoisted on his own petard. Hung out to dry.” Even Martha is a little disturbed by Rick’s flippancy, but not nearly enough for someone who knew and worked with the victim. In fact, when Esposito rejects Castle’s call, she simply joins in. “Looks like Charlie isn’t the only one hung out to dry.”
And as with so many other cases, Castle’s not really all that interested in helping to mete out justice. Instead, this case is a distraction from missing Kate and hating Pi: “This is exactly what I need.” When Castle shows up at the crime scene, his demeanor reads a lot like a puppy who’s discovered a new chew toy—and when he’s initially turned away, he all but whines like one too.
Luckily for us, his appeal to Esposito and Ryan (“I’m willing to let you guys exclusively benefit from my out-of-the-box crime-solving mind.”) works, and finally we get some of that Castle chemistry that’s been so obviously missing from this season thus far. The boys go to work on Castle, needling him on his loyalty and willingness to accept federal interference because it’s partially coming from Becket, eventually cajoling him into trying to squeeze information out of their former lead detective.
“This is my fiancé. What does it say about our future if I keep pushing the boundaries?” “Your whole relationship is built on a foundation of your boundary-pushing.” Not just the perfect Bazinga, but it highlights why this episode really works: they are all back at the precinct and doing what they do best.
We even get a glimpse of the old Caskett dynamic that got us hooked on the series, as Castle makes a doomed attempt to wheedle information out of his betrothed and she thoroughly schools him.
And school is absolutely in session in this episode. Reflecting the high-school background of the crime, Need to Know highlights how much of what has always gone on in the precinct is high school. There’s the peer-pressure Ryan and Esposito lay on Castle, the failed attempt to avoid the gaze of the disapproving principal in the form of Captain Gates, the juvenile (and frustrated) romantic manipulations of Castle, and even the pathetic attempt of the new kid to break into clique with the cool kids.
New kid Sully, on the other hand, is also a reminder throughout much of the episode that this is all ostensibly just as fleeting as a high school reunion. Time has passed and things have changed, seemingly irrevocably. The spark may still be there, but life has happened and once the moment has passed, we all have our real lives that we must return to. So while the boys all seem happy merely to be reliving the glory-days of their past at the precinct, Becket appears to be all too aware that her real responsibilities are elsewhere as she keeps her friends/former colleagues at arm’s length.
Which is one of many reasons why Beckett’s choice at the end comes as a shock. Beckett has always been the adult in the room. Sure, she cuts loose from time to time, but for the most part, she is the voice of reason and discretion in response to Castle’s constant playing – even when there has been a negative overall outcome to her tendency to play by the rules. And although she has chafed under the new set of rules imposed on her by her new job, she has nonetheless done as she’s told even when it means, in this episode, largely freezing out her best friends and her lover.
So for her to pull a Castle by leaking false information to the press in order to stop the injustice of what her federal bosses have planned for Svetlana is definitely out of character. But that’s okay because this is Castle, a show where somehow, no matter how ridiculous or dangerous or just plain ill-advised the actions of the good guys, things almost always work out. Castle lives in fantasy world in which consequences are largely something that happens to those without star billing in the credits.
Nowhere is the show’s tendency in this direction clearer than in Beckett’s reaction to Agent McCord informing her that she’s fired as a result of what she’s done. There’s a moment of surprise on Castle’s face, but when the camera turns to Beckett, she’s speechless and very slowly, reflexively, she shakes her head in denial. It’s easy to read: this can’t be happening. Of course she’s in denial—they’ve all gotten away with far worse unscathed.
Although, despite her denial, I think we have to ask: is it just possible that Beckett was unconsciously hoping to finally be made to pay a price for her actions? It’s been clear that she largely doesn’t approve of the way they do things in Washington, DC. And it’s not like she’s always happy with the way things are handled by the city of New York, either. But at least in New York, she has her boys.
Of course, the fact that how this world works changes so dramatically here means that this is, really, nothing more than a plot device designed largely to get the show, after its brief hiatus, back on track, and for once I’m not going to complain about the shoddy workmanship of how it was handled. After all, Beckett is not someone who sorts out her feelings about things in her life quickly. Over a decade of unenlightening soul-searching over her mother’s death and four years before she could really admit how she felt about Castle—she takes forever to arrive at a conclusion that easily apparent to those around her. I don’t want to have to wait for Beckett to process things as she normally does.
So if a deus ex machina is what it takes to get us back to the precinct and back to the fun of Castle, we’ll take it. Gladly.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Dreamworld, here.
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