Castle season 6 episode 8 review: Murder Is Forever

Ryan and Esposito's relationship is centre-stage in this week's Castle, which is all the better for it...

This review contains spoilers.

6.8 Murder Is Forever

Okay, so I have criticised the writing, directly and indirectly, on Castle repeatedly. But when they get it right, I want to call it out, and this week was a winner.

Now the dialogue is not any better than usual. There’s a weird dichotomy when it comes to dialogue on the show. In the beginning, it was uniformly bad. By that, I mean it was cliché and worn thin. It was like the writers had created a random TV procedural dialogue generator and took most of their inspiration from that. As the years have gone by, this has not entirely disappeared, but it now largely only affects one kind of dialogue on the show: any time the established characters are talking to those involved in the case (witnesses, suspects, other law enforcement personnel), they tend to use this tired type of conversation. But when they are talking to each other and for each other, the conversation is more natural, fluid, and creative. My guess is this is a result of the actors who took the garbage they were being given initially and, as their characters developed and they found their voice (partly through ab-lib, not an unusual process in television production), this fed back into the writing.

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But the plots, while inventive in their initial premise, tend to be pretty predictable. Not this week. Sorta. This week’s show revolved around the diamond industry, the impact that high-quality man-made diamonds would have on that industry, and the lengths that some would go to avoid that impact. Let’s be clear here: it was pretty obvious early on who the culprit is (her initial reaction telegraphed too much). But good storytelling doesn’t always rely on keeping the what at the end of the tale secret; sometimes, it is all about the why.

And this week’s episode was definitely about the journey rather than the destination. Lots of suspects, lots of plausible motives, lots of twists, and a resolution that felt (aside from the canned dialogue when the guilty party is finally revealed) right.

But the greater joy of this week’s episode was the Ryan and Esposito dynamic. There’s a lot to love about this relationship and the way the two men interact with the world.

What this episode highlighted was both what is good and a little less-than about that relationship. Since the larger story arch was about how a woman who has studied power dynamics in the natural world came back and applied that knowledge to human romantic interactions, there is a good portion of the episode which is devoted to the old Men-Are-from-Mars/Women-Are-from-Venus thing. And as a feminist, this stuff rankles me to my toes. Hate it when it’s between Beckett and Castle (although I liked the resolution of Linus conflict, just not the male/female rationale for it) and am equally uneasy when it’s between Ryan and Esposito.

Of course, Kevin and Javier are not man and woman, but one of the qualities of a bromance is that it’s just a touch too intimate a relationship than some people are comfortable with between straight men. Since we associate intimacy with heteronormative roles, one of the things that happens in these relationships is an arguably unnecessary reassurance of the audience that the men involved are, in fact, straight. Castle does this by making sure that the audience understands that Ryan is very happily married and Esposito will eventually get back together (beyond booty calls) with Lanie.

Despite this, that intimacy can still breed discomfort for some, including the men actually in that relationship, something that Ryan and Esposito occasionally skirt around in usually very humourous ways:

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“I skimmed through her book. There might be something to her theory. For instance, in every relationship, there needs to be a masculine energy and a feminine energy—even in ours.”

“Well, we know which you are.”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m very comfortable in my masculinity.”

“You realize you’re wearing a sweater vest, right?”

It would be easy to go along with Esposito’s reading of their relationship, but happily, whatever gendering is there is complicated. Yes, Esposito is the more physically imposing of the two men, and generally, regardless of the company present, looks like he’s ready for a fight. And yes, Ryan is the more sensitive of the two, and the one more likely to see the subtleties of a situation. But on the other hand, Esposito is also the more emotionally expressive of the two—the one more likely to act out of that emotion, and Ryan, for all his sweater vests and devotion to his wife, is more likely to keep his cool and level that steely stare that seems to come out of nowhere at a suspect the two are trying to break. We get to see this when they interrogate the victim’s lover.

But what we also see in that room is how well the two of them work together. This is no simple good-cop/bad-cop standard. The way they position themselves in the room, the way they volley the questioning back and forth, it betrays an ease and a trust that says a lot about this relationship.

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They are just as much a force to be reckoned with out on the street. Usually it’s Castle and Beckett at the center of the action, but when it’s the boys’ turn, they are great to watch. The scene is which they are transporting the diamond and are attacked is filmed very well. But what this technical proficiency highlights is so much better: Esposito trying to shield his partner from the hit they take, Ryan going back for the diamond as his partner covers him, the largely unspoken communication of their next move, and the way they execute on that, each providing suppressing fire as his partner retreats to a position of safety so they can both target their attackers.  So often in such scenes, what you are aware of is the choreography—the actors hitting their marks. But here, the execution is so smooth and natural in its syncopation that what it really communicates is how long these two have had each others’ backs.

In fact, while the whole series was set up to focus on the Caskett relationship, through all the false-starts and near-misses that frustrated the shippers over the first four seasons, it’s been Ryan and Esposito who have provided the best example of what a true partnership looks like. And it’s nice to see that now that our leads are together, that strength which the boys have always brought to the show is still being highlighted. They may well be my favorite television couple of all time.

Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Like Father Like Daughter, here.

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