This review contains spoilers.
7.3 Clear And Present Danger
Hurrah! After three episodes in a row (counting last year’s finale), Castle has finally returned to its roots and what makes it really great: Clear And Present Danger is unadulterated, joyful fun.
After Caskett’s conversation last week about putting off talking about the wedding for a month, it seemed that what we were going to get was going to be four weeks of tension and pain—which honestly, would have made emotional sense for these two characters and what they’ve been through since they put the issue of Joanna Beckett’s murder behind them near the end of last season. Since then, it’s been nothing but pain and doubt, and no agreement just puts all that in a box and lets people walk away unscathed. So normally, I’d have a serious problem with the fact that that appears to be precisely what the writers are asking us to believe has happened with Beckett and Castle this week.
Except that, in this episode, we got the return of the Caskett of the last two seasons: people happily in love, doing what they love doing, and taking everyone else along for the ride. And the basic storyline of Clear And Present Danger goes back even further in that, as Castle has worked with Beckett over the years, his theories, while still out in left field, have gotten a tad more prosaic – Beckett’s insistence that they deal in realities has had an impact. This week, though, he alternately blames the Devil, the Invisible Man, and government conspiracies. This is Castle at his most fanciful and most fun.
Their case lends itself well to this and plenty of the twists and turns that we enjoy on this show: a long-haired, Satanically tattooed insurance-claims-adjuster-turned-nighttime-pool-hustler is killed inside his sealed apartment. His killer leaves behind $20,000 in cash and no trail, not even on the video surveillance – which shows the door to the apartment opening and then closing after the murder, but no one touching the door or exiting the apartment as it does so. Without any clear explanations, Castle lets his imagination run wild while the team collects the more plausible suspects: the gamer friend, the marine biologist girlfriend, the Brooklyn thug, and the transportation entrepreneur.
But it looks like Castle’s fantasies are the more fertile when he and Beckett return to the scene of the crime for more evidence and are attacked by an invisible force, a situation so ludicrous that Castle at first thinks Beckett is playacting being strangled by it before helping her fight it off, and then the both of them are forced to lie to Capt. Gates rather than admit that they believe they were assaulted by something akin to the Invisible Man. The encounter, however, leads them to a government lab where Castle’s wild theories are trumped by one with a lot more science but no less imagination behind it: a cloaking suit.
From there, the team tracks the killer, eliminating one suspect after another until they find out the murder was the result of one of the more pedestrian motives: a lover’s betrayal. And it’s a good mystery, in and of itself, but it’s only the foundation of what made this episode great.
It gives our heroes some wonderful moments. Not only do they get to battle the “Invisible Man,” but Castle uses his gamer skills to identify and then slow down their primary suspect by going mano-a-mano with him in an MMORPG. When they finally discover the Goblin King’s real-life location, Caskett closes the net on him, eventually using a falchion sword to capture him. We also learn that not only did Castle go to a zombie apocalypse camp at some point, but that he actually found a practical application for what he learned there. And then there’s the moment when said suspect reveals he is not the killer, but Frodo and that he was not trying to keep the suit, but destroy it in “the fires of Mordor.”
But all this geekness aside, as usual, it’s the chemistry that truly seals the deal. And there’s plenty of it in Clear And Present Danger.
Our bromance is alive and kicking, as Esposito starts picking up on clues that something is off with Ryan. His suspicion is seemingly confirmed when he discovers a scratch and body glitter on his partner’s neck and immediately accuses him of stepping out on Jenny. Not only funny when Ryan has to admit that he’s actually working as a bouncer in a male strip club (called Menhattan) but their exchange reveals that Esposito—a bit of a tomcat himself—would take a dim view of his partner following his own general example. Is this an indication that Javi has really moved beyond such philandering and is actually serious this time about Lanie? Or just that he doesn’t want to watch Ryan throw away the life he has with Jenny and Sarah Grace? Either way, not only do we get to see the way he cares for his partner, but that Ryan can always give as good as he gets when he asks if Esposito wants to help him put on the “uniform” that Javi gifts him with at the end of the episode. Watching Jon Huertas and Seamus Deaver balance real affection and concern with the fictional pair’s mischievousness and one-ups-manship remains one of the very best parts of Castle.
And the chemistry between Castle and Becket here is both fun and steamy, everything we’ve been missing. The on-going joke this week – that the two of them are desperate to get enough time alone to “revive” their relationship – sets up some great scenes, both at the precinct and in their bedroom. Subconsciously (or even consciously) re-enacting their years-long, near-miss-fraught past, we get to watch them spin the crime story together, each line pulling them towards each other until they are in kissing range…and the phone rings. But unlike that distant past, they now know how good that missed kiss would, and it only seems to make them want it more (pay attention, Marlowe; that bit’s important).
The Invisible Man theory makes such devoutly-wished-for consummation a little difficult to pull off, however, as it makes them paranoid, and just that much funnier. When they are making out on their bed, and Kate suddenly pulls back, asking Rick, “Is that your hand on my leg?” He first responds automatically, “Yeah,” before having to reconsider. Looking at his own hand in confusion, he answers more carefully. “Yeah. Pretty sure.” But the paranoia is so bad that he then makes a fortress of dental floss and hanging pots and pans between their bed and the doorway, giving her the opportunity to point out how he “just kind of make(s) nerdy sexy.” Sexy, that is, until he catches the quite visible and alarmed Martha in his trap and effectively kills any further possibility for romance that night.
Luckily, they finally do connect by the end of the episode, with the only reference to their compartmentalized issues coming when Kate points out that however much he wants her, he remembers two fewer months of that desire than she does: she wins that particular contest.
But the whole episode has me thinking that perhaps this is the winning solution for everyone – both our heroes and ourselves. After years of waiting for what was supposed to be the triumphant moment in this relationship – the wedding – I’m wondering if maybe we are all better off without it. ABC has been playing with the audience, suggesting that we might get the postponed wedding as early as the seventh episode this season or as late as the final episode of the show in spring of next year. But Clear And Present Danger was such an outright pleasure after the on-going wedding fiasco that I think many fans would rather have the last twenty episodes of Castle give us this version of Caskett than the one we’ve suffered through in the name of this amnesia storyline. I almost envy Rick. He has forgotten what’s happened in the last few months. Marlowe might be doing us a huge favour in letting the rest of us forget it as well.
But I doubt we’ll get that lucky.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Montreal, here.
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