This review contains spoilers.
7.8 Kill Switch
One of the things that Castle generally does fairly well is plotting. While much of the minutiae of writing on the show – the dialogue, the characterization, the explication – often fails to hit the mark, Castle has brought us some really imaginative crimes even as it rides the lines between Rick’s unbelievable criminal fantasy and Kate’s extremely pedestrian realism. It also does a great job at giving most of us that wonderfully self-congratulatory moment of “a-HA!” just a bit before all the pieces fall into place for our detectives.
Kill Switch, on the other hand, does neither.
The episode starts out promisingly enough as when the murder of Paul Reeves, a GAO investigator, in the park leads to an Occupy-style economic activist. Esposito and Ryan are on his trail until he takes to the subway and Javi has to follow him on foot (we know things are going to go wrong when the boys are split up). When Esposito approaches Jared Stone on one of the trains, the activist pulls the gun of a nearby transit cop and takes those on the train car hostage.
So far, it’s a great setup. The whole team doing a Pelham 123 thing. The tension already inherent in such a situation then gets dialed up when Stone reveals that he’s wearing explosives and Lanie, watching the hostage situation with everyone else via a secret camera on the train, recognizes that Stone is quickly succumbing to some type of infection. Even if the hostage-taker doesn’t want to blow up the train, he may soon be too sick to have any control over the situation.
And a shout-out to Marlowe and company (usually quick to go to the cliché) for not doing what most shows do in this situation. Over and over, we have seen the actual experts in hostage negotiations and rescue—in this case, the Hostage Rescue Team—depicted as dangerous, trigger-happy, and likely to get people killed while the heroes themselves are forced to step in and save the day. It was nice to see the professionals treated as such, even if it’s only secondhand through phone calls and explication.
But then, the entire hostage situation, it turns out, is a ruse. Jared Stone isn’t simply coming down with the flu. He’s actually been intentionally infected with a super-virus, and the mastermind behind the plan intends for him not only to spread the sickness to those on the train but to start an epidemic.
Which, again, seems like it could be a great set-up. Unfortunately, this takes up three-quarters or so of the plot. When Esposito and transit cop Marisa Aragon take Stone down, the entire train is hospitalized and Beckett and Castle go to interview Stone who knows virtually nothing that can help them find the true perpetrator.
It is only then that, conveniently (and unbelievably), Castle brings Beckett’s and our attention to the increased production of the vaccine for the flu strain that Stone was infected with which, logically, leads them back to the investigation that Paul Reeves was doing into the lab that makes said vaccine. So far, so good.
But when Rick and Kate re-interview Ms. Jarvis, Reeves’ boss, suddenly we are given a lot of information through explication of what the two have discovered, all off-camera, between Castle’s vaccine discovery and Ms. Jarvis’ interview. Not only do we find out, for the first time, all the links she has to the lab that’s over-producing the vaccine, but what her motive is as well. In other words, while one element of the crime (means) might possibly have been deduced from the evidence we are given in the episode, the other two (motive and opportunity) aren’t even hinted at until suddenly everything is revealed.
The plot crumbles and we’re left wondering how such a great set-up could essentially result in such an unsatisfying and almost unrelated resolution.
Luckily, there is a little more for fans in the secondary plot this week. Esposito and Lanie have been solidly back together (although it’s frustrating that we never got to see the reconciliation) since Castle’s unexplained amnesia. And this week gave us some insight on how their relationship is going. We’ve known that one of the big reasons that Esplanie have had problems throughout the series run is because the medical examiner has been a bit cool when it comes to discussing a future with Javi.
Esposito has struggled with this, largely accepting whatever boundaries Lanie has put on the relationship, even being demoted to the occasional “booty call.” But this week has Javi openly telling Ryan that he envies his partner’s family and that his “biological clock” is ticking. It’s not only a nice moment between the boys – especially Kevin assuring Esposito that he’ll be a good father – but it brings the Esplanie conflict out in the open.
Esposito’s connection, then, with transit cop Aragon raises an important question: with Lanie still holding him somewhat at arm’s-length, is it time for him to move on and find someone who is ready to make the commitment he’s looking for? Aragon picks up on the fact that despite a half-assed move on Javi’s part in her direction, his heart clearly lies elsewhere. And while Lanie is absolutely relieved to be reunited with him at the end of the episode, we’ve seen that reaction before without it translating into a deeper bond between the two.
Perhaps this week’s episode will give us some insight on where these two really stand in the long-term.
And had the episode ended there, it would have been on a good note, despite its other shortcomings. Unfortunately, and for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, we instead get Castle offering to taking them all out for drinks at the Old Haunt and making a series of bad subway-related jokes. Was the episode 30 seconds too short? Did they feel that they had to balance such an Esposito-focused episode by shifting attention back to the title character? Whatever the reason, it ends up leaving a bad taste – not only about the episode itself but more troubling, about Rick. They have only narrowly averted a pandemic. His lack of sensitivity in cracking incredibly lame jokes in light of what they’ve all just been through is a little troubling.
But then, Rick’s been a little lost lately – hardly surprising considering what he’s been through. The optimist in me would like to think that the writers intentionally have him behaving badly to hint at some inner turmoil. Unfortunately, Kill Switch is so poorly constructed, the pessimist in me is more likely to see it simply as yet another misstep in an episode that fails to live up its promising premise.
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