This review contains spoilers.
7.11 Castle, P.I. & 7.12 Private Eye Caramba!
When last we left Kate and Rick, before the mid-winter hiatus, Castle had taken one of the more adventurous turns imaginable on the show. It had undermined its entire premise.
From the beginning, one of the more outrageous aspects of the series is the idea that, in the lawsuit-happy world of law enforcement and public safety, a writer would be given not just permission to do a long-term ride-along with the NYPD, but access to LEO databases, crime scene reports, personal information on private citizens—basically all the tools that allow what former NY mayor Bloomberg once called the “seventh biggest army in the world” to do its job.
Okay, it’s not like television audiences haven’t been asked to swallow more preposterous concepts. However, once a team of writers have done this, it’s rare for them to then draw undue attention to that wild premise, let alone to entirely reverse it. But after Castle’s entanglement with the mob earlier this season, this is exactly what’s happened: Rick is no longer welcome at the precinct, and the entire crime-solving foundation of the relationship between him and Beckett is no more.
It’s pretty ballsy, especially for a show that is not known for taking big risks. Of course, execution is everything. And Castle, PI and Private Eye Caramba! are largely successful on that all-important front.
As the titles of the last two episodes suggest, Castle has chosen to deal with his eviction from Kate’s world by becoming a private investigator (via an online course). Initially, he believes that a PI license will allow him to still horn in on Beckett’s investigations, but both Capt. Gates and Kate herself disabuse him of this notion; he is persona non grata at the precinct. This leads to a tension we haven’t seen since the first season—Castle doing everything he can to work himself into Kate’s cases, while she does (initially) everything she can to stop him.
In Castle, PI, that case revolves around the murder of the admission officer of a local preschool. The school all but guarantees later entry into all the best elementary and secondary institutions the city has to offer, so competition to get one’s progeny in is fierce—possibly even worth killing over. And so as Kate, Ryan, and Esposito look into the motive for the victim’s death on behalf of the city, Rick begins to investigate the same case because… well, because he feels like it.
And he is fairly successful. He’s learned a lot from his years at Beckett’s side and he was always fairly resourceful in his own right, so it’s hardly surprising that he spends a good portion of the episode beating Kate and company to the next clue. In fact, at one point, he’s so clearly proven he knows what he’s doing that Ryan and Espo actually cajole Beckett into trying to get information on the case out of her husband. She initially bungles the attempt (in an amusing scene involving Alexis) but finally manages to later seduce the information out of him and then clams up when he suggests that the least she can do is share how the lead he gave her panned out.
It’s a nice little circling back on their first-season relationship where Rick so unsuccessfully tried to woo Kate into trusting him, and the fact that he takes only mock umbrage with her over the whole thing says a lot about who they both now are. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that, even after cheating in their little competition, Beckett finds that her husband is still the one who eventually really solves the case.
Castle still faces a lot of resistance, however, in his role as PI. Gates, who had earlier in the season become his advocate, is now again doing what she can to keep him out, but it’s really Perlmutter who seems determined to make sure that the writer never returns. What used to be slightly frustrated banter on the medical examiner’s part about having to work with someone like Castle now strays dangerously close to gleeful schadenfreude at the fact that he no longer has to share his findings with him. And I admit to being a little worried that these two episodes use the crusty ME with no sign or mention of Lanie. Is it possible that the breakup of Esplanie means the exit of Tamala Jones from the series?
And also largely missing thus far have been Martha and Alexis in a meaningful role in the story. While we get each briefly, they add little to the plot, and that’s disappointing when you have two such fine actresses to work with.
Luckily, Ryan and Esposito are still very much a part of the show’s new normal. Ryan has actively taken to playing Castle’s part in the precinct, pitching the same kind of creative ideas (though with less success, as Esposito is happy to point out). And Private Eye Caramba! gives Javi just as much chance to play the fool.
This episode revolves around the murder of an up-and-coming telenovela star. While Kate and the boys investigate her death, Castle (who has obviously won his spouse over enough to the idea of him as a successful PI that Kate recommends him for the gig) is hired by the actress’s co-worker to recover the diamond-encrusted purse that she loaned to the victim. Esposito, it turns out, is a wealth of information in both investigations because he himself is addicted to telenovelas, though he tries to blame his Tia for his knowledge of this narrative world. It’s hard to remember the last time we laughed as hard at Javier as we do when it becomes clear that the he-man is more excited to visit the set of Santos Desesperadas than Castle would be at a Star Wars convention.
Of course, Castle is less caught up in his usual sci-fi fantasies this episode than in the Sam Spade one he’s currently living. While Kate wonders if searching for a missing purse might be beneath him, Rick sees the missing item as his own Maltese Falcon and spends a great deal of the episode doing film noir voiceovers of his own actions (including love scenes with Beckett) and this, along with some typical telenovela histrionics, makes the episode the most fun we’ve seen this season.
What does all of this say for the series going forward? It’s hard to tell. While Castle is always at its best when it’s having fun, the disappearance/amnesia trauma at the beginning of the season is still hanging over us and Caskett like a weird narrative sword of Damocles. It is hard to imagine how the writers could possibly do that storyline justice in the context of what looks like the show’s “new normal.” On the other hand, while it was beginning to look like this might be Castle’s last season (both Katic and Fillion’s contracts are up this spring), ABC President Paul Lee recently indicated that the network is hoping to keep Caskett on the air for “many years to come,” which means that the show has time to find some believable resolution to that more dramatic plot thread.
Of course, all of this assumes that Castle will continue along this new track it’s created for itself. It’s difficult to forget that how quickly the Washington/FBI twist at the beginning of season 6 was reversed, and so there’s the distinct possibility that Castle’s career as a lone PI might be short-lived. And that would be disappointing, really. It would be gratifying to finally see Andrew Marlowe take a chance with Castle and do something risky and mean it.
Here’s hoping he’s as onboard with Rick’s new career as both Castle and Beckett seem to be.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Bad Santa, here.
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