Castle season 8 episode 19 review: Dead Again

Castle delivers another head-scratching episode out of left-field in this week's Dead Again...

This review contains spoilers.

8.19 Dead Again

It feels like, only a couple of weeks ago, I was reviewing this same episode. Or at least its type. In Death Wish, we had Castle going off on a flight of fancy over Aladdin’s lamp, and I was pointing out that, every once in a while, the writers on Castle appear to lose their collective minds by penning an episode in which one of Rick’s fantasies crosses the line from a playful-but-not-serious bit of whimsy to a fullblown delusion.

The nice thing about Death Wish, and perhaps I should have pointed it out at the time, is that, in the end, while Castle’s ridiculous theory is never entirely proven to be false—after all, maybe Genevieve really is a genie and Mr. X her master—there is at least a plausible and more likely explanation put forth for what Rick has been spinning yarns about.

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Last week’s Dead Again, on the other hand, offers no reality-based foundation for Castle’s latest supernatural hypothesis.

The episode revolves around the murder of the mild-mannered (as in, barely conscious) safety inspector Alan Masters. Or at least, it would, if Alan Masters were actually dead. Poisoned by people who are frustrated by his by-the-book ways (it is supposed), Masters is found dead in his apartment. Lanie, who I’m sure I’m not alone in missing, seems like she’s going to fulfill her newly scaled back function of giving us time and cause of death only to have Masters suddenly sit up and demand to know what’s going on. The entire team is, of course, amazed, and—as if demoting her character weren’t enough–Lanie’s professional skills are called into question. I mean, he cannot really have been dead, so she must have missed something. That’s certainly the impression the examining doctor gives at the hospital before releasing an apparently healthy Masters to go home and get some rest.

Where he is again “killed” by a trap that uses his bed to electrocute him.

When Lanie is again called to the scene, she pronounces him really dead this time, and they marvel at the terrible fate of someone given another chance only to be killed almost immediately after. When Masters again sits up, perfectly healthy but asking if someone’s barbequeing, Rick’s conclusion is that the guy is a superhero blessed with immortality, and decides that he will be the new “Safety Man’s” mentor in his epic DC/Marvel/Joseph Campbell-inspired journey.

Both “deaths,” however, are obviously attempted murders, and once the team clears the underling that Masters fired a few days before (and here, I have to admit that, while not usually impressed with Jonathan Silverman, who plays Masters, his reactions and monologue as he plays the recording of the fired employee’s threats toward him is one of the funniest moments we’ve had on the show in a while), they start looking for the more likely motive for the target on his back: his role as an inspector and his diligence in carrying out his duties.

Almost none of which is of interest to Castle who is more concerned with sussing out Master’s “origin story” and finding him a Mary Jane/Lois Lane. Still it is on Alan’s first date with the girl of his dreams that the actual reason for the attempted murders begins to become clear. The rest of the mystery barely qualifies as one, really, as most of the remaining story is dedicated more to explaining what happened than the usual shtick of leading us down false paths.

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Explained except for the most important piece: how Masters manages to survive three death experiences. The only explanation even hinted at is that Lanie needs to turn in her medical card because she can no longer tell the difference between a living and a dead body. And this lack of reason does not, as in the other “Castle goes out in left field” episodes, leave the mystery open in a playful way. Instead, it ends up feels like laziness on the part of the writers—as though they couldn’t come up with a rationale, and assumed “just ‘cause” would suffice.

That laziness doesn’t kill the episode entirely, however. As I said, Silverman does a good job in the role, and his casting is a bit of brilliance. Who better to play a guy who cannot die than an actor best known for carrying around a corpse and pretending it’s alive (Weekend At Bernie’s)? The moment of close-the-case realization between Lanie and Masters, meant to mimic Caskett’s solve-it-together style, has a rhythm that is recognizable enough for the gag to work but different enough to suggest, as the episode does, a unique chemistry between medical examiner and former corpse.

But, of course, the very best moment involves none of these people or this storyline: the face-off between Caleb and Kate. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen any real fire or movement in this myth-arc, and certainly the sudden reappearance of Vikram with news on the LokSat flight he was tracking down is clunky. All that is forgotten, however, when Kristoffer Polaha’s Caleb pulls the new Captain aside and issues a threat just as chilling as any Bracken ever gave. Stana Katic was chosen to play Beckett because she does a great job of “tough cop,” but we haven’t gotten to enjoy that part of her in a while, so watching her go all steel and fire and cleverness with that hint of fear that reads only in her eyes is great fun—especially when it’s got someone good to play off of.

Which is why it was a little hard to take when she walked out of the meeting telling Castle that she knew she’d gotten through to Caleb. It took much of the surprise out of the later scene where we find out that she’s right and that Castle is prepared to defend his best scotch. The set-up for how they are going to get a chance at LokSat is established by the end of the episode, but while the scene itself works, the fact that the scene occurs how and where it does—that is takes away from the tension, happens in this episode in particular, and is just tacked onto the end—ends up feeling, again, like laziness from the writers. Usually there’s some connection between an episode’s mystery and the larger Bracken/LokSat arc—thematically, if not content-based—but here, there’s nothing I can discern.

Did I miss something?

But now we have the set-up for the end of the season and, hopefully, the end of LokSat. It’s looking to be the end of Castle altogether with both Stana Katic and Tamala Jones exiting, but final word isn’t expected til later this week on the fate of the series itself.

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