Castle season 8 episode 5 review: The Nose

It's a sad state of affairs when the combination of Castle and Beckett stops being fun to watch...

This review contains spoilers.

8.5 The Nose

One of the things that we heard going into this week’s episode, The Nose, was that it was going to be a return to the early more campy days of Castle. Now, I’m not exactly sure what that means, since campiness is a quality that is pretty evenly distributed throughout the series. In fact, way back in the day, before the series really found its legs (letting Fillion fully be Fillion) and it was just another stereotypical procedural with a tough-as-nails female detective and her less by-the-book partner, most of the camp was relegated to the ridiculousness of the premise, rather than a major driver of episode plots.

But I digress…

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The point is, camp is as much of the show’s DNA as geek is as this point, and Castle generally does well when it goes in that direction. I’d like to say this week is no exception, but it is—because there is a caveat. More on that later.

This week’s crime revolves around the theft of a “lost” Van Gogh painting which is being auctioned off in secret. It is stolen and the thief just happens to cross paths with a woman, Mia Laszlo (played by comedian Stephnie Weir) with a heightened sense of smell. Her ability to help the police to identify the culprit is complicated by two things: her own apparent misanthropy and desire to have as little to do with the rest of the world as possible and Beckett’s own short-sightedness (pun intended) in failing to credit olfactory evidence as a viable way to pursue a suspect.

Luckily for both of them, Castle just happens to have done some research into hyperosmia (Mia’s condition) and sees not only the potential for her as a witness but to help him suss out what’s going on with Kate (when Mia just happens to mentions that the “hootchie-mama” detective’s pheromone levels skyrocketed when he approached Beckett earlier). Castle turns on the charm and convinces Mia to venture out of her self-imposed fortress of solitude to help him solve the case. I am giving away nothing, of course, in revealing that she agrees, they do, and that by the end, Mia has decided to abandon her life as a hermit and join the human race.

But, as always with Castle, it’s never worth judging by the destination, since it’s never a surprise. It’s only the journey that is worth contemplating.

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I’ll preface this by saying that I think Stana Katic does a great job on the show, and handles the comedy well. But Weir is a comedienne by trade. And it did not take Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing to confirm Nathan’s chops as a clown. So Weir and Fillion together take the comedy up more than a few notches from what we are used to. A Beckett eyeroll ceased to be humourous years ago. And Weir’s are funnier than Kate’s ever were.

Which is both good and bad. Because the comparisons are hard not to make.

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For instance, there’s Ryan and Esposito. Kevin and Javier get the results of their sergeant’s exam back at the beginning of the episode, with the Irish detective failing while his partner passes. First, I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be comedy. I would never call Esposito dumb by any stretch, but if you asked me which one of the two were better able to quote chapter and verse of NYPD policy and procedure and to think clearly and quickly in high-pressured situations (such as in a test environment), I would tend to pick the more by-the-book detective who and also spent a lot of time working undercover. But maybe that’s just me. The fact that it pretty much goes on commented on except as a possible motivation for Ryan’s Esposito-directed accidents doesn’t really clear things up much.

And I do know that those accidents are supposed to be funny. I mean, shooting your partner in the arse is always funny, right?

Maybe, but when placed next to what Castle and Mia are doing, it instead comes off as forced and thus falls fairly flat. Which is too bad, since usually, while the boys are far more than comedic relief, they can usually be counted on to bring the funny. Possibly it’s because the very idea that Ryan could even subconsciously be wanting to get back at Esposito is as unbelievable as the one that Javier would entertain such a thought—except as a joke, one which I kept expecting Esposito to reveal (that all his outrage was just mocking) but which never came. These just weren’t our boys.

The more painful comparison, of course, is to Caskett themselves. Perhaps it is true that, like a real couple, since they’ve been together, the relationship between the two has changed. And maybe they aren’t as funny as they used to be. But again, like a real relationship, different doesn’t mean worse. What you have two or three years in with your lover may not be what it was in those first few months, but it can still be amazing, and better in a lot of ways. I would argue this was true of Caskett. I was all too happy to give up near misses, angst, and the occasional tender moment for sly looks, clever innuendo, and a race to the bedroom.

But watching the two of them these last couple of weeks has been painful. I once accused Andrew Marlowe of shipper sadism, but that was nothing compared to watching them deal with each other recently. Not really working together, not laughing together, not being together. And when you then give Castle someone who may make him spark romantically but has him firing on all his other pistons, it’s hard not to see the difference: the scenes with Castle and Mia are fun. And fun used to be the whole reason for watching Castle.

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Still, despite those obvious and uncomfortable juxtapositions, the majority of the episode just works. The plot is complicated—for a Castle episode, anyway—although the denouement is the same as always, if a bit more surprising than usual (it was really hard to see the killer coming this time), Rick and Mia were a joy, Hayley may have been superfluous but at least she wasn’t annoying, Mia’s encounter with Martha was a sweet and delightful chink in the former’s armor, and the eventual thaw, while predictable, felt earned.

So, a successful episode—with a sizeable caveat.

After what should have largely been a triumph, the writers, in true Castle style, shot themselves directly in their own arses. Did we need reminding of the pain between Beckett and Castle? And if so, while I get that you were riffing off “the Nose,” smelling the shirt of someone you love has a very specific set of emotions/conditions attached to it cinematically: someone we love is gone, we miss them, we have no other contact, and no other way to re-experience them. It is a sweet and sad gesture of loss and mourning and reconnection.

So to use it here creates another juxtaposition which serves to remind us just how much this isn’t that situation. Kate has electively walked away from Castle for reasons which do not stand up to even a whisper of scrutiny (since any bad guy who does the barest modicum of snooping would be able to see what everyone else does—that they are still wildly in love with each other. They are still almost daily in each other’s orbit, talking and working with each other (if a bit less than usual), even sharing occasional embraces. They are not long-lost lovers. If you’re going to trot out an old favorite (cliché), could you at least make it a fitting one?

And finally, a plea to the showrunners: if you are going to torture us, can you at least stop treating us as though we are monumentally stupid to boot? Since Kate left Rick, Castle has spent all of his time trying to find out if she still loves him. We understand that you are trying to recapture what you think is the lost magic of the show by taking us back to a time in which part of the fun was that we knew they loved each other, the boys knew it, hell, there were likely uncontacted alien races which suspected it, but they themselves didn’t know it and the fun was in watching them try to figure it out.

But here’s the thing: at this point in our story, Castle knows he loves Beckett, right? So no doubt on that side. Nor should there be. But for three episodes, you’ve had Rick trying to figure out if Kate still loves him. Despite the fact that she said so when she left as well as since she left. So having him manipulate some poor lady into venturing out in the world so she can tell him if Kate still cares for him?

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Just stop.

A lack of love is not the problem here. It’s a lack of sense. Not ours, nor should it be Castle’s. I’ll leave you to figure out whose it really is.