Castle season 8 episode 7: The Last Seduction

This review contains spoilers.

8.7 The Last Seduction

I signed off last week’s review by pointing out that the absence of Kate in the episode had the unfortunate effect of making us realize that we didn’t really miss her all that much. So it was wise—and possibly the first truly smart thing done all season—to follow that up with The Last Seduction, an episode that reminds us precisely why we should miss our female lead.

The episode revolves—ostensibly—around the murder of a gigolo: a handsome actor who seduces older, rich, married women for initially unspecified but obviously nefarious purposes (boy, wouldn’t it be nice to see more May-December romantic or sexual attachments with women in the December role that were actually based in mutual attraction?). He ends up dead at just about the moment he decides that what he’s doing isn’t very nice, brutally stabbed nine times with his own kitchen knife.

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But the mystery is really not the main focus here as we are far more anxious to find out what’s going to happen in the two relationship-based subplots.

The first of these revolves around Ryan and Esposito who, despite apparently getting along just fine last week, have not recovered from events in The Nose, in which Esposito passes the sergeant’s exam, Ryan fails, and Ryan accidently shoots his partner in the arse. It turns out that Kevin may be harbouring feelings of jealousy, and Javi is definitely still upset about the hole in his arse—no, not that one. So the two of them are fighting so much they’ve been sent into therapy.

Except the therapy isn’t working, and so the therapist basically gives them a choice: find new partners, or find someone to act as a buffer between them. This, of course, is the reason-of-the-week for Castle to be hanging around the precinct; he agrees to act as their buffer in exchange for their collusion in setting up a first-anniversary surprise for Beckett. The idea is a lame one, of course, serving only to give the writers narrative cover for Castle, as it doesn’t seem to have any real effect on their disputes, Rick’s pop-psych suggestions not any more helpful than his actual presence.

And so, as the episode rolls along, the two of them fight like cats-and-dogs and hover at the point of breakup, theoretically serving as a pointed lesson for Beckett, until a close-call makes them up to how much they really like and care about each other.

Where to start on this one… Let’s see. There’s the fact that Ryan and Esposito’s relationship —their situation—has literally nothing to do with what’s going on with her and Castle. After all, Kevin and Javi may not be completely equal in their contribution to the current conflict, but they both bear at least some of the responsibility; Castle, on the other hand, has literally done nothing whatsoever to cause Beckett to walk away. Second, the emotion that has made Kate leave—despite how stupid a rationale the writers have for her doing so—is love, not envy or anger. This isn’t a matter of her forgiving anyone. If you really wanted to stretch things beyond all measure, you might possibly suggest that the lesson she’s supposed to learn from them is not to be so stubborn, but then surely the writers could have come up with something at least vaguely parallel.

Second, that close-call was terribly executed. Esposito is being held at point-blank range by the killer. Ryan comes in, see his partner in danger and tries to push him out of the way. There are a couple of problems with that. First, in such a situation, cops are supposed to try to de-escalate the situation. So Javi’s decision to try to pull his sidearm isn’t by-the-book. But it is dangerous. He’s facing off against someone who is nervous, starts to try to talk her down, and it looks like she’s at least considering running. Why on earth would he attempt to draw on her at that point? Then there’s the problem with Ryan’s point of view. When he approaches the doorway, he sees his partner, but at his angle, he cannot see the perp—certainly not well, and likely not at all. What he can see is his partner pulling his gun. How does it make sense to have him try to push Esposito out of the way of a bullet he doesn’t know is coming? Or rather, how much sense does it make for him to throw himself at his partner, knowing his partner is drawing his gun? At the very least, he keeps Javi from hitting his target. At worst, his mad rush positions him in just the right way for Esposito to accidently shoot him. Third, Ryan is facing the wrong way in his charge at Javi for the perpetrator to hit him in his front breast pocket—he’s facing away from her when he takes the bullet. This is just poor directing on the part of John Terlesky.

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And then there’s the most important problem with this spat between the boys: this is not how Ryan and Esposito act toward each other. Ever. Both Ryan and Esposito have had their triumphs and setbacks. While there may be some small tendency on Javi’s part to blame his failures on external things in some cases, Ryan is far more likely to blame himself in all cases. Sometimes for things he didn’t even do. In fact, what we ought to expect in this case is that after shooting his partner in the backside, Kevin should be beating himself black-and-blue with guilt wondering if he somehow subconsciously wanted to get back at Esposito, while Javi, on the other hand, would pretend to give his partner grief over it, but would quickly reveal that, pain and butt-pillow aside, he finds the whole thing funny as hell. Those are the characters we’ve come to know.

But, as I said, this whole falling out between the boys is the writers using them as a relationship foil to Caskett, so hence them totally ignoring who their characters actually are. Which is ironic, really, since this is the first episode since the beginning of the season that’s depicted our leads in any kind of way that makes sense and is true to their characters.

Rick’s hearing and memory have evidently returned because he’s suddenly acting as though he listened and can remember Kate telling him that her leaving had zero to do with her love for him. His attitude towards the surprise he’s setting up for her isn’t that of a man who expects to anger or upset his estranged wife. He’s not sure she’ll agree to his idea of a break from their break, but for the first time, he talks as though he thinks it might actually be just a break and not the end. And his surprise is pure Castle—a mismatch of the utterly sweet with the utterly overblown. Boy, it’s nice to have him back.

And just as nice to see Kate smile at him as though she really sees him—the man and the child. And to see at least some of her logic return. She’s pushed him away to keep him from getting involved, to keep him from getting hurt. But everyone knows they aren’t really broken up, so it makes no sense for her to insist that they not celebrate their anniversary together—Vikram’s weird warning to the contrary. Her new secret partner’s admonishment, in fact, comes off as almost an insult—like she would somehow blurt out all their plans in a moment of passion. This is Kate Beckett we are talking about; she’s no amateur. In fact, the only reason Rick does find out is thanks to a plot twist that actually reads well for a change.

In a weird nod to the will-they-won’t-they, the true suspense in the episode isn’t around the crime but whether or not Beckett and Castle will really get their break-within-a-break. For a moment, it looks as though they won’t because just before they are supposed to go have dinner, Ryan and Esposito reach their mutual boiling points and the lovers decide to split up so that they can each go take care of one of their friends. But rather than the ridiculousness of other such moments, we aren’t expected to believe that someone lost consciousness in a freezer at just the moment someone else was finally expressing their undying love. Instead, the whole thing felt uncontrived and, more important, like Rick and Kate were being Rick and Kate—good friends who would put aside their own happiness to help out their pals. More importantly, it meant that their tryst was postponed…and so the call that Rick sees come in happens after Vikram thinks they’ve had their night together. It would be nice if this were a harbinger of things to come.

And on that note, next week is supposed to be the last episode before the winter hiatus, and I have only one television wish for Christmas this year: please, dear showrunners, please give us back our Caskett. We’ve been oh-so-good, putting up with this insanity of yours for months now. It’s time to end it. If you don’t, I don’t see a lot of us sticking it out in the New Year. 

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