Castle season 8 episode 16 is called “Heartbreaker” – but it’s not a reflection of how it makes the viewer feel – thank goodness! In fact, this is an episode that has some real positive things going for it. The first is how it showcases Jon Huertas as detective Javier Esposito. Although the case is about his past with a woman he arrested ten years prior – what makes, “Heartbreaker” work as a Castle episode is: his bromance with detective Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever), the longstanding friendship he’s had with the woman who is now not just his boss, but his Captain – Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). These connections help strengthen the ensemble as a whole.
The secondary story in Castle, “Heartbreaker” is about Beckett and writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) officially being back together. That is a huge positive! As a final bonus, there is not a trace of “security specialist” Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye). She’s been way too cozy with Castle in the last few episodes and that’s been an unhappy development. Not having her around makes Castle season 8 episode 16 feel much more like a classic Castle episode. All of these elements start out Castle, “Heartbreaker” with a solid three stars. So, what’s the setback? I’ll get to those, but being I rated this a 3.6 they obviously aren’t enough to kill what’s good about it.
It starts as a robbery of an armored truck as it’s being unloaded by two security guards. The zipline thief looked very cool, and – finally – they did not do the actual murder on-screen! Hooray! That’s another point in the episode’s favor!
The conversation the security guards have just before one gets killed does seem to be somewhat of a message to the audience about why Castle is forgiving Beckett. Could it also be asking the audience to forgive the current showrunners? It’s hard to say – both kind of fit. Our soon-to-be dead guy gives the younger man advice about his ex-girlfriend: If someone breaks your heart you should take them back if they…reach out a hand and say they’d like to try again. This great wisdom is because he’s been married fourteen years….one assumes to a woman who once broke his heart.
I suppose the forgiveness depends on how a person breaks your heart. Are they constantly cheating or beating the crap out of you? There are some things that saying sorry I’d like a do-over doesn’t work for. On the other hand, forgetting your birthday, ignoring your feelings, or lying because they think the truth will get you killed…that’s worth reconsidering for – especially if it’s a first offense. However, whether large or small, if the same thing keeps happening over and over again, there’s a time where a person just has to realize there’s no point in trying to save the relationship.
Right after the murder is the scene in the loft that was also a sneak peek – and it’s still as annoying to me as it was when it was first viewed. (I discussed the scene in the spoiler preview, which you can read here.) This is one of those two steps forward, one step back issues. The comic idea is supposed to be that “Lucy” controls everything in the loft – including Castle’s music collection – and that she’s jealous of Beckett. The Ludacris song, “Move b*tch” get out the way” is not really the kind of music you expect a man who would rather say “”till tomorrow” than say “night” and has a daughter he adores, to have in his music collection.
I’m also really struck by how empty and trite Castle’s speech sounds. The words are nice, but the delivery doesn’t pack any real emotion in it, and his comment about them hunting LokSat together sounds rote. It’s as if even Fillion can’t take this whole scenario seriously – and who can blame him?
Then there’s what Beckett says:
Beckett: “But how is this a welcome back if I’ve been sneaking into your room every night?” Every night?
So…LokSat would never notice that she never went back to wherever she was supposedly living while split up from Castle? Then there’s the miracle of her never getting caught by Alexis, and not knowing anything about “Lucy.” We already know that the sneaking in also involved them having breakfast sometimes and the occasional lunch, but Lucy is only now “upset”? Look, I am so glad that the sneaking around nonsense is finally over, and this scene is mostly about establishing that fact, but it’s amazing how everything even remotely connected to the LokSat plot is so darn ridiculous!
Castle: You, me, and a crime scene – just as nature intended. Let’s roll.
How true – at least in terms of the nature of this show. Things change though. Beckett’s a captain so she has to “multitask.” So Castle gets to go to the crime scene by himself…which makes little sense because originally he was at crime scenes to shadow Beckett. Then the silly P.I. thing came up so that he could still shadow Beckett when he was kicked out of the 12th precinct. Now he can just go whenever because… Beckett says so. I guess we can chalk it up to a perk of having your wife as the captain.
At the crime scene, Medical Examiner Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) is there! Hooray! It feels like forever since we’ve seen her! She tells Castle that she’s glad he and Beckett are back together – and to not “mess things up with her again”
Castle: Why do you assume it was my fault?
Lanie: Everything is your fault.
Maybe that was supposed to be a laugh line, but it falls flat because the audience knows it’s not Castle’s fault. Technically it’s Beckett’s fault, but generally I think most viewers see it as the fault of the showrunners that came up with the bad storyline in the first place. Trying to somehow make a point about how Castle gets blamed for everything isn’t funny when you’re dealing with a storyline that was poorly conceived and executed in the first place. This “joke” only serves to remind me of how much I dislike the breakup storyline. Being that I’m trying to forget that it ever happened I could have done without it.
What does work in the scene is Castle picking up the scent of the perfume mixed with jello concoction – and then him trying to discern what perfume it is! That humorous bit is completely in character. Remember, this is the guy who noted that Beckett smelled like cherries! The list of names is funny as well: White Diamonds, Chanel No. 5 and…One Direction body spray! Laying those classic and expensive fragrances against a perfume available at Wal-Mart is definitely ironic!
Castle can tell something’s up after Esposito doesn’t high-five him and he sees the look on Esposito’s face. He’s seen this used before. Back at the precinct Esposito tells Castle and Beckett that this perfume mix was used in a case he broke ten years ago. Beckett helpfully says it’s when he used to work with the 54th precinct. (Don’t try to figure out the math of when Esposito started working with Beckett at the 12th. At least they got the precinct Espo used to work at right.)
In the original case the heist was for “ten million dollars worth of gold coins from some auction house” The person Esposito arrested is Sonia Ruiz (Angelica Celaya) – but she was part of a larger crew. The mix was used to shut down the “sophisticated security system.” Castle is horrified and tells Beckett they need a dog! (That, was hilarious!)
Ryan then shows up and, yes, our team is back together at the 12th precinct! Ryan confirms that the mix at the crime scene is the same one from the case ten years ago. Beckett figures Esposito should go talk to Sonia. Even though she didn’t give up any of the crew before, she might be willing to do so after having spent nine years in prison. Esposito says Beckett should go with Castle, since Sonia might hold a grudge. Castle declines because:
Castle: Those women’s prisons are nothing like the late night “Skinamax” movies, so…have fun.
Whatever. So much for him wanting to shadow Beckett. I’m not thrilled with his excuse either.
Beckett ends up going to do the interview alone. …Why is Captain Beckett out working this case? If the show isn’t going to end up making this whole season a dream could they at least be consist about what warrants the captain doing footwork out in the field? It’s so random.
Anyway, the scene itself is good. It’s Beckett playing polite hardball with Sonia, but she’s playing equally well. She tells Beckett if they want to get her partner they need to let her out on furlough to go ask around at a bar in Spanish Harlem. It’s not the worst idea, so Beckett goes along with it.
The Highlights – Steps Forward
Overall, this isn’t a bad case. The shark-name gimmick the criminals used is cute. It’s not as smart or amusing as the TV doctor names in season four’s “Cops and Robbers” but it doesn’t make the case seem like a joke either, so you still follow along with some investment in who did it. (Unlike in cases such the one in “The G.D.S.”). However, as I said in the intro, what makes this episode work isn’t the case, it’s the dynamics Esposito has with the people he interacts with. That is why this scene, which was also a sneak peek, is my favorite in the entire episode.
This scene has the feel of a classic Castle episode. Ryan is hurt that he’s never heard this story. Castle is cracking jokes. At a certain point Esposito is focused on explaining to Beckett how he ended up involved with the woman. Meanwhile, Beckett is stuck between her role as captain and as his friend – neither is a comfortable place in this situation. It’s a sad story in terms of hearing that your friend got royally played, but as captain, this is a problem. Then at the end when Esposito sees Sonia walks in…well Esposito going gaga over a pair of legs isn’t unusual.
Esposito and Beckett
For the most part I’ve always enjoyed the Beckett and Esposito dynamic. When it’s played as it is in this episode, with Esposito as Beckett’s second in command and having her back as a friend and brother-in-blue, it works well.
Sonia tells Beckett she can’t go undercover with Ryan because the Irish detective will stick out in a Spanish Harlem bar. She wants someone who will blend in – Javier. Beckett’s not thrilled with this. She and Esposito have a private talk in her office.
Esposito: Castle and Ryan are going to be backing me up in a follow car. What’s the worse that can happen?
Esposito: Kate, I am not going to let you down.
This is an awesome scene and the scenes between Beckett and Esposito continue to be outstanding throughout the episode. The actors create a real intimacy between the characters in their one-on-one conversations and manage to be both fierce and funny in the interrogation of the suspect, “Hammerhead.” The dynamic isn’t new, but we’re never had it running throughout an episode like it is in, “Heartbreaker.”
It’s Esposito that in season two pointed Beckett to the fact that Castle really was into her. He’s the one who is able to help her deal with her PTSD in the season four episode, “Kill Shot,” and in that same episode he also, with a sniper rifle, took out the man who was ready to kill her. Over the seasons there are many other examples of Esposito being like her big brother, so when he says he’s not going to let her down there is a ton of personal history behind the words – which shows in how they look at each other.
In the above quoted exchange it’s the first time we’ve gotten to see Beckett as a captain really having to deal with navigating the personal vs. professional. It goes on in every scene where she has to deal with Esposito’s past with Sonia. We can see that she’s been influenced by both of her former captains (Montgomery and Gates) as she wars with letting him do things against her better judgement rule-wise and having faith and trust in him. Furthermore, it’s not only her concern about breaking the rules; we can see that Beckett’s personally worried about him. Likewise we’ve watching Esposito having to navigate his own feelings about Sonia while dealing with a woman who knows him like a sister, that he cares about – and who is his boss. He knows he’s asking her to break rules, and what a tough spot it is for her. He also knows that some of her concern has nothing to with protocal – she’s just worried about him.
Esposito and Ryan
Like Beckett, Ryan is also worried about Esposito. Esposito is Ryan’s partner and best friend – to the point that in the Castle episode “Under Fire” he told Jenny that if they had a son the child was to be named “Javier.” Despite some behavior glommed on to him earlier in the season by the showrunners, Ryan is the most serious and conscience of the three guys. Hence while Castle is all about how hot Sonia is and the chemistry she has with Esposito, Ryan sees that the woman is a thief and a liar that can likely play on Esposito’s attraction to her. This is why when Sonia does what we’re all expecting and breaks away from Esposito, Ryan totally has his back. (Sonia got that high-tech ankle bracelet off pretty fast with just a pair of scissors…maybe the water shorted it out? Although you would think those things would be waterproof….)
How Ryan deals with Esposito’s Sonia problem is similar to how he and Esposito dealt with Beckett’s secrets in the season four finale and in the season five premiere. He doesn’t want Esposito to get in trouble and he has faith they can figure it out. However, just like he did with Beckett, Ryan knew when to call in the calvary! His yelling out to everyone in the precinct to find out what Esposito had discovered and then calling Beckett is the Ryan we all know and love.
That’s the other thing that’s great about this episode – we get our Ryan back! In the past Ryan has been more of “the brains” in the bromance pairing. He never stopped working on the case or trusted Sonia. Ryan’s been pulling records, tracing calls and putting the pieces together. It’s what Captain Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) used to call good old-fashioned police work. Ryan usually puts intellect before emotion and it’s one of the things that makes him different from both Esposito and Beckett. I loved seeing this aspect of Ryan back in play. Even in the interrogation of Joey, aka “Hammerhead” it’s Ryan that hits the guy with the facts while Esposito hits with the threat of putting him in a 6 foot pine box!
At the end of the episode, there’s a cute nod to the whole “Ryspo” bromance idea. After Esposito is suspended for a week, Ryan is out in the hall waiting for him. The language of their conversation is similar to that of Castle and Beckett in the season five premiere where Beckett is talking about having the day off! It’s completely platonic, but nevertheless, they use the shots usually reserved for Castle and Beckett walking down the hallway. For regular viewers of Castle it’s impossible not to notice.
I loved it! It’s nice to see friendship celebrated as much as romance!
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back….
Okay…now comes the things that keep Castle season 8 episode 16 from being a four star episode. Unlike Castle 8 x 15 – where the highs were extraordinary and the lows bottom of the barrel, both the highs and lows were less extreme.
Two steps forward: The best scenes with Castle happen in the second half of the episode when he’s working with Ryan and Beckett.
Castle displays his storytelling abilities by quickly putting together the scenario of what’s going on with Sonia’s father’s businesses and the gold coins. He’s totally a part of the team here!
There’s also the earlier scene where Esposito and Castle have a private chat where Castle tells Esposito there’s no shame in admitting he still has feelings for Sonia. Esposito says knows this, but that he doesn’t still have feelings for the woman. Castle isn’t buying it – but he’s not pushing it either. He knows Esposito is in denial.
One step back: I wish the dynamic in the above scene had continued in terms of how Castle viewed Esposito’s entanglement with Sonia, but in subsequent scenes Castle is all about “how much fun” it’s going to be to watch Esposito squirm while having to deal with his hot ex-convict girlfriend.
In the car with Ryan he says he can understand how Esposito was engaged to Sonia because of “electricity” between them. He gleefully tells Ryan there’s a way they can listen in on their conversation. This makes sense, Castle loves gadgets. Ryan agrees to this because he’s worried about the relationship with Sonia clouding Espo’s judgement, you can see that in his expression. In contrast, when Castle gets the audio turned on, it’s punctuated by a big Rick Castle smirk. This is one of the big issues with Castle this season – he’s all over the map.
If this were season one Castle’s comic takes and outbursts would be appropriate because he hadn’t formed real relationships with these guys. Now it just seems callous – especially after the talk he’d had earlier with Esposito. Given his own experiences with relationships, Castle knows full well what it’s like to be entangled with women that don’t really care about you. His first wife was the “deep-fried Twinkie” Meredith (Darby Stanchfield) and his second was his publisher Gina (Monet Mazur). Then there was the relationship he had with CIA Agent Sophia Turner (Jennifer Beals) – if there’s anyone who should be sympathetic to Esposito’s situation, it’s Castle. It’s not that he shouldn’t find any of it funny, but there is no sense of sympathy or concern coming from him – it’s all about the laughs.
What really is bothersome about the super comic Castle is that it makes Rick Castle the only character that has no sense of growth or development. There’s no character arc for him anymore. He used to have one, but season eight (and to some extent season seven) has stripped the character down to what one would expect for a guy in a half-hour sitcom.
In seasons 1 through 5 there was this sense of Castle “becoming a better man” through his relationship with Beckett and working at the 12th precinct. Not that he lost his playful side, but this was a man we met signing women’s chests and aside from the genuine love and caring that he had for his daughter and mother he was a guy high on his own intelligence and charm. Beckett was his muse because solving the crime wasn’t about getting her a high-five about how great she was, but about getting justice for the victims. Castle learned that from her. He began to care about Beckett’s past as more that just a mystery to solve, but as something that would help her to heal from the pain of her loss. He starts to see crimes as not just a story, but as people. At one point Beckett even tells him he’s, “started to think like a real cop.” Sure there were moments of backsliding, but season seven had Castle regressing to whining like a kid, and season eight seems to have him stuck a the mentality one would expect from a guy at a college fraternity party.
A final note on Castle. Dear God, the thing with the gloves at crime scenes! If Castle isn’t going to be wearing gloves could they stop having him pick up evidence and smearing his fingerprints all over it? Worse is no one says anything! This is in part a procedural and gloves and the issue of contaminating evidence is the most basic premise of these things. Every time Castle does something like this it’s jarring and takes you right out of the moment. Like seriously, we’re supposed to buy into the idea that he’s worthy of an organization called “The Greatest Detective Society,” yet he can’t remember not to taint the evidence?
Esposito and Sonia
Two Steps Forward: This is the probably the best episode that looks at Esposito’s back story. The last Esposito-focused episode was more about his being a tough guy, and the one prior to that was somewhat vague. From that episode we know his father left when Esposito was five, his mother worked two jobs so that he was on his own a lot. He got in trouble with the law as a teen but the military put him on the straight and narrow. Still, much of that felt more like statistics than history. In “Heartbreaker” we get a much stronger feel of his family…. It’s a little odd because with a family like that why in past episodes has Esposito been portrayed as worrying about being alone on Christmas? Much like the dates around when Esposito transferred to the 12th precinct, these things are a little off, but not enough to spoil the effect of meeting Esposito’s family.
What really helps pull off the importance of Esposito’s family is the conversation he and Sonia have about them. The casting of Angelica Celaya as Sonia is perfect, not only because she has good chemistry with Huertas, but because she is able to sell the idea of this character actually caring about what Esposito’s family thinks of her. This isn’t just a strong, pretty woman, she’s a strong, pretty, hispanic woman. There’s nothing generic in her performance, and that really needed to come across in order to buy any of that dynamic. (What works as a great contrast is Ryan’s relationship with Esposito’s family. He’s just as loved and connected to them, but he’s also clearly an outsider.)
One Step Back: The sad thing about the Esposito and Sonia relationship is that it doesn’t seem to be based on more than sexual attraction and them both being Hispanic. Sonia is a criminal and not just a little bit. She’s not a murderer – no one was supposed to get hurt in the heist, so the idea of “Hammerhead” killing Esposito was out of the question. Yet, she set up this heist to get out of jail and had no problem using Esposito to do it. That entire conversation about a hot meal and a shower, it’s all about manipulating Esposito so that she can escape. Yet, this is the love of his life? Even at the end she’s joking about him bringing her a cake with a file in it – and he’s promising to visit her. As a viewer I’m left with the question of why Esposito is willing to continue a relationship with a woman like this.
There’s been a huge streak of sexism through this season of Castle, so I should not be surprised that the most important thing they feature about Sonia is how hot she is. It falls in line with how they’ve dealt with so many of the female characters. We’ve got the sassy thief Hayley whom we’re supposed to think is fabulous. Then there’s the whole trying to rewrite Beckett to be a “broken” woman whom Castle is crazy about. Even Alexis is being told that part of being a grownup is knowing how to manipulate men. Sonia is just one more added to the pile.
The objectifying of Sonia is particularly blatant. The first establishing shot of her when Esposito sees her makes sense, but then there are things like the shot of her going up on the forklift. What. Was. That? I couldn’t believe they actually chose to have the camera focus in on her feet and pan up her body – to show her riding a forklift! Seriously guys? What’s happening in the scene is she’s going to see if the gold is where she thinks it is. This does nothing to illuminate that point. It’s a completely gratuitous sexualizing of her body. There’s been so much of this kind of thing this season – but it’s infuriating every time they pull stunts like this.
Beckett & Martha and Alexis
Two Steps Forward: It’s always lovely to see Castle’s mother Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan) and I appreciate that there’s been more of her in Castle season 8. It was also good to see his daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) at home and willing to actually spend some time with Beckett in the same room. It’s a little strange because we don’t know what they know about why she was gone in the first place, but at least they both seem pleased to see her. Granted, I did wonder where Castle was….
One Step Back: I know this scene is set up to be comic, but the fact that Martha nor Alexis seem fazed by the computer breaking out into the “kill” theme music to a horror film is strange. It’s a weird thing to have happen. Alexis’s smartalec reply is par for the course, but you’d think with her recently acquired super computer skills she’d notice this as a problem.
The Wrap Up
Because I really enjoyed having the team mostly back together and seeing Beckett, Esposito and Ryan acting like the characters I’ve watched develop over several seasons Castle season 8 episode 16 was pretty enjoyable. However, the underlying problem with this episode can be seen when you compare how the various storylines wrap up. I’ve already mentioned how the bromance closes out, and that when Sonia gets taken back to jail Esposito is still into her. These are the other two.
The first is when Beckett has to suspend Esposito:
Then there is the final scene of the episode – the whole thing with “Lucy” vs. “Linus”
I get the “Lucy & Linus” joke, but Linus is also the name of the lion painting that Castle took out of the bedroom in season 5. While it’s cute and funny that Beckett turns the tables on Castle…why does “Linus” sound like Felix from The Odd Couple? While “Lucy” was actively flirting with Castle, there’s no real sense of flirtation or jealousy here beyond “Linus” telling Castle only Kate’s allowed to touch it. As opposed to “Linus” trying to be the perfect “man” the way that “Lucy” tries to be the perfect “woman” – the program just doesn’t like Castle.
It also stung that Castle never realizes “Lucy” is a problem to begin with. It reminds me of one of my least favorite Castle episodes before season eight: “The Squab and the Quail.” There his then girlfriend Kate is over at his place for the evening and Castle has arranged to…play online videos games with some kid. For both characters the episode had all kinds of odd things going on with it, but at least by the end of it Castle had realized that inviting your girlfriend over to spend the night and then playing video games wasn’t exactly cool. Here Castle doesn’t see why a computer program that plays “move b*tch” when his wife’s around, and keeps pulling him into distracting “conversations” about how amazing he is could be a problem for his relationship with Beckett?
However, the computer program story wouldn’t have been so annoying if at some point in the episode Castle and Beckett had showed some real emotional connection. For instance, if they’d had a talk about how difficult the situation with Esposito had been for her? Maybe they could have reflected on how they’ve been in Esposito’s shoes via past relationships they’ve had with the quintessential bad boy or bad girl -and then be really sweet about how much better it is with each other. Caskett is not just the idea that these two like sleeping together. The fact that we see more emotional exchanges between Beckett and Esposito than we’ve seen between Beckett and Castle in weeks is a big part of what’s still wrong with Castle. The other is that while they’ve recently been trying to fix the hatchet job done on the character of Beckett, Richard Castle is becoming less of a character and more of a caricature, which is just sad.
There is good news though. Despite these problems that are still in play, at least they seem to trying to fix things. Hopefully it’s not a Charlie Brown and Lucy with the football kind of thing. You know, Lucy promises she’ll let Charlie Brown kick the ball and not yank it away, but she always does. The second half of Castle season seven feels like that. We got some solid Castle episodes and then the following season we got…Castle season eight.
Castle season 8 episode 16 is called “Heartbreaker” – but it’s not a reflection of how it makes the viewer feel – thank goodness! In fact, this is an episode that has some real positive things going for it.