Castle Season 8 Episode 10 Review: Nice Room, Except for the Elephant

Castle season 8 episode 10

Castle season 8 episode 10 promised to take viewers to a place they’d never been before: inside a courtroom prosecution. The episode being on a Sunday night is also a totally new thing.  Is new better?  Well, until the ratings for Castle “Witness for the Prosecution” come in there’s no way to tell if Castle would benefit from a different time slot.  As for the format change, it drags in things down the beginning – and a little in the middle – but overall the court scenes end up not creating that big of a change.   Although there are things in Castle season 8 episode 10 that really don’t work,  this is one of the best episodes so far.

The episode starts out with writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) at a charity party where he’s been reading from his new book! Hooray, the show remembered that Castle is a writer and not a private investigator – at least in this episode. At the party Castle stumbles onto what appears to be a murder in progress. He takes after the killer, but she gets away. What’s a pleasant surprise in the sequence is that Castle seems relaxed and charming without being clown-like. Then when he witnesses the murder he becomes serious and responsible. One can believe that this guy has been working with the police for seven years!

Castle season 8 episode 10

This Richard Castle is no joke!

Unfortunately, we cut to five months later, and Castle and Captain Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) are in Castle’s loft.  (Incidentally, does anyone remember where Beckett is living now?) This is the scene that  was released as a sneak peek…and it’s no better in context than it was as a sneak peek.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fo0laLDmi_U?rel=0&showinfo=0]

 

The short version of why this scene is troublesome is that Castle’s secret signal gag isn’t funny in the context of what’s going on in the larger story arc.  It also serves to trivialize and makes fun of the Caskett relationship, because the only reason for this “secret signal” is to set up the piece of physical “comedy” that Castle does. It turns what has been the core of the show into a joke.

Castle and Beckett have been playacting being “estranged” for a while. (In Castle, “Tone Death” we had to endure them doing a lot of that playacting.)  Why a secret signal only now?  Because they’ll be in court and he’ll need to say I love you right then – as opposed to all the other times and places he sees her and can’t say anything?  It’s flimsy reasoning at best.

Consider that back in season five Castle had to come up with a secret way to express his feelings and as a result we got one of the sweetest and romantic moments in the series via a special handshake.  That moment also managed to have humor.  Unlike what we just saw the need for that handshake signal was imminent because it came out of their emotional connection in the moment.  Castle’s nose thing is out of nowhere.  This kind of juvenile lowbrow humor being dropped into scenes like an anvil has been plaguing all of Castle season 8, and it’s a downer every time the show goes there.

Remember when Castle used to have humor that was sexy & clever? (If you want to compare those two scenes you can see them in the Castle Witness for the Prosecution spoiler article.)  Later in the episode Castle does the gag again and Beckett tells him he needs to come up with a better signal. This highlights just how the show has dumbed things down and how stupid this bit is. It makes Castle look beyond foolish.  Again, this is supposed to be the same Castle that came up with that season five handshake? …Granted, in season five Castle creator Andrew W. Marlowe was the showrunner and he isn’t now.  If Castle can’t up with a better signal it’s because those in charge now deem this kind of thing acceptable and like making Caskett a joke.

Sadly, the real  joke going on this episode is the “Lokstat” case and all that stems from it.  Much like last week, the actual case in “Witness for the Prosecution” is a good one – a really good one.  Let’s give credit where credit is due.  The case that drives the episode is smart, twisty and interesting.  It’s written by current co-showrunner Terence Paul Winter whom under Marlowe wrote some the best episodes in the series, including the season six episodes, “Number One Fan” and “Veritas.”  Likewise, all of the guest casting is excellent. I particularly enjoyed Clare Grant as murder suspect Nina O’Keefe.  In the hands of veteran Castle director Bill Roe, the elements of the case and performances involved come together beautifully.

However,  amidst the elements of the well-done case, the Lokstat components sit like a pink elephant in the living room.  The ongoing charade of Castle and Beckett telling the world they are broken up – and everyone believing it – continues to be ridiculous.  Not only does the reasoning for the separation make no sense, but the characters themselves don’t act like there’s any real danger – although they certainly keep saying that there is.

Take Castle’s secret signals?  Why would Beckett not shut that down instead of risk them being seen?  After all, the entire point of being separated is that Castle’s life will be in danger if “Lokstat” knows they’re together and there is nothing subtle about what Castle is doing.   Judging by the opening courtroom scene the reason is that Beckett actually isn’t that concerned.

Defense lawyer Caleb Brown (Kristoffer Polaha) is supposedly the man who Beckett and her “partner” Vikram Singh (Sunkrish Bala) are supposed to be watching because he’s connected to Lokstat.  (We’ll deal with that in a bit.) Beckett is not happy at all when she learns Caleb has taken over the defense of  Nina.  Yet, this is how Beckett watches her supposed estranged husband enter the courtroom and how she watches him on the witness stand – fully knowing that Caleb is in the room.

Yeah, she's totally not into him anymore. Can't you tell?

Yeah, she’s totally not into him anymore. Can’t you tell?

How is the audience supposed to take this Lokstat danger thing seriously when nothing on the screen indicates that Beckett and Castle do?  As someone pointed out on twitter, Castle and Beckett are also both wearing their wedding rings.

The fabulous detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) never notice this. Nor do they question how well the two are now getting along.  I loved seeing the old gang together in the precinct conference room working on the case together, but Beckett slapped him in the precinct break room last week! Now everything’s fine, no questions asked? I mean, there’s not even an odd look from either of them!

The oscillating back and forth about how important it is to not seem connected is because the ratings have shown that the splitting up of Caskett was a bad decision to begin with.  Castle and Beckett were then put them back together so that there could be more “fun” Caskett moments to appease rightfully upset viewers.  The problem is that the writers still want the bogus reason for the split to hold up as valid.  Since it never did in the first place, situations like the court scene ends up building an even stronger case about how illogical the structuring of the Lokstat plot is.

The other thing that makes Lokstat so painfully awful is the fact that Beckett is working with Vikram.  That entire strip club thing and the running commentary about Vikram’s lack of luck with women is yet another frat boy comedy choice.  Who cares about his lovelife or him naming his computer?

What’s more disheartening is the effect of him being set up so that it looks like he’s connected to Lokstat.  That doesn’t mean he will be, but the clues are so obvious that Beckett blithely accepting everything he says as the gospel truth undermines her entire history as a brilliant detective!  This goes all the way back to Castle 8 x 2 and how well he uses a gun.

Then there’s the way that Beckett isn’t telling Castle anything about Lokstat.  Castle doesn’t even know about the issue with Caleb.  Yet, here we are with Castle once again demonstrating his ability to see things in a way that no one else does.  Why would Beckett not take advantage of that?  If supposedly she can sneak into his loft undetected for champagne, sex, and to discuss his testifying, why not share the Lokstat info?  She’s certainly not concerned about the loft being bugged as she and Castle are openly talking about Lokstat and why they’re pretending to be broken up while they are there.

Overall, it seems like becoming captain this season has wiped out Beckett’s powers of observation and deductive thought.  On top of that, our bad*ss Beckett has been reduced to saying things like this:

“Okay boys, we found Nina’s coffin, now let’s nail it shut.”

In Castle 1 x 7, “Home is Where The Heart Stops” there’s a joke that runs through it about the way that cops talk on film and TV.  The cops begin spitting out words used for suspects and the guys start trying to come up with lines to say when they take down a suspect.  Eventually even Beckett gets in on it

NYPD Detective Kate Beckett: [as Beckett grinds her thick-heeled shoes into the dirtbag’s gun hand to keep him from killing Castle, she says]

Castle 1 x 7 - Kate Beckett

“Go ahead… I need the practice.”

This is a classic scene that really works due to the context of the episode.  The problem with the, “nail it shut” line and other similar things Beckett’s been saying in season eight is that she sounds like she’s practicing lines to be used in Castle’s Nikki Heat books – only we’re supposed to take it as straightforward dialogue.  It makes it feel like Beckett’s a captain in name only and that the role isn’t taken seriously by the writers.

Other Thoughts On Castle Season 8 Episode 10

  • The only time where there are signs of pre season eight Kate Beckett are in her scenes with Caleb.  If he were just a prosecutor and not tied into Lokstat he’d be interesting to keep around.  Katic and Polaha work well together, and unlike the character of Vikram, Polaha’s character isn’t burdened with writing meant to humiliate the character as a sexual laughingstock.  Caleb gets to be a man, not a bad punchline.
  • I wasn’t thrilled with the opening courtroom scene – it got too melodramatic for my taste – but I was relieved that they didn’t try to change stories from past episodes via his testimony.  A positive aspect to the testimony is that it actually was good to see how Cabel was able to completely trip Castle up with his own words from a Nikki Heat novel, because, as it turned out, the point Castle made in his book was correct.  Even though he looked bad in the moment, that scene validates the thinking of Castle the writer – which is why he’s helpful to the NYPD.   As for  Caleb bringing up the memory-loss issue, that was fair game.  I only wish it didn’t feel like a plant to dredge that storyline back up again.  Unlike what Caleb says, as canon Castle knows who kidnapped him. (More on that later.)
  • In terms of the case, “Witness for the Prosecution” reminded me of Winter’s “Number One Fan” because Nina wasn’t immediately sympathetic as a character – even though because of the way Castle works we all knew that Nina was innocent.
  • This case also had a lot of family issues involved the way “Number One Fan” did. However, in this case, the family members of note were all brittle and bitter people. The only decent person among the two families involved in the case was the daughter we’d barely heard from.  Even the victim was painted as unethical and immoral.  Although Nina was proven innocent there’s nothing warm and fuzzy about how the case ended because the sense of justice for the victim felt muted.  It’s a different feel for a Castle case, and while I liked the case’s construction I’m still not sure how I feel about the underlying cynicism. As a rule Castle has always managed a positive vibe in spite of having dark subject matter.
  • I liked the initial use of Martha Rogers (Susan Sullivan>) and Alexis Castle Molly Quinn).  Even though they were standing in the P.I. office it  felt like the old dynamic of Castle with his daughter and mother at the loft.  Apparently since Martha has moved out the P.I. office is the new living room.  Then the next scene with them happened and the whole redhead detectives thing starts up again.  Sure, Castle, get your mom involved with making prank calls to a judge…. that bit felt long.
  • I really would like Castle P.I. and company to go away.  Alexis needs a life that doesn’t revolve around her father’s work and office and I would love to hear more about Martha’s work with her acting school and her auditioning.
  • Medical Examiner Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones ) asked out sexy state prosecutor Marcus Weller (Christopher B. Duncan)?  Does this mean Lanie is going to have a storyline?  That would be good!

The Wrap Up

What really struck me with Castle, “Witness for the Prosecution”?  Despite all the problems it has, it’s still better than most of the episodes in Castle season eight!  For one, other than “secret signal” mess, this week Castle seemed more like himself than we’ve had in a long time.  Despite the use of his office there was no talk of him being a P.I.and the outside of the box thinker was back.  The case was dark, but smart, and there were only a couple of places where things seemed to drag.

An added bonus was no Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye) interjected into the story.  Like Vikram, the issue with Hayley has nothing to do with the actors, and everything to do with how the characters are written and the plots they’re attached to.  Watching this episode made me wish the show could get the Lokstat elephant out of the room  – without trying to convince the audience that it ever belonged there – and bring back the real Kate Beckett.

That’s what last season’s “Sleeper” – episode did.  Although it was completely nonsensical it gave the audience the gift of not having to think about that Castle mythology ever again. (Unless someone brings it back from the dead.)  This is because the story in “Sleeper”  had no real tie-ins to the lives and the relationship of Castle and Beckett.  It ended up affecting nothing.  Was that arc a colossal waste of screen time?  Yes.  In an odd way, “Sleeper” acknowledged to the viewers that the showrunners knew blowing up the wedding in Castle 6 x 23 was not the best idea.  It tosses that entire myth arc in the trash – which is where it needed to go.  Lokstat needs to go join it so that Castle can really have a shot at getting  back on track.

 

Castle Season 1 Episode 10 Review
3

Summary

Although there are things in Castle season 8 episode 10 that really don’t work, this is one of the best episodes so far.


19 Comments

  1. Charles Neale February 15, 2016
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