Castle Season 8 Episode 9, “Tone Death” is the first episode after finally ending the forced separation between the once detective but now Captain Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and the famous mystery writer turned unfamous P.I. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion). Many viewers have held out hope that this would be the turning point of ABC’s Castle becoming more like the show they’d been watching for seven seasons. In particular many have missed the sense of Caskett, the way that Castle and Beckett worked and played together as partners before Castle season 8. Did the new show runners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter succeed in doing this? I’ll be looking at that, and a few other things, in my Castle season 8 episode 9 review.
The Set Up
Things start out well. “Tone Death” opens up with Castle’s mother Martha Rogers (Susan Sullivan) striding into a rehearsal like the true diva that she is. Sullivan as Martha is pitch perfect as always, saying nice things with that slight hint of underlying doom…
Martha: Hello my darlings! How is everyone today. In good voice, I trust.
As Martha continues to give directions as to how this charity performance for “Broadway, Hearts for Hearts” should begin, the audience it led to the behind the scenes action. There is to be a “snow drop” when she starts singing, “the things we do for love.” A metal trough attached to pulleys will be tilted and white “snow” confetti will be gently sprinkled out – only that doesn’t happen. First we see the few drops of blood falling. From there we go to the crewman’s frustration with not being able to get the trough to move because it’s too heavy. We switch to seeing the three backup singers – all wearing white or cream-colored tops – start singing and swaying with their sweet 1950’s girl-group style… Then, oh my god, it’s that iconic scene from the Stephen King movie Carrie times three: the crewman gives a last hard yank and blood pours down over the singers! They scream, Martha turns, and she screams as well. In the metal trough above the singers a limp hand has fallen out to hang over the edge. Now, this, is an opening murder scene for Castle! There’s no actually watching a person get killed and the way the body is found is creepy, unusual and has a definite gallows humor to it. Castle, “Tone Death” is off to a good start!
Unfortunately, this is the next scene (Some people may have watched this as a sneak peek.)
After I saw the above it took me three different attempts later in the day to continue watching, “Tone Death” so that I could review it. Yes, I was that mad. The only things that I liked about it were the mention of Beckett’s former captain, Commissioner Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) and the way Katic delivered that “3 times” line.
Prior to seeing this scene the showrunners had talked about bringing a more frisky Castle and Beckett to the second half and it sounded like that at least would be a good thing. I was truly ready to enjoy the “fun and sexy” Caskett, which was the only redeeming feature from the Castle P.I. episodes in Castle season 7. However, in those scenes Castle and Beckett were actually involved with each other beyond sex. It was part of their whole dynamic! These are from the first one in the season 7 P.I. arc.
As for an afterglow…this, is afterglow.
I didn’t like the season 7 Castle P.I. episode (I wasn’t alone, it was the lowest rated episode of season 7) but at least I enjoyed the Caskett! That’s because there was more to those scenes than “completing an agenda.”
In Castle season 8 the partners that used to have each others back in all things, that got turned on by the sharing of ideas the way other person’s mind worked are getting together for booty-calls and not taking about anything meaningful. The depth of their conversation is that they are staging fights in public, and that makes their private time “more intense.”
Is it me or is their an undertone of sarcasm in the way Katic delivers that “I know” response? It would make sense because there’s no intensity in the scene. For one, Castle does not look like a guy that’s just had amazing sex. If you want to see some Castle intensity go back to season four and “Always” and for some serious afterglow, even more than what was in the season 7 scene above, there’s the opening of season five’s “After the Storm.” Sexual intensity develops out of the mental and emotional married to the physical, and there’s no emotional resonance happening in this “Tone Death” tryst.
Sure, one of the flaws in the second half of the Castle series is the way the show didn’t want to delve more into that intensity when appropriate. The writers would constantly interrupt it…like in season 7’s honeymoon episode when Beckett starts unbuttoning her shirt under the stars. I’ll give the current showrunners points for at least trying to correct that. I just wish they had a clue about what the center of the dynamic has been. It wasn’t just that she was hot and he was ruggedly handsome. The physical relationship between Castle and Beckett came out of a sense of them having a shared mental and emotional connection. What we’re being presented with in this scene are two people with an itch to scratch.
The larger issue going on is that beyond letting him know the hideout is a strip club and that she’s working with Vikram (Sunkrish Bala) Beckett hasn’t told Castle about Lokstat. In order to assure viewers that this will happen the writers have Beckett assure him she’s not keeping secrets anymore and promise she will eventually let Castle in on the particulars of Lokstat:
Beckett: Don’t worry 007, when it’s time you and I will be taking out Lokstat together.
Now, Castle is not spy material. That’s been readily established from early on. However, the entire tone of the exchange is patronizing.
It gets even more so with this other editorial comment in the writing. Castle grumpily asks Beckett what he’s supposed to do in the meanwhile and she flippantly replies, “Provide support and comfort.” This is the same kind of commentary that viewers got in Castle 8 x 1, “XY” when the writers suggested that for the prior 7 seasons all Castle did was fetch Beckett coffee. The writer gets the muse coffee, yes, but the muse inspires the writer to be more than he ever was before, and the writer gets the muse to widen her view of life. It’s what made this partnership so unique. Who can forget this fun, yet defining scene?
Richard Castle: Nice guy. I can see how it wouldn’t work, though.
NYPD Detective Kate Beckett: Really?
Richard Castle: Sure
NYPD Detective Kate Beckett: Huh.
Richard Castle: Handsome, square-jawed, by-the-book.
NYPD Detective Kate Beckett: And that’s a bad thing?
Richard Castle: Yeah, he’s like the male you. Yin needs Yang, not another Yin. Yin-Yang is harmony, Yin-Yin is… a name for a panda!
NYPD Detective Kate Beckett: Any more wisdom, Obi-Wan
(From Castle 1 x 9, “Little Girl Lost.” – IMDB)
Castle knew Beckett was the alpha in the relationship, but also knew she absolutely needed him for more than “support and comfort.” He was the one that sparked her imagination with his humor and insight. She liked “the weird ones” when it came to murder cases, but it’s Castle’s thinking that pushed her to go beyond her usual logic. Furthermore, when it got down to it, Castle was an angry bear when it came to the people he cared about – his character has often reminded me of those stories of people lifting up cars to save their kid from being crushed underneath. It’s his heart that makes him strong, not him being a tough guy.
As for why Beckett isn’t bringing Castle into this sooner, there’s still no excuse. Have you seen any of these episodes:
- Season 7 – “Hollander’s Woods
- Season 6 – “Veritas”
- Season 5 – “Probable Cause
- Season 4 – “Cops and Robbers”
- Season 3 – “Knockdown” & “To Love and Die in L.A.”
- Season 2 – “Boom” & “Sucker Punch”
It’s “Sucker Punch” that really tells us that Beckett’s faith and trust in Castle’s judgement has grown since they’ve met and shows Beckett more and more willing to rely on Castle’s help in solving dangerous and personal cases. I’m sure there are other examples as well, but these really stand out. If you have been watching Castle for the seven seasons prior to season eight, this season’s Beckett appears to be a frog-eating clone – and that’s before you factor in the implausibility of “Lokstat” not realizing that Beckett and Castle are still hooking up. While I appreciate what Fillion once called Katic’s ability to “act chemistry with a wet paper bag” them hooking up doesn’t mean it’s Caskett – Beckett might as well be the deep-fried twinkie. (For that Fillion quote, as well as some insight to the character of Castle early on, you can read this season 2 interview with him over at www.zap2it.com ).
In terms of the overline storyline all this scene does is create a more implausible situation. From the moment it was set up in Castle 8 x 2 the major flaw was that Castle is in danger whether they’re together or not. The writers actually tripped over this fault in their storyline logic back in “The Nose.” In that episode someone tries to take Castle hostage and leverage him to get Beckett to do something – just because they knew she was married to him. Now however we’re dealing with the idea that the all-knowing all-powerful Lokstak – or anyone else – isn’t going to notice that Beckett is skipping out for long lunch breaks. Because as a police captain she apparently has tons of free time. Worse is the idea that Beckett thinks this is unnoticeable and a good idea.
Whether Lokstak is a person or a group, in the story viewers are being asked to swallow this entity as being able to: send out multiple assassination teams undetected, have a person killed in a high security prison, evade the CIA for as least as long as Beckett’s mother was killed, have tabs on the FBI database and track people’s movements. Beckett knows this. However, she thinks, and we’re supposed to believe, that this person or entity is not going to be keeping an eye on the person that tripped the data alarm in the first place. Especially not since right after the setup of the female agent as the fall woman Beckett randomly left her husband. That didn’t look suspicious at all. Beckett’s entire assumption that someone isn’t keeping an eye on her is so not how Beckett has thought over most seasons. The fact that the obvious person is someone she’s just met and is now working with is also an unbelievable plot that makes Beckett appear clueless, but that is in line with my Beckett is a frog-eating clone, so in that way it makes total sense.
As soon as Beckett leaves Castle gets the call from Martha. At the crime scene are detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas). Ryan is looking sadly at the victim, a young African-American woman named Robin King. Medical Examiner Dr. Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) and Alexis Castle (Molly Quinn) are also there. It’s good to see Lanie at the scene doing her thing! As for Alexis, let’s assume that she came by to watch her grandmother rehearse and walked in on this tragic event, although Castle doesn’t seem surprised to see her there. She is comforting Martha when he walks onto the scene.
Martha explains that she knew the victim because Robin was a fan. She had just the day before stayed to watch Martha do “an entire rehearsal” and had waited around to thank her. Martha is naturally distraught by all of this and she asks Castle to “handle this personally.”
Castle isn’t a cop. Like, he doesn’t even play one on TV. How exactly is he supposed to handle this? When he was paired with Beckett this would sort of make sense, but the way things are now – not so much. Whatever. Alexis offers to take Martha home – and Castle thanks her like she’s some stranger! I get they are trying to show that Alexis is an adult now, but she’s still his daughter and Martha’s granddaughter. Yes, of course Alexis is going to take her home. She’s not doing Castle a favor. The entire exchange between him and Alexis there is just weirdly off.
Once Martha and Alexis are gone Ryan and Lanie walk Castle through the crime scene. I’m going to let this one go. As a rule there is no way this should be happening but Castle knows them and the victim is connected to his mother.
Robin King was the night janitor and Lanie says she was killed between 9 and 11 pm by a blunt force trauma to the head – and bled out. Guess it cut open an artery…at least she was already dead. Esposito introduces the theatre’s manager, Chris Jackson, who tells them Robin was an ex-con but the parole officer vouched for her. There hadn’t been a problem with her until a woman showed up the same night Robin was killed. Chris says Robin called the woman “Mama” – but that Robin threatened to call the cops if the woman came near her again.
Back at the precinct Ryan is telling Castle that according to the records, “Robin’s mother died when she was five.” Robin has also been taking subway trips to Spanish Harlem twice a week. It’s the same time each night: 11:30 -1:30.
At this point Castle gets a phone call from Beckett. These two obviously aren’t concerned about anyone tapping their phones because Beckett is all concerned about Martha and asking why he didn’t call her. This so does not work! Back in season five, the whole, “we’re trying to hide our relationship thing” was cute because the stakes were low. Beckett just wanted to keep it to themselves for a while and was concerned about Gates. Here in season 8 we’re supposed to believe that Castle could be in mortal danger if Lokstat were to find out she was still involved with her husband. One would gather this extends to his family as well.
Anyway, Beckett tells him she’s going to have to pretend to be angry with him right before she steps of the elevator. She yells at him for being at the precinct but, he claims “on the case whether she likes it or not.” Really? Castle is saying he can be in the precinct working the case over Beckett’s head? Remember, he got banned last year and was only back for “community service” at the Captain’s request.
Luckily Beckett “decides” he can stay, but “on a very short leash.” This fake fight looks fake, but Ryan falls for it. Esposito comes in with information on the woman Robin called “Mama.” It’s Olivia “Mama” Toussaint, “a mid-level dealer that sells party drugs to rich kids.” Robin was part of her crew.
It was working for Mama that got her into jail how she ended up in jail. The story is that she got wasted at one of the parties she was working for “Mama” and then stole a car and crashed it into a house. She was arrested for “Grand theft auto, reckless endangerment, and destruction of private property.” Beckett has Mama brought in and Castle’s short leash then has him actively interrogating suspects with detective Javier Esposito.
After the interrogation, Castle and Beckett are along in the precinct kitchen. Castle gives her the information they got on Robin. Mama has an alibi for the murder and it looks as though Robin had hooked up with a new gang. She told “Mama” that she had a “new family” and that they had a “big thing” coming up. Beckett’s whispered response?
Beckett: I had a really good time earlier.
Seriously? Castle of course responses he did as well. Beckett tells him she wishes she could kiss him, which Castle is all for. Then Beckett sees Ryan and Esposito coming to the kitchen door. She apologizes to Castle right before she slaps him – just in time for the guys to see.
That’s right. Beckett publically slaps Castle in her workplace. When she was a detective Beckett was cool, calm and collected at work. Now as captain she’s lounging on the couch in short skirts in front of her subordinates and making the problems in her private life very public. Not only is she making these issues public, but she’s now done so in a way that makes her look emotionally out-of-control. Slapping Castle is such a stereotypical kind of reaction….but that’s what we get from the new showrunners of Castle, so here we are. Remember that very sexy handshake in season five when they were hiding their relationship? That subtly and professionalism is gone.
As Castle is leaving he snaps a picture of Robin’s phone out of the open evidence box. Now, that, is a classic Castle move! What occurs next is an attempt to be classic, but doesn’t quite hit the note. Castle goes back to his office where Martha and Alexis are blowing bubbles out of cigar-shaped bubble pipes. That’s cute. Martha wants to help Castle solve the case…okay, we’ll go with it. Martha’s impetuous and passionate, and gosh-darn if her son and granddaughter can be P.I.’s so can she! Right?
Castle puts the picture from his phone onto some kind of smart-board. It’s a really smart board because it can take a single picture and cut it up into pieces so that Alexis can just slide the top list part of the photo – a list of emoji pictures – to the side to be viewed vertically. Castle says he needs help because he doesn’t speak emoji – another fun one-liner. We’ll ignore that the way they solve the message has nothing to do with knowing what a emoji actually stands for. The message is mostly a rebus with some basic symbols like a clock set to 12 that means midnight. They figure out that Robin was meeting her new gang at midnight in an unsafe part of town.
Here’s where things get wonky. The whole Castle doesn’t want to call the cops to go to the midnight meeting of an alleged drug-running crew – but is happy to take his daughter is another one of these unbelievable scenarios that have plagued Castle season 8. The fact that Alexis called them behind her father’s back fits with her character at least, but watching her and Castle walking around with flashlights in this deserted area – looking for the crew Robin was going to meet is stupid. Alexis may have red hair but she’s no Scully, and he’s not Mulder – they were both trained FBI agents. Alexis is a college student hanging out with her father who got a P.I. license from an online course. Neither of them are cops, neither has a gun. They have walked into a serious situation that I can’t take seriously – nor is it funny. Substituting Alexis for Beckett in these kinds of scenes continues to not work – and yet it keeps happening.
At first we see some weird stuff with people seeming to appear and disappear like ghosts. Why? There’s no reason for it beyond it looking cool in the moment and giving Castle a reason to text Esposito a 911 distress call. Then Alexis sees a painted evil clown face. It’s painted on a hanging cloth. Alexis and Castle walk through it and hear…music.
It turns out the “crew” Robin was meeting was a group at an underground a capella circuit. Think “The Sing Off” meets “Rent.” One of the group leaders is named Hunter (Corbin Bleu Reivers). After Castle and Alexis spend a minute or so looking in awe at all the singing they figure out that Robin was a part of one of the groups because there’s a group of girls all wearing the same kind of bracelet Robin had on.
The twist of the a capella circuit is very Castle. Naturally, Ryan and Esposito show up with guys in riot gear because of Castle’s 911 text. Again, very Castle. The story about the non-profit arts program that helps teens “stay straight” also fits in the Castle mold, there’s a tradition of showing positive ways of dealing with societal problems. However, is how we got to this point classically Castle? No.
The next red herring is a girl named Agnes that Robin had kicked out of the group because Agnes wasn’t into keeping clean and sober the way the other girls are.
At the precinct, they find out Agnes has packed up and disappeared. Beckett will talk to the people who run the non-profit group – Scott and Linda Weinberg. While the detectives go research Agnes’s life. The Weinberg’s are a pair of serious and caring lawyers. Linda is especially touching about how much it meant to her to make a difference in “those girls” lives. I suspect her immediately, but she gives them a name of an ex-boyfriend, “Dexter Grimes.” Robin King, Chris Jackson, Mama Toussaint, The Weinberg’s, and now Dexter Grimes. That last name might be amusing if everyone else involved didn’t have the last names they do. Once is coincidental, but all the names together feels like stereotyping.
Anywho, the detectives and Castle go look Dexter up. That was the other sneak peek:
Castle setting himself up as a cheater on Beckett isn’t funny. There is so much wrong with this I don’t know where to start…. How about the fact that we know Castle’s first marriage ended because Meredith cheated on him. The idea that he would set himself up as a cheater is just wrong. A playboy, yes, but a cheater? The name of this woman, the Russian underwear model…what the heck. It sounds like the setup for dirty joke. Yet, it’s being taken seriously. Ah, the life of a frat boy…. The fact that Ryan and Esposito don’t toss him off the case right then is strange. If they’re so mad, why are they letting him hang around? It’s to get to the next joke – of course.
That scene where Castle makes a fool of himself trying to figure out where the Agnes is hiding would have been a good one – had they not gone for the lowbrow humor. Bras and Fat jokes? Really? Really. At least we don’t have Castle being more observant than the cops. Ryan and Esposito have already seen where Agnes is hiding. Of course, everyone just standing around while Castle does this is silly – but it’s meant to be. I just wish they’d stuck with Castle picking all the wrong places and dropped the other stuff.
Anges says Robin called her because she needed a bodyguard because she needed to talk to someone involved in the a capella competition. She offered to pay Agnes to do it. However, Anges says she was late and when she arrived no one was there, so she left. That’s how her prints ended up at the crime scene. That’s when she realizes that Robin had likely been there dead. She really had needed a bodyguard. There’s a reason to feel guilty for the rest of your life!
What comes up next is another moment of “oh dear god, why?” Beckett meets up with Esposito and Ryan, and they are all sympathetic because ? Castle is cheating. Esposito offers to throw him down a flight of stairs. Beckett’s reaction is to be annoyed about the name! Then she appropriates the model to be herself. Yep. There’s nothing like having your colleagues know you husband is cheating on you, Later, tells Beckett how upset he was to learn about Castle cheating on her. This is more like the old Ryan. I guess now he feels extra guilty about spying on Beckett for Castle! Beckett can’t have him being so upset…so to make things fair and to draw some heat off of Castle Beckett tells Ryan she’s seeing someone else as well, a hot doctor. Just…great.
Because the above is too depressing (Beckett’s telling Ryan she’s cheating as well? This is supposed to be “fun”?) I’m going to speed through the rest of this. There’s a snobby director named Dr. Harvey Larson (John Billingsley) that doesn’t like Robin’s group being former prisoners. Esposito and Hunter do some harmonizing back and forth in order to get Hunter to talk. Beckett realizes that from Robin’s dressing room she could hear anything that was said in guy’s room. Hunter takes off. (There’s some cool acapella music used in the chase scene.) He admits to bribing Dr. Larson to kick Robin’s group out of the competition. She heard about it. Hunter says Dr. Larson was going to take care of it. Esposito and Ryan question Larson, who tells them he’d worked out a deal with Robin. Let her group compete and give her a copy of her introduction video and Robin wouldn’t turn him in.
The quick version is that the video ends up proving Robin wasn’t driving the car that night. It had to have been someone else from that party. The party host, Chloe, has a social media account but it’s private so Ryan and Esposito give the information to Castle because as a private investigator he doesn’t need a warrant to hack into her account. When Beckett asks where Castle is going they play dumb and tell Beckett she doesn’t need him, and that she gets them in the breakup. Sure… that’s why they’re still using him to work on the case.
Castle doesn’t know how to hack anything, but Alexis has turned into a computer-hacking genius and has no problems with it at. (I can’t wait until they need someone to leap over a tall building in a single bound. Oh, wait, that show’s on CBS.) Eventually all roads lead back to Linda Weinberg. She was the one driving, but she let Robin take the blame because she didn’t want to be kicked out of law school. The nonprofit was a way to help Robin and assuage her guilt. Yet, Linda is not the killer. It’s her husband! All of this is a very Castle-like twist! It’s a great case!
The Wrap Up
Martha goes and coaches Robin’s group to hopefully win the contest. Back at the precinct Ryan and Esposito tell Castle that now that they know the breakup isn’t temporary they can’t really be friends anymore. Castle would like to talk about it, but he’s got a hot date with the model! Then when Ryan and Esposito try talking with Beckett she’s got to go – she’s got a date with the doctor!
Ryan: Is it just me, or this just –
Esposito: Wrong. All kind of wrong.
Nope. It’s not just you, guys. This entire setup is awful.
Back at the loft Beckett meets up with Castle at his front door. She’s vaguely pretending to be the Russian model and Castle has a stethoscope around his neck. Nothing like a little role-play? They kiss at his front door with it wide open. So much for worrying about Lokstat. Again.
Castle season 1 episode 9, “Tone Death” is trying to tell viewers that things are all better now that Castle and Beckett are together again. They’ve missed that the major problem isn’t that the two weren’t sleeping together – it’s the story they created to split them apart in the first place. As they are still using that story everything that’s connected to it doesn’t work. A good case, fun Martha moments, and cool music doesn’t fix that.
Many viewers have hoped that “Tone Death” would be the turning point of ABC’s Castle becoming more like the show they’d been watching for seven seasons. Does it succeed? I’ll be looking at that, and a few other things, in my Castle season 8 episode 9 review.