Castle, “Death Wish” is thus far the best comedic episode of the season, and it’s definitely the most connected Caskett has felt in a while. It’s even a decent episode for the series in general, which I don’t think I’ve said for any other comedy episode in Castle season 8. With Castle season 8 episode 17 there are now three episodes I would watch again: “The Blame Game,” “Fidelis Ad Mortem” and, “Death Wish.” I can’t say three out of seventeen isn’t bad, but the fact that these three episodes are all after the disastrous episode, “The G.D.S” could mean that someone got the memo and decided it was time to get back to writing classic Castle episodes. Perhaps Castle doesn’t have a death wish after all!
Note that I said Castle, “Death Wish” is decent for the series – not great. It’s biggest problem is the case, and the issues start immediately.
We’re watching a terrified guy with a bloody face who’s clearly been tortured writing down information and then begging for his life. A large shadowy figure stands behind him and slices his head off.
They don’t show the actual beheading. I would have seriously downgraded this episode for that, but the scene is still tasteless. This is not Game of Thrones and there’s nothing comic about that scene. Maybe a few years ago this would have seemed like over-the-top dramatic fun – but not in 2016. What makes it worse is when the case gets solved the entire opening is unbelievable and unnecessary – which means the writers put viewers through that for absolutely nothing.
This opening scene with Captain Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is absolutely the best fun Castle and Beckett scene all season and is on par with of the best comic Caskett scenes from season seven. Finally!
This scene has some spark to it because no one does hot and bothered better than Katic – and Fillion reaction shots are all on point. Yes, I know they don’t kiss, but at least it felt like they wanted to. So many of these “stopped before they start” scenes feel wooden and artificial in the staging. Equally important is that the humor isn’t sexist or degrading to the characters. Add in the fabulous use of Castle’s Mom, Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan) and it all comes together as a fun and sexy Caskett scene. I’d put it between the one in “Clear and Present Danger” scene where Martha interrupts a hot Caskett make-out session by getting caught in Castle’s zombie apocalypse warning system, and the ending scene with the lasso in “Once Upon A Time in The West.”
The Crime Scene
This crime scene had all kinds of things wrong with it, and it all lands back on how this season has been writing Richard Castle. There’s a time and place for some Castle zaniness, but this season the show doesn’t know when to turn it off. At the crime scene Castle is acting like a callous clown while Detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Medical Examiner Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) are all on point.
Richard Castle does not need to be “funny” all the time. He’s just walked into a crime scene that looks like the aftermath of one of Huck’s B6-13 killings on Scandal. He’s told that Lars, the victim was tortured before he was killed, and then discovers that Lars was decapitated. We all watch the news and the idea of Castle walking into this scene with no idea of why it’s happened – but cracking jokes about the manner in which the victim died feels completely wrong. Why? Because there is no way that Richard Castle, living in the city of New York, is this oblivious to the reality of terrorism threats. Yet, all Castle does is go on and on about the story of 1001 Arabian Nights and crack jokes?
The screenshots below are from moments that are supposed to be comic reactions to Castle’s nonsense, but they end up reflecting the serious feelings of how wrong Castle’s demeanor is. There are a couple of moments that if everything else weren’t there would have been fine. Castle gagging at the beheaded body is one, and the other is his cryptic wordsmithed comment about the victim’s interest in the Middle East.
Castle: Oh, a region known for its sordid history of beheadings, and yet Lars was beheaded here in Manhattan. Hmmmm….
On its own the commentary about the Middle East not being the only place where horrible things like this occur might have been well placed – except the show has Castle acting like what’s taken place isn’t horrible at all.
Perhaps if the scene had cut right to the phone call from Oprah Winfrey‘s assistant – minus all of Castle’s jokes on the way out – this opening crime scene would have been salvageable as just being a poor choice for a murder. Unfortunately, what happens next is Castle launching into the joke about 1001 Arabian Nights – complete with a goofy grin. He then proceeds to tell Laine, Esposito, Ryan – and the audience – the basic plot of the book.
First of all, there is no reason for this story to be here. Aladdin is one of the stories in the book, and the symbol on the book is important. However, all anyone needs to know in order to follow this Castle tale about a lamp and a possible genie is that the story of Aladdin is in the book and that there’s a myth of the lamp being in King Solomon’s tomb. Is any of this information covered in Castle’s little briefing? No.
Secondly, the idea that at least Ryan doesn’t know the book’s story seems unlikely given his whole show tune loving ways. Worse is the idea that it needs to be explained because the viewers may not know the story. It’s insulting to the audience. Finally, going back to the first point, even if someone in the audience doesn’t know the darn story you don’t need to know it in order to get the plot in “Death Wish” – so why put in this sixty-second waste of screen time?
Whatever reason the writer had in mind, let us hope it wasn’t to set up what is by far the worst attempt to show Castle as being unique in his ways of coming up with clues.
When Ryan points out that the story of 1001 Arabian Nights tells them nothing about why the victim was tortured, Castle gives this “brilliant” answer.
Oh. My. God. Really, Castle? This has to be the dumbest point I’ve seen Richard Castle make for a case, ever! I’d take space aliens over this anytime. At least when he says something like that it’s supposed to sound ridiculous and the people around him laugh about it – like they will later about the genie. Here, Ryan and Esposito act like Castle actually gave them an insight! In what way is saying that a person was tortured because the torturer wanted something a revelation?
Dear Castle writers, if you’re going to make everyone listen to Castle go on and on about something, there needs to be a good reason, or you at least have the people around him call Castle out on how silly his statements are. This crime scene in general is tonally off, but that particular piece of business is an epic fail – even if you’ve never seen a Castle episode in your life.
Now, if you have been a regular Castle viewer, then you likely recall how a similarly gruesome killing was handled in season six. Knowing how Castle has dealt with such things before makes seeing this crime scene upsetting – because you know just how completely out of character Castle is here. The episode being set as an a comedy or sci-fi one is no excuse for this because the season six crime scene that featured someone who was tortured was Castle 6 x 5, “Time Will Tell.” Yes, the one about the possible time travelers like those in The Terminator. Here’s how that crime scene was handled:
Of course, “Time Will Tell” was written by the Castle masters: creator and at the time showrunner, Andrew Marlowe and his wife, the writer/producer Terri Edda Miller. That’s a very high bar to try and match! Given what Castle season eight has been, I don’t really don’t expect anything to come close to being as good – but come on, guys. This isn’t a video game, it’s a TV show. From the way Castle, “Death Wish” chooses to handle the method of murder you would think the showrunners, Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter, haven’t read or watched the news in the last few years.
Once Castle got out of the crime scene things get better. Castle on the phone with the assistant while talking to “the neighbor” who then seems to disappear is funny. The scene with Ryan and Esposito interviewing the victim’s sister is serious and straightforward. and the interview Beckett and Ryan have with the ex-boyfriend Mark (John Ducey) is solid dramedy work – it has humorous undertones, but comes off as a serious interrogation. I also appreciate that Mark is played as a full character and not as a stereotypical gay guy thrown into the scene for a laugh.
From the interrogations we get that the victim – Lars Cross – was well liked but broke, and had recently been to Turkey. Mark had loaned Lars twenty thousand dollars toward his degree at Columbia. When Mark saw Lars driving around in a Porsche, he naturally wanted his money back – hence he had been seen banging on the door at Lars’s apartment by, “the neighbor.”
Mark is the one who tells Beckett and Ryan that Lars had smuggled something back from Turkey but that his partner had thought he’d doubled-crossed him. At the time Mark didn’t believe him, and had taken the guy’s laptop as collateral. Ryan tells Mark he’ll need to hand over the laptop.
Mark alibis out but the laptop is interesting. Beckett is thinking Lars could have been smuggling heroin since it’s, “The heroin pipeline from Afghanistan.” Castle disagrees because… “Lars was beheaded by a scimitar.” Yeah…this can’t really go with this. The fact that Castle is romanticizing this whole beheading thing is problematic. Beckett calls him out about his wacky theories, but the thing that no one is mentioning looms large in this scene – and in the case overall.
Beckett can’t find any record of the woman Castle spoke to, which leads to an interesting conversation about Beckett’s job.
Beckett: I swear, most of my time is spent checking people’s paperwork.
Castle: You’re suffering from a little ‘buyer’s remorse. Yeah, it’s one of life’s cruel jokes. You get exactly what you wished for only to find it wasn’t what you wanted at all.
Beckett: No. I love being a captain. It’s just that sometimes I feel like I’m more of a kindergarten teacher.
That’s the setup for the fun scene with Ryan and Esposito that had been released as a sneak peek. Listening to the double entendre that refers to case breakthroughs, (“mine’s bigger than yours”) I’m thinking a junior high teacher – not kindergarten! As the scene continues Esposito presents a bag with four hundred thousand dollars that was in Lars’s safe deposit box. That screams drug money to Esposito, but Ryan’s breakthrough with the laptop shows Lars in, “King Solomon’s tomb” and it suggests that he was smuggling artifacts.
It’s in the above scene where the symbol on the book in Lars’s apartment becomes important. Castle recognizes the symbol on the lamp that Lars is holding as the same on the book jacket. He then Google’s it and reads all the information pertaining to the symbol – which is all viewers need to follow the case. The symbol is, “The Seal of Solomon” and in it’s supposed magical powers is the ability to, “seal genies into lamps.” This is how Castle decides Lars found Aladdin’s lamp. The entire scene is funny and well done. It has a great ensemble rhythm to it, which continues into this next scene.
Loved, loved, loved this scene! It’s a classic Castle setup for these kind of stories. There’s a logical explanations for what Lars was doing put into place. There’s the subtle playing with words where Esposito is going to see what he can dig up on the tomb raider. (The word play is so much more fun when it’s not being hammered in!). Now that she’s got the detectives working on a plausible theory Beckett’s earlier annoyance at Castle’s belief in genies has turned to loving amusement. After all, his whimsy is part of why she loves him. As such she’s happily willing to have him go talk with the author of the book on King Solomon’s seal, Dr. Marion Baker (Denise Crosby).
Castle apparently was able to entice the professor to come to his office. Getting a college professor to just drop by at a moment’s notice is not the easiest. It would have made more sense for them to go there. However, creating a professor’s office is another set for the show to make. It’s more convenient to do it this way. Besides, having the professor come to the office is a reason for Castle’s daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) to be there since, you know, she’s dropped out of school to work at her dad’s office. (Oh, wait, they’ve never actually said that – it just always looks that way.)
Even though it’s weird to have the professor at the office, this is the first time in Castle season 8 season that the dynamic between Castle and Alexis feels right! She’s not acting like his wife, or trying to protect him. Her words and demeanor aren’t cloying and she’s not being a wonderkid breaking through computer codes or solving vast mysteries in her head. No, in this scene Alexis is very much what you’d expect the girl from season one, who popped up and said, “that’s new” to her father, to have grown into by season eight. She is a wise and practical young woman who knows her father well. I hope this adjustment in how the character is written continues!
As for Castle…believing these kinds of things could be possible has always been his Achilles heel. His single-minded earnestness about the genie is par for the course!
Back at the precinct Ryan and Esposito have a silly bromance moment where they start talking about what they’d wish for if there were such a thing as Aladdin’s lamp! Ryan wishes his second child was already born and sleeping through the night. Esposito says marriage has made him boring. He’d wish to be the top MMA fighter in the world and take home a different hot chick every night. Ryan then says he’d wish to be a Broadway star!
Esposito: You’d wish to wear tights and sing show tunes for a living?
Ryan: You’d wish to wear Speedos and grapple sweaty men for a living?
Right after this Beckett arrives and breaks up their trip to, “Fantasy Island” to show them a new lead she’s found. A guy named Mike Harlin (Erich Wildpret) a driller that worked for the same company in Turkey that Lars did – and they flew back on the same plane.
Meanwhile, the blonde shows up at Castle’s office and convinces him that she’s a reporter doing a story on stolen antiquities. Castle falls for it, because, well, Castle always falls for the woman’s story. That’s been consistent since day one and has never changed. Castle will basically believe anything any woman tells him. The “reporter” gives Castle another clue. Mike Harlin used the alias, “Al Adian” while in Turkey. He goes to call it in to Beckett, turns back around and…the reporter’s disappeared, and Alexis is walking in with a drink. He rushes to try to catch the reporter, but she’s gone without a trace.
Using the, “Al Adian” lead Ryan and Esposito find Mike Harlin and do a bad*ss takedown of the man. He then starts babbling about “the genie” being out to get him! This continues at the precinct as Castle and Beckett watch Esposito and Ryan interrogate Mike. It’s another cute Caskett/12th Precinct scene!
The big clue from the above scene is that there’s a Turkish shipper that was extorting Lars to release the shipper, and that there was a third person, a financier that was involved in getting the artifacts out of Turkey.
That night Castle discovers that the blonde wasn’t really a reporter and decides she’s the genie – and that she wants him to be her new master! Beckett has another drink and takes away Castle’s. He’s getting all caught up in what his wish list needs to be, but Beckett knows how to distract him. Sex. I talked about this scene in the Death Wish spoilers article and noted, Beckett used a similar tactic in season six to get Castle off of his scrabble fixation. Sometimes Beckett just needs to break Castle’s ADHD-like hyper-focused obsession.
The next morning Beckett arrives at the precinct to be greeted at the elevator by Ryan and Esposito. They’ve managed to track down where the shipment from Turkey was delivered. It’s likely the smuggled goods are still there. Beckett asks them to have Castle go with them and if they find the lamp to “let him have the first rub.” Awwww…she wants to indulge his little fantasy – even though she thinks it’s ridiculous. That, is true love!
Ryan, Esposito and Castle go to the carpet store. It’s been broken into so Ryan and Esposito go in with guns drawn. The place is clear….Meanwhile Castle is lightly tossing smaller rugs into the air to see if any will fly! That, is so Castle! In his looking for flying carpets he finds a rolled up one that’s dripping blood into a puddle of blood. It’s their suspect. He’s been tortured in the same way as Lars, but not decapitated. The body’s still warm. The guys send Castle to call for backup and then wait out front for them.
The sequence with Castle wandering away and running after the blonde, had it stopped once he realizes it’s not the blonde “genie” would have been okay – but it keeps going! We now have to watch Castle: seeing the logo of the carpet place on a warehouse door, climbing up on a garbage container with rugs, peering through the window, falling inside, tip-toeing through the warehouse, etc, etc…the entire thing becomes tedious!
I don’t know why they make these Castle scenes so long now. This kind of thing really started in season seven – and I didn’t like it then either. In the earlier seasons Castle has funny bits, but they didn’t last nearly two minutes straight. Marlowe apparently saw that these kind of things needed to be broken up on-screen – or the idea stops being funny. If they’d cut to something else after Castle sees the logo, they could have come back to the warehouse with Castle inside finding the lamp and then continued on from there with the smuggler and the genie. This would have been golden. Both the scene with the smuggler and the subsequent one with the genie, “appearing” are funny and show Fillion at his comic best. I appreciated those moments much more on my second viewing – because I fast-forwarded through the boring stuff.
The scene back at the precinct is hilarious. At this point, let’s just make that a blanket statement. Every scene at the precinct – whether it’s between Castle and Beckett, Beckett and the guys, Beckett and the detectives, or Castle with the detectives – works! Thank goodness there are a lot of these scenes, because those and the Caskett scenes are the best parts of Castle, “Death Wish.”
Unfortunately, this is also where the case starts to get wonky again. Alexis arrives to tell her father and the detectives that she dusted her father’s desk for fingerprints and had Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye) run them through the DMV’s database.
Don’t ask how Hayley managed this. The character is a disgraced cop, “security specialist” who avows no loyalties to anyone in Castle episodes 8 x 1 & 8 x 2 – when she also had a mysterious fancy lab backing her. She’s also an expert hacker and has recently been said to have connections to Castle’s rogue CIA father. Of course, she could be lying. So either she hacked into it or she pulled a contact out of a hat.
The “genie” turns out to be a security specialist named Genevieve (Carolyn Stotesbery) hired by a “Mr. X.” (Already, we should have known this story wasn’t going to turn out well. Hayley was introduced on the show as a security specialist.) The story Genevieve spins is that Mr. X hired Lars to excavate the relics from Solomon’s tomb in order to protect them – because the “Syrian conflict was spilling over into Turkey.” Okay, fine…except supposedly no one knew where the damn thing was. Anyway, Mr. X was worried the relics would be sold to fund terrorism.
Beckett points out that Lars, “ended up dead” – but Genevieve says she was called away on a false lead and when she came back the cops were everywhere. She targeted Castle to see what the police knew. Oh, and before she saved Castle in the warehouse she was able to take down the truck’s license plate.
While Beckett, Ryan and Esposito are listening via police radio to the state police apprehending the truck Ryan gets a call that Jenny’s gone into labor and leaves.
The police get the truck, the suspects, and the artifacts, but there are “only” eleven crates. We’re told Genevieve said there would be twelve. Apparently the one missing has “Aladdin’s Lamp.” We’ve no idea what’s in the other eleven nor why they aren’t valuable. Are they all from the tomb or what?
Anyway, Castle and Esposito interrogate the same female smuggler that pulled the gun on Castle in the warehouse – her name is Phoebe (Layla Alizada). Phoebe and the male smuggler couldn’t have killed the carpet store owner because a traffic camera places them across town. Phoebe won’t talk and lawyers up.
The Wrap Up
Castle thinks of a person who can help them figure out who would be interested in the lamp. That person turns out to be the killer – Dr. Baker. The story is that Lars had audited a class of Dr. Baker’s and used what he learned to find the tomb. She had been looking for King Solomon’s tomb for over 15 years and had been so obsessed with finding it that it ruined her marriage. (Sensing a theme, anyone?) When Lars came back to the U.S. he met with Dr. Baker to share the news about the find – and the lamp. She was so professionally jealous that Lars would get “all the fame and fortune” that she…tortured and killed two people, the first with a huge sword?
Yes, seriously. We’re supposed to buy that the woman pictured below was able to torture and behead Lars, torture and kill the rug dealer – and wrap the second guy up in a rug, by herself.
Nope. This, does not work. The story is convoluted enough, but if they wanted the professor to be the killer then they needed to have casted it so it could be believable. At the very least they could have mentioned she had some kind of background in martial arts, but there is nothing ever said! Now, if they had dropped the beheading idea and just had these people shot….well, no, because she still has to overpower them in order to torture them…and roll the body in the rug. There’s no getting around it – this case is a fail. Not even the playful scene with the Jordanian prince showing up can save it.
It’s too bad the case starts and ends so badly, because there is a lot in the episode that is like Castle from previous seasons. For instance, the final scenes with everyone at the hospital!
The hospital scene has everything I loved about this show in prior years: drama, heart, sweetness, the comradery of Castle, Beckett, Laine and the guys, and emotional connection between Castle and Beckett. Beckett coming to him about the wishes reminds me of how people who don’t believe in God will sometimes ask for prayer when they’re really scared – just in case. Then there’s that ultimate Caskett line. Castle tells Beckett that he is done with genies. Beckett asks why.
Castle: I have no need for genies, because I already have everything I could wish for
Those words – and the way Fillion delivers them – are pure Caskett perfection! It continues the general idea that Castle has said about Beckett once they got together – she’s the fulfillment of all his dreams. Beckett gets a little overwhelmed and starts quizzing him about things he could wish for – like a “working lightsaber.”
Beckett’s questions seem silly, but this light moment is important, because we’ve just watched Castle running all over the place in search of a genie. While Ryan and Jenny’s baby story could seem randomly tacked on it’s actually pivotal. The scene prior to them getting the news at the hospital is Castle still wondering if Genevieve is a real genie. It’s the sobering thing of what Ryan just went through with Jenny that underlies Castle’s change in perspective and gives the words, which on the surface could be taken as empty sentimentalism, real weight and emotional resonance.
It’s this ending scene, the generally good portrayal of Caskett, and all of the relationships involved at the 12th Precinct that are scattered throughout Castle, “Death Wish” that makes it one of the most enjoyable episodes of the season. I’d even say that it’s the only episode this season that has gotten the core relationships on this show down flawlessly. Another positive point is that it doesn’t contain any of the Beckett character problems that so many other Castle season 8 episodes have had.
Sadly, what brings the overall episode rating down are the issues with Richard Castle on his own, the poorly constructed case, and the choice for the beheading. If you’re going to do something like that last item, you need to be have an excellent reason for doing so – and that reason never shows up.
Castle Season 8 Episode 17: Review
Castle, “Death Wish” is thus far the best comedic episode of the season, and it’s definitely the most connected Caskett has felt in a while!