This is the second half of the review for Castle season 8 episode 15, “Fidelis Ad Mortem.” If you missed the first half, ABC’s Castle: “Fidelis Ad Mortem” Means “Brava Beckett!” , you might want to check it out because it focuses on how great the case and the police academy storyline is done. This half is all about the relationship parts of the episode and the implications of what happens with it.
The reason I had to split the review is because it’s the only way to really show how I can simultaneously love and loath a single episode. Don’t get me wrong. The end result of Captain Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) getting back together for real – no more charades – is a thing that needed to happen. It will hopefully make this final third of the season far more enjoyable to watch than the first two. At the same time, what happened between Beckett and Castle is indicative of everything that’s wrong with Castle season 8.
The First Caskett Scene in the Loft
I knew there could potentially be Caskett problems when I saw the wanna-be-After-the-Storm sneak peek, but I really wanted there not to be. In the spoiler review I made a point of noting that although this was cute, “nothing will beat the original” – and then showed the original scene of Beckett sneaking out of the loft. It’s the most low-key I’ve been about a sneak peek that thoroughly annoyed me. My second viewing of the wanna-be season five scene – this time within the episode – just made me sad. Luckily, that scene ends with Kate on the phone saying, “This is Beckett” and we’re whisked away to the world of Captain Beckett and the police academy.
That this scene is trying to copy yet another classic Castle scene isn’t the issue. After all, the idea that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery has been around for centuries. When Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan) walked in on Castle and Beckett having breakfast I smiled at the callback to “After the Storm.” Whether she’s giving wise unsolicited advice or displaying her narcissistic tendencies, Sullivan’s Martha is always a pleasure. Had the scene managed to capture the feeling of the original I wouldn’t have been appalled by it – but it doesn’t. “Trying” is the operative word.
Like all of the other Castle season 8 copycat attempts, the problem with this scene is that it’s infused with new sensibilities that one can only assume are those of the new showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter. Unfortunately those sensibilities tend towards immature and sexist humor – as opposed to the sophisticated wit and playfulness that has graced most of the series. Thus far the height of this frat boy thinking is in Castle 8 x 14, “The G.D.S.”, but it’s been present in nearly every episode. Heck, this season has had more bathroom humor in it than the entire series. Remember when Castle used to make comments about things like “murdering the English language”? Now his comments are jokes about digesting Chinese food.
A practice that seems completely new to this season are the derogatory comedy shots sexualizing Beckett. The season 8 version of Beckett having to sneak out of the loft scene contains yet another one: the shot of her crawling away with the camera focused on her butt. Maybe if this were, I don’t know, the 1978 movie Animal House, it would be appropriate. However it’s 2016 and this is ABC’s Castle, a show that for years has had fun with sexual innuendo in its comedic scenes while managing to treat the female characters with respect.
Sexual objectification of Beckett has certainly occurred before on Castle – but it was Beckett who did the objectification and she’s the one empowered and in control of things. The scene that immediately comes to mind is the season three sequence of Beckett coming out of the pool like a James Bond girl. In that instance it is Beckett owning her body and sexuality and choosing to use it as part of her sting operation.
In that same season the episode “Lucky Stiff” (ironically written by Hawley) Beckett and Castle are going undercover in a club. That club scene does have a shot of Castle’s P.O.V and him staring at her butt as she dances away. The shot right after it is Beckett turning around and admonishing him. With that one act, Beckett reminds Castle, and the audience, who’s in control. Had that not happened, if Castle had just stared and then snapped out of it and gotten the drinks – that would have been sending the message that he was the one in control – not Beckett.
If you want more on this topic you can check out this article/cartoon on empowered-vs-objectified – but it’s last point in that article which is the most pertinent here. That point is that to understand whether a character is being empowered or simply objectified you need to ask yourself who has power in the situation being presented. Crawling away with the camera on her butt it’s fair to say that the power does not belong to Beckett. We don’t get any of Beckett’s reactions about being in the situation at all. It’s just about her butt and how foolish she looks.
Let’s compare the scene from Castle season 8 episode 15 to how things were handled in the original, “Beckett has to sneak out of the loft” scene from season five’s, “After the Storm.” In that scene the camera is watching Beckett do her best to control the situation. When she looks down her shirt and sees that her bra is missing it’s funny because we see her reactions and thought process about what she’s doing. The scene is about Beckett and what she’s thinking and feeling as she’s going through it. Meanwhile, as she’s doing that, Castle is trying to keep an eye on Beckett getting out and dealing with his daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) having her first hangover. This is in true Caskett form, because they are actively working together to get Beckett out of the loft undetected. In, “Fidelis Ad Mortem.” there’s no real sense of Castle and Beckett interacting or of them being in the situation together. No, for season eight it’s Beckett disappears, there’s a shot of her butt, and then we’re told she went out of a second bedroom door that never existed before this episode.
That last bit about the sudden appearance of a door in Castle’s loft where there has never been one before is the fundamental problem that season eight has. These new showrunners want to redo the best moments from the past in their own way, but at the same time, nothing that has occurred in the past and been firmly established means anything in terms of the story or plots. That is why when this setup was being tossed around the writers room it was decided that it didn’t matter that the show has had the loft floor plans sitting on Castle’s website forever and there’s no door to the outside. Apparently Beckett crawling on the floor so they can take a picture of her butt and laugh about it was too good a gag to pass up.
In outrage, fans on Twitter have been taking screenshots of Castle’s bedroom from various scenes over the years to point out that there has never been a second exit bedroom door.
— Carolina (@CarolinaD423) March 24, 2016
There is a closet door that can usually be scene next to one in most scenes – it’s the one Beckett hides in when Martha comes in to Castle’s bedroom during “After the Storm. @TinkonBrink provided me with a helpful photo.
While I have found all the photographic evidence amusing, what bothered me was the basic lack of story continuity. In season five’s “After the Storm” Beckett is trapped in Castle’s bedroom and has to sneak out through a passageway inside the loft to get to the front door in order to get to the outside hallway. If there’d been another door inside of that closet – or anywhere in Castle’s bedroom – that led directly to the outside hallway, she would have used it then!
That the powers that be whom get to say yea or nay on these things had no problem throwing in a door that didn’t exist for the sake of this scene actually isn’t surprising if you look at things like the entire plot of Castle’s missing time and LokSat. Talk about randomly throwing things in for a plot! I’ll get more into this in a bit.
Castle Tells Beckett What He Learned in L.A.
There is nothing good about Castle saying that he had his memory erased to protect Beckett from herself. It’s as bad as Beckett walking out to protect Castle. Actually, it’s worse. Why? Because the reasons for Beckett walking out is ludicrous and doesn’t affect what you think about Castle. It’s not his fault Beckett left. If anything, you’re mad at Beckett. However, Castle saying he did it to protect Beckett from herself is making Castle’s decision Beckett’s fault – you know, because Beckett in Castle season 8 is supposed to be such a broken and screwed up character. (That’s seems like the pattern going on this season…it’s the, “everything bad is Beckett’s fault because she’s addicted to trouble” Castle series rewrite by this season’s showrunners.)
If the scenario feels familiar it’s because Castle used the same logic back in season four to keep his knowledge of Mr. Smith away from Beckett because she’d have run straight after them. In season four that was actually true. Beckett was the woman so blinded by her desire to get the people who killed her mother that she didn’t think straight. However, she’s also the one who put herself in therapy that year to get past that wall that kept her from letting Castle in and asking for help. She’s the one who had everything come together for her while hanging off of a building and realized no case was worth her life and that the one thing that really mattered in her life was Castle. Castle and Beckett have gone through so much since then, not the least of which is her and Castle working together to bring down Bracken. Just as Beckett not seeing that her best chance of getting “LokSat” would be to bring Castle into it, the idea that Castle thinks that Beckett would do exactly the same thing she did in season four because she’s this woman who “likes feeling broken” doesn’t connect to her character arc. Instead it’s an attempt to break it and put in this new vision of Beckett that belongs to the new showrunners.
The above is why the scene where Beckett walks into Castle’s office after he’s told her about his missing time and LokSat made me laugh hysterically.
Beckett: How did we end up here again?
Seriously, that’s a darn good question, Beckett! Unfortunately, the truth is there is not a character-driven logical answer. Why do you think Creasey doesn’t even attempt to have any real discussion happen? All Beckett does is state they’re both been liars – so it’s a draw – and then they get drunk and have sex. Problem solved.
Yep. That’s the solution. In the frat boy world that Castle has become sex has been the solution to Caskett issues since, “The Last Seduction.”
Remember when some fans thought Castle and Beckett used too much subtext and didn’t talk enough about the issues they were facing? Well now there is no subtext and they don’t talk at all. Instead, if they get really mad at each other they drink a lot and then have sex. You know, kind of like the last call at the bar. Drink enough and the person you wouldn’t dream of going home with a few hours ago now looks amazing.
Poor Chad Creasey…he seems to be the goto guy to try to cover up illogical plot problems. In Castle season seven he and his at the time writing partner Dara Resnik had to do the Caskett patch-up job for the blown up wedding of Castle 6 x 23 (which is the beginning of the Castle’s missing time story.) Then they had to do the setup for Castle being kicked out of the precinct. This season Creasy got stuck trying to make sense of Beckett’s leaving Castle in episode 2.
This is why I don’t blame Creasey for what’s going on with Caskett in this episode. Obviously you’ve got to be an excellent writer if you’re the one a team goes to and says, “try and fix this mess.” Considering what he had to work with, getting drunk and not talking about it is probably the best anyone could do. Alcohol and sex solves all things…at least in Castle season 8. At least they’ll be fully back together – and with no more charades. It beats trying to come up with a reason for the prior 14 episodes because that would just be another illogical point to add to the already large stack.
Castle and Beckett ending the charade and vowing to work on LokSat together doesn’t change the reason for the charade in the first place, which is…the LokSat story. As the old cliché goes, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. What’s worse than that? Trying to do so after tossing away a real silk purse.
The Johanna Beckett Murder vs LokSat
The Johanna Beckett Case
The Johanna Beckett case started out being about Beckett because it was about creating her arc of growth. However, the case is really about Caskett. At first it was the divide that was keeping Castle and Beckett apart because of how it had molded Beckett to live small and for her job. However, because of Beckett meeting Castle and the relationship that develops between them this case gets solved. It became their case because it’s what brings them closer together and ultimately it’s their teamwork that solves it.
Remember, Beckett wasn’t investigating her mother’s murder when she and Castle met, but she wasn’t really dating either. It’s the brilliant season two episode “Sucker Punch” that forces Beckett to look at this case again, and it’s in season two that she opens up to dating someone new. (Will Sorensen is season 1, but he’s the last serious relationship she was in – I don’t consider making out with your ex a move forward!) It’s actually Castle that “awakens” Beckett to blossom into who she truly is. Not only is this in terms of Beckett letting out her playful and sexy side, but it’s in her letting out the part of her willing to go after the person or persons that killed her mom.
Beckett needed Castle to do this. Specifically, Beckett never would have gotten Senator Bracken without his out-of-the-box thinking, emotional support, and, frankly, his money and connections. I’m sure some are thinking Castle’s money shouldn’t be considered a part of Castle’s character – but it is. Take away his money and he’s not the same Richard Castle. Instead he’s a guy who has to work at Starbucks to support his writing! A person isn’t their money, but when creating a fictional character, the amount of money someone has is absolutely a part of who they are. I really appreciated that Bowman mentions her lack of resources in this quote from the Facebook chat about Castle, “Fidelis Ad Mortem.”:
Any story where we explore Beckett’s personal journey is wonderfully complex & exciting because you’re dealing with a person who wants happiness, wants things right in the world, but has more ambition than resources.
It’s not an aspect that’s mentioned much, but Castle’s thing about “knowing a guy” and having the cash to fund all sorts of things along the way definitely played a big part in bringing down the senator. Beckett having to adjust to Castle’s money was a theme in season five and by the time we’re in season six she’s adjusted and largely accepted that she’s with a guy who has money and can use his financial resources to go after Bracken. It’s not Beckett’s money they’re using while on the run – it’s Castle’s. (Beckett apparently must have given Vikram a ton of Castle’s money to set up the “hideout” in the strip club. I guess Castle doesn’t notice much that goes on in his checking accounts.)
In closing this case, both characters come off as strong and important. The moment Beckett arrests Bracken is absolutely her moment, but when Bracken being driven away in the police car it’s theirs. It’s that moment that truly frees the princess to marry the prince and allows viewers to move on to the next chapter. (Yes, I know, that’s what should have happened but didn’t. That has to do with the ABC choice to try making the story focus on Castle instead of on Castle and Beckett – but more on that later.)
There are major differences between the Johanna Beckett case and LokSat. The former was part of the show’s DNA, and the method to grow Beckett’s character. LokSat has been a way to regress Beckett’s character. It seems to be a big point of the entire season. At least in season seven they just froze her development for half the season. This season LokSat and all the Caskett issues stemming from it have been about trying to recreate that epic moment in season four’s “Always” – while at the same time trying to toss away four seasons of her character arc to repaint her as being addicted to high-risk situations.
If the showrunners had chosen to use LokSat for actual forward-moving character development Beckett would have never left Castle to begin with. The story would have been about what she learned from Johanna Beckett’s murder case and how she was doing things differently. It could have been about her and Castle arguing over how to handle it even. If the goal was to just split Castle and Beckett up for a time that would have worked.
Unfortunately the split wasn’t the only goal. The new showrunners wanted to redefine Beckett as not a hero in her own right, but as an addict that Castle – the hero – is in love with. Seeing this does not take a crystal ball. In the Castle episode, “Little Girl Lost” Will Sorensen, Beckett’s ex-boyfriend, says that writing a bunch of best sellers doesn’t make him a criminologist. This was Castle’s quick-witted reply.
Castle: I also don’t need a weatherman to tell me that the sky is blue.
You don’t need to be a television writer to see that the last two seasons, but especially this season, has been about making Richard Castle its sole focus. As it stands now, all the major storylines are leading to him. The murder of Johanna Beckett is no longer even seen as the main issue! It’s all about the team of people whom Castle – not Beckett – got killed. That’s what the talking point is now. Guess what though, just because you’ve upped the body count doesn’t mean it’s ever going to mean more in the series that the murder of Beckett’s mother. All that LokSat has done is weaken the series as a whole.
In trying to shift the focus to Castle, the showrunners felt they had to rewrite Beckett – because, you know, the only way to lift one character up is put another one down. (Yes, that is sarcasm.) That explains why this season keeps trying to recreate the epic moment in “Always” when Beckett goes to Castle realizing her mistakes. They don’t want that scene to be the breakthrough for her character that it’s been.
The LokSat story also made the capture of Bracken less of a triumph for Beckett and Castle because now they didn’t really solve the case. Even though Beckett got to arrest the person responsible for ordering the hit on her mom she didn’t get the even bigger person or persons that Bracken was connected to. LokSat isn’t really about Joanna Beckett. Instead, it’s now Castle’s journey to find LokSat because his silence cost people their lives – but that only happened because he was worried about his addict fiance. Gee, poor Castle, he has to go save the world now. Again. I’m sorry, but while I cared about the Johanna Beckett case, there is nothing heart-driven about this LokSat case. The former was Caskett-driven, the latter is Castle-driven – with whomever wants to come along for the ride.
Castle, Hayley and the G.D.S.
If you didn’t see the episode and/or read my review of Castle 8 x 14, “The G.D.S.” I suggest you read the review, because in terms of Caskett problems so much of what happens in this episode is connected to it. Because of that episode Castle now has Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye) as his goto backup person to support him and bounce ideas off of. The scenes between him and Hayley weren’t just annoying to me – they are more of the writing on the wall. He’s been more honest and intimate with Hayley in the last two episodes than he’s been with Beckett all season.
Remember at the start of the season how there were all those articles saying Hayley wasn’t there to replace Beckett as Castle’s partner ? (Here’s one of many if you don’t: tvline) It now looks as though they lied because that’s exactly what is happening – or at least it’s what they’re trying to do with the story direction that’s playing out. Every move they take towards this makes me dislike the character more and more.
Hayley even suggests that this LokSat thing is something she and Castle could take down. It doesn’t matter that Castle says he won’t make a move without Beckett because a) he’s already made so many, and b) that comment is about their partnership! In fact, the entire conversation is a move being made by Castle without Beckett – because Beckett doesn’t know anything about his knowledge of LokSat. His saying he won’t make a move without Beckett is him bringing Beckett into their investigation, which is the exact same problem there’s been with Beckett and Vikram being paired in the fall. However, at least Beckett and Vikram aren’t acting all cozy in their scenes. He’s like a bratty younger brother with Beckett while Hayley acts like she’s Castle’s equal partner.
God forbid something happen to Beckett because then Castle has his trusty sidekick Hayley to enact his revenge. That’s not saying this is the plan – but it’s certainly could be a plan. They’ve been laying the groundwork for it all season and nailed it in with that scene in the G.D.S. where Hayley talks about how “fond” she is of Castle and Alexis. Apparently the whole, it’s okay to lie to and betray friends for the job thing she told Castle is now irrelevant…or is it?
Former ABC entertainment head Paul Lee said there were ‘several ideas’ on the table about a Castle season nine. There’s a second escape hatch from this season’s fiasco. It’s one where Hayley is a total criminal who’s been playing everyone and turns out to be one of the bad guys. Maybe if TPTB felt that the G.D.S plans weren’t going so well they wanted room to go in another direction? We’ll have to wait and see.
In my best scenario all of Castle season 8 would turn out to have been a dream and the season/series would end with Castle and Beckett waking up the morning after that big dinner in “Hollander’s Woods.” I also could live with Hayley and Vikram dying in the end – and I suspect most viewers would be cheering at that! Let’s just hope that “Fidelis Ad Mortem” – which means “faithful unto death” – is only a title referring to the NYPD motto and not any sort of foreshadowing. If Beckett were to die or Castle were killed, much like Beckett’s reaction to Castle’s news in this episode, the only way one could deal with it is to drink.