Review: Castle 8.03

Summary: Beckett works her first case post-breakup, with Castle butting in to the investigation in the hopes of getting his wife back, or at least understanding why she left. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang do what they can to help the newly separated couple come to terms with their situation, and Beckett and Vikram get their first lead in the Locksat investigation.

Best Scene: In one of the experiment’s prison cells, Beckett states again how much she loves Castle, and the two share what can decidedly be called a moment.

Best Line: “I love you. I always will.”

My Review: I’ll be honest: I’m still mad. I wish I wasn’t, but unfortunately this episode showed me that I’m going to continue to have a very hard time with the choice Kate made at the end of last week’s episode and, what’s more, it’s going to affect my enjoyment of the show for as long as this arc continues. So yeah, this review is going to be fairly negative, and if that’s not what you need right now you may want to pass it up. Hopefully as the season continues I’ll get a bit better at focusing on the positive aspects of each episode, but that’s just not happening right now.

I think my biggest issue is that it’s very hard to forget about Kate’s decision when it fundamentally alters the DNA of the show, as it has here. Instead of the streamlined structure we know and love, we were given an episode that was a total mess in that department, with Kate half working the case of the week (but rarely doing any investigating or directing of her own, aside from telling Espo and Ryan to stay away from Castle) and half working the Locksat investigation with Vikram. Then we had Espo and Ryan half working with Kate and half working with Castle, and Castle and Alexis half working with Espo and Ryan and half working on their own. And then of course Castle seeing but not really investigating with Kate until the tail end of the episode, despite the fact that his whole plan hinged on working with her.

The messy structure also meant that, for me at least, the tone was all over the place; the case itself was good but very dark, as was Beckett’s Locksat investigation, while the Castle, Alexis, Ryan, and Espo moments were mostly played for comedy. We all know this show is usually very good at toeing the line between light and dark, often in the same episode, but I don’t think that happened here at all. For example, it was far too jarring to go from Kate tearfully weighing her options to Castle and Alexis blowing cigar bubbles.

I also took issue with Castle’s reason for jumping on Kate’s investigation in the first place, because I think it made him look far less intelligent than he is. The idea that he thinks Kate needs to be won back is problematic, because it makes it seem like he believes Beckett left because she doubted his love for her or because she had fallen out of love with him. Castle knows Kate better than anyone in the world, and he’s a very smart man. The fact that he hasn’t figured out that she’s hiding something and that she’s doing it for a reason is a little unbelievable to me, especially considering their history.

As for Kate, I think her behavior contributed to the tone issues in the episode. She spent a lot of her time clearly pleased that Castle had joined the investigation (smiling at him when he was drunk, caressing his face in the middle of the precinct), but she should not have felt that way if she’s really trying to distance herself from him to keep him safe. That disparity meant that I simply didn’t buy her scenes with Vikram where she was torn up and weighing her options, because her choice is irrelevant when she’s showing everyone how much she loves Castle at every available moment, including whomever’s after her.

I should be happy that Castle and Beckett shared a fair amount of scenes this episode, but were they good scenes? Not really. I think the one in the prison cell was the perfect example of how this separation is killing the show (if you’ll forgive the dramatics). The theory-building scenes, the bread and butter of Castle, feel sad instead of snappy now, because the moment Castle and Beckett make eye contact is the moment they realize they’re separated, which zaps all of the spark and fun out of the scene, versus seasons 3-7, where the moment they made eye contact was the moment they realized how in love they were. And unfortunately, that’s going to continue to be an issue going forward, at least until they get back together.

I’m torn about the direction the writers are taking with Alexis this season. I love that they’re showing a more grown-up side of her, I do, and I think the first two episodes did that very well. In this one, they took it too far. Flirting with a guy during her dad’s lecture? Fun, especially Castle calling her the “too friendly blonde”. Chasing after the guy to get the info he had and gleefully shooting him down the minute she did? Also fun. Going to a frat party dressed in glorified lingerie while her dad and two guys who have known her since she was fourteen wait outside? Too much. Way, way too much. To be clear, I don’t have an issue with Alexis doing that on her own time at all. She’s young, she’s in college, do what you want, man. I have an issue with the fact that two seasons ago Castle’s voice reached an octave previously unheard by man when he saw what Alexis wore to a Con, and now he’s, as Espo pointed out, “sending your daughter into a house full of drunken frat boys dressed like a slutty angel”. I think that was the show’s way of acknowledging that Castle’s made a few questionable decisions in his quest to reunite with Kate, but that one was a little too questionable to be realistic.

Also, meta-ly, the writers have to realize that the audience feels protective of Alexis as well, that we’ve watched her grow up in the same way that Castle has. So there’s something to be said for easing us in, not jumping immediately to angel costumes and BDSM knowledge. And really, can we maybe find out how college is going and what her future plans are before we jump straight to sexualizing her?

Honestly, the biggest bummer of this episode is that I wanted to like it. There were a lot of elements in place to make me like it: interesting case, fun Castle/Espo/Ryan moments, an expanded role for Alexis (costume issue aside), etc. All that was missing was Kate joining the investigation like she would have pre-breakup. It was easy to imagine her trading college stories with Castle, giving Ryan and Espo a hard time for thinking they could pass for twenty-year-olds, keeping a watchful eye on Alexis but telling Rick she could handle herself, etc. All of which proves that this season could have felt fresh and could have been enjoyable without putting Caskett in the ground, so to speak. As depressing as it sounds, at this point all I’m doing is waiting for the writers to bring them back up.

Need to do some venting? Or do you have a few positives to point out? Hit up the comments section!

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