Castle: “Hunt” (Season 5 Episode 16)

castleBroadcast date:  Monday, Feb. 25th, 2013

As good as I thought the previous episode was, Hunt takes the two-episode arc to the next level. When Alexis’s friend is released, we know for sure that Alexis was the target. With the police unable to help due to the fact that Alexis is in France, Castle gets on a plane and looks up some contacts. When he teams up with a mercenary, some leads turn promising until a double-cross ensues. In to the fray steps Castle’s father.

Turns out Alexis was captured to draw out Grandpa Castle (great performance by James Brolin), since Castle’s dad is a spy with an ex-KGB agent after him.Castle and his dad set out to free Alexis, and there’s a clever twist to resolve the situation. The episode is well-written, the action is plentiful, and the kidnapping arc is complete. They’ve also opened the possibility that Castle has a half-brother, if they can convince Josh Brolin to appear! One of the better multi-episode storylines in Castle that I’ve seen in a long time…

Castle: “Target” (Season 5 Episode 15)

castleBroadcast date:  Monday, Feb. 18th, 2013

Kidnapping seems to be a popular theme, almost to the point of overuse. From Taken and Taken 2 to last year’s Missing, and this year: The Following, NCIS, Arrow, Zero Hour – all have featured episodes, or geared the whole show around, a kidnapping. Castle joins the fray in an episode where Alexis is abducted, along with an Arabic girl. At first it looks like a case of money, or political enemies of the Arabic family. Following leads takes Beckett and Castle to where a member of the kidnappers is hiding. In a Liam Neeson moment, Castle is left alone to question the man. Although nothing is shown, we hear the man’s screams while watching Beckett’s face. It’s a telling moment: how far would you go, what would you do, to find the person you love?

Meanwhile we see scenes of the kidnapped girls…wherever they are being held, they are being taken care of. Alexis manages to keep her cool and use her head, using a bobby pin to pick the lock (just like her dad taught her!) and then making an escape attempt. She finds a phone and Skypes her dad. When the kidnappers close in, she flees and emerges on a roof, as the same time the FBI traces her location – Paris?!! Thus ends the cliffhanger for this week.

I would like to point out that Nathon Fillion’s acting is superb in this episode. Horrified, anguished, tormented, fearful, resolute – Fillion pulls off all these and more reminding us that when you look past the flippant one-liners, wild conspiracy theories, and bumbling oafishness, he brings whatever is necessary to sell the character in the moment. Although the serious episodes of Castle can be a little overly dramatic, there’s no disguising how exciting and entertaining they are. This is the best episode of the season.

Castle: “Reality Star Struck” (Season 5 Episode 14)

castleBroadcast date:  Monday, Feb. 11th, 2013

We’re back to the Castle I enjoy – witty banter, a killer with a believable motive (scorned lover), and Castle doing something stupid and squirming to get out of the situation. When a reality star turns up dead, all signs point to one of the other cast members. Captain Gates turns out to be a big fan of the show and forces other team members to watch it and do their “homework”. There’s a hilarious scene where Castle and Gates discuss the show and it’s characters like a couple of obsessed fans. Throughout the show, Castle and Beckett have a repartee over whose Valentine’s Day gift is better. The most awkward moment of the show involved Castle mistakenly giving Beckett’s gift to Gates, at which point Gates exclaimed that she was married. The whole scene just felt awkward and forced. The show redeems itself at the end, with Beckett revealing her gift in a touching moment. One of the better episodes in the past few weeks…

Castle: “Recoil” (Season 5, Episode 13)

castleBroadcast date: Monday, Feb. 4th, 2013

Castle is at its best when the characters trade barbs with each other, while they are running out of time to catch a murderer and the motives of the murderer are believable. Although the character banter was missing from this episode, it was still very good. The return of Senator Bracken causes a lot of tension for Beckett, while Castle adopts his serious face for the entire episode and his mother and daughter are absent. The intent is to focus on Beckett and create a strong performance for Stana Katic, who has one of the strongest female roles on TV. When a girl turns up burnt beyond recognition, but is identified thanks to a dental implant, the trail leads to Bracken (Jack Coleman, who played HRG in Heroes). Beckett wants this man dead so bad, she’s willing to suppress evidence and let a criminal escape who is targeting Bracken for harm. As the show develops and Beckett is forced to make a choice, she gains an unwanted ally. There are many different ways the story could have gone, so the direction taken must indicate how the season arc w ill play out with Bracken – we know he’ll show up again for the finale. But we’ve also seen his weak spot: his need to create presidential-like moments to advance his career.

The climactic moment of the show was a little hard to swallow, however. This is where a car bomb is detonated to take out Bracken. There were several problems with how this was staged. For instance, the guy detonating the bomb is way too close to the car when doing so; Beckett is much too far away to be able to reach the scene and move Bracken far enough away from the bomb without getting hurt; the bomb is detonated while Bracken is still outside the car – in fact if you look at the scene closely, he’s walked past the car door when Beckett tackles him. Also, where is the Secret Service? This guy is a senator, after all. Another case of really poor writing leading to an unbelievable sequence. The rest of the episode was good, but the writers really need to buckle down – these poorly defined moments that are being written for the sake of the plot are terrible…

Castle: “Death Gone Crazy” (Season 5, Episode 12)

castleBroadcast date: Monday, Jan. 21st, 2013

This was a very enjoyable episode of Castle. The founder of a “Girls Gone Wild” type of show turns up murdered. At first glance, this guy is painted as a despicable human being with no morals, but as the story unfolds, he turns about to be a man with no family who is searching for something more in his life. The irony is that when he finds that “something more”, he ends up dead. It makes the victim into a complex character, rather than just good or evil, moral or immoral. Esposito was once again excellent – he has really evolved to become my favorite character – as he tries to put the moves on one of the suspects, a bodyguard/spy played by the lovely Kelly Hu. The banter between characters is in top form. Take this sequence:

Esposito: “Oh, did you hear that? She broke his nose!”

Ryan: “Yeah, so?”

Esposito: “So, that’s hot!”

Ryan: “Who are you???”

Or this one:

Esposito: “Who spends $200-300 on a bra?”

Lanie: “Right, like a guy doesn’t spend that much on tennis shoes.”

Esposito: “Yeah, but tennis shoes are useful, and, uh…umm…”

Castle, looking at Esposito with concern: “Eject!”

Although the murderer was easy to predict, to me it didn’t make the story any less compelling, as I really wanted to know what had changed the victim’s life.

An unrelated side story involves Castle worried about his daughter putting to much information up on her blog. In this day, with cyber-stalkers and creeps, that’s an absolutely valid concern. Are we putting too much information out there for people to see? Information that’s out there forever?  His daughter is testing the boundaries of her freedom, as most young people do. Near the end, Castle and Alexis make an uneasy peace, and there’s a great moment at the end where Castle is speaking about a hate-monger who would do anything for his daughter. The implication is that Castle would do the same for Alexis, and it draws a smile from Beckett; I believe that one of things that Beckett admires Castle for is that despite his goofiness and playboy-like lifestyle, he always feels the weight of the responsibility that comes with raising a teenage daughter.

Not the best episode, but not bad, with some funny moments from Esposito…

Castle: “Under the Influence” (Season 5 Episode 11)

castleBroadcast Date: Monday, Jan. 14th, 2013

It’s good to see Castle bounce back with a good episode this week. A DJ at a record release party is murdered. Initial signs point to a young 14 year old with a record, but it turns out he’s protecting someone. Esposito takes a shine to the boy, and the twists and turns continue to the unexpected murderer. It’s a great episode because there’s none of the fake drama that was in the previous episode, but what really pushes it to excel is Esposito. Part protector, part clown, part action figure, he sees something of himself in the young boy, and his desire to set the kid straight, including his threatening message delivered near the end of the show, felt natural and real.

Way to bounce back from a down week, Castle!