castle-tv-review-s6

This week, Castle pivots from D.C. to New York. In “Need To Know,” Beckett and McCord crash NYPD’s investigation of the appropriately dramatic death of a former sitcom star. The episode also blithely steps into a world where Ryan and Esposito are fanboys of a fake Boy Meets World/Family Matter mash-up.

The Players

  • Director: Larry Shaw
  • Writer: Elizabeth Beall
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Molly Quinn, Susan Sullivan, Lisa Edelstein

Episode Title: “Need To Know”

Beckett, Castle, and Castle all seem weary of season six’s espionage focus. It shows in “Need To Know,” which overplays its weak plot, for cause of making Nathan Fillion squirm. Craving a little more than pillow Facetime with his fiancé,Castle worms his way back onto the murder beat. But Beckett and McCord also appear, pulling rank and dictating NYPD resources. Jurisdiction is murky here, but not around the Espresso machine. Esposito and Ryan’s instant turf feud with the Feds leaves Castle in a slackjaw’d no man’s land of awkward. Even so, he figures out what got the former star killed. The actor was a CIA plant tailing a Russian gun smuggling rig, one dumb enough to finance movies as a front. All’s well that ends with our heroes snuggling on a couch. Unfortunately, because Beckett tipped off the media about the star’s mob girlfriend, the CIA can’t make use of her. McCord is forced to fire Beckett. Even for a procedural, that was fast.

The Good

  • Getting The Old Gang Back Together: “Need To Know” felt like a return to the Castle we know and love, with stronger beats for our friends at the precinct. Alexis continues to be neglected and McCord may deserve her own show, but the return of the homicide team made this hour more buoyant than the last two. Fillion riffs off them with greater returns than he did the folks at the Attorney General’s CIC.
  • The Key To Our Old Show: Most of the mystery unspools in safe, comfortable beats for Castle. But we give the show some credit for its double-resolve at the end of last night’s episode. The arbitrary separation of our leads always seemed suspect because Castle can write from anywhere. Eventually, to maintain the series’ equilibrium, Beckett’s DC gig was never going to work out. Props to the writers for the efficiency (and probably anxiety) of dealing with both questions at once. Alas, there goes our kickass Stana Katic/Lisa Edelstein super-professional investigators spinoff. The political consequences for Beckett’s moral choice was refreshing though.
  • Preach, Ryan, Preach: “Castle, your whole relationship is built on a foundation of your boundary pushing.” Easily the quote of the night. Fillion trying to worm case info out of Beckett through a fancy latte might be the best physical beat too.

The So-So

  • Suddenly Sully: Beckett’s replacement mades his first appearance. His defining characteristic thus far is standard-issue messy eating. However, he’s just as competent at exposition as any of the gang, and endearingly baby-faced about it.
  • 2 Cool For Verisimilitude: If the fake show had been 2 Kool For School that might’ve made it art. In all fairness, the actual scenes we saw were well executed. But the film set itself and the director/producer characters spoke and dressed like ’80s clichés. Even when they all turned out to be Russian mobsters, it was weird enough to take us out of the show.

The Bad

  • Cameras Are Expensive: So, Charlie Reynolds’ ultimate acting gig was keeping tabs on Russian gun mobs, because he’s the David Hasselhoff of Russia? There’s a lot of convoluted in that sentence before you get to the reunion movie. But the movie was awful, and the beat with Reynolds’ girlfriend professing her love immediately cutting to Beckett (because she’s totally in love too!) happened in the premiere. We don’t ask for a lot of variation and logic, but a little spliced in there would be nice.
  • Feelin’ The Need To Overcompensate, Punk?: The inter-agency standoff was fun right up until the killjoy CIA agent showed up. Why didn’t the CIA just send some of their operatives up to NYC to keep a lease on the murder police? The agent’s gun was ridiculous. It fit the character, unfortunately. That guy was cartoon slimy in a show with humor that always leans towards camp, but doesn’t plant both feet there.
  • Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Our (rather obvious) perp, the actor who played 2 Cool For School’s jock and has the most to gain out of the movie, doesn’t hit the right note of fame-crazed desperation. The script is ultimately most interested in setting up situations for Beckett to transgress her federal agent-y boundaries. That’s fine. But filling can taste better than this does.

Overall

The push to get Beckett off the Attorney General’s payroll was about as blunt as the 2 Cool For School kids’ costumes. The mystery beats were undoubtedly clunky, yet the show compensated with the richest comedy this season. “Need To Know” felt like a full hour of our happy murder/rom-com series. The formula itself justifies bending plot to the formula. We’re rooting for Katic, Fillion, and Edelstein to form their own P.I. firm and consult for the NYPD going forward. But regardless of how it happened, Castle is back in business.

Rating: 6/10

Castle airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

What did you think of last night’s episode?