Episode 8: After Hours
Episode 9: Secret Santa
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
After Hours is an episode that shifts the formula. There's a murder of a priest and it's established early on that it's a mafia hit. Castle and Beckett learn about a witness and they go to find him. That's when the situation worsens. The mafia shows up at the same time and the protagonists are barely able to get away with the witness. They are stuck in the middle of the night at the Bronx. They can't call for help because their cell phones were taken by the mafia and they can't protect themsleves since Beckett lost her badge and gun. Since Beckett's car gets stolen, this leaves them trying to get away from the bad guys on foot. That's basically what the episode is about: the two trying to protect a witness while trying to escape a dire situation. It has a bit of a convoluted set-up but it has a lot of fun once they're actually on the run. This is because the show doesn't take their situation so seriously that it sucks out the humor nor the charm. The best example of this brevity is when Castle is able to partly fix a ham radio. It's parly played for laughs but it also helps to present Castle with something to do. If he was just waiting to die then it would get too bleak. Allowing him to have a goal helps to present hope to the character and therefore the viewer. His success at getting the radio to turn on is rewarding despite the disappointment that they can't actually send messages. It also fits with a recurring theme in the episode in his attempts to help. He is able to get a password to get into a cell phone only to have it locked immediately after. He is able to get within range of a Chinese restaurant only to get captured. He is able to avoid telling the bad guys where Beckett and the witness are but his poker moments betray him. Everything he does is meant to help them but it's also simply fun to watch him try to help get them out of their situation because of it's semi-comical tone.
The tone might have worked but the twist was something I saw from the beginning. There are two reasons for this. The first is that the actor they cast works great as a witness but better as a villain. His casting was a dead give-away that he was going to be more than just a witness. The second is that there's a show that pulled off a similar switch. Person of Interest helped introduce a recurring character in such a manner. The twist surprised in Person of Interest because we got to learn the character's humanity and good elements before we learned that he was a bad guy. In Castle, we don't really learn anything about the witness. He talks about being in therapy but that's just a sign that he has mental problems. He's more interested in talking about the tension that exists between Castle and Beckett than talking about his own life. That leaves him as a character who isn't as developed. It doesn't come as a surprise when he turns out to be a bad guy. Now it's possible that if I hadn't seen Person of Interest then maybe I would have been caught by surprise. This is one of the cases where another show simply employed the twist so well that not only did it ruin it for Castle but it was executed better. This can't possibly be Castle's fault but it did hurt my personal enjoyment of the episode.
The personal drama that the episode dealt with was good. Castle and Beckett have lunch with their parents. Martha and Beckett's father don't get along at first which causes tension between Castle and Beckett. The real problem isn't the attitude of their parents but because Beckett is worried that being from different worlds makes them incompatible. It isn't until they accept that while they may not look good on paper, their love for each other means that it doesn't matter. When they get to the police precint at the end of the episode, they're shocked to discover that their parents have managed to set aside their differences and they're getting close. It wasn't the most original personal drama I've seen but it makes sense that the characters would go through with it. After Hours was a fun episode of Castle that didn't take itself too seriously while at the same time presenting some relationship drama between Castle and Beckett.
Secret Santa is the first Christmas episode that Castle has ever done. The weekly case is simple. A dead santa literally falls out of the sky and into the park. This is a person who takes his job so seriously that his wallet identifies him as the real Santa Clause. The only reason that they're be able to identify him is that he buys his custom boots from the same store as Beckett. There's a whole investigation but here's the general gist: a former con man got a consience so he left behind his old life to be a Santa and help the families he had screwed over. He was killed by his ex-wife because he was planning on turning in evidence to the federal government that proved his company's fraud. It took the detectives an entire episode to figure out the connection between the victim and the company that the people he was trying to help. This despite the fact that the evidence was underneath their nose the entire time. They had clearly looked at his employment history and they knew he worked in the finance world. They should have instantly realized that he had registered this mortage company. They would have been able to reach the truth much faster. Of course, that would have meant having a story that was too short for the episode.
The weekly case might not have been that strong but I did enjoy every other aspect of the episode. The witty dialogue had me in stitches but I loved what the show was doing with Christmas tradition. Who is killed in this episode? It's the character that represents Christmas the most, Santa Clause. What's the Esposito sub-plot? He's trying to figure out what he's going to do for Christmas now that Ryan is married. Their tradition had been to drink a six-pack of beer and play Madden. Now Ryan is going to be spending the holiday with his family. This is made more clear when Ryan expresses his fear of bringing children into the world. It's almost as if he's trying to get away from his holiday obligation to his wife because he's afraid that his life is changing. Esposito tries to go to Lanie but she shoots him down because she doesn't want to be a depressing couple that hooks up on holidays. She does offer him a light of hope when she gives him permission to ask her out after Christmas. He ends up eating dinner with the family that the santa was trying to help. These are two characters that have to adjust their holiday routine because of Ryan's marriage. The plot that these two face have something to do with that life change.
The idea of changing traditions carries over to the Castle and Beckett conflict. Castle considers his Christmas Eve tradition to be very important. It isn't just because he gets presents but because it means something to him. Christmas provided him hope when he was young and that's what it represents to him. His plans are rocked when Alexis and Martha want to make plans to spend Christmas Eve with other people. The two end up canceling their plans by the end of the episode but Castle felt like he was losing this tradition throughout the episode. The only bright note is that he gets to spend it with Beckett. That is until she tells him that she's working on Christmas Eve. She volunters to take the shift because of what Christmas means to her. Her mom had died soon after Christmas and it brings her back to that day. When her mother died, it's like Christmas went with it. Her Christmas tradition is to work that day so that other people aren't seperated from their families. At the end of the episode, the two decide to give up their tradition to be with each other. It's this decision that helps to show just how much in love they are. Beckett gets to spend the holiday with Castle's family because she beat him to the punch.
Secret Santa was a good episode but the weekly case had too many convoluted twists and it could have been solved a lot quicker.
All I coud think about during that opening sequence where Santa Clause falls is that the little girl is going to need years of therapy. She didn't just see a dead body drop from nowhere but a dead body that is supposed to be Santa.
Secret Santa acted as the fall finale so no Castle reviews until January.