Episode 11: Under the Influence
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
I wonder if Castle realizes that it sends out the wrong message at times. In the fourth season premiere, the characters had decided to keep Montgomery's corruption a secret because it might ruin his good reputation while praising his good character. He might have redeemed himself at the end but the show was acting like his previous crimes didn't actually tarnish the man. This didn't bother me because the episode was too busy with other elements that it didn't really jump out at me. The show has had moments where the characters have been willing to bend the law in order to solve cases. These breaks don't bother me that much because they're generally very small: characters going into places because they pretended to have heard something. One of the largest causes of conflict between our cops is when Ryan told Gates that Esposito and Beckett were illegally pursuing a man involved in Beckett's mom's case. Esposito is angry at Ryan for this but the show quickly buries the hatchet before viewers realize what that hatchet stands for. Whether one agrees with him or not, Ryan was completely in the right. What Esposito and Beckett were doing was breaking the rules. They were willing to break the law in order to solve a case. That wasn't the last time that happened as when Castle broke himself out of jail in order to prove his innocence. In other words, this show has gained a history where the writers seem to actually romanticize the characters breaking laws. Montgomery was corrupt? That's okay, he was a stand-up guy! Castle broke out of jail? It's okay! It's almost as if the show thinks that setting up the law as an obstacle to our characters can only be overcome if they break it and that's okay. This isn't unique to this show as the Mentalist did something similar in it's latest episode but it at least created a situation to justify it.
So why do I bring this up? It's because Esposito goes to a bad guy and basically threatens to kill him in cold blood. It's supposed to be a big moment where the audience gets to see Javier act all tough and doing what is necessary to protect kids from crime. It's also a moment where Javier broke a law and admitted that he plans to break more of them. Is this supposed to be fine? The series seems to think that going into this dark place is perfectly acceptable for the character. It's true that this decision doesn't come out of nowhere for Esposito but it's still something that needs to be brought up. This is a character who is willing to literally threaten a guy that he's going to abuse the law in order to finish him off. Is this good police work? Is this upholding the law that Esposito promised? If so, then what separates him from a corrupt cop? They are both breaking the law. The motives might be different but it's not like the legal system has different groups of punishment based on why a person broke the law. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a future episode where Esposito decides to accept taking bribes because he clearly doesn't think that the law applies to him. That scene stands out in an otherwise forgettable episode. I might not have even dwelled on it if the weekly case had been more interesting or if I cared about that kid that Esposito was trying to connect with. What stood out for this episode is that Esposito doesn't really seem to care when he breaks the law. Which makes it all the more ironic when he tries to convince a kid that breaking the law isn't a good career choice. Esposito might be a cop but he's not really a very good one. If the point was that he's not supposed to be then that is fine but the series acts as if he is.
What else is there to say about this episode? The weekly case was completely and utterly boring. It started out promising enough in the cold open but it quickly became dull and lifeless. A lot of the spark that the previous episode contained was gone this week. The suspects were boring, the scenes were a chore to get through, and the comedy was toned down. I guess it's because this was supposed to be a serious episode where Esposito bonds with a young kid. Which would have been fine except the kid was basically a walking cliché and the actor they picked didn't have the charisma to pull of his sarcastic remarks. When the kid is such an important part of the episode, then casting is more important than usual.
Under the Influence isn't a very good episode of Castle. The weekly case was forgettable and it only serves to bring to attention on how crooked Esposito (and the other characters) really is. I'm certain that wasn't the intent of the writers. If this episode proves anything, it's that concentrating on anyone not named “Castle” or “Beckett” is a really bad idea simply because Esposito isn't a strong enough character to build an episode around.