Episode 18: The Wild Rover
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
This is an episode that concentrates on Ryan. This is not a good thing. I think if this episode proves anything it's that the more Castle focuses on Esposito and Ryan the less I care about what's happening. I understand wanting to give the side characters a chance to shine but I have yet to see Castle properly tackle Esposito or Ryan. They're solid supporting characters but they're not very interesting when they take center stage. I'm not trying to insult them but they're very two-dimensional and they don't have the depth to really take the show over for an episode. These episodes do technically flesh them out but that doesn't make them compelling. The Wild Rover was largely a bore since it depended too much on Ryan to drive the plot forward. The episode did have it's moments whenever it turned to Castle and Beckett but that wasn't the meat. It doesn't help matters that the case is taken way too seriously, it's insanely predictable, and it added a whole unnecessary layer with the whole baby sub-plot. Overall, this was a disappointing episode that was only entertaining in some spots but putting me to sleep for the most part.
The case begins like any other-a murdered baker and a crime scene. It's interesting that when the characters first show up to the crime scene, Ryan is absent. He's the focus this week but he doesn't appear until after the weekly case has already been started. This makes it a surprise when he becomes essential to catching the killer. This is explained away because Ryan and Jennie are trying to get pregnant. They've been having some difficulty so their going to have some tests done. It's such a boilerplate marriage problem that is hard to really care when we have like zero investment into their marriage. Ryan does get involved when a bartender involved in the case rushes up to him, kisses him, and calls him “Fenton”. This is a shocking moment for everyone involved because Ryan is such a goody two-shoes. There's no way that he would cheat on his wife so this doesn't make sense at first. He does provide an explanation. He had been undercover with the Irish mob before he joined homicide. He just happened to know the mobster that is suspected of killing the baker. He has to go back undercover in order to get the evidence needed to lock away every member of the gang for good. There's an added incentive that the woman he was with while undercover can only get witness protection if he goes undercover.
Here's the problem with the Wild Rover: the stakes are high but I never believed them. There was no way they were going to kill Ryan. There might have been a chance that the bartender is killed but the only reason we were given to care about her is her connection to Ryan. This basically means that I didn't care about her at all. The life-and-death stakes might make sense but since I never believed they would be followed through if something went wrong then it felt like the show was being melodramatic. Ryan does manage to get the necessary information to turn over all the characters. The mob goes down right after he fails a loyalty test. The bartender gets to start over a new life while Ryan goes back to his old life. The actual plot is pretty predictable. Of course Ryan pick pocketed the phone when he fumbled into the right hand man of the mob boss. Of course when they were talking about a “rat” they were referencing the bartender. Of course they were going to ask him to kill her in order to prove he's loyal. I saw the whole climax from a mile away. It didn't help matters that the plot twists on who actually killed the baker was pretty obvious.
The good news is that the episode is pretty good when it comes to the Castle sub-plot. When Beckett hears Castle say the name Jordan when he was asleep, she gets suspicious. When he refuses to answer, she keeps pressing him throughout the episode. Their banter was not only clever but delivered perfectly. She does get his answer at the end of the episode. The name Jordan refers to a defunct car company. He was supposed to write a paper on it when he was in school but he paid another student to do it for him. The paper was so good that the teacher read it aloud to the class. The students clapped but Castle hadn't really earned the acclaim. It's this act of cheating that motivated him to learn how to write and to earn that applause. He continues to work hard as an author to redeem himself. It's a nice character beat and leads to a great kiss between them. The baby sub-plot is also wrapped up at the end of the episode when Jenny reveals she's pregnant. Guess which one I cared about? Castle telling the story about Jordan. It just goes to show you how Ryan's emphasis on the episode was so dull that I cared more about what was happening in the background.
The Wild Rover is not a very good episode of Castle. The weekly case is predictable, it takes itself too seriously, and the baby sub-plot wasn't really needed. It makes a big mistake centering on Ryan because he can't hold the episode together. The whole plot with Castle trying to avoid telling Beckett about his cheating past was the only highlight of the episode.
Apparently the next episode is the one hundredth one that pays homage to Rear Window. This should be fun.