Episode 19: The Lives of Others
The Series 100th Episode Special Review
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
Castle is really a love letter to mystery.
It is built into this show's very DNA. The main protagonist is an author who writers mystery novels. He specializes in creating books about detectives solving crimes. He's always been a fan of thinking of ways to get his characters into solving murders. When he gets a chance to help solve an actual murder, he jumps at it. He likes the experience so he forces himself into the police force. He's managed to become a pretty valuable consultant whose value is his out-of-box thinking. This is an author who appreciates a good mystery but the show goes farther than just have him be a cop. They give him a partner who he bases his books on. It gives him a muse in the form of a detective. He doesn't just a base a new series of works with her. He actually falls in love with a detective. Richard Castle is basically a representation of writers within the show. His passion for solving crimes and his love for Beckett is therefore a symbol of Andrew Marlowe's love of crime solving shows. What other character would consider a fake crime to solve as the perfect birthday present? It is that birthday present that really shows just how much this show loves a good murder mystery. Having Richard Castle go through a fabricated Rear Window experience might be a present you would only find on television but it's a way for the series to express it's admiration for a good mystery. Yes, you might find yourself rooting for Castle and Beckett to be together and that's the reason for people to tune. That's the hook but underneath their love is a basic romantic idea of solving mysteries. That's why they met and it's what continues to draw them together even though they're from two different worlds. That the series decided to injure Castle for an episode so that the writers could pay homage to rear window is a perfect representation of just why he is on the show.
Richard Castle might love a good mystery but Kate Beckett does as well. When we first meet her, she's a passionate cop with a drive to put away murderers. She solves crimes for a living and she's pretty good at it. She's a fan of Castle's works because she likes to solve a good mystery. Why did she become a cop in the first place? It's because her mom was killed and she wanted to find out why. A mystery set her out on her career. Kate Beckett is a character who has been defined by crime itself. Her mother was shot so she became a detective. She grew to like solving crimes so she's going to be a detective even after she puts the Senator behind bars. Richard Castle and Kate Beckett don't belong together because of any sexual chemistry the two might share. They don't belong together because this is a relationship show where a huge portion of the writing is dedicated to the two as a couple. They belong together for one single reason: mystery. They both love to solve crimes and that's the common thread that ties them together. It's not just the reason they know each other but why they have such good chemistry. It's why the writers are able to write them as a couple so easily. They might come from completely different worlds but this shared passion has created love between them. If you take away the mystery then all you're left with are two characters who won't belong together. I'm not saying this as a bad thing-it's actually a good thing. It gives the two a very strong base that makes them so compelling characters. If Castle wasn't solving crimes, he would just be a wealthy author with no redeeming values. If Beckett wasn't solving crimes, she wouldn't exist. The mystery is important because it helps to not only define them but ensures that they are meant for each other.
The side characters are also geared towards sharing this love of mystery. The two side cops largely started out as two-dimensional characters who helped solve crimes because they liked it. They are in their line of work because they belong there. Detective Esposito was the more tough one while Detective Ryan was the good one. The two gradually have gotten more developed. The two have grown to represent the two different kinds of cops a show could follow. Detective Ryan is one that plays by the rules. He might have been undercover once but he's a good guy. In contrast, Detective Esposito shows the cop whose willing to bend the law to enforce it. It actually gets to the point where Esposito could be corrupted if he doesn't watch himself. Captain Gates might be tough but she shares their passion for solving crimes. She might not get involved in every case but she's always a strong force when she does. She might be a bit stereotypical but she works well because even her character is an expression of love. Let's look at Alexis: in this episode she shares in her father's love of figuring out what happened in the Rear Window story. She has helped Lanie out at the police precinct and she's been known to occasionally give Castle the nudge he needed to solve the case. The only two characters who don't fit the mold are Lanie and Martha. Lanie might help the investigations as a medical examiner and she might be passionate but she remains severely undeveloped. Martha is a lot more fleshed out but her passion is acting.
The one-hundredth episode is a love letter not just because of the Rear Window ploy but also because of the weekly case. It was a decent case where a girl gets murdered because she was trying to get away from her husband. There's a lot of twists and turns like always but Beckett is able to solve the case after Castle gives her the right nudge. The case was fine but it did suffer a major problem: a distinct lack of Castle. He's the protagonist so not having him be in the weekly case felt a bit odd. His absence was definably felt. It also doesn't help that I was a lot more interested in the whole Rear Window homage-which had actual tension-than this weekly case. It's not bad per se but I do feel like a little less time could have been spent going to the weekly case and a little more time fleshing out the Rear Window scenes.
The Lives of Others acts as the hundredth episode of Castle but it proves one thing: this is a show that loves the genre. It has built itself around this. There's nothing wrong with this and it's in fact what often makes a great Castle episode work so well. It's when the show is able to declare that love that I enjoy this show but it suffers when it fails to express it. Overall the Lives of Others is a pretty good episode of Castle.
I'll admit, the reveal that the whole Rear Window homage was fake...caught me by surprise.