Castle season 8 episode 15, “Fidelis Ad Mortem” is the episode that viewers have been waiting for because it feels more like the show we watched for the prior seven seasons. Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) – the former NYPD detective, who is now an NYPD Captain – finally doesn’t seem like she’s been replaced by a frog-eating clone. Writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) isn’t running around playing private investigator and acting like he was still in college. The case in it is phenomenal. Writer Chad Creasey did an excellent job in putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. I haven’t enjoyed a Castle episode this much since season 7!
None of this means that the episode is perfect – but a lot of it truly is. It helps that Castle season 8 episode 15 is the aftermath of the Beckett-less episode, “The G.D.S.” which is, thus far, the worst episode of season 8. The contrast is so stark that, “Fidelis Ad Mortem”
Because there are two storylines going on that really have nothing to do with each other I’m going to talk about them separately. You know what they are: the case, and the Caskett. This article is on the case. Stay tuned for the one on the Caskett.
Castle Season 8 episode 15 – The Case: “This Is Beckett”
As has been the new normal this season the episode – and the case – starts out with viewers witnessing a murder. At least we aren’t made to watch the actual shooting. However, the case really begins with Kate answering her phone and saying,”This is Beckett.” That is the framework and reference that the solving of this murder will fit into. It’s also the intention of the artists directly connected to making this episode.
On the day Castle, “Fidelis Ad Mortem” was to air Katic, Creasey, and the episode’s director Rob Bowman did a lunchtime Facebook chat about the episode. You can access the chat here, but there are a couple of things I read that speak directly to what made this storyline so special:
Bowman’s words about how he feels about Beckett and the chance to focus on her character are pretty much how myself and many viewers feel about Beckett. While I’d say the last bit about the character in victory is “only partially satisfied” is a new Castle season 8 addition that’s been glommed on to her character, the point about her wanting both happiness and things to be right in the world has always been the case. The same could be said for her ambition, although it’s her relationship with Castle which actually opens her up to them again. I’ll write more about this in the Caskett part of review.
The promotion of “Fidelis Ad Mortem” started before Christmas as being a Beckett-centric episode and the first sneak peek featured Beckett sparring with NYPD police academy cadet Rachel Decker (Ellen Woglom). It’s fair to say a big part of why so many fans were excited about the episode was the return of Kate Beckett in a way that we haven’t gotten to see all season.
The ratings this week reflect that people were tuning it. A look at the ratings – via TVbytheNumbers – shows that this is the first time that Castle has beaten NBC’s Blindspot in the number of viewers. It’s also the highest number of viewers since the premiere – and the episode tied with that (www.seriesmonitor.com). One could argue that when having to choose between two powerful female characters Kate Beckett won. (Of course, in two weeks things will be going back to normal, but that’s another story.)
Then there’s what Katic says:
If this was the objective of “Fidelis Ad Mortem” Katic, Creasey, and Bowman hit the bullseye with this case! Now, let’s take a look at the particulars of what makes this case so special for Beckett’s character.
Honestly, this feels like the first episode where Beckett consistently seems like, and treated like, a police captain. For instance, her demeanor with detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) when she first arrives at the crime is definitely that of a person of authority. The tone of, “Alright, guys, what do we got?” reads that Ryan and Esposito, as much as they’re her friends, had better have a darn good reason for calling her to the scene of the crime. After the rundown, but before they get to Medical Examiner Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) Beckett let’s them know they haven’t justified themselves yet.
Beckett: Okay, I’m still not sure why you needed the captain to come down.
The fact that the script is strongly pointing out that there needs to be a reason for Beckett to be at a crime scene – because as captain she does not just go check out every murder that gets in – is great!
This highlighting of Beckett’s role as captain continues when Beckett meets Deputy Commissioner Malone (James Morrison). She has the proper level of respect, but there’s also an ease in her greeting. The growth of this can be seen if you compare it to when Beckett was brought down to 1 Police Plaza in season seven’s, “Hollander’s Woods.” Then she was nervous, literally and figuratively having to look up at the people she thought were there to discuss her captain’s exam. Here she’s a part of the administrative branch of the NYPD just as he is – and it shows.
Of course, there is one scene that really nails in the point that Beckett is no longer just a detective (“just” because those skills don’t go away). She is a powerful leader of detectives and cops.
Beckett – Then and Now
In the above scene the moment Beckett has with Decker is one of many. As she watches Decker dismissing Beckett’s advice about not keeping feelings locked inside we can see Beckett recalling her own time of being young, angry and believing she had the world all figured out. Beckett also recognizes the relentless drive Decker has, even though it’s fueled from a different kind of tragedy.
Remembering who she used to be as a cadet is also how she relates to the murder victim Daniel Bardot. Her old academy training officer Sergeant Joseph Ortiz (Michael Bowen) whom she clearly adores for giving her “tough love” fills her in on his past. Bardot’s parents were killed when he was nine. Unlike Beckett he grew up in a tough neighborhood ruled by the Irish mob and a man named “Lucky Jack Flanagan” This is what he says about Bardot.
Ortiz: He was definitely driven. But, he also had a tendency to let emotion get the best of him. He’d rush into situations without thinking.
In Castle seasons 1 – 4 we watched a Beckett who would lose perspective when a murder victim was someone who had been an important part of her life. She almost killed the man who murdered her former training officer Mike Royce in season three. Decker has a similar moment when she’s got that gun pointed at her father.
For Beckett, it’s a combination of all the events in L.A. that lead her to start realizing there is more to life than work, something she’d been getting glimpses of all season. It’s also when she begins acknowledging that, despite trying to tell herself otherwise, her feelings for Castle weren’t strictly platonic. She’d pushed those feelings aside after the disaster of what happened at the end of season two, but they hadn’t gone anywhere.
After getting shot at the end of season 3 Beckett puts herself in therapy, not only to deal with PTSD, but to learn how to prioritize the things that were most important to her. It all came together in the stunning season 4 finale, “Always.” Season five was Beckett (and Castle) learning about how to be in a serious relationship. Six was then Castle and Beckett preparing to get married and working together to finally get Senator Bracken.
In both seasons five and six Beckett is careful, patient and methodical in going after Bracken and it’s balanced in terms of her preparing for her wedding. Beckett season seven showed us a happily married woman who was still into seeking justice for others. It’s that spirit which has her looking at what the next career move should be. She wants something that would be challenging and allow her to do more good for more people. This is a normal thing for someone to want.
Beckett has come a long way. Listening to Ortiz describe Bardot, you can see Beckett thinking about how she could very well have died from her own recklessness and blind determination. Those traits got her shot and hanging off of a building.
Yes, I did just ignore season eight. LokSat makes no sense story wise, nor does Beckett’s reactions fit her character arc. It’s a retread of season four. If you want to try to fit season 8 into this you can go with Beckett is thinking about the fact that she’s acting like the young and reckless rookie she used to be with how she’s dealing with the current LokSat situation. The idea doesn’t totally fit because the only reason she’s doing it this way is to protect Castle because of a Jedi mind trick played on her in season 8 episode 2. She’s not going off recklessly but meticulously trying to gather information – at least that’s supposed to be the point of working with Vikram (Sunkrish Bala), the guy who started this whole mess, in a shutdown stripclub….
See, this is why it’s better to just ignore all of that. There will be more on the problems with LokSat in the Caskett section. For now, all I’ll say that with Castle season 8 episode 15 the new showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter seem to be hoping that viewers will in fact ignore season eight episodes 2 through 12.
I want to talk about Decker for a minute because Creasey has done a character worth bringing back again and Woglom embodied her well. That Decker’s motivations are not the same as Beckett’s is painted very well. Beckett wanted to find her mother’s killer and get justice for all the other families whose loved ones were homicide victims. Decker is motivated by wanting to be nothing like her father and getting every criminal scumbag like him off the street. She’s much more of a hothead than Beckett is. However, she, like Beckett, is a character one can admire, even though we can see her flaws.
It would be interesting if after graduating the academy Decker were assigned to the 12th precinct. When Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) was around, Beckett received guidance, tough love and understanding from a female Captain about her career. Then there’s also what she tells Decker about how Captain Roy Montgomery (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) helped her regain her faith about having become a cop. It was lovely to see Beckett come full circle in that manner, but it would be awesome to have that dynamic be on the show in general as a part of her overall character arc. They’ve left the door open for this, so…who knows? (Note that I say bring her on to work with Beckett – not replace her. That…would be a mistake. Decker’s journey would be interesting as both a mirror and a foil to Beckett’s. Without Beckett she’s just another angsty cop.)
Another positive thing about more appearances by Decker would be it giving Beckett an opportunity to show more of who she is in ways that working with her detectives and her marriage to Castle doesn’t. Without Captain Gates being on the show there just aren’t any women around that Beckett gets to truly relate to. For whatever the reason there have been very few attempts to give Beckett and her step daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) much of a connection. Instead Alexis has been hanging out with Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye) – the disgraced cop from London who supposedly was sent by Castle’s CIA spy father to keep an eye on him, a fact Castle’s CIA stepmother Rita knew nothing about. Then there’s the way that Alexis’s character has been running all over the map and magically developing whatever skills are necessary for whatever plot is occurring. Even though Alexis and Decker are in theory around the same age, Decker is more interesting and 3-dimensional as a character. As for Hayley….I’ll leave more on that for the Caskett section.
Beckett does have a best friend in Lanie but a) we rarely see them having personal interactions and b) when they do it’s nearly always about men and/or dating. Not that failing the Bechdel test is the worse thing in the world. For instance, the scene between Beckett and Lanie in season five’s “Probable Cause” may have been because of Castle – but it was about Beckett and her growth in being able to open up and trust people. Still, it would be good to have a female character that Beckett could relate to about things other than her love life. Watching Beckett come in, spar with Decker and then share her experience about being a woman cop is such an informative scene. It gives viewers a rare glimpse into Beckett’s thinking about being a female cop and the kind of things she had to learn to become the Beckett we know now. Having more opportunities like this would be a welcome addition to the show.
Beckett’s reputation as a bad*ss started in season one, and Bad*ss Beckett is a moniker that fans have used to refer to her for a long time. Whether it’s staring down a suspect during an interrogation or tackling one in the field, it’s Beckett that always goes that extra mile to get the job done. What makes her human is sometimes that extra mile isn’t enough, but you know she’s always gonna bring it!
Words really aren’t enough to explain what is encompassed by “Bad*ss Beckett. It’s one of those things you’ve got to see in order to understand. This fan video from StanaKaticGB really captures what I’m getting at. It uses clips from Castle seasons 1 – 7. The title:
Castle: Bad*ss Beckett – Light Em Up
See, it’s not just that Beckett is tough and can physically take a person down or psych them out into giving her information that makes her “bad*ss.” It’s the why of what she does with such intelligence, skill, and passion that makes her the Beckett that so many have loved and admired. Creasey understands this and crafted two scenes that showcase these things. Beckett interrogating the class by setting up a practice interrogation and the awesome shootout between her and the deputy commissioner. Let’s see that one again! Not just because of Beckett, but because the choice of using the target practice set for the final showdown is a smart piece of writing and the coolness of how it all moves is thanks to the always awesome Castle art department. The piÃ¨ce de rÃ©sistance is the classic Bowman signature use of shadows and light.
That scene is classic Bad*ss Beckett! When she thought it was Ortiz it felt like it was going to be Mike Royce all over again. Then, like now, being emotionally devastated does not keep her from doing her job and getting justice for the victim.
The great thing is it wasn’t Ortiz! Who else was thrilled that it wasn’t him? I’ll admit that I thought it was going to be because, well, this season has tried to duplicate so many things from past seasons. It was a big surprise and relief that someone else from Beckett’s didn’t turn out to be a disappointment! This leads me to the final point of what makes this all work: the story itself.
The Actual Case
None of the above would work if the case itself wasn’t well thought out and executed. There are many insights and sweet reveals about Beckett, but they all end up feeding into the case.
- Ryan’s comment about police work being not just about brawn but “intellectual rigor” is funny and illuminating of Ryan’s character, but it’s then born out in how Beckett and the guys put the pieces together to solve it. In particular it shows up in how Beckett works her through evaluating the recruits as possible suspects.
- Even when Ryan points out all of her awards in the trophy case isn’t a superfluous addition. It leads to the interaction with Deputy Director Malone where she states “every record falls in the end.” Not only does this work with later introducing Decker as the one who might be able to break Beckett’s records, but it foreshadows Malone’s own fall!
- Decker’s personal relationship with the victim explains some of her attitude in the beginning. So while we are expecting that Bardot’s murder has something to do with “Lucky Jack Flanagan” we aren’t expecting a second reveal about him being her father!
The double twist about Decker’s boyfriend and her father is well done, but how we get there is also twisty! Beckett finds the blue card with the threat on it when she searches his locker on the reasonable hunch something there might have a clue. The blue card found in Bartow’s locker leads to the steroid supplier, which then leads them to the second red herring of the steroid dealing recruit Chambers (Delon de Metz) which then puts them back on track with the news that the victim was Decker’s boyfriend. Bardot’s murder having nothing to do with the drugs is one well-played red herring. Then there’s the final curveball of why Bardot was working as a mole: he was trying get his girlfriend’s mafia father to leave her alone. That the poor kid from the awful neighborhood turned out to really be a good guy is a classic Castle twist.
The Case Wrap Up
This is the best case of the season, not just because of the emotional components, but because every step of it adds up. I wish I could say the same about everything else in Castle season eight. Before going on to the Caskett portion of things, I’d like to end this section using another quote from that chat. It’s from Creasey, who did such a great job in writing this challenging transitional episode and in so many ways gave us back Kate Beckett. He’s talking about both Beckett and Katic. I haven’t said much about her work in this, but it’s across-the-broad brilliant and nuanced – even in places that…have some issues.
Stay tuned for part two and the Caskett part of this review! Here’s a little tease of it:
All of this is to say I don’t blame Creasey for what’s going on with Caskett. Obviously you’ve got to be an excellent writer if you’re the one a team goes to and says, “try and fix this.” Considering what he had to work with, getting drunk and not talking about it is probably the best anyone could do. Alcohol and sex solves all things…. At least they’ll be fully back together – and no more charades!
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