Castle Season 8 Episode 7 Review: “The Last Seduction”

Castle Season 8 Episode 7 Review: “The Last Seduction”

Castle Season 8 Episode 7

Castle Season 8 Episode 7 managed to remind me of everything that I’ve loved about this show….as well as all the problems I’ve had with the current season.  Still, “The Last Seduction” is the first Castle Season 8 that has felt remotely like Castle.  A big part of that has to do with the fact that this episode is geared towards bringing Captain Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) back together as a couple.  Watching Katic and Fillion working together is like watching the great pairings of 1940’s romantic comedies – only sexier.   Granted, there are plenty of things that induce eye-rolling, and the season’s plot certainly hasn’t earned a reason for being.  However, given that the reason they’re apart in the first place makes no sense, being able to create any kind of investment in the story is no small feat. Writer Rob Hanning deserves kudos for creating moments and scenes that made me forget the nonsense that’s behind the split.

The Setup

“The Last Seduction” opens up like a slasher movie.  Have you seen the ad for a certain insurance company that spoofs slasher films?  A group of “teenagers” are being chased by a serial killer and the girl says, “Why can’t we just get into the running car?”  She’s told it’s a bad idea, so instead they go hide in an old barn behind a rack of chainsaws….  This murder plays kind of like that.  A guy walks into his apartment and after a minute he realizes that someone has broken into his apartment and taken a long sharp knife from his butcher block of steak knives.  Instead of leaving the apartment, he picks up a baseball bat and sneaks up on his bedroom door, kicks it open – and no one is there.  Of course.  The killer is behind him, and when the victim turns around he is viciously stabbed multiple times in a visual style reminiscent of the 1996 slasher spoof Scream.   I’m not fond of such films, but at least I can tell this setup is a deliberate artistic choice.  A homage to a slasher film that was in part making fun of the genre seems like a perfect Castle choice.

The murder scene cuts straight to detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) in the middle of an argument in a therapist’s office.  The reason: Javier believes Kevin shot him in the butt on purpose – because he says Kevin was jealous that he passed the sergeant’s while Kevin did not. Kevin says Javier has trust issues and denies being jealous.

Javier: “Tell that to the hole in my a**!

This line could have come off as another frat boy joke.  The fact that it doesn’t is a testament to the acting skills of Dever and Huertas, as well the directing skills  John Terlesky.  Terlesky not only has been directing multiple episodes of Castle since Season 1, but he’s directed many of the more complex Caskett-heavy and ensemble episodes.  He knows all of these characters well. Here in the therapy room – as well as throughout the episode – Terlesky takes the words of Hanning and makes sure to balances the comic touches with real emotions.   The last few Castle episodes have had an almost plastic, sitcom-like feel in some of the set-ups and performances, but here the shooting incident takes on an importance and credibility that it didn’t have when it actually happened. (FYI, the only season Terlesky didn’t direct is in Season 7.  Hmmm….)

The therapist tells Ryan and Esposito that given what she’s seen the only choice she has is to recommend that they are split up as partners.  At this the two sulking men get upset.  They are mad at each other – but they don’t want to be split up!   The therapist suggests they find some kind of “buffer” to keep them from arguing.

Next, we see Castle catching up to Ryan and Esposito as they are heading to a crime scene.  They both immediately tell Castle he can’t work the case with them, but Castle isn’t there to work a case.  He wants the guys to distract Beckett and keep her out of her office in order to set up a “little” surprise for their first anniversary. Ryan and Esposito both start riffing on the fact that nothing Castle does is ever little.  This has them notice that with Castle there the two aren’t arguing, and they ask Castle to stick around to be their buffer.  Castle reluctantly agrees when they say that in return they will help him with his surprise.

At the entrance to the crime scene Medical Examiner Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones).  It is great to see Lanie for more than two seconds.  Jones and Fillion have always had a nice on-screen repartee and that is back in this as Lanie informs Castle he’s not allowed to see the body.  Javier steps in to tell Lanie that Castle’s with them and with a roll of her eyes she allows it.  The first clues:

  1. The victim is handsome, and the killer stabbed the body only, not the face.
  2. Ryan deduces it’s a crime of passion, and no one disagrees.
  3. The bloody knife was wiped clean, but fingerprints that didn’t belong to the victim were found on the butcher’s block.

Here’s where things get dicey between Esposito and Ryan.  Esposito tells Ryan that he should take a couple of uniforms and start canvassing.  That’s something that Beckett would tell Esposito and Ryan to do!  Essentially, Esposito isn’t acting like Ryan’s partner, he’s acting like his boss! Ryan doesn’t like it.  It looks like another fight could be starting, but Ryan tells Castle to do his job as a buffer.  Castle suggests that the two “role play”  – each is to respond by pretending to be the other.  This results in an amusing scene that nevertheless has some underlying bite.

Ryan and Esposito return to the precinct to give Beckett a report on their findings.  Right before they come in we see that Beckett is looking at a reminder on her phone that the next day is her first wedding anniversary.  She looks sad.

Rather than go through the case piece by piece, let’s just say that it’s a solid one with lots of twists and turns. The murder victim, Scott,  turns out to be a guy that was being paid to sleep with married women.  At first it looks like it could be a blackmail scheme, but it turns out to be a divorce lawyer’s scheme to break the prenuptial agreements of women married to men who want get divorced to marry younger women.

Pros and Cons

The Pros

1. Castle and Beckett: kissing, and then a bedroom scene.

There’s no question that the chemistry between Katic and Fillion is still there.  Put them in a room and ask them to turn on that Castle and Beckett love connection and the room’s on fire.  It’s not just lust and hotness though.  There’s emotional depths that come through as well.  The music by Robert Duncan here is perfect, and adds another layer to emphasize the passion of Caskett.  Why these two are so rarely called upon to use their chemistry this way is baffling.  The dinner Beckett brings from Remi’s was a nice call-back touch as well.

2. Castle and Beckett: yin-yang moments.

The scene in the office when Beckett finds the balloon and Castle is right there.  We can see and feel how much Beckett loves and appreciates the man Castle is – and how he is so different from her.

3. Ryan and Esposito: their entire storyline. 

The portrayal of Ryan and Esposito has been a sore point this season as well.  They’ve been shown as being incompetent buffoons providing comic relief. This is the first time I felt like the characters were fully present and not just a comedy act.

4. The Case: it worked.

I haven’t been loving the cases this season, but this one held my attention and managed to surprise me in the why of things.  It wasn’t a blackmail scheme – but then it also was.  I knew the lawyer was in on it, but wasn’t expecting her to have a partner.  The whole thing about setting up his mother because she didn’t want to send jobs overseas was not just a surprise, but a classic moment of social/political commentary that in previous seasons Castle has tended to have in its episodes.

5. The Humor: was less fratboy.  

The kind of jokes and the overall tone that Castle has had this season just has not felt like Castle.  “The Last Seduction” had more of the sly jokes and smart humor that the show is known for.  Plus Fillion was not playing Castle as an overgrown teenager or a fool, which made his character more enjoyable.

6. Castle: Looks at Beckett’s phone.

It’s about time! Finally that Castle curiosity is back!

The Cons

1. The Overall Plot

As much as I was glad to see Castle and Beckett actually interacting, I couldn’t shake the fact that their being apart to begin with makes no sense.  All that emotion we get from Katic, because Beckett knows she “should” stay away from Castle, can’t change the fault in the story’s construction, which is that there really isn’t a reason that she should stay away from him.  The fact that Castle doesn’t even blink when Vikram Singh (Sunkrish Bala ) – the man that called his wife on that fateful morning and whose information either saved their lives or nearly not them killed – is now working for her at the 12th precinct, certainly doesn’t help with this.  Vikram warning Beckett not to go to dinner with Castle, because “if he finds out what they’re doing” is an empty threat to the audience watching.  We all know there’s no consequence beyond the danger Castle is already in because Beckett is investigating, “Lockstat.”  The only reason these two are apart is because that’s what the new showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Winter decided was necessary – because in their minds a happy couple together doesn’t make for an interesting story.  Being that the original creator based the story of “Castle” on such things as the successful  The Thin Man movies of the 1930s and ’40s – which is about a happily married couple who solve murder-mysteries – the obviously  fault of this idea needs no further discussion.

Castle and Beckett getting back together is better than them being apart, but the whole thing is hollow and leaves a bitter taste.  I don’t feel as great about them the way I did before, and still think making this entire storyline Castle’s bad dream is a better option.  I want the relationship Castle and Beckett had in “Hollander’s Woods” back  and them coming together now can’t do that.  Obsessed Beckett and the “Lockstat” story continues to ring false.  If the bedroom scene is supposed to be the payoff for that story, it’s a failure.  All that scene did was make me wonder about why scenes like that haven’t been used more often – like at the end of “Veritas”  or in the honeymoon episode?

Sex between a happy couple is still emotional, fun, and hot.  All this manufactured angst is unnecessary and it actually hurts the dynamics.  There’s plenty of conflict to be mined from the characters being together.  When the divorce lawyer mentions Beckett being too busy with work to pay attention to Castle I know it was meant to be a “ping” for Castle to start figuring out what Beckett is doing, but honestly, Beckett being consumed with trying to be a great captain and them not having time together as a couple would have been an honest character-driven conflict.  Instead, Beckett decides the only way to keep her husband safe is to take a “time out” – and that this is more important than her marriage – or even her mother’s murder, since she’d been willing to actually put that down to have Castle.  It’s like the episode “Always” never happened.

2. Hayley Shipton  

Hayley, who is played by the talented Toks Olagundoye, is a problem because there is absolutely no reason for her to be here.  The disgraced former cop from England who is supposedly now a “security specialist” doesn’t even live in the U.S. – she’d flown in to chase down those social security numbers.  Why is she still around and why does everyone think this is just fine?  Because that’s the way it’s written – logic be damned. The blanket acceptance of this woman by everyone is another crazy plot point – especially her acceptance by Beckett.  Beckett is supposedly is investigating this “Lockstat” thing, but has no questions about this woman still hanging around picking up odd jobs – including working for Kate’s husband.   It was a jaw-dropping moment when Beckett just grabbed Hayley  (who just happened to be in the precinct to “pick up that painting” from “The Nose” episode) and took her as her partner in an undercover operation.  Even Castle had to sign all kinds of papers to be able to work with Beckett.

Hayley is a character that’s been set up as a woman with sassy charm – but with no real ethics or respect for the law.  She’s point-blank told Castle that she will betray her friends to get a job done.  Yet, everyone trusts her?!  It’s absolutely maddening.   If Hayley’s going to stick around, for god’s sake give her a real purpose beyond filling in holes for the case-of-the-week story.  Trying to force Hayley into “the team” doesn’t work.  She sticks out as bad plot point the same way the breakup does.  What could fix this problem: everything about this character’s background screams villain, so make her one.  Olagundoye is more than up to the task of crafting a complex nemesis for Castle and Beckett.  That at least would be interesting to watch and give the character her own place in the Castle universe.

3. Beckett undercover  

Clearly, this was all about getting Beckett and Hayley in towels.  It’s cute enough, but really, that’s the point.  We even get to sit through Ryan and Esposito being teenage boys about the idea of their boss wearing nothing but a towel.  (I’m really over Ryan and Esposito having these sexual moments about Beckett.  They’ve been like brother and sister for seven seasons!) The only redeeming moment of that entire Beckett going undercover is that she gets recognized.  The insanity of Beckett thinking she wouldn’t be recognized at a high-society spa when she married bachelor number 9 on page six is yet another one of those moments that make you wonder if she’s been taking stupid pills.  (Her leaving Castle is another one.)  It’s another sign of why this whole idea of Beckett as “Captain” is problematic.  I know “Hollander’s Woods ” had set up two options, and that a police captain was a better choice than state senator, but why did they have to go with either of them?  If anything, the Castle Season 7 episode, “Hong Kong Hustle” set up a far more appealing option for Beckett’s advancement: let her lead a task force.

4. The Sting Operation

Castle’s mother and daughter, Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan) and Alexis Castle (Molly Quinn) are in this episode as well.  While Martha was her usual voice of reason it annoyed me that Ryan and Esposito continue to treat Alexis like she’s an actual cop and had no problem discussing cases with her – and with Martha!   Castle discussing cases with his mom and Alexis would happen on occasion, but Ryan and Esposito?  That was just strange – another scene of we want these characters involved so let’s just throw them in this scene.  The fact that Castle is fine with using Alexis for this sting operation isn’t great either.  It’s one thing to have your kid help you test out crazy theories in the safety of your own home, but quite another to get her involved in illegal activity. Still, the whole thing could have been worse.  At least Alexis didn’t come up with the plan to get the information from the lawyer’s client book!

The Wrap Up

Castle Season 8 Episode 7 is the most watchable episode of the season and it’s a big relief.  It’s the first one that’s really had some of the feel of a Castle episode and having the connection between Castle and Beckett back is a big part of that.  I’m not talking just about the sex, but the way the characters interacted throughout had a tone to it that’s been missing all season.  The therapy gag with with Ryan and Esposito turned out to be a good thing that gave those characters back some of the integrity that’s been missing when they’ve been used strictly for comic relief.

The good news is that it’s obvious the leads still have that magic and hopefully we’ll start to see more of it being used.  However, even though the pros outnumbered the cons in this episode, the cons still outweigh the pros.  The basic structure that has set up this season, doesn’t work and it undermines everything – even when Castle and Beckett are together.  Getting them back together is good, but it can’t fix the story that split them up. The hookup is not worth what’s gone on in the last six episodes.  To really save Season 8 something has to be done about the basic setup the season started with.

Then there’s the Hayley issue.   Hayley needs a reason to be a part of the Castle universe because right now she’s just thrown in on top of it.  Remember how much fans loved episodes involving 3XK Jerry Tyson (Michael Mosley) and Dr. Kelly Nieman (Annie Wersching)?  They were the bad guys, but we loved them because they were smart, evil beings that were perfect foils for Castle and Beckett.  I’m not saying Hayley needs to be a serial killer, but Castle and Beckett don’t need a third partner, they need people to play against.  When Hayley first appeared the idea that she could have an underlying dark purpose for being there made her interesting, and I would love to see more of that being brought back.   If the only choice is to make Hayley a part of the team or to quietly go away I’d have to go with sending her back to England.

Is Castle getting back on track, or is it too little too late?  Let me know what you think in the comments!

Want more news and reviews on Castle Season 8 and other TV shows?  You can follow me on Twitter.

[Photo credit: Richard Cartwright/ABC]

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