Title Under the Influence
Two-Sentence Summary The death of a DJ at a release party for a pop star leads Castle, Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito to a teenager named Joey “Monster” Malone, a kid who’s under the thumb of a powerful criminal and works by stealing for him. Esposito takes the orphaned Joey under his wing and, in the process, reveals some secrets about his own troubled past.
Favorite Line “I know you ain’t a cop with that fancy shirt and poofy hair.” (Suspect MC Thug, to Castle in the interrogation room)
My Thoughts Confession Time: I fell asleep about halfway through the episode. The combination of staying up until 2 a.m. after the Golden Globes (Award show coverage never sleeps!) and a subpar Castle episode made it all too easy for me to drift off. But never fear, Castle fans—not even a 10:30 p.m. nap would keep me from writing about the show. I got up at 1 a.m. and finished the last half-hour, but I did find myself nodding off again at points.
In summary: tired Katie + filler Castle episode = sleep
It wasn’t that I didn’t like this episode. In fact, I really liked some things about it (learning more about Esposito, to be specific). However, the episode as a whole felt like something out of a different show. It was good, but it didn’t really feel like Castle.
I have loved secondary-character-backstory episodes in the past: “Kick the Ballistics” is actually one of my favorite episodes of Season 4. My gripe with this episode is that it felt like what we learned about Esposito is for Joey and us alone to know. I’m not sure it will ever factor in to his relationships with anyone else on the show, which is what good character development should be about. I like seeing the whole “family” interact together (which is why I really enjoyed the sibling-like pushing and shoving between Beckett and Esposito at the beginning of the episode), but this episode felt very one-sided. It was incredibly case-heavy, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it did feel a little empty in terms of character interaction.
Don’t get me wrong: I loved seeing new sides to Esposito, and his scenes with Joey were pitch-perfect. In fact, they were what saved this episode for me. If Jon Huertas was a worse actor or had less chemistry with the kid playing Joey, this episode would have been a total dud for me. Instead, it had some real shining moments—like the scene between them in the car at the end. Even though it seemed predictable to have Esposito’s past reflect Joey’s present situation, the scene was acted well enough to render any predictability unimportant.
It was also nice to have a case with some emotional weight behind it for the first time in a while. In Season 1 and Season 2 (and to a lesser extent as the seasons have gone on), the show did an amazing job of making you feel for the victims and the people they left behind. So much of that came from Beckett and her connection as the child of a murder victim, but it was nice to see someone else affected this time. I came to really care about Joey as the episode went on, and I liked having that connection again—and seeing that connection felt by another character as well. It also made me realize how much I miss seeing that side of Beckett, the one who relates to the families and friends of victims because she’s been there.
I know that some people in the Castle fandom are upset about the lack of romantic interaction between Castle and Beckett in this episode. Usually, I am not one of those people. I don’t believe that their relationship is the only good thing about the show or that Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion are the only good actors on Castle. I’m more than happy to see other characters and actors in the spotlight sometimes. But when you follow up and episode with a relationship-centered cliffhanger of sorts like last week’s “Significant Others” with an episode that features only one, relatively insignificant moment between Castle and Beckett, things begin to feel off in terms of how the relationship is playing out onscreen.
I know this is how Castle sometimes deals with relationship storylines—ignore any previous hints or forward momentum until a big episode—but that doesn’t mean I’ve come to like it. Lately, there is far more telling than showing in terms of the central couple; we hear about their movie night, but we don’t see it. And what we did see in this episode was kind of disappointing.
If someone was tuning in to Castle for the first time and missed the first scene of this episode, they would have no clue that these two are in a relationship. With the episode being so case-heavy, it forced them to stay within the walls of the precinct, where these two characters still have to hide their relationship. At the beginning of the season, the writers did a good job of still finding ways to show affection in the workplace. Now, it seems they just ignore it most of the time until scenes in Castle’s loft or Beckett’s apartment (unless they’re fighting—showing relationship angst in the office is okay but showing happiness and desire isn’t). I’m ready for the secret to be out, so one of my favorite TV couples can actually look like a couple for more than a few minutes each week.
I understand that every season needs some filler episodes, but that doesn’t mean I have to love them. I’m ready for February sweeps already, but I’m still holding out hope for a pleasant surprise before then (and until that happens, I’ll just think about Beckett’s gorgeous hair and scarf in this episode—my true favorite thing about “Under the Influence”).