TV Time: Castle 5.11

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”).


11 thoughts on “TV Time: Castle 5.11

  1. totally agree with you this time. But Castle and Beckett are the reason most watch this show. If thw writers don’t soon get something going on screen between them I am afraid they will start losing fans. As for new fans, you are right if you just started watching this show mught not watch it again. I don’t understand what Marlow and the writers are doing. They are not keeping up to their past high standards! Katic and Fillion are great but they have to have something to work with too!!

    • Thanks for commenting, Lynn, because I think your concerns are shared by many in the fandom. What boggles my mind is the fact that we all know the writers can write good material for Castle and Beckett, and Fillion and Katic can bring the heat or the playfulness or the romance when it’s needed. It’s just a matter of actually showing throughout an episode that these two are in a happy, stable, sexy relationship. It worked at the beginning of the season, so I have hope that they’ll return to it soon. But I’m still wondering why they deviated from what was making Season 5 so satisfying for fans early on.

  2. I definitely agree with most of what you said here. This episode was pretty underwhelming for me, and I don’t think it was because of the focus on Esposito or lack of Castle and Beckett romantic storyline as that’s not solely what I watch the show for.

    For me, they never really made the case feel very personal. It just didn’t connect well on an emotional level, and felt kind of flat even while I did care about Joey. I noticed while I was watching that we had gotten through the first two commercial breaks and hadn’t had any personal storyline scenes, which I think was ultimately the problem for me – it was too case-heavy, and the case didn’t have enough emotional depth in the story or in its connection to Esposito for me to truly feel affected.

    Maybe I was mixing him up with other characters, but some of the information Esposito was sharing didn’t feel particularly new to me, other than his explanation to Joey that when he had that choice of the two paths to take one of his teachers was an important influence on him. I feel a little like we had a whole episode just to get out two minutes worth of backstory on a character, and as much as I love Esposito they could have put that backstory together with more of his backstory or combined it with someone else’s backstory in the same episode and made a more emotionally engaging episode instead of what they did this week.

    I definitely agree with you about the poor transition of the romantic cliffhanger of last week to this week, as I feel like after such an important, emotional moment for Beckett that not even having moments where Beckett is giving Castle a considering look or anything like that be present in the episode really ends up taking the momentum out of that plotline and makes the story feel out of order/not continuous to me (which I will now be investigating, I think, because sometimes networks do air things out of order), as what happened last week should be affecting their behavior this week in some way, even if it is a subtle way. It makes it less real, and perhaps I’m holding them to high standards, but when I know how good they can be I cannot help but expect a little more from them.

    Also, while I’m still going to be going into the episode with the optimism that I try to have heading into each episode, the promo for next week is not making me very excited for it. I feel like we’ve dealt with the “our team investigates a case where young and very hot people are doing things with not much clothes on and the team makes jokes about it” thing several times recently (and several times throughout the show in general), and that plot device is getting old.

    • I really like what you said about Esposito’s storyline taking an entire episode to get two minutes of backstory. It’s so true. Maybe that’s what bored me so much about the episode. The episode consisted of 40 minutes of telegraphing an ending we all saw coming from the start.

      And I agree about next week’s episode, too. It seems kind of “been there, done that” to me. I know after five seasons it’s a little tougher to come up with fresh cases, but strippers and Girls Gone Wild are not things I need to see more than once on Castle.

  3. Hi Katie!!
    Well, the first 10 minutes of this episode were SO boring to me that it took me two days just to get through them. But I actually thought things picked up a lot once we met Joey. That might have something to do with the fact that I worked at an alternative high school last year, so I’m always interested in how a TV show treats that subject. I actually thought the writers did a pretty good job hinting at Joey’s vulnerability/ need for a father figure without making it all too sappy or easy–like, if he and Espo had bonded right away in the house and if Joey hadn’t fled through the window, I wouldn’t have bought it. Kids like that take a LOT of time, and this episode made it pretty clear that Joey’s turnaround is just getting started. It wasn’t magical or easy. I thought Esposito’s gesture was really sweet (calling to check in is a good way to show he’ll be watching without being too smothering or too much to handle for either party).

    But I also thought Espo’s “let’s give the bad guy a GUN as a means of threatening him” plan was dumb as rocks.

    Have we heard anything about his juvenile record before? There are still five episodes of Castle that I always seem to miss when they air on TV, so I don’t know if that was supposed to be news, but it was for me. I guess I’m not terribly concerned that it took the whole episode to get that backstory, because he clearly doesn’t share it often, so it was big for him. I completely agree that it would be really nice to see him let the “family” in on this part of his past, because I’m sure it would bring them closer, but I don’t actually mind that it’s just between him and Joey for now. Wasn’t that kind of the point–a fresh start? Espo has that now, and he doesn’t need to carry around his own mistakes all the time. They don’t define the person he is. But I do think that down the line, we should see him share that side of himself with someone. Maybe Lanie, before they inevitably get back together? That would really help them be a stronger couple, which they could use a little help with.

    All in all, I cared about the kid, and my favorite kind of procedural is one where I’m made to care about the people involved in the case as well as the people who solve it. Empathy all around! But I do wish that more of the characters had been allowed to feel/ show that empathy. Espo was the only one who was allowed to connect with Joey, so that contributed to how fractured the cast felt in this episode. I do wish they’d done a better job giving everyone a chance to work TOGETHER. And I agree that it was frustrating to see absolutely NOTHING between Beckett and Castle this week, especially given how last week’s episode ended. But things air out of order all the time, and if we’re supposed to believe that Beckett is just biding her time while she observes Rick’s openness or lack thereof, I can deal with that.

    I also agree that it didn’t feel as much like an episode of Castle, but I think that’s because the show (while it appreciates its secondary characters) has always been less of an ensemble than a quirky romantic comedy that also happens to be a procedural. Beckett and Castle get way more focus than anyone else–which is great, and I love that when they do it well (as in most of the early seasons), but I’ve always thought the show could be even stronger if the secondary characters had more depth. (And I think in season 5, they’ll have to start developing other characters if they want to keep giving the show ways to grow.) So I’ll take episodes like this if they get us to that point–the point where we really know all of the characters at another level. I just hope they’ll have more opportunities to grow together next time.

    And I always have hair envy for Kate Beckett.

    • First of all, that’s so cool that you worked at an alternative high school. I always admire people who work in those educational environments. And I’m happy to know that someone with a better sense of that kind of reality than I have also thought they did a good job of handling Joey’s storyline. I liked that his rapport with Esposito wasn’t too sappy or overdone. It hit all the right notes for me.

      But I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that Esposito was the only one who got to connect with Joey. I would have loved the episode so much more if we could have seen the other major characters go a little deeper in terms of their interactions (or at least thoughts about) this kid. I think it would have helped the episode feel less fractured.

      And in answer to your question, no, we didn’t know about Esposito’s past beforehand. It was a big deal in the moment, but I definitely saw it coming from the first interaction between Esposito and Joey. But maybe this is when knowing the spoiler that this was going to be an Esposito-centric episode became a detriment to my viewing experience. (I’ve had a love/hate relationship with spoilers ever since my time in the Alias fandom all those years ago…)

      • Spoilers have ruined so much for me! They’ve caused me so much needless anxiety and colored my impression of so many episodes; it’s the worst. But I have such a hard time saying no to them. I tried going cold turkey this year, and I’ve fallen short a few times (twitter is not helping), but mostly I’m loving the added mystery!

        I didn’t even know spoilers were a thing until season 5 of Alias, when I suddenly DESPERATELY HAD TO KNOW if a certain someone was still alive, because it was ruining my ability to enjoy the episodes at hand. I tried to hard to track down anything I could find online, but I don’t recall having any success. Did you get any good (and/or life-ruining) Alias spoilers out of the early-2000s internet??

        • I started scrounging for Alias spoilers during Season 3 because I HAD to know if Lauren was good or evil, but thankfully I was never able to find any spoilers for that because my gleeful reaction wouldn’t have been the same (I seriously did a “She’s evil” dance in my hallway—I was a cool kid, obviously). I ended up finding some spoilers on the Alias message boards for various episodes, which actually spoiled me for the end of Season 3, so that was kind of a bummer. Knowing a season finale twist (even one as relatively unexciting as Season 3’s) was enough to make me not want to look for any more Alias spoilers.

          And now I really want to rewatch my favorite Alias episodes. It’s been too long. 😉

          • Hahaha we would have gotten along in high school. I don’t remember if I did a little dance, but I remember wanting to!
            Today I watched the episode with Jason Segel–which was my least favorite episode until I realized that it was JASON SEGEL, and now I don’t mind it nearly as much 🙂

  4. Although I never mind learning more about Esposito’s background, I didn’t love this episode. You described it perfectly, it was a filler episode (though admittedly, with more character moments than filler episodes on most other shows). I did really enjoy the ending scene with him and Joey. That tendency of Esposito to help people lift themselves back up when they are struggling is my favorite thing about his character and I thought it came through perfectly.

    I actually didn’t mind the lack Castle and Beckett scenes in this episode as much as I expected I would. I would like them to have a talk about their relationship soon, and I agree, I want it out in the open so they can be more affectionate at work, but I think a talk might have felt out of place in this episode. What I did miss were moments between either Esposito and Ryan or Esposito and Beckett. I’ve gotten used to characters coming together and working with the case and how it affected them but I feel like they were all too separated in this episode.

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