Two-Sentence Summary The team at the 12th precinct investigates the murders of a man and woman who bear disturbing resemblances to Esposito and Lanie. The intimate connection to the precinct leads Castle to believe that Jerry Tyson—the infamous 3XK—is behind the murders, even though Tyson is supposed to be dead.
Favorite Line “Don’t chase ghosts, Castle, okay? It’s not worth it. Trust me.” (Beckett)
My Thoughts Raise your hand if you’re still a little scared to go anywhere alone after watching “Disciple.” (For the record, I am virtually raising both hands as high as they can go.)
“Disciple” was unlike any other episode of Castle I’ve ever seen. We’ve been given chilling episodes before, suspenseful episodes, even gruesome ones. But we’ve never been given an episode so deeply unsettling, so psychologically disturbing. It put the audience and the characters on the same level—one step behind the killer, frantically trying to put together clues until the realization crept up on us with an overbearing sense of dread. Of course it was 3XK. It made perfect sense and yet was perfectly shocking at the same time. That’s a hard balance to achieve, but writer David Amann seemed to strike that balance with ease.
I also liked that there was a balance between dread and levity throughout the episode. TV—much like life—can’t be overbearingly tense at all times. So we got to see Castle and Beckett bantering about honeymoon locations and Castle bristling at Dr. Nieman’s use of the word “potential” when it came to his looks. The small bits of light amid the darkness of the episode never felt like drastic tonal shifts; they felt like realistic breaks in the tension. Without them, the hour would have felt oppressive.
Even with the small moments of levity sprinkled throughout, there was no escaping the chill this episode put in your bones. It was there right from the first shot of Lanie’s doppelganger, standing still on the docks until we came to see that she was actually hanging there—her feet just inches from the ground but telling us all we need to know about her horrible fate. Rob Bowman’s direction and Robert Duncan’s score combined to make every nerve in my body feel like a live wire in that moment, and the feeling didn’t let up until the promo for next week’s episode started.
Every member of the 12th precinct family had their moment (or several) to shine in this episode. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: For as much as I love a lighthearted or nerdy episode of Castle, my favorite episodes are the more dramatic ones. I feel like this cast really rises to the occasion when they get to play with serious stakes, and this case had painfully high stakes for all involved.
Ryan got his big 3XK moment in Season Four’s excellent “Kick the Ballistics,” but that didn’t mean he was kept out of the action here—both in terms of the plot and the emotional arc of the episode. The scene when he discovered Esposito’s doppelganger was some of the best acting I’ve seen from Seamus Dever, whom I generally regard as the best of the Castle supporting cast (at least as far as the precinct is concerned). The way you can see Dever push his initial panic down in an attempt to be strong for his partner and friend was such a fantastically visceral reaction. I loved that Ryan’s first instinct was to protect Esposito. This episode featured some great moments for my favorite TV bromance (Ryan walking in on Esposito and Lanie’s “moment,” Ryan trying to get Esposito to share his feelings, etc.), but that small detail of Ryan looking out for Esposito above everything else was my favorite because it said so much without ever having to directly say anything about their friendship.
When all was said and done, though, this episode was about Lanie and Esposito. A few episodes ago, I complained that the two shared a scene without any indication of their history and/or current relationship, and I was so happy to see that rectified in “Disciple.” Jon Huertas and Tamala Jones simply shine when they’re in scenes that allow them to show off their surprisingly electric chemistry. In this episode, it was a gentle hum that infused each of their scenes with a very potent but also very natural intimacy. I believed their relationship—the slight hesitancy, the warmth, and the sense that it was a comfort just to know the other was there with them on this terrible journey. Each time they were onscreen together, I got the best kind of goose bumps.
Jones really brought her A-game to this episode, which was wonderful since we’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Lanie with a real emotional arc before. I believed her fear because it was always present but not always overpowering. You could see it constantly on her mind, but you could also see Lanie pushing through it. I loved when she called Beckett to come to the morgue without Castle. For the first time, we got to see these two women interact as more than just relationship sounding boards. We got to see Beckett be there for her friend when she needed someone to turn to. Jones did such a great job of keeping Lanie’s panic just under the surface in that scene. Another standout moment was her final scene with Esposito, asking him with such restrained pain how long it would take for them to look at each other without seeing dead bodies. That was such a haunting line, and Jones delivered it perfectly.
Castle and Beckett didn’t have the intense emotional arcs Lanie and Esposito went through in “Disciple,” but that doesn’t mean they were relegated to the background. Instead, they were at the center of interactions with some of the most captivating guest actors the show has had in quite some time. Annie Wersching made my skin crawl as Dr. Nieman. When she was alone with Beckett in the interrogation room, I was so disturbed I wanted to change the channel, but I knew I couldn’t look away for a second. And William Mapother brought every ounce of creepiness with him from his role as Ethan on Lost. I’m hoping that the end of this episode means we’ll be seeing more from both of these actors in the future.
I loved watching Nathan Fillion in this episode—even more than usual. Even when he was in the background of a scene, you could see in his body language and his eyes the fear that only 3XK could be behind the murders. Without having to say anything, Fillion conveyed such a subtle but powerful sense of fear. And it all came to a head in his scene with Stana Katic in the file room. That scene was so tense—dramatic without being melodramatic. I understood Castle’s belief in the story making sense only if 3XK was involved, but I also believed Beckett’s desire to keep him from chasing ghosts like she chased ghosts for a decade after her mother died. That one line was so powerful and said so much about where this character has come since the show began. Beckett has grown and learned to live and love despite the ghosts and demons in her past, and she doesn’t want Castle to fall down the rabbit hole the way she did. It cost her too many years of her own happiness, and you could read all of that on Katic’s face when she delivered that line.
When the theft of the files was discovered, the episode kicked into another gear of tension. I loved the callback to the first “3XK” episode all the way back in Season Three when they went to the hotel. I loved the chilling note in Nieman’s office. And, more than anything, I loved the terribly disturbing final scene. When the song started to play, I felt physically uncomfortable. It was the most unsettling sensation I’ve ever experienced while watching Castle. I’m still not sure if the song was supposed to represent something with special meaning to either of them (because Beckett’s reaction was visibly more terrified than Castle’s) or if it was just meant to tell them (and us) that 3XK was going to strike again whenever he felt like it. But no matter the nature of the song, it served its purpose; I didn’t even want to walk upstairs in my own house by myself after it was over.
3XK has always been my favorite Castle villain—even more than Senator Bracken. The episodes centering around Jerry Tyson are always some of the best in their respective seasons, and “Disciple” was certainly no different.