This week’s Castle post is brought to by the lovely and talented Heather!
Title Habeas Corpse
Two Sentence Summary The precinct prepares for a talent show, creating a rivalry between the teams of Esposito/Ryan and Castle/Beckett. Meanwhile, after a personal injury lawyer is found dead, the team discovers a conspiracy he was on the verge of uncovering before his death.
Beckett: I didn’t want you to think less of me. And I really didn’t want anyone else to know. So, stupid.
Castle: No, not stupid. Just human.
My Thoughts What a fun episode! This is exactly the sort of stand-alone episode I love. The case kept me interested, and it gave me plenty of great character moments and interactions. In its seventh season, Castle has faltered a bit when it comes to the actual cases. But it more than makes up for it in its understanding of its characters and providing new and fun situations to put them in. As someone who has watched more than their fair share of procedurals that have run for multiple seasons, that’s all I ask of them. I don’t care if the cases are especially creative, but I do need to continue to love the characters. And Castle does this really well.
Let’s start with the case. Personal injury lawyers get such a horrible reputation for being greedy and representing everything that is wrong with the legal system, both in real life and in popular culture. So it was a nice surprise that the victim turned out to be a genuinely nice guy who was actually trying to get justice for those who would normally be overlooked. This simple trope inversion did wonders for my investment in the case.
First, it let the case be relatively free of twists that seem to come out of nowhere. Everything built on the information that came before it, and tiny leads that seemed to be insignificant at the time actually went somewhere. It felt like a better constructed case than many on this show because the writer had a clear idea of who the victim was. Second, it let me care about the victim. With just the little pieces of information we learned, I was genuinely sad that this man was dead. I believed that he was trying to do good in the best way he knew how, even if some of his methods weren’t entirely legal. He spent his life making up for the harm he did as a corporate lawyer and ultimately died trying to pursue justice.
As much as I enjoyed the case this week, the real focus of this episode was on the characters we have grown to know and love. Shows that excel with strong characterization continue to add new facts about them that only make sense because of everything we previously know about them. On the surface, a pair of cops (including a former member of the military) who enjoy doing dances to songs they have reworked to be more related to police work would be ridiculous. And maybe it still is ridiculous, but I have no trouble believing this is something that Esposito and Ryan have done and done well for the past three years. It doesn’t matter that we’ve never heard about this event or their dances before; it just fits with what we know about them. I can picture one of them throwing out the idea on a whim and the two of them just running with it. Esposito’s competitive streak wouldn’t let him perform if he wasn’t going to be good, so of course they’ve won three years in a row. That’s what good character development is and what I love the most about this show.
Along similar lines, this sort of character development is also what made Beckett’s scenes with Martha and Alexis so delightful to watch. When she married Castle, she became part of this family. Living with them in the loft has given all of them a chance to grow closer and find a new rhythm with each other that I adore. Yes, I would have loved to actually see Alexis and Beckett settle into their new relationship with each other, as it hasn’t been the most consistently written in the past, but the foundation was there to believe that it built off-screen as they became more comfortable with each other. It was very sweet and satisfying to see Beckett help Alexis study and then look so proud of her during her conversation with Castle.
What has been even more of a joy to watch is Beckett’s relationship with Martha. Beckett confiding to Martha about her stage fright was honestly my favorite part of the episode. I loved that Martha was giving them tips about their performance in the first place, but I loved even more how comfortable Beckett feels opening up to Martha. Martha is exactly the kind of mother-in-law Beckett needs and deserves. She never minimized Beckett’s discomfort with performing and recognized what a common problem it was for those who aren’t natural performers. She also recognizes what both Beckett and Castle would be willing to do for each other and is genuinely happy for what they have found with each other. She knew her son would never intentionally cause his wife discomfort, but she also accepted Beckett’s desire to do this to make Castle happy. Martha’s marriages may not have worked out, but she knows a good one when she sees it. And she sees it in her son and new daughter-in-law.
When a show has aired nearly 150 episodes, it could feel stale. It could feel like we’re watching the same cases with the same emotional beats over and over again. I think Castle has done a remarkable job keeping things fresh for these characters and above all, it honors the investment we have put into them. Because at the end of the day, we don’t watch for the cases or to see the bad guys get put away at the end of every episode. We watch for the characters we have opened our hearts to, and we will continue to watch as long as they are willing to make it. That’s what draws people into these long-running procedurals, and that’s why they continue to attract a decent viewership.