At the time that this recap is being written, ABC has yet to announce its decision one way or another on season 9 of Castle. So here we are on the brink of the possible series finale with an episode about the prophesied end of everything. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could blame the devil instead of ratings when our favorite shows teeter on the bubble?
Whether or not the prince of the underworld makes an appearance in “Hell to Pay” is up for debate, but the belief in one seductive, destructive force that will end the world as we know it is all over the episode. For Castle, the fixation comes from repeated viewings of The Omen and his writerly tendency to overplot. For murder victim Gabriel Shaw, it comes from a lifelong obsession with fringe dogmas and a chemical imbalance. The escaped patient from Peakmore Psychiatric bleeds out on the floor of Richard Castle Investigations in the middle of a relentless storm that throws the city into darkness, but not before he scares the holy Moses out of Hayley and Alexis.
The deceptively bloodied ax in Shaw’s hand insinuates that this episode will be an homage to everyday slasher flicks; the Latin phrases he mutters and the ones painted onto his body tell a different story. (I hope everyone’s brushed up on their religious horror film canon!) A visit to the institution he escaped reminds Rysposito and Castle that Shaw was committed after attempting a very high-profile murder. He showed up the home of billionaire philanthropist Warren Crowne 20 years previous to execute his “mission from God.” The family survived his attack, but Shaw never let his holy commission go. Later, Warren Crowne and his wife died in a freak skiing accident, leaving their son Victor an orphan. A very rich one. What more was there for Shaw to do?
Peakmore failed to contact the police after the escape and instead sent orderlies out to look for Shaw, hoping to clean up the mess quietly. One of the orderlies found Shaw at a church he often mentioned, but let him go when Shaw promised to expose him for stealing and selling meds. That revelation sets Castle and the cops up to retrace Shaw’s steps from the encounter at the church up to the moment he was killed.
Shaw was murdered, by the way, with an implement that Lanie can best describe as a “talon.” And if that word doesn’t get Castle’s reckless fancies going overtime, then the next part does. Lanie also finds sulfur in the wound. That’s all it takes for Castle to be convinced that the suspect they’re looking for is straight out of hell. The writer has to play both demon-hunting Winchester brothers on his own, though, because his ravings are met with the same half-withering/half-pitying looks from his colleagues as any of his other wild theories.
Still, Castle’s open mind is helpful because they’re tracking the movements of a victim who also truly believed that the devil was in their midst. Before he was a patient, Shaw was a “spiritual consultant” for a P.I. named Noah Cramer, whose former office Castle’s business now calls home. Knowing that Shaw came for the location and not for the people occupying it, Castle has a pretty good guess what the victim was planning to do with that ax. The office houses a safe that he’s never tried to open, all to preserve his ability to dream about what wonders lie inside it. (Also, to make this narrative work.) “So you chose fantasy over reality?,” Hayley asks. “Well, duh,” Castle answers. Always.
But whatever happened to Noah Cramer? Like the Crownes, he also met an untimely death in strange circumstances — a trend in individuals who encounter Shaw. His widow and son are called into the precinct for an interview. Shaw stopped by their home after his escape looking for some materials from his time working together with Noah. The boy looks like he has more to say about what his father left behind, but his mother presses his arm with a firm hand and stops him. She got rid of everything, she says. Shaw demolished her husband’s reputation, but this isn’t just a grudge. Shaw was “evil,” Mrs. Cramer says. She’s visibly not sorry that he’s gone.
Not finding what he needed at the Cramer home, Shaw eventually made his way to the office. There are still hours between those visits to be accounted for, but the safe itself is the next best lead. Hayley cracks it (“I need 28 minutes and a chocolate milkshake.”), and the contents of the secret chamber are even stranger than best-selling novelist Richard Castle could have imagined. Castle, Hayley, and Alexis advance into the dark, cobwebbed room, flashlights flicking over religious artifacts and defaced photos of the Crownes. The star of this macabre shrine is Victor Crowne, just 9 years old when his parents passed.
NEXT: It’s all for you, Victor