Castle battles a hot-shot P.I. for an open spot in a secret detective society

By Sage Young
March 08, 2016 at 06:34 AM EST
Richard Cartwright/ABC
S8 E14
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Castle follows a lead on his still unsolved two-month disappearance all the way to Los Angeles, the town that knows best the terrible things that can stem from one bad screenplay. In this enlightening episode, that screenplay is Gemini Killers, the work of a psychopathic screenwriter and instant inspiration for his new murderous partner. There’s two of everything in this case: two coasts, two killers, two detectives vying for a coveted spot at a prestigious table, and two ongoing Castle mysteries that are finally and irrefutably linked up.

Let’s handle the more routine investigation first. (Routine for season 8 of Castle, not for life.) The traveling party of Castle, Hayley and Alexis have just set foot in their five-star Hollywood digs when a bellboy brings Castle a message with an opulent wax seal. It’s an invitation from the G.D.S. of the episode’s title to a local murder. (Bing bong, it’s the welcome wagon.)  Most investigators think on the Greatest Detectives Society as an urban legend. But Castle has been waiting for this note like a Harry Potter fan waits for a Hogwarts letter, and he decides it can’t hurt to sneak a peek at the crime scene.

The victim is Philip Harris, coincidentally another P.I. His throat was slashed in a cemetery and his body was arranged by his killer to lean against a gravestone, his heart resting in his hands. Hayley’s old pal Det. Menendez lets her and Castle take a look for old time’s sake; he’s rewarded by the help of the 12th when he tells them that Harris had flown in from New York the previous day and that his next of kin resides there. Ryan and Esposito interview his sister, Veronica; she’s living out a day she prayed would never come. Harris had been tracking a serial killer he’d dubbed the Phantom, and he’d recently told his sister that he was getting close.

The Phantom earned his name by being almost impossible to track. With the information Harris left behind, Lanie is able to identify seven victims. She’s not surprised that no one else who’d looked into those deaths had made any connection between them. Demographically, they differ across the board. The killer relieved each victim of a trophy, though each one lost a different body part. Most critically, the murders occurred in New York and Los Angeles The detail that kept law enforcement from putting the pieces together could now be the most valuable clue to identifying the killer. He’s a frequent coast-to-coast traveler, and that’s a start.

Post-crime scene, Castle is summoned to the G.D.S.’s headquarters: dark wood, luxurious furnishings, mood lighting — just the kind of hang out that secret member Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have adored. He’s introduced to the gathering by Mason Wood (Major Dad’s Gerald McRaney) and recognizes a familiar face from the cemetery. Kendall Frost (Nathan Fillion’s Firefly co-star Summer Glau) isn’t a uniformed cop but a crack P.I. and Castle’s only competition for late member Philip Harris’s vacant spot. The game is afoot, and it doesn’t play nice.

Castle and Hayley hit the pavement and put Castle’s personal mystery on the backburner for the time being. Harris had been working undercover at Zenith Studios, the meddling schlock peddlers whom Castle blames for “vaporizing” the Nikki Heat franchise by butchering the first film. Studio head Trevor Nigel doesn’t see why a little bomb like that should stop Castle from ever working with him again. He also points them in the direction of director Austin Electra and tells Castle and Hayley that Harris was at the studio specifically to get close to him. They can’t reach him before Kendall, though; Hayley thinks fast and interrupts the P.I.’s strategic flirting with a kiss. Austin isn’t bothered and figures he now has two casting couch hopefuls in his cart instead of one. He invites the happy, adventurous couple up to his mansion. The competitors strike up a tentative truce.

The infiltration of the director’s mansion is a disaster that ends with Hayley in padded handcuffs and Austin training a gun on the three grifters he believes are there to rob him. He’s not the only one with the wrong idea. Austin’s Christian Grey routine could use a “no means no” refresher — he chases Hayley around his living room — but his serial killer lair is actually just his props museum. Castle spots the distinctive knife that Lanie digitally generated from the victims’ wounds among Austin’s collection. It’s a prop from his last horror film, and there are four others that are identical.

But Austin’s alibi checks out; besides, Lanie’s eighth victim blows apart the working theory. Two victims were killed on separate coasts at the same time. Two knives are accounted for in the Zenith props department. One knife left for each of the two killers.

NEXT: That’s not what they mean by “Adapted Screenplay”

Jordan Keegan makes one. Rysposito connects the final victim to his former screenwriting student, who also happened to be in Los Angeles on the day Harris died. He takes a makeup person hostage when the detectives confront him; they tell him not to be stupid. “How can you say that when we’ve outsmarted you for years?” Keegan demands. He goes on to rave about his partner, who took his “visions” and “made them real”; he won’t be talked down, and the detectives shoot him in the head. The cops rarely kill on Castle. So they’ve officially got my attention.

The case wraps up swiftly thanks to a Gemini Killers draft found on Keegan’s laptop. The notes match the handwriting of the notes Castle once received on the Heatwave script. Trevor Nigel treats his arrest with the same cheerful indifference he exhibited earlier in the episode. He and Keegan created their own reality; why shouldn’t he go on living in it?  “Sadly, he could never nail the end,” Nigel says to Castle of his collaborator. “Maybe you could do the rewrite.”

Having sent Kendall off on a wild Pasadena goose chase for the good part, Castle wins entry into the G.D.S. He declines, confident that not even this elite group of brilliant minds could match the one he’s called his partner for the past eight years. He suggests Kendall take his place, and hopefully we’ll be seeing her again. She’s a fun foil, and we never did get a demonstration of her Krav Maga.

For weeks, Castle has been feeding us crumbs of the major mysteries that envelope both main characters. Because of that glacial pacing, this episode feels overstuffed. (Summer Glau is a footnote; that’s just wrong.) And with Kate physically absent, the LokSat revelation creates more secrets between the married couple, something lots of you who comment on these recaps aren’t very fond of. Still, the clues and confessions that come out of this Los Angeles field trip are inevitable satisfying. Answers, finally.

Who had “Hayley knew about the disappearance” on their bingo card? The street smart consultant’s arrival on the scene always felt insufficiently explained. When she comes clean to Castle, it doesn’t retroactively fix the fact that Hayley was sloppily incorporated into the action this season, but it does explain why. Hayley came to Los Angeles to watch over Castle and Alexis, but also to make sure to block Castle from learning too much about his time away. And he wouldn’t have without Alexis’s skills. She traces the GPS that they found on the watch Castle had used to pay for his meal at the Korean restaurant from his scrambled memory and finds a connection to her new best girlfriend. Hayley has no choice but to admit her role in the cover-up.

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ABC hasn’t announced plans for Castle season 9 yet. If this is indeed it, then we’re building to an explosive series finale. 18 months before they returned, Hayley had caught up with Castle in Los Angeles after his CIA mission in Thailand, in order to carry out a favor for her old MI6 pal, Castle’s dad. When Castle gave up the watch, Hayley lost her line to him. She didn’t find her charge again until after he’d been shot, and she doesn’t know by whom. Hayley practically pleads for Castle to let this fixation go. He himself had made her promise never to tell him what she’d observed. Hayley is a survivor. She can cut cords when she needs to: “Ignorance is bliss,” she tells him. But Castle is a seeker. And he’s so very close.

He also knows himself very well. Before asking Jenkins to wipe his memory, Castle left a contingency plan with Hayley in the event that he “demanded” the truth. She pulls up a hidden site on the dark web (it’s a real thing), protected by a passcode from one of teenage Rick’s discarded short stories. He immediately regrets the decision when his worst fears are realized in a video message from himself. (“If you are seeing this, you are an idiot.”) Maybe Castle thought his past self had been his protecting future self from guilt or shame, but the reality is far worse. A year and half earlier, Castle had used his knowledge of Sen. Bracken to track down LokSat in Los Angeles. It earned him a gunshot wound to the side and a rock solid sureness that what he learned would put Beckett in immediate bodily danger. The guilt and shame are a part of his reeling, too: Castle’s digging started the chain of events that led to the execution of Beckett’s former D.C. colleagues. Their breakup, Beckett’s dangerous, under-the-radar investigation — it all started with Castle. Ignorance may be hell, but sometimes it beats knowing too much.

Odds & Ends:

  • More Ryan/Esposito/Lanie subplots, please! Especially ones where Lanie gets to humiliate those children and kick them out of her morgue.
  • “I don’t want to fall for him and then find out he has a thing for putting the lotion in the basket.”
  • “Having second thoughts?” “On having a ménage with a trophy-taking serial killer, nooo!”
  • If Hayley wasn’t trying to make Alexis think that she was about to strangle her to death, maybe she shouldn’t have started their conversation with a menacing threat made from the back seat. Just a thought.
  • “Well, you certainly have baited the hook.”
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