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S8 E19
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April 26, 2016 at 05:30 AM EDT

The canon has expanded to include all kinds of origin stories, but once upon a time, superhero status was bestowed almost exclusively upon the “mild-mannered.” And that’s the most suitable adjective available to apply to Alan Masters (Jonathan Silverman), the almost-victim of this week’s Castle. In “Dead Again,” the stiff finally gets the opportunity to participate in his own murder investigation. It helps that Alan didn’t die. And then didn’t die. And then didn’t die some more.

The man’s fluctuating status gets Lanie questioning whether she’s losing her touch as a medical examiner. (That’s a nasty little joke to lay on one of the show’s outgoing stars, Tamala Jones.) But even her colleagues can’t come up with a reason for regular guy Alan surviving being poisoned or why he came to only after Lanie did her cursory crime scene exam. Here’s my diagnosis: dramatic effect.

Alan wasn’t on the lookout for any attempts on his life. He’s a piece of untoasted white bread with unsalted butter…if that bread were a person who worked in a tedious city job, kept a tidy apartment, and had his most exciting moment of the day giving his cable company what for over a wavy channel. He’s no ordinary survivor to Castle, though. He pesters Alan at his hospital bed with questions about the light and the beyond. To his disappointment, Alan doesn’t remember anything about his brief hour of being dead. No afterlife revelations to be weaved into the next Nikki Heat novel.

This armchair spiritualist dialogue won’t solve Alan’s attempted murder, unfortunately. That work is left to the real cops. Alan doesn’t believe he’s cultivated any enemies; he’s a stand-up guy who does his work and goes home. But it’s his Boy Scout sensibilities that create trouble for Alan. He’s a safety inspector with the responsibility for penalizing businesses that aren’t up to code. Corrupt inspectors can make a nice nest egg from accepting bribes to turn the other way. Alan fires one such opportunist, who leaves a flowery list of threats on his voicemail. (“First, I’ll paralyze you with a claw hammer…”) He then defends his possible attacker (“He’s just got a big personality”), but ex-employee Dave Barton pleads the same personality defect and then alibis out. He points out the obvious before he exits the narrative: Every business owner Alan ever wrote up would have a motive to kill him. His assessments can make or break them. With great power, yada yada yada…

Rysposito look into that list while Castle and a uniform accompany Alan back to his apartment. No sooner has he shaken off Castle’s appeal to not let his second life go to waste than is Alan “killed” again, this time by his very own bed. He trips the booby trap, and the small explosion flings him across the room. Lanie declares him dead for the second time in a day before Alan comes to and inquires after the barbecue he’s smelling. “Forget lucky,” Castle jubilantly declares, “he’s immortal.”

Alan’s averageness feeds right into Castle’s active animation and his affection for comic book mythos. Alan came back from the dead twice, as far as Castle is concerned. That means he received a superhero upgrade. And if he has one superhuman quality, he’s got to fit into the rest of the tropes, too. The writer sets about convincing Alan of his extraordinariness, prompting him with talk of radioactive spiders and possible names for his alter-ego. And I love the guy, but is anyone else under the impression that Castle gets too much leeway these days? Since Alan’s apartment is obviously unsafe, he returns to Castle and Beckett’s home to be enrolled in Castle’s involuntary superhero boot camp. The writer actually tosses a piece of fruit at Alan’s head and hits him; if Alan were a more adventurous and litigious kind of guy, he probably could sue the NYPD.

NEXT: Can’t tell who the supervillains are without a program

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