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CASTLE Often Borrows Trouble, but in “Cool Boys” Trouble Borrows Him

By on November 10, 2015
(ABC/Mitch Haaseth)
NATHAN FILLION

(ABC/Mitch Haaseth) NATHAN FILLION

By Geannie Bastian

So, our favorite novelist turned PI thought he might just have a slow week, what with Beckett on a work trip and all. But then came Ethan Slaughter who comes to Castle looking for help on a robbery case following his transfer from gangs. Only, it turns out he’s being set up for murder, and he needs himself a friend.

Together, they set out to solve murder in the hope of clearing Slaughter’s name. To do that, though, they have to avoid the boys – and keep Slaughter’s killer temper under wraps.

Close calls are the name of the game here as are some classic Castle moves, including a little slight of hand jailbreak via cop car. And, you know, distracting a suspect via musical number, Guardians of the Galaxy style. Which breaks with a perfectly timed “And FIGHT SCENE!” Points for style, crazy boys.

It may have been a week without Beckett, but Castle was never bored. And thankfully, I’d say many viewers weren’t either.

Boys, boys, crazy boys…

As a viewer I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never been a fan of Slaughter as a character. It doesn’t help that I don’t have a history of Firefly fandom to make it a bonus when Adam Baldwin appears. “Headhunters” is probably among my least favorite episodes. So, this wasn’t looking like a highlight in my season 8 viewing, even as I’ve enjoyed this season. But then, I was wrong.

Something really worked with Slaughter here. The characters were on far more even footing than tlast time – when the writers deliberately created a setup in which Slaughter effectively rolled over Castle the entire time. A guy in need of a friend is much easier to work with, after all. He was much more nuanced, and the interactions played out much funnier when that he wasn’t just being established as the anti-Beckett.

And speaking of Beckett, even in her absence her presence was felt. What started out as Slaughter ribbing Castle about his hot wife, turned into an actual question among men about the nature of relationships and marriage. And it had the welcome side effect of giving Slaughter’s character a much-needed three-dimensional appeal – it turns out that Slaughter is divorced, and not in a way that pleases him, but rather, he reveals, it is a regret. Slaughter gives great advice – whatever Kate is going through? She should not have to do it alone. So he tells Castle: find out what’s going on and do something about it.

But even better than the opening up of this once one dimensional character and his rather sage advice was the humor, starting right up top with Nathan Filion, and including Molly Quinn and Susan Sullivan too, as each reacted in various ways based on their prior impressions of Slaughter. Castle and Alexis’s sort of “oh crap” terror was great, as was Martha’s over protective mama bear.

Second-best on the laughter train? Castle trying awkwardly not to indicate that he’s talking to the boys about Slaughter, who may or may not at this point be a killer. At one point he’s so riled up he refers to Ryan as “my mommy” but Slaughter’s choice of nicknames — Elvez — is even better, and offered a nice callback to “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Lucky Charms.”

Top of the humor pile though goes to an apron-wearing Slaughter in Iron Chef mode, revealing that he majored in musical theater. As Castle says, just the image of him doing jazz hands is the best, right? Bonus points because it gave Castle the idea to go full Broadway on the bad guys, pulling the number from West Side Story when they’re trapped that gives the episode its title. A very snappy choice … literally.

All in all it was an unexpected breath of fresh air of an episode, particularly for this viewer who didn’t expect to go into it looking for much more then the pleasure of having her favorite show back on screen.

The Paper Anniversary

OK so we need to talk about the promo, because come on let’s just admit it – everyone’s talking about that promo. Now, I know the first year is the paper anniversary, and I think Castle is off to a good start with the confetti, very clever choice. Divorce papers on the other hand, not necessarily high up there on the first year anniversary gift list.

But honestly I don’t think that’s something we’re going to have to worry about beyond a a highly suggestive and likely manipulative promo. Because that wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened, right? Let’s not ignore the fact that both characters have talked about divorce being something neither of them wants, and the writers have similarly discussed it being something that isn’t going to happen for their story.

I’m betting many viewers smell a setup – particularly given that Beckett is undercover, and honestly the image on that screen looks more like video footage of a conversation in someone’s office via Skype or FaceTime.

Rob Hanning almost always delivers, and next week is sure to be promising.  Hawley and Winter have said they plan to close out this chapter of the story in a positive way over the next few weeks, and I’m betting that starts with “The Last Seduction.”

So let’s all take a page from Castle and Slaughter this week: Be cool, guys.

Until next week, Castle fans!

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