Welcome back, Castle
fans! It's been a few weeks since our last all-new episode, and the show comes back in full jokey-form with an episode devoted to the newest TV trend: horror.
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In fact, it seems like everywhere on the dial, there's a horror-themed show now
. American Horror Story
. The Walking Dead
. Even Castle'
s new timeslot competition, Bates Motel
. I'm pretty sure The Apprentice
should count as horror, considering there appears to be something haunting Donald Trump's scalp.
As it usually does, Castle is a keen observer of what is currently trending in the pop culture stratosphere. Throughout its five seasons, Castle has done plenty of pop culture homages. But it seems like the references are getting even better this season. They've been almost Community-level obsessive in their attention to detail, mood and setting recently.
After the Alexis Taken
two-parter, in which we finally met Castle's dear old dad
, the show wisely steps back from the adrenaline rush to return with a more fun case-of-the-week. Only this case is creepy enough to have most of the precinct spooked, except for the unflappable Beckett, of course.
What makes this episode work isn't only the fun of watching the boys (Castle, Ryan and Esposito) quake in fear. It's all the in-jokes and references aimed at horror fans. From the pitch-perfect send-up of The Ring with the creepy video and the Silence of the Lambs-esque meeting with Leopold to the winking nod to director Joss Whedon's own horror tropes send-up Cabin in the Woods, there's plenty to get horror fans excited.
And that's all without mentioning the surprise and hilarious cameo by horror maven Wes Craven, the source of many of my '90s era nightmares. The show's ability to entice high-profile guest stars who don't usually do spots, like authors and directors, is one of its many strengths. The scene where a panicked Castle calls good pal Wes for some advice on his horror screenplay is classic. "That's a bit derivative, don't you think?"
As usual, Beckett turns out to be right and Castle's imagination just runs away with him. Still, for a moment there, it almost seems like a vengeful ghost is on the prowl, doesn't it?
Before You Die You See ... the DVD?
Let's admit something: VHS is way scarier than DVD. As with Ryan, I barely slept for a week after seeing The Ring in theaters. Like any rational person scared to death by something, I immediately bought the movie when it came out on tape. And I have to say, the idea of a killer DVD is just not as scary, for whatever reason, as the murderous VHS tape. Like, where does the ghost even have room to hang out in a DVD? The jewel case?
Anyway, I digress. The episode opens in classic horror mode, as a young girl awaits something nefarious in her apartment. The clock strikes midnight, the lights go out and ... well, you know the rest. Castle is, of course, captivated by the case immediately because Castle loves the supernatural.
With no cause of death in sight other than heart failure, the gang go back to her apartment to find out what came in a package three days before her mysterious death. Castle accidentally watches the DVD in the player, which is so Ring-esque it's practically the same short film only with a wacky Instagram filter added. It's like the spirits from the great beyond got bored and started throwing in all the effects on Windows Movie Maker.
Of course, because he's Castle, he figures his time is officially up. While he's getting out his bucket list and atoning for broken vases, Beckett decides someone else from the investigative team should probably watch the disc.
The problem? Ryan and Esposito are just as scared as Castle. So without any superstitions, Beckett dives into watching the DVD, which even she describes as "creepy."
Silence of the Leopold
Following the case, they soon find another victim, but the connection between the two is tenuous. That is, until they realize they both stayed in one of the 13-numbered rooms in the Brunswick Inn. In this case, the 13 rooms really were bad luck because it was where jurors tended to stay.
And these two were jurors on one of the biggest murder trials around: the trial of a convicted serial killer named Nigel Malloy who died in jail three years before. Castle is now convinced they are not only going to die, they're going to be killed by the vengeful spirit of a serial killer.
Meanwhile, Esposito is wondering what the odds are of inheriting Castle's Porsche after he supernaturally kicks the bucket. Ah, friendship! "I treasure our friendship," Esposito tells Castle, before trying to suss out just how much their bromance means to Richard in dollar amounts. Cold, bro.
The investigation soon leads them to the serial killer's brother Leopold, who is incarcerated in a mental institution. It also leads us to our Silence of the Lambs portion of the episode. When Castle and Beckett go to see Leopold, who is behind a weird glass viewing area, like Magneto in X-Men, I totally lose it. Well done, Castle.
Leopold seems to tip his hand that he was involved in the killings by knowing a little too much, which should have been covered in evil mastermind 101. However, the second I see his nurse is the same woman who plays Finn's mom on Glee I know there has to be more to the story. I'm not saying the actress is big-time, but she would certainly merit more than a blink-and-you-missed-it cameo.
And, of course, it turns out that Hannibal Leo and his brother's mysteriously risen body are red herrings. The nurse is in love with Leopold (because sure?) and hoping to keep another murder from happening, as it would look bad for his chances of getting out.
Cabin in the Woods
Meanwhile, Castle is wisely holding out on Beckett when it comes to their bedroom activities. As he says, sex always gets you killed in horror movies.
It's this kind of astute, dead-on observation that makes this variety of a Castle episode work. They're not just homages to certain genres or films, they're made with the loving care of pop culture junkies who really know what they're talking about.
Beckett, meanwhile, is a little less than pleased to put the breaks on their relationship. Finally, they track down the third juror from the case, a man named Mark, who has gone to hide out in his family's cabin. A cabin ... in the woods. (Whedon shout-out alert!) Castle astutely points out this is literally the last place any person currently living out a horror movie scenario should hide.
It gets even worse when Castle and Beckett both lose cell reception. They always lose cell reception right before everyone dies! At least Castle has his big bag of charms, potions and holy water to keep them safe.
In the cabin, Castle hears the full tale of what happened with the trial. Before catching Nigel, the police pressured the three witnesses into placing the blame on another man. That man, unstable in prison, committed suicide by electrocution after three days at midnight. Sound familiar?
It turns out Val's roommate was his daughter, and she came to finish the job and get vengeance for her father. Why hasn't Emily Thorne considered this over on Revenge? Just electrocute the Graysons. Problem solved!
Castle saves the day with his holy water and Beckett gets to gloat that she's right, since there was a logical explanation for everything, after all. Way to ruin the fun, Scully.
Back at home, we find out the number one item on Castle's bucket list (which he can now cross off) is being with Kate. All together now, Caskett shippers: aww! He added that item about three years ago, which makes it even sweeter. And with the hand of the clock striking midnight, Castle and Beckett can finally get it on without any evil spirit interference.
What did you think of this week's episode of Castle? Did you like all the horror genre shout-outs? Did you catch any I missed? Share in the comments!
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(Image courtesy of ABC)