Stars: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan, Molly Quinn, Tamala Jones, Seamus Deaver, Jon Huertas, Penny Johnson Jerald
Writer: Shalisha Francis
Director: Ron Underwood
Network: ABC, Monday nights, 10 p.m.
Original Telecast: March 18, 2013
Let’s be real. CASTLE is never going get it right regarding police procedure. The writers routinely screw up the real world facts in favor of a cool connection, and most of the time we don’t really mind because we know going in this is not about accuracy, it’s about fun. In “Scared to Death,” we get plenty of the amusement factor – which is why this didn’t get a lower grade, but the writer got several things completely wrong, forced the characters into a situation that didn’t read real from the get-go, and all but put up a big fat red arrow pointing to the perp in the first five minutes of the show.
I know, I know. The perp is almost always someone the crew has interviewed early in the process – and that is good, standard mystery-writing practice. If you’re going to do a whodunit, you have to give your audience a fighting chance to figure it out by introducing the bad guy early on. The catch is, you have to do it in such a way that it’s not obvious that it was the roommate, who turned up after a convenient absence and lied almost immediately.
The idea is that the young woman who died was scared to death by a scary video on sent to her on a DVD. Now, here is where I thought the characters were being forced into something unreal. Granted, the DVD was spooky, but here’s Castle – a brilliant mystery writer who solves real crimes and he’s buying into the cursed part of the DVD? Yes, if there’s a spooky or unworldly explanation for something, he will give it a passing thought and sometimes even push it. I can see him being unnerved and significantly more unnerved than Beckett, who is the logical one, but buying into it to the point where he’s convinced he’s only got three more days to live? Come on. That was pushing it.
So the cause of death was heart failure, but it’s not clear what caused it. That happens, but not often especially in a stiff that young. So here is where the writer blew it – M.E. Perlmutter (Arye Gross) says that nothing showed in the blood panels. This one’s a minor point, and a very, very common mistake, but reality check, just because a blood panel comes up blank doesn’t mean that there wasn’t anything toxic going on. To find anything in a blood test, you have to test to see if it’s there. So when a blood test comes up blank for, say, marijuana or alcohol, that means there wasn’t any marijuana or alcohol in the blood, but not that there wasn’t something else there. Heart failure in a stiff that young without the usual degenerative changes from heart disease? Oh, you bet they’d be testing for everything under the sun and the tests would not be back for weeks, let alone the next day. Yeah, but the timing issue is a convention we go with for the sake of the hour format, so I usually let that go.
Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Ryan (Seamus Dever) do some investigating, turn up the return address on the DVD, and find it connected to a man who died three months prior. Obviously, not the person who sent the package, but it does lead to another stiff. And get this, the guy’s been dead for two days and he doesn’t apparently smell or look bad at all. Sorry, guys, stiffs smell and smell really bad. Everyone knows this. You can’t watch crime TV for a week and not know that one.
But then, Castle starts referencing every horror movie in existence in an effort to keep Beckett from doing something stupid – which was pretty stupid in itself. But the good part is that Castle calls Wes Craven for help. Yeah, the real Wes Craven. That’s another thing I’ve always loved about this show – the way they show and promote real authors. True, it’s always been the men and the really big names. You’d think they could get Janet Evanovich to drop by – hey, she’s in New Jersey. But at least, it’s people who write books and I love that. And Craven also had some good advice, which was kind of fun.
The now three victims were all connected because they were witnesses in the trial of a serial killer. Naturally, the guy is dead and surprise, surprise, he was creepy. Nor was his empty grave all that surprising. Then there was the scene in the mental institution with the killer’s brother that turned into a fairly decent red herring.
Well, it turns out that the three victims had all mis-identified an innocent person who killed himself after three days in jail. And Craven was right, the clues to the event were on the DVD, because they were sent by the roommate, who happened to be the innocent guy’s daughter. We still have some spooky because the serial killer’s body did go missing – and believe it or not, that improbable scenario does happen often enough to be real. But there was one major gaffe in the big reveal. The roomie tries to kill Castle and Beckett with her souped-up tazer – that’s what caused the heart failure in the vics – but here’s the thing. Electrocution leaves burn marks! That’s why they put the pads or the grease on you for de-fibrilation. They should have caught that! Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.
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Article: TV Review: CASTLE – Season 5 – “Scared to Death”