Fidelis Ad Mortem finally brings to a close the “Castle and Beckett are pretending to be separated but secretly still seeing each other” story arc – only about ten episodes too late. That is truly the best thing that I can say about this episode. The writers really misjudged their audience and timing. The story arc was interesting, but it was too long. It was painful to watch the characters go about pretending to still be separated when they were secretly together, even moreso than when they were apart. Plus, the mood of the entire series darkened considerably over the course of this past season. It was still entertaining, but there was constant tension and unease. Thankfully, it is over after this episode. Things are back to normal, sort of.
Heartbreaker is entirely devoted to Detective Esposito and his former love life. Apparently, once upon a time about ten years past, ladies’ man Esposito was engaged to and ready to settle down with a woman who turned out to be a criminal. While their relationship ended after he arrested her and she went to jail, he clearly never fully got over her. When she reappears as an important witness in a case, he turns into a lovesick puppy all over again. (That is understandable, since he never got any resolution to the relationship.) Luckily, Detective Ryan comes to his rescue and they solve the case. Furthermore, Esposito gets the resolution that he lacked before, and he parts with his wayward ex-fiancée on civil (dare I say, friendly?) terms this time.
Some reviewers disliked this new character development for Esposito, but I thought that it made a lot of sense. He was very nervous about getting serious with Lanie earlier in the series. He was often looking for a steady romantic relationship and to be a father figure. He played the field and acted like a ladies’ man because it was safer than getting his heart broken again. He was avoiding getting too vulnerable and close, even as much as he really did want to find someone to have a lasting relationship with. Having to break off an engagement, even for criminal reasons, is not easy. When a relationship is strong enough to reach engagement, there has usually been a lot of emotional investment made. It may be the right choice, but it is still extremely painful. It makes it harder to trust other romantic partners in the future. One is reluctant to make such a commitment again. Far better to invest emotionally elsewhere – in friends, family, colleagues, and community – until one finds the strength to make the same emotional investment again. From this perspective, the characterization of Esposito is right on.
That said, from an overall storytelling perspective, the writers just got our main characters fully back together, and suddenly, we get an episode entirely devoted to Esposito? Could they not have put this a few weeks ago, saving us the agony of watching Castle and Beckett pretend to be separated? Great episode, lousy timing. But then, that’s the nature of television.
Finally, Death Wish returns the series to a classic Castle formula. It is whimsical and fun, and for the most part, Castle and Beckett are working together again to solve the case. The mystery centres on an artefact that may or may not be magical. Castle acts overly goofy at this prospect, but still manages to be entertaining and useful. They solve the case together and seem to have a lot of their old dynamic back.
Otherwise, the episode is ordinary. It is a classic caper with enough intrigue to make the viewers forget how implausible (or even ludicrous) the whole scenario is. The character that Castle is convinced is actually a genie is very annoying, but also enticing enough that we are willing to suspend our disbelief and wonder if she really is. All in all, it is a throwback to earlier seasons. It was a fun way to spend an hour on a Monday evening. It even ended with Det. Ryan and his wife Jenny safely having a baby boy to go with their daughter. Mysterious, funny, and sweetly sentimental!
Sadly, it doesn’t seem like it is going to last.