Episode Review: Castle – 1×06 "Always Buy Retail"

The sixth episode of the freshman series dealt with ritualistic murders linked to voodoo and the familiar world of designer knock-offs. It’s so New York it’s great, which is one of my favorite things about the show so far. They are really capitalizing on their setting of Manhattan, using familiar New York neighborhoods and the cultural mix of the city to introduce new murder scenarios. Like “Law & Order” and its “ripped-from-the-headlines” mentality, “Castle” is using the size and makeup of it’s setting to enhance its plots.

“Always Buy Retail” accomplished a few things that the prior week’s episode was lacking; mainly an intriguing case. While the murder mystery elements were still there: red herrings, multiple suspects, misplaced clues, Monday’s episode also offered an additional layer of confusion as it dealt with illegal immigration and the fact that none of their suspects were using their real names. It’s pretty hard to track a murderer when he has no documentation. The show also continues to get great guest stars, including Aldis Hodge as one of the suspects, Azi. Known primarily for his work on this summer’s TNT series, “Leverage,” Hodge handled an accent and a conflicted character well, using his few scenes to convey the fear and confusion of living in a country on borrowed time.

Additionally, the introduction of Castle’s first ex-wife and Alexis’ mother, Meredith, gave us another great guest star, Darby Stanchfield. Previously scene on “Jericho” and starring opposite Nathan in the feature film, “Waitress,” Stanchfield played the irresponsible, melodramatic actress/ex-wife pretty spectacularly (and the opening sex scene wasn’t bad either). It was easy to see why Castle would have fallen in love with her and even more apparent why he’d have to divorce her, if only for his own sanity—or his waistline as Castle admits Meredith is his “deep fried Twinkie:” you can enjoy it in small increments, but too much of it is not a good thing.

The writing on “Castle” continues to be tight and the acting is getting better. I appreciated Beckett’s reaction to the appearance of Castle’s ex-wife. As opposed to acting jealous, which would have been unbelievable, she instead affected the air of a disapproving older sister. The absence last night of Tamala Jones’ medical examiner was noticeable and the continued ineffectiveness of the police chief is now just annoying. Instead of offering any helpful advice or input, he instead bestows ultimatums to Beckett and her team, threatening them to find the killer before he strikes again. I’m pretty sure they were going to do that anyway, so maybe he needs to start singing a different tune; or at the very least just stay in his office.

I’m still enjoying Beckett’s unwavering ability to do her job. She’s fierce in the interrogation room, pulling out photos and clues and egging the suspect on enough to get confessions with an ease that often appears to surprise Castle. She’s also pretty badass when it comes to gun fights as we saw last night, although Castle’s innovative champagne cork diversion was enough to make me smile.

Despite the perhaps predictable nature of the show (it is a procedural, after all), the characters on “Castle” continue to be engaging enough to keep me entertained. There is always the hope that they might be more: more intriguing, more layered, more dramatic, but the tone of “Castle” is fun, light and a little serious. I guess for a primetime, network drama, that’s about the best we can hope for.

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