Ninjas and geishas and old college friends who are doing better at life than you—oh my!
Most of us only have one pop culture reference for geishas, and that’s the 2005 movie starring Ziyi Zhang. Now we have this Castle episode, which proves that the American fascination with geishas is still alive and well. (The same holds true for ninjas, but if your five-year-old dressed up as one for Halloween last year—or as a Power Range—you already know this.) “The Way of the Ninja” introduced us to Jade, a young ballet dance whose murder sends Castle and Beckett on a wild ninja/geisha chase. Well, really Castle. Beckett has another catastrophe keeping her away from geisha-chasing and that’s the quintessential college friend whose living some fabulous dream life, galavanting off to fabulous foreign countries while you’re just going to work or something. And even someone with a cool job like Beckett feels like she can’t compete.
Beckett tries her best to avoid this meeting, but once she does her part on the case—ruling out the boyfriend and trying to convince Castle that a ninja was not at work (after an unknown assailant swipes the murder weapon from him in an abandoned building)—she is forced to let the guys handle things. Which, naturally, means that Castle, Ryan, and Esposito find themselves surrounded by beautiful, eager women at a modern-day geisha house AKA Miyago—a Japanese Hostess Bar. This is a bad idea in that Castle is a soon-to-be-married man who will later have to explain that the reason he didn’t call Beckett to save her from her dinner meeting with the friend was because he was kind of, sorta hanging out in a private room with one of the geishas. His semi-bad behavior is partly excused, since he does get a lead. Castle finds out that Jade had been targeting a particularly troublesome customer known for his involvement in illegal going-ons in the States and abroad.
After Castle and the guys are kicked out (and handed a $6,000 bill, because that’s how much it costs to even be in the presence of Japanese hostesses), Castle finally gets vindicated when they are attacked by real, live ninjas. Or, rather than attacked, they are caught in the middle of what appears to be a ninja fight. And once they track down the businessman/crime lord (Saito) who had been spending time with Jade, he naturally, denies any wrong doing. In addition to ninjas, the team is thrown off by a phony member of the Japanese consulate (who turns out to be Jade’s sister), but eventually they learn that Jade was an orphan. Scarring on her body shows that she had been a victim of an explosion in Okinawa. Her family had been attacked by the so-called Green Dragon (they believe it’s Saito), and Jade and her sisters were the only survivors. She’d travelled across the ocean Kill Bill-style seeking revenge for her family.
Along with the death of Jade, the other tragedy of the episode is the “death” of Beckett’s supercool, super-enviable friend. As it turns out, she’s settled down, gotten married, and has no cool stories to tell whatsoever. The experience, plus the slew of married men at the geisha house, inspires Beckett to beg Castle for an atypical marriage—you know, one of those cool marriages with actual romance and regular sex, and minimal boredom! It’s a lot to ask, but Castle agrees (and also later points out as they stand in the middle of the final “ninja” fight, that her fear of boredom is totally unwarranted).
By the end of the episode they discover that Jade’s boyfriend technically was involved in her death, as it becomes clear that she was dating him to get close to his father. They think the father is a business cohort of Saito’s, but the whole Japanese ninja tale gets turned on its head when they realize that the father (a white American) is actually the Green Dragon. Jade’s sister also explains to Castle, for the last time, that she is “merely a practitioner of the martial arts.” Sorry Castle, ninjas simply do not exist anymore.
Castle is great at re-creating pop culture stories and fun film plots (like the Devil Wears Prada-inspired storyline a few episodes back, and the Miley Cyrus-esque character as well). While “The Way of the Ninja” was fun, one wishes the nods to Quentin Tarantino (Jade is even described as having a bob like Uma Thurman’s in Pulp Fiction) or even Memoirs of a Geisha (did you catch the look-alike movie poster hanging up in Miyago?) might have been a bit stronger. Perhaps an O-Ren Ishii-style sword fight in the snow would have been asking for too much, but this is one time when the subtle inference didn’t quite do it. And the one misstep in the plot had to be the introduction of Jade’s sister, imitating a member of the Japanese consulate. When Beckett and Castle ask her about Jade’s parents, they get brushed off with a simple “they don’t speak English” bit, and their line of inquiry ends there? We know they’re better than that!
A single, stray observation:
Beckett’s upper-lid eyeliner throughout the entire episode was flawless. Is this a recent development? A nod to the geishas? Whatever it was, it worked. And werked.
Favorite Quote of the Episode: “The last thing I need is to watch someone from my past trying to seduce my fiancé while talking about the goddess that lives in her hoo-ha.” (Beckett)
Shannon M. Houston is a New York-based freelance writer, regular contributor to Paste, and occasional contributor to the human race via little squishy babies. You can follow her on Twitter.