7.0

Castle Review: “Once Upon a Time in the West”

(Episode 7.07)

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<i>Castle</i> Review: &#8220;Once Upon a Time in the West&#8221;

As far as Castle episodes go, this one was fun, but as far as Castle episodes during sweeps go, it was kinda… eh. There was nothing wrong with it per se, but I feel like the writers missed some opportunities. I mean, is there anything more squee-worthy for a Browncoat than Caskett in the old west? But not one Mal gag. And yeah, I know they’ve done that, but a guy can dream, can’t he?

Last week I was pretty sure that the rest of the gang would be pissed off when they found out that Rick and Kate had gotten married without them, and of course I was right. And grudges were held for about as long as I would have guessed, too. Captain Gates understood right off the bat, Lanie held out for multiple desserts, and Javi and Ryan whined about it like a couple of babies. Par for the course.

Jurisdictional issues aside, Caskett heads off to a dude ranch in Arizona to catch them a killer, and while I was pretty excited by the possibilities, the episode mostly disappointed me. Sure, there was the crusty old bartender, the cheating gambler with an ace up his sleeve, and the convenient rattlesnake, but it felt like there was fertile ground to be exploited, here. And speaking of exploited, what was the deal with the skin-tight black catsuit (with a corset!) that Beckett ended up in? Don’t get me wrong, I think Stana Katic is stunning, but it felt like… too much.

It’s like they took a regular episode of Castle, moved it to a dude ranch, and left it at that. That the plot involved the search for stolen 19th century US treasury gold made this feel more like City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold, than an episode of Castle. The set piece with the rattler and the scared horses making off with the wagon was right out of Slapstick Westerns: 101. And Beckett starts to strip in the middle of nowhere, around a campfire? Really?

To be honest, the best part about this episode was the guest stars. Gravel-voiced Keith Szarabajka (Angel), Dale Midkiff (Time Traxx!) and Molly Hagen (Some Kind of Wonderful) made this one all kinds of “name that movie/TV show” fun, but it wasn’t enough (and Hagen’s part was way too small).

A couple of this year’s episodes feel like the writers are phoning it in. Maybe it’s due to creator Andrew Marlowe’s departure as showrunner, maybe it’s just the difficulty of keeping it fresh over more than 125 episodes, but for whatever the reason, two out of the seven episodes this year have been kind of meh, and that’s not a great percentage.

Other thoughts:

• I loved the continuity of Beckett showing her scar in that low-cut wedding dress at the end of the episode. It shows that she’s more comfortable with what happened to her—and that the makeup department has a memory!

• Cell phones in the old west: Castle was right when he told Ryan that it was killing the vibe.

• “Keep an eye out?” Really?

• I know captain Gates likes to be called sir, but her referring to the whining Espo and Javi as “little schoolgirls” bugged me. I try not to get too PC, but for a female police captain to use that language rang false to me.

• What I wouldn’t give to see Beckett in hog-tying class!

Mark Rabinowitz is a Louisville-based freelance writer, film producer, and regular contributor to Paste. He is the co-founder of Indiewire.com and a former film critic for CNN.com. He thinks David Bowie is god and has taken a real shine to pimento cheese. You can follow him on Twitter.

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