Castle "The Wild Rover" Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin Ryan

By Alex Navarro

Mar 26, 2013

Castle S05E18: "The Wild Rover"


Kevin Ryan, as played by Seamus Dever, has never been the most outwardly fleshed-out character in the core Castle crew. What do we really know about Ryan, exactly? Well, apart from being the often-nervous counterpart to Jon Huertas's Javier Esposito, Ryan is a homicide detective who has a wife he loves very much, and currently he's engaged in a struggle to get her pregnant. We also know a little bit about his time working narcotics prior to his time in the homicide division, but outside of his steadfast dedication to the team and occasional bouts with anxiety, he's practically a blank slate.

Understanding this is why I'm able to at least appreciate the idea behind an episode like "The Wild Rover," if not the actual episode itself. While Esposito has gotten his share of screen time to shine as a solo creature, Ryan's mostly been relegated to back-up duty and comic relief. Seeing Dever get a chance to stretch his legs and do a bit more of the heavy lifting was a nice change of pace. I just wish the writers had given him a better episode.

Things started out typically enough. A local baker had been found murdered, shot in his own shop and left to bleed out into a vat of a chocolate. After Castle got through his expected confectionery wordplay, the investigation began in earnest, with a quick dig into the victim's life revealing connections to an Irish mob segment operating out of Staten Island. In order to shake some leads loose, the team brought in Siobhan  the owner of a bar that the mob was know to hang out in. She was uncooperative, as these sorts of people tend to be, but when she was being led through the precinct, a strange thing happened. She saw Ryan, standing there with his usual dopey grin, and ran up to him, planting a big honking kiss on his mouth. Right in front of his wife, no less. 

She also called him Fenton, then proceeded to slap him across the face when she realized he was actually a cop. What in the Irish Catholic interpretation of Hell was going on?

Quite a lot, it turned out. Little did we know that Ryan's time in narcotics involved some rather elaborate undercover work. For 14 months prior to his arrival in homicide, Ryan was in deep cover with this very same mob outfit, operating as a low-level hood within the organization. Ryan, as Fenton, had a past with Siobhan—the kind of past that existed prior to meeting his wife, but nonetheless made for an awkward conversation with the poor woman later on, as he tried to explain what'd happened in the precinct. 

As we quickly realized, Ryan's history with this group was perhaps the only way the team was going to solve this murder. Thanks to a handy info dump from a local FBI agent, they learned that the dead chef was an informant, as was Siobhan  They had been working to try and acquire a "bible" (a book filled with notes and transactions pertaining to criminal activity, because what a great thing for criminals to keep around) that was locked in mob boss Bobby S.'s home safe. Ryan was on the same level as Bobby back in the day, but now Bobby was in charge, and the presumption was that he had the chef whacked when he learned the guy was a snitch. So Ryan had to go undercover again to try and grab the bible, as well as any evidence that might tie Bobby to the murder.

I was on board with a surprising amount of set-up in "The Wild Rover." I say surprising because I initially had a tough time imagining Ryan as a character with the kind of brass necessary to play the part of "badass undercover cop." But damn if Dever didn't do a fine job slipping right into the persona of Fenton. Granted, Fenton might have been one of the most generically "street tough" street toughs I've ever seen in a TV cop drama, but Dever made the character work. He veered just far enough from Ryan's typical "aw shucks" persona, while not suddenly turning into some overwhelming badass. I believed enough of what he was doing, if that makes sense.

The problem, though, was that the writing in "The Wild Rover" didn't allow for nearly enough detail to make the mystery seem even remotely interesting or believable. There was probably a solid two-episode arc here, but it all got crammed into a single episode's worth of exposition, which meant that large sections were glossed over, or seemingly skipped altogether. A limp attempt was made to establish Bobby's primary underling, Liam, as a threat to both Ryan and Bobby, but he had so few lines and opportunities for genuine menace that I honestly kept forgetting what his role in the whole thing meant to be. Never mind that the whole "bible" thing was resolved within 15 minutes of it even being brought up, and the fact that the whole murder was essentially tied up with a brief "Oh, wait!" moment at the tail end of the episode. 

I guess my complaint is this: If you're going to take a character like Ryan, who has mostly been a reliable amusement up to this point, and give him a major, hyperserious story arc out of nowhere, give that arc some room to breathe. Build it up, don't just shove it out in the open and get it over with as quickly as possible. I wanted more Ryan in peril. I wanted more from Ryan's wife than just "I just want him to come home," while looking sad. I wanted more from Castle and Beckett and Esposito than just some random readings of the same dialogue every undercover cop movie and TV show has vomited out ad nauseam. I felt like in a longer version of this story, there might've actually been stuff for those characters to do. But they were barely on camera, let alone useful.

Still, if nothing else, kudos to Seamus Dever for taking an episode so barely conceived and running with it. He made Kevin Ryan a more interesting character last night, even if the writers failed to do the same.


NOTES

– I grew up with a girl named Siobhan who used to get deeply infuriated with my inability to pronounce her name. Seeing Castle struggle with it just made me feel a little bit better about myself. 

– Dear "The Mob": Maybe you should stop keeping detailed records of every horrible thing you do, because it always seems to result in evidence against you being shockingly easy to obtain. I mean, it's like nobody even watched Casino.  

– Castle popping out from behind that corner, nervously whining that he forgot his vest, was maybe one of my favorite Nathan Fillion moments all season.

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  • AdaHui Apr 02, 2013

    Totally loved this episode. When Javi got to be badass a few weeks ago, I was wishing Ryan got the same treatment. The end where he called out for his "crew" was awesome.

  • Veronikamdov Mar 30, 2013

    Actually I wish we can have this Ryan every episode.. insted of solid-boring-baby making-married to someone with whom he has no chemistry at all. For the first time I realise that the actor is actually very handsome:)

  • kanniballl Mar 29, 2013

    Too late to matter, but I will chime in something about the episode.

    I thought the reveal was going to be: Jordon == Hal Jordan, Green Lantern. That he was dreaming he was Hal Jordan and was embarassed to tell Kate.

    It would have been a nice inside joke since Nathan voiced Hal Jordan once. And had a humorous "Funny of Die" bit about it (or some sort of joke video).

  • JakeSip Mar 28, 2013

    To be honest, I didn't buy badass Ryan at all. I thought it seemed too OOC. I did love Ryan's scenes with Siobhan though. They had great chemistry. Ryan and Jenny have a terrible, almost brother-sister sort of chemistry so I wasn't expecting much from him and Siobhan, but boy did those two deliver! They would make a hot couple on the show. He should have kissed her good-bye, at least.

  • ErlendJohanne Mar 27, 2013

    I think it's worth mentioning that the "local FBI agent" wasn't just ANY local FBI agent. It was actually the rather awesome Captain David Aceveda from "The Shield" (well of course just the same actor, but you know what I mean...). And it was good to see an old (but not forgotten) hero again!

  • Vicky8675309 Mar 28, 2013

    yeah but whenever I see him I think "mouthwash"...

  • mcepin3 Mar 27, 2013

    After last week's episode,this one was much better and I enjoyed it. For better or worse,at least it wasn't like last week's.

  • tamaabi Mar 27, 2013

    I really loved the Kevin we got to discover in this episode. I do agree that one episode made the whole thing feel rushed and glossed over, though. It's a pity. I do hope the writing of Ryan's character will get the slight change I'd expect from something like that happening. I was a bit disappointed with the reunion with his wife but then again, no time to make it better. All the Kudos to Seamus Dever.
    As for the others, yeah, a bit behind. Castle's popping out from behind the corner was amazing though and I found his story about *Jordan* pretty sweet.

  • Shreela Mar 27, 2013

    It's nice to see an ep different than usual, without being silly with "do do doo" music clues like last week.

  • Televisioneer Mar 27, 2013

    Where is Captain Gates? She on vacation? She hasn't been in the squad room lately. And don't even attempt to tell me she didn't notice the displays of affection between Castle and Beckett when Alexis was kidnapped.

  • anngel421 Mar 27, 2013

    did anyone get the Jordan explanation? I get the redemption story, I get that its the name of the car company but I must have missed the line on how they connect.

  • Gully_Foyle Mar 27, 2013

    The first time Castle got praised for his writing at school was for a story about the car company. Except he didn't write it, he paid someone else to do it.
    After getting all of the accolades little Richard decided he should learn how to write so he could earn all the applause he got for the story he didn't write. And he keeps writing to try and be as good a writer as the person he paid to write for him.

    Now will somebody pass the bucket.

    Although if the secret scribe really was that good wouldn't they also be a best-selling author?

  • anngel421 Mar 27, 2013

    gotcha. thanks for that. now that you mention it... maybe its a small slip in to introduce another novel writer on the show.

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