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

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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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.
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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:)
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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).
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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.
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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!
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yeah but whenever I see him I think "mouthwash"...
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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.
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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.
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It's nice to see an ep different than usual, without being silly with "do do doo" music clues like last week.
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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.
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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.
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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?

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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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Another great episode! Though less Castle, he stole every scene he was in!
And it was nice to see Ryan in the spotlight!
I need more, now!!
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We need to talk about writers using the "We need to talk about Kevin" title wherever there's a Kevin to be talked about. Already saw one on TV.com for Community and others in countless other places...
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I laughed intensly when Castle came out of the corner saying he didn't have his vest. I thought Ryan was about to die just before Siobahn came into the picture as the mole. Pretty good episode. Hoping to see more like this one.
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It wasn't Castle that struggled, it was Esposito. Castle came and looked at it and got it right away.
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She wanted to know more of Ryan, hell I say be more of Fenton. The episode started and ended in matter of minutes and yes I left with the feeling to watch more of it. I think Ryan had an episode before too but this one shines brightly and the writers and producers should've stretch it to at least 2 episodes.

There were many good moments, like that kiss followed by a couple of slaps right in-front of EVERYONE including the wife. "Yes Explain that.", good thing that he could.

Than grabbing the gun out of that big guy like he was nothing, that was shocking considering it was Ryan. And than standing up with the trust and on a blind faith that his partners were there by the time he was laying all his guns on the ground. The silence was like "Oh boy! He is screwed big time now." But good to see it worked out great.

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i like Kevin Ryan but unlike.....everybody, i don't like him enough to want to see while episodes of just him with minimal screen time for the rest of the characters...idk I just missed my dose of Castle and Becket (that Jordan thing was useless they should have swapped it out for something else)....ok episode I just found myself thinking it was too long...which is how I knew I wasn't that into it
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*while= whole....womp womp womp
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I quite enjoyed watching Ryan as Fenton, and yes the episode's script was rather weak so I guess Dever tried his best! At least it was better than last week's. Which by the way was so boring I cannot even remember what it was a about now!
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I really liked that moment where Esposito showed his respect for Ryan. Kudos for both actors!
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I have fallen in love with Kevin Ryan, probably more than I think the writers have. It definitely seems like he is just there for a good joke now and then, so I was ecstatic for this episode. I personally think that every moment with Ryan as Fenton was gold. But like you, I feel like everything outside the undercover op was a little sloppy.

Why did they have to add on a "twist" at the end? They should have just made Bobby or even the sidekick the killer. The end. No need for a twist. If they had cut all of the scenes of, "Oh, wait. That's not true." then they could have fleshed out Ryan being the belly of the beast better. I would have even liked to see Ryan get hurt. C'mon, writers. One of the best Ryan moments was seeing Ryan being tortured for information in the ice bath, and him laughing in their faces. We know he's a secret badass, so he can handle a little paint! Give it to us already.

Anyway. This episode just made me love Kevin Ryan even more, and now I'll be aching for the new Ryan-focused episode in, like, 2 seasons... Ha.
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I do agree that this should have been a 2 parts episode. After all, if the FBI have been trying to get this "Bible' for many years from the Irish Mob, there should have been a bit more challenge in the doing. The password scheme, I will admit, was, a very easy way out..
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Low humor moment of the episode: Ryan goes to produce a "sample", cut to Castle saying, "So, master baker..." Middle-school writers maybe?
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Low humor, maybe. But still damn funny.
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Maybe not the best of Castle but IMO the best Castle episode this season. Also proves my point Castle can be funny without being silly like last week's "scared to death" episode. Ryan's initial encounter with Siobhan in the Squad room; the team's stunned reaction when he tells them he and Bobby S used to run in the same crew; Ryan including Castle in his "crew" and Castle popping around the corner whining about not having his vest - all hilarious.
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I adored this episode it was so awesome seeing a totally different side of Kevin Ryan, although it was a bit unbelievable at times and I would of loved a flashback I truly enjoyed letting Ryan get his time in the spotlight! I loved how Ryan called out the rest of the gang I didn't think it was cheesy at all! I loved Castle's comment on forgetting his vest, so hilarious! I am crazy excited to see how this season of Castle ends!
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Kudos to Seamus Dever for a great episode. It would have been great as a 2-parter, but it was still really good. Dever tweeted that Nathan Fillion ad libbed the line about not having his vest.
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I loved that moment when Castle popped around the corner, it was so funny.

I also like that Ryan's wife is pregnant, there could soon be a little baby around
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As the episode ended I was thinking the same thing! First of all, Dever was wonderful in this episode, he made Kevin Ryan shine as he brought a new side of him that we didn't know and that was very very convincing, so kudos. But yes, I also believe this would have been so much better and the crime itself more interesting and the other's involvement as well if it'd been a two or three episode arc. Too bad. I liked it.
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Well - who's to say we'll not see more of Fenton? Now that the crew has a bona fide undercover agent, they cold use him for all sorts of fun and exciting missions...?
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Doubtful. He said he was a cop when they got him, so it's not like the Irish mob doesn't know that Fenton was NYPD Detective Kevin Ryan...
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I really enjoyed this episode. I completely agree they tried to cram just way too much into one episode for it to really work. However, Seamus Dever did an amazing job never the less. Not going to lie, I enjoy the Ryan-centric episodes much more than the Esposito-centric ones. I just enjoy the straight man dry wit of Ryan more than the slapstick humor of Esposito.
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I really liked the episode, and altough it would have made a good arc I thought it worked as is as well. However I was bugged by Ryan calling his pals out at the big reveal - it was corny . especially Becketts "You called, Ryan?". Though I agree Castle was funny.

I like this episode most as a contrast to the episode that centered on Esposito and that kid, which I thought was a rather awful episode that I didn't buy at all - I bought this one with Ryan.

I also liked the more personal stuff, although It would have been more fun if Beckett had been more pissed at Castle for calling someone elses name in his sleep. Esposito flirting with Lanie and falling flat was great. Im looking forward to the 100th and is hoping for a 100 more!
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I figured it out the instance the heavenly Christina Cox appeared on the screen. Past TV-series star relegated to glorified extra with like 3 lines of dialog? Suuuuuurrree

Typical TV-crime stuff... you see an actor/actress that used to star in stuff suddenly appear with practically NO dialog... chances are they get a pay-off monologue at the end about "why the did it"

As for Christina Cox, it was nice seeing her again. I used to have a crush on her.
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Haha, this is soo true! Its the same in every show - its as if there arn't enough actors in Hollywood that they have to keep using the same ones. If you see a vaguely familiar face you can bet its the villain!
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Indeed, and I have written several posts about this phenomenon around here lately. But actually it doesn't always apply to female characters. At least not AS often as with male ones. B-actresses can just as easily be brought on the show for eye candy and glamour alone...
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My only issue with the episode was the way the episode was talked up I thought we'd see a bigger change in Ryan, possibly some violent altercation besides giving the gun to the mob boss. It was good... just as I said, thought there would be more.
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Great episode
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While I agree that this should have been a two episode arc, I did enjoy this episode more than most. In fact, I would have enjoyed it more than any other Castle episode this season (other than Target and Hunt, of course), if it weren't for that pesky Jordan thing. I thought we had gotten over these annoying little misunderstandings between Castle and Beckett, or at least, I had hoped as much. Seriously, they annoy me to no end. The only way I would actually take these pesky, meaningless arguments seriously is if, for once, one of them turned out to actually be serious. Because I doubt no one going into this episode actually thought that Jordan would turn out to be a woman Castle was cheating on Beckett with, or even a past girlfriend of his for that matter. I myself expected Jordan to be a childhood dog, or something like that. So I doubt many of us were surprised when Jordan ended up being some dude that Castle had paid to do an assignment for him way back when, and was in no way something that could possibly have affected Castle and Beckett's relationship in any way. Which means that, once again, he should have simply told Becket the truth when she first brought it up, thereby saving everyone a lot of groans and eye-rolls. The real mystery is why he would say that guys name multiple times in his sleep, since all of that was decades ago.

But all that Jordan annoyance aside, I admired this episode for several reasons. First of all, as Alex pointed out, Ryan got his own episode for once. And what's more, he got to go undercover in the Irish mob, and did a great job of it. Also, I admired the show for not making Ryan's wife overly jealous with him, or angry at him, or anything like that. I'm not sure if "admire" is really the right word, as it's more that I'm surprised the writers didn't take that route, since that's what I expected them to do, as it's the kind of thing they've done in the past. But no, for once a serious couple on this show actually handled things like adults, and Ryan's wife was more worried for his safety than anything. Thankfully, she didn't suspect that he was cheating on her, or that he really loved that Irish woman from his past instead of her, because, you know, they're married and have been trying for a ridiculously long time to have a child. In the real world, you would expect this to mean that Ryan and his wife have a strong level of trust between the two of them, and it was nice to see real world conventions making an appearance in this episode, especially where adult relationships are concerned.

And it's not like this episode needed any conflict like that between Ryan and his wife. No, there was plenty of conflict what with Ryan going back in undercover, after seven years no less, into an organisation that happened to be in a state of high suspicion. And while I agree that everything about this case was way too rushed (The killer didn't even confess at the end of the episode, for crying out loud. For once we had to take Castle and Beckett's word for it.), what we did see of Ryan re-infiltrating the mob was on a level of television rarely seen on this show. That scene were he easily took out the second in command, took his weapon, and then immediately put it in Bobby S's hand and aimed it at his own head, was absolutely brilliant. It was nice for everyone to actually be invested in solving a murder, as opposed to how they normally treat everything as business as usual. Which, in their defense, it is; but, it was still a treat to see the NYPD, and even Castle, actually take solving a murder seriously, all those chocolate and baker jokes aside. I just wish this show raised its stakes more often, since it wasn't like the show got too serious or anything (I agree with Alex that the part where Ryan called out Castle as part of his squad was arguably the best Nathan Fillion moment of the season, and definitely one of the funniest moments of the entire show).

Anyway, it's nice when the main complaint I have about a Castle episode is that the material was so good, it should have been put into a two-episode arc instead of a stand-alone episode. And this would be my main complaint about this episode, if it weren't for that moronic Jordan thing. Still, this was certainly one of my favorite Castle episodes ever, even though the actual mystery part of it was obvious from the beginning, and was treated like some sort of side story that no one really cared about. It was especially nice to see an episode like this after Scared to Death, last week's annoyingly childish stumble around. Castle can be a great show when it raises its stakes a little, and stands up on its legs like an adult; I just wish it did this more often.
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well said!
I thought Jordan was going to be a jeweler or something along that line and Castle was trying to surprise Kate with a ring (or something). I was wrong and I wish the whole Jordan thing was left out. Otherwise I was thrilled that Ryan was the focus of the episode (cool pool shot) and agree it should of been over the course of two episodes.
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It was only a few episodes ago that Castle's ex-wife made Kate realize that he's not big about sharing big-time personal stuff. As big as his Peter Pan complex is, he tends to learn as much as he can about the people he loves but a lot of his life he plays close to the vest. And it was one of the things that led to Castle's divorce

Which left Kate with a big "uh oh" moment when Kate realized that she didn't know as much about his past as she does his.

So this reveal was nice... if for no other reason that to show him trying to break that trend.
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I didn't really see it that way. I mean, I'm fully aware that Castle keeps things close to the vest, and a large part of this show has been about him slowly trusting Kate with more and more information about himself. And Kate certainly did have that big "uh oh" moment when she realized she didn't know a lot about Castle's past. However, the whole Jordan thing didn't seem to have much to do with the big issue of Castle's past and Kate being worried that there's so much more to this man that she loves, almost like she doesn't know him at all. Because the Jordan thing wasn't actually serious, and at no point was it treated as such.

Kate didn't actually seem worried about it at any point in this episode. Sure, she hesitated about kissing Castle at the very beginning; but, the entire time she was pressing Castle about Jordan, she didn't actually seem worried or unhappy or anything like that. In fact, most of the episode she was smiling through all that Jordan banter, or playfully pushing Castle about. I may have taken the Jordan thing more seriously if Kate actually took it seriously herself. But she didn't, and partly because of that, I didn't.

Also, it's not like this is the first time that Beckett and Castle have mildly bickered about something through an episode, only for it to turn out to be something that they could easily have cleared up in the beginning. In fact, the whole beginning section of this season was filled with things like that, to the extent that it got very old very fast. Alex even pointed that out in one of his articles. So while I can see why you found this reveal nice, since I don't think anyone would have liked it if Castle revealed that there's another woman he used to be in love with that he still dreams about, as that would bring unneeded tension and conflict to the Caskett relationship, I didn't really see it as breaking any trends. If anything, it was bringing back a trend that I had hoped was long dead.
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A new relationship between 2 stubborn adults who also happen to work together.

What planet are you from, where bickering doesn't happen in that scenario? I want to visit!
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As much as I wished that it was longer, I loved getting some insight into Ryan's past, and damn did Seamus Dever do such a good job in this episode. I thought this was definitely better than Esposito's episode and I thought the case was pretty good, thinking about all they had to pack in in a typical 42 minute episode. Although ideally a two parter I thought this was still one of the strongest episodes of the season and I had a whole newfound respect for Ryan as this episode ended.
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It was all right. A lot better than Esposito's episode not too long ago. I do agree that it should have been drawn out more over two episodes. If they want to give them more screen time. Do another big conspiracy type episode but have them take the lead. Do another serial killer, or nuclear threat something that is good, but can be wrapped up in a couple episodes.
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God no!

Let's keep the nation wide security risk/nuclear attacks at a minimum. This is Castle not 24.

I liked the episode, would I have preferred a 2 episode arc? Yup sure would.

However I'll settle for more Ryan whenever 3XK shows his ugly face again, it's not just Castle having a score to settle with that man.
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Esposito was the person having trouble saying Sibohan

I'm pretty sure Ryan did not need to get that slight haircut to go undercover, Sibohan recognized him easy enough

It would have been better over 2 episodes and the whole Jordan detail was unnecessary
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