A Castle Community
Monday 10:00 PM on ABC (Returning September 29, 2014)
The last two weeks we've seen some exceptional, solid episodes. "In the Belly of the Beast" felt like a two-parter, gave Beckett some standalone time to shine, and did wonders for the long-term story of the show by reintroducing Bracken. And "The Way of the Ninja" created a unique little world into which our characters were thrown, it had ninjas, and it had frickin' ninjas. In comparison, this week's episode "The Greater Good," was a bit of a grab bag. It wasn't a bad episode, but it wasn't as tight and contained as the episodes we've been getting recently. Because while there were plenty of good aspects to "The Greater Good," I certainly felt like it was all over the place. And through its own fault it also happened to be a bit underwhelming, something which I'll get into later.

First of all, though, this week's episode had a title that actually worked really well. Now, historically Castle has had some great episode names. The two-parter "Tick, Tick, Tick..." and "Boom!" easily come to mind. But lately, the show has been throwing some pretty lame titles at us. You see, the purpose of a title is to give us an idea of what we'll find in the main body of work. And great titles will not only do this, but even pack a wallop of meaning that greatly improves the full experience once you have read/watched the work and heard the title. The title is supposed to be the soul, while the book/film/episode is the body. But that really hasn't been happening lately.

"Smells Like Teen Spirit," and "The Way of the Ninja," are two lousy titles near which I can still hear the echoes of my groans. The first one did have a lot of teens in it, but didn't feature spirit or the sense of smell in any particular way. And the second one gave us a large helping of ninjas, but was in no sense about a way of ninjas, or a guideline/spiritual path that ninjas follow. I mean, it's obvious that they just took two fairly common, well known phrases (a Nirvana song and a way of life that may or may not have actually existed) and slapped them onto the episode. I mean, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" didn't even appear in "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

"The Greater Good," on the other hand, actually serves as a proper title. This week's episode was all about what should and should not be done for the greater good. How many laws should you bend, and how many should you outright break, in order to make society a better place? Is it worth it to ruin one man's life in order to improve the lives of hundreds? These were all questions that Castle addressed this week. And they served to tie the episode together and give it purpose.

However, I did mention that "The Greater Good" was something of a grab bag. A large part of this had to do with the case. Well, not so much the case itself, but the comparison that it made. Just as Esposito said in "Hunt" that Castle was going all "Liam Neeson" in order to make a comparison to the movie Taken, Castle made a reference this week to The Wolf of Wall Street. And indeed, this episode's case bore a lot of similarities to the academy nominated film. They just weren't the similarities I was hoping for.

The case revolved around a the murder of a futures trader at the fictional company of J.P. Harding (At least I assume it isn't real. I didn't check, but damn that would take guts to actually use a real company name in an episode where the boss is the big bad villain). The victim, Peter Cordero, had been shot in the chest. And afterwards, the killer had opened his shirt, looking for something. Now, in the opening of the episode we happened to see a suspicious woman taking a picture of the dead victim. So it was clear that this wasn't just a simple "robbery gone wrong" situation, not that it ever is on this show.


The NYPD had been notified of the crime via an anonymous tip to 911. Surveillance was able to catch the woman who made the call, who not surprisingly turned out to be the one who took the picture. This woman was now their prime suspect, and they were prepared to search high and low for her. Except they didn't have to look far, as she took that moment to walk right into the station along with Elizabeth Western, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District (played by Eureka's Salli Richardson-Whitfield). Gates recognized the U.S. Attorney right away, because Elizabeth was actually her sister.




That's right, after three seasons we finally got a Gates centric episode. Now, I realize that she isn't as popular a character as...well...everyone probably. She was late to the game, and by that time even Martha had legions of fans behind her. But Gates is still an interesting character, or more realistically, she has the potential to be interesting. And after three seasons, it's surprising that the only episode that featured her in a significant way (other than when she was introduced) is the one where we learned that she likes collectable dolls. That's it. I mean, I'm still waiting for that Esposito centric episode ("Under Fire" was both Ryan and Esposito centric, and didn't focus solely on Esposito like "The Wild Rover" did for Ryan), but at least we know quite a bit about the guy.

So it was nice that we got an episode that filled in a lot of the gaps in Gates' backstory, which up to this moment were only filled in by fanfictions (Is there a lot of Gates fanfiction?). We got to meet Gates' sister, and as things tend to go in television, their relationship was easily summed up by one key difference between the two. In the past, Elizabeth had an important case that relied on the testimony of a crooked cop, and Gates (who was with Internal Affairs at the time) chose to charge the cop with the crimes he had committed, and her sister's case failed. Fast-forward several years later, and the two sisters still hated each other for this very reason. Elizabeth believed that it is right to make moral sacrifices and bend the law for the greater good, while Victoria is unwilling to sacrifice her morals or the law for anything, except when it comes to Castle and Beckett's relationship, of course.

But now the two sisters were forced to work together. Peter Cordero had been a confidential informant in an ongoing investigation that Elizabeth was running into J.P. Harding. He had been wearing a wire the night he'd been killed. The mysterious woman they'd been looking for turned out to be Stephanie Goldmark (Laurie Fortier), an assistant U.S. attorney who had been Cordero's handler. According to her, she'd gone to his place that night to meet and retrieve his wire, but when she got there he was dead and his wire was missing.

So now Victoria and Elizabeth's departments were investigating the same thing: J.P. Harding. Now, this is the part of "The Greater Good" where the episode itself seemed intent on being underwhelming. Earlier, Castle had made a comment about The Wolf of Wall Street, and as I mentioned earlier, there were a number of similarities. Both the movie and the episode dealt with Wall Street tycoons who used insane business practices to make an obscene amount of money. And in both cases not all of these practices were strictly legal.

But here's where the similarities end. Because "The Greater Good" didn't even come close to living up to The Wolf of Wall Street. In "Hunt," Castle tortured a guy, and he and his father (mostly his father) went full on badass to rescue Alexis. But in "The Greater Good," we got only one scene in which stock brokers acted a little over the top. It also happened to be the introduction to the victim's boss, Jamie Berman (Kevin Kilner).




Now, in any other context the behavior exhibited by Berman and the stockbrokers in that room would have been excessive, if not extreme. Except, once again, minutes ago Castle had just referenced The Wolf of Wall Street. If you're looking to watch a bunch of excessively wealthy people do really crazy, stupid, extreme, criminal, and downright abhorrent things, then that movie is for you. It also happens to be a really good film in general; I highly recommend it. Just keep in mind that the characters in that movie go way over the top in just about every way they can. But in "The Greater Good," all these guys did was say some vaguely violent things, throw a large stack of money down on a table, and then chant and point at said table. That was it.

And to top it off, Berman himself apologized for the behavior, calling it "theatrics." This man was no Jordan Belfleur, that much was certain. Even so, in reference to what they'd just seen, Castle said "and here I thought the stories of Wall Street excess were exaggerated." Now, once again, I would probably agree with him if it weren't for the fact that I was still comparing this episode to The Wolf of Wall Street (which by the way is the same source material that Castle was presumably referencing when he mentioned stories of Wall Street's excess in the first place). And in comparison, promising someone a million dollars in cash for acquiring a presumably much larger account isn't close to being excessive. It's downright economical.

Excessive is (Thar be spoilers throughout this paragraph for The Wolf of Wall Street, so bewar) buying every single drug on the market in bulk. Excessive is buying a gigantic custom-made yacht with a heli-pad, driving it through a storm, and then not losing a single night's sleep when it's torn apart and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. Excessive is throwing hundred dollars bills into the ocean because they may as well be tissue paper. These are all excessive things that happened in the movie, but nothing like this appeared in the episode. Yet I was really expecting them too, this being Castle and all. One of the great things about this show is that it continually showcases the strange and crazy things that actually exist in the real world (and one or two things that don't). People with actual conditions that make their skin burn up in the sunlight, zombie walks and puffer fish toxin, and Steampunk clubs. But oddly enough, Castle's portrayal of Wall Street this week was pretty darn tame.

I think a big reason for this has to do with the main problem that ”The Greater Good" had. It was too crowded. Just look at the various steps that Castle and Beckett took to solve the case. They met with Elizabeth (Gates' sister) and Goldmark (her assistant) to discover the case against J.P. Harding, they interviewed and interrogated Berman (the victim's boss), found out from a gang member that the victim had wanted a gun, and finally learned from a Venezuelan Consulate official that Cordero had been funneling money to himself and applied for a Venezuelan passport under his birth name. While we did get to spend a satisfactory amount of time with some of these characters (Elizabeth and Berman especially), there wasn't a whole lot of world exploration going on Other than that one scene at J.P. Morgan that I've already discussed, the only other scenes we got of Berman and other people from that world were somewhere other than Wall Street.

I think that "The Greater Good" would have been better served if it covered less ground, and instead focused on the world of Wall Street and the Elizabeth/Gates sister dynamic. Sure, the mystery itself was intriguing, and the trail that led Castle and Beckett through the various people who had been connected to the victim was well thought out. It craftily brought our heroes to the murderer through a number of twists and turns. But too often while I was watching this episode I felt like the scenes were rushed, and a number of characters and places were left undeveloped.

On the plus side, the "whodunit" aspect of "The Greater Good" was excellent. It turned out that Goldmark was actually the killer. I thought it was an especially clever move to have her do something really suspicious in the beginning of the episode (take a picture of the dead victim's chest). This season has treated us to a number of openings that have featured people being suspicious next to a body, while in reality they weren't the killer. Season Six has been training us to immediately disregard these people from our list of suspects. So having one of these people actually be the killer worked very well.

Now, it would have been nice if Goldmark had showed up in a few more scenes (the more time you've spent with a character -- and the better you understand and recognize them -- the more effective the murderer reveal will be). But she still made enough of a splash at the beginning of the episode that I, at least, remembered exactly who she was when she showed up at the end to be unmasked as the killer. She was certainly far more memorable than all those family members, friends, and roommates that Castle (and just about every show of its kind) likes to churn out.

More than most episodes, I also think we got a complete picture of Goldmark's reasons for committing her crimes. And it wasn't a coincidence that the writers put so much focus on her motives, seeing as they tied directly into the theme (and title) of the episode: the greater good. Goldmark framed Cordero to get him on possession of cocaine, solely to force him into being a CI. In her mind, ruining one man's life was well worth saving many others. Berman was a man who needed to be brought to justice by any means necessary.

Unfortunately, framing Cordero came back to bite her. Angry over the injustice that had been done to him, Cordero went out of his way to derail the investigation, while at the same time he planned on leaving the country with a hefty payoff. So Goldmark killed Cordero, hoping that what she had done wouldn't be discovered, along with the harm to the case that the reluctant CI had caused. Naturally, this taught Elizabeth a valuable lesson: the greater good isn't worth sacrificing morals or seemingly less important laws.

Or at least, that's the lesson the writers conveyed through a single contrived instance of someone bending the law for the greater good backfiring. I realize that Castle isn't The Wire or anything, but this message did seem a bit forced. It also seemed out of place on this show, considering the staggering amount of times that our heroes have bent and broken the rules for the greater good. I mean, Castle straight up tortured a guy in order to rescue Alexis, and the writers didn't throw even a single consequence his way

Anyway, the killer was caught and Gates and Elizabeth had a long overdue reconciliation. I'd personally like to see Elizabeth more often (she could ask for their help with difficult cases), but that's probably not going to happen. This being Castle, recurring characters are very rare; and, when they do show up again, it's usually very sparingly. I mean, Castle's own father has only been in three episodes, and that's including a two-parter. No, we're far more likely to see Pi again than we will Gates' sister. But still, the relationship between the two characters underwent a significant arc in this episode. It ended with Elizabeth promising to bring Berman to justice the right way.







I did think it was strange that the tone at the end of the episode was so bright and happy, considering that Jamie Berman -- someone who had been built up to be a far worse villain than Goldmark -- won the battle. While I realize the fact that Gates and her sister reunited was of greater importance to the show, everyone still seemed uncharacteristically cavalier about the fact that the J.P. Harding case is now in a very bad place. After all, a key member of the prosecution just got arrested for murdering their most important CI, Berman now knows that he's being investigated, and he knows exactly what the prosecution does and doesn't know.

More importantly, I really don't see why they didn't arrest him for obstructing a murder investigation. After spending about ten minutes of research, I can tell you that by omitting one key fact -- that he knew Cordero had dropped off his wire the night of his murder -- alone would be grounds for him to go to jail for five years. Not to mention that he straight up lied to the NYPD on multiple occasions throughout the episode. Seriously, they had an airtight case against him. And since the case obstructed was a federal criminal case (first degree murder is a federal crime), he could be given up to the maximum sentence of the crime he obstructed. So he could have actually served a longer jail sentence for obstructing justice, than he ever would for white collar crime. But even if he only got sentenced for five years in the five years, they could use that time he'd be in jail to build up a strong and ethically sound case against him for the far more heinous crimes he's presumably committed. After all, it's easier to dig up information on someone when they're in jail and can do a lot less to thwart you. So yeah, I think even a rookie cop should've thought of that. But whatever, this is Castle. None of these events will have any effect on future episodes.

As per usual, in addition to the A story of the case we got a B story involving Castle and Beckett's upcoming wedding. You know, considering the fact that this wedding is presumably happening in only four episodes, it's still pretty much unplanned. The only concrete part of the process that they've actually acquired is the dress. That's it. They still don't even have a vague notion of where their wedding will take place, much less reserved a venue. And as we learned in this episode: they haven't even sent out save-the-dates. Because the B story this week consisted of Castle and Beckett trying to figure out who, and how many people, they wanted to invite.

At the start of this episode, Beckett and Castle were still having trouble determining even the most basic of details about where their wedding should take place. So Castle thought that it would be practical to first determine just how many people they wanted to invite, which would then strongly influence how big a space their wedding should/needs to take place in. The best part of this opening bit is that it included a Doctor Suess-ian poem.



The main problem they faced was that there were just too many people that they felt should attend. So at the end of the episode, they agreed to spend exactly one minute writing down everyone they thought absolutely had to be there. In one of those "aww" moments, they both wrote down "you." So either they're both really good friends with someone who must hate his/her name by now, or they only need each other for their wedding to be perfect. This was nice, except for the fact that they still realized they needed to invite a lot of other people. So in terms of actually planning their wedding, nothing was accomplished in this episode.

But maybe it's best to not look at this like Castle and Beckett are terrible at planning their own wedding (they are). Rather, the writers are trying to find a way to keep the upcoming wedding a topic of conversation and a vehicle for character development/exploration, while not actually giving away too many details about what the wedding will actually be like. After all, it's been pretty well spelled out on the show that the finale will feature the wedding (as well it should). And one of the quickest ways you can take the sails out of a finale is by spelling out exactly what's going to happen. So the fact that Beckett and Castle still haven't nailed down a venue, or even know anything about what kind of venue they're looking for (besides the fact that it will be on Earth) only builds the anticipation and excitement over the continually approaching finale. But still, you'd think by this point that they'd have hired a wedding planner.

Overall, "The Greater Good" was a strange episode to categorize. It deserves to be both praised and criticized. On the one hand, it was the first real Gates episode, and gave a long-neglected "lead" some actual backstory and character development. It also had a very intriguing case, as well as a brilliant whodunit. However, it raised expectations too high by comparing itself to The Wolf of Wall Street, when the actual episode contained little of Wall Street, and the bits that it did were dull in comparison. On a similar note, the events and characters of the episode felt too separated from each other, and too crowded on the whole. In short, the great parts of "The Greater Good" kept it afloat. But the bad parts kept a good episode from being a great one.

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Notes from the Bloody Fountain Pen:

1. Esposito said he'd like to have sex with Gates' sister, and Ryan asked him how he'd like having Gates for a sister-in-law. So...apparently Ryan is under the impression that if you have sex with someone, you're going to marry them. That means he probably has more exes than Castle.

2. So, Martha showed up for a quick scene in order to be her usual unhelpful self. The problem I have with Martha is that for a long time she's just been there for the sake of showing up. She doesn't tie into any of the cases, or have any arcs going for her. There's no long term relationships like the one with Chet, and they're not even doing that thing where we see her once in the beginning of an episode with some sort of minor problem or issue, and once at the end with a solution that somehow ties into the theme of the episode. Now, I realize that Susan Sullivan is a beloved performer who's been appearing both onstage and on the screen since the 60's, so many people who watch the Castle enjoy seeing her show up on screen, regardless of what she does. I get it, I feel the same way about Donald Sutherland. I really enjoyed seeing him in Horrible Bosses even though all he did was walk and talk for less than two minutes.

But the fact of the matter is that Castle is the first and only work of Sullivan's I've seen, that I'm aware of at least. And I won't be interested in her character as long as she seems completely separate from everything else that's going on. I mean, even Alexis has seen some growth and change in this season. Not to mention the fact that she had her own episode in which to solve a case with her dad. Martha needs to do something similar.

3. Do you think Elizabeth (Gates' sister) will show up again? I hope she does, but I doubt it.

4. So, goodbye for a long while. Castle will be on hiatus until April 21st. For those of you who heard it here first, don't kill the messenger. Seriously, I don't want to die.

5. What did you think of "The Greater Good?" Let me know.


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