Castle Review: “The Final Frontier”

C: Castle fans, let’s be real for a minute. We were all a bit worried about this season, right? How it would look with our leads finally together? Now, with six episodes under our belt, it seems like an appropriate moment to step back, take stock, and declare that this season rocks!

E: Yes, and it’s going to pose a problem with this recap.  In all seriousness, all I can think about half of what happened is “OMG, that was awesome!”  Will I be able to string actual, intelligible sentences together that add depth and enjoyment to your viewing experience?  Probably not.

M: Do you ever? Okay, that wasn’t fair, but it was necessary.

E: Oh, I know I left myself open.  Walk right in the door, it’s fine.

M: Glad to be invited! And to C’s question about being worried about this season, actually, I wasn’t really. I believe I said at the time that I felt the whole Moonlighting curse has been over-rated. Anyway, let’s get back to this freaking awesome episode, shall we?

C: We shall in a moment. I just wanted to add that even last week’s episode, “Probable Cause” (which we did not review — one more thing you can blame on Hurricane Sandy), though probably the weakest of the six so far, was way better than I’d expected from the previews. And really quite tense, once the plot twist was introduced.

E: Well, it was dour and essentially humorless, but at least none of our principles (right down to the new Captain!) believed Castle to be the killer.  So that’s something.

M: Except for the scene with Beckett crying while talking to Lainey, of course. But yeah, for “heavy Castle” it was good, and 3XK is a really good villain.

E: I’d debate that if I actually wanted to waste my time talking about him – which I don’t.

M: Alrighty then.

C: So let’s get back to episode six, the very title of which – “The Final Frontier” – was enough to get me madly excited when I looked it up Monday morning. Death at a sci fi convention? Death by laser gun? Yeah, it really doesn’t get any better than this for the geeks in the audience.

E: I’m still in love with “A Space Oddity,” CSI’s sci fi convention episode, and I can’t even think when I stopped watching that show.  So this?  Fluttery fan girl crazy-making.

M: Must have missed that one, but the point, I believe, is that death at a sci-fi convention is cop show gold.

C: The episode begins in space. A terrible CGI spaceship flies across a background of stars.

E: I’m fairly certain it was made out of a hair clip.

C: Oh man, that’s awesome.

M: I couldn’t help but think “why would anyone think that any race intelligent enough to travel through the vacuum of space would be stupid enough to design a ship with all kinds of pointy things and no aerodynamics to it at all?”

C: It’s like you’ve never even watched science fiction.

M: Of course you know I have, the problem is really that I want too much sci in my sci fi.

C: Anyway… “inside” the ship, uniformed officers on the bridge are in the middle of tactical trouble.

E: No, no – the hair clip was an invading alien ship, not the Nebula 9.  But anyway.

C: Right-o.“We will live to fight another day,” the captain epics. But wait! One crew member isn’t aboard yet. “But sir,” pleads the helmsman, “if we don’t warp in time, all of  humanity will be lost.” “And if we don’t wait for Lieutenant Chloe, our humanity will be lost,” intones the captain. I can’t stand how perfect this grandiose dialogue is.

M: So fantastically Shatner-esque!

C: I know, right? It turns out, though, that this is not a sci fi series – this the Nebula 9 “Fan Experience,” basically an interactive ride/game at the New York convention Comic Con SupernovaCon.

M: Was it just me, or did it take anyone else three or four times of them saying “SupernovaCon” to figure out what the heck came before “Con”?

E: Honestly, I didn’t even care what they were calling it. I was too excited to be there.

C: Of course, with this setting, Firefly references are thick on the ground – maybe even enough to satiate a die-hard fan!

E: And an exacting audience we are.  Not to mention a thrilled one.

C: First off, there’s the fact that the fictional, canceled-after-12-episodes series featured in this episode has its own die-hard fanbase, desperate to revive the franchise. Add to that the heroic Captain Mal Max and the hideous villains the Reavers Creavers… And then there’s Castle’s line to Beckett, complaining of her “bad taste”: “I’m a fan of good sci fi—Star Trek, Battlestar… that Joss Whedon show.” Plus his comment on the hammy Captain Max: “Some guys have no business commanding a spaceship.”

M: They were all great, but to me the Joss Whedon line was the best.

E: Yes, quite so.

C: Castle is at the Con to sign books, or rather, the graphic novel version of Storm Signal. (One can’t help feeling the artist should be there too, but whatever.) “I’m your number one fan!” pants an excited – wait, is that Jonathan Frakes? Oh yes. “How far they fall,” murmurs Castle as Frakes scoots off, prize in hand.

E: Oh no!  I didn’t even recognize him!

M: I didn’t either. For shame!

E: I did notice he directed the episode, though, so perhaps we shouldn’t slam him when he delivered the goods so very well.

C: Slam him? By no means. Commander Riker was always a stand-up guy, but Frakes himself won my affection with his hilarious, self-mocking turns on Roswell (which he also produced and sometimes directed). That willingness to be the butt of an ego-deflating joke as an actor playing himself, like in his cameo here, is really an endearing quality.

E: Yes, indeed, that’s a good quality in an actor.  And he’s doing a lot of good work as a director, too, though nothing I’d compare to this!

M: He directed quite a few Next Gen episodes that were very good, so it doesn’t surprise me that he’s doing well here. However I will disagree with C on one thing… Riker was a boob.

E: Total tool.  Sorry for the slam (told you it was coming) – nothing personal, Jonathan Frakes. Carry on.

C: Meanies. But we must forge ahead! The mystery hasn’t even started yet! Beckett arrives at Castle’s autograph table with the news: there’s been a murder on the Nebula 9 set. Castle mocks the series but as they tour the set and talk to the actor who plays Captain Max, it’s more and more obvious that Beckett was a huge fan.

M: They did a good job of building that slowly, eventually having her swooning despite her best attempts not to when they started talking to him.

C: And he was pretty hilarious too, the hugely self-important former star. He’s not quite Tim Allen, but Ed Quinn (who is apparently known for Eureka) did a great job.

E: I loved the bit where Beckett’s old Stanford buddy shows up with a picture of her in costume, wondering why she’s not wearing it.

M: Castle’s faces and reactions during that scene were priceless. The giddy schoolboy routine never gets old for me, not matter how many things they have him get excited about, but the Beckett-related excitement has become the best.

C: Finally she stands up to Castle’s ribbing: “Yes, I was a sci-fi-loving, costume-wearing geek, and you know what? I’m not ashamed of it.” Woo, Beckett! You really are a role model to us all.

E: Turns out the murder victim is the fan who runs the “Nebula 9 Experience” and owns the rights to the show, a young woman named Annabelle who seemed to be playing the part of the ship’s computer, encased in a console on the bridge (rather like the precog in Minority Report).

C: I was thinking the Hybrid from Battlestar.

M: Wow, usually C and I are more on the same page, but I was thinking pre-cog, too.

E: And oh my gosh – she was killed by a laser!  Castle’s nearly brought to tears of joy when he realizes that someone’s weaponized a phaser.

M: And of course Castle wants to buy one, despite almost wetting his pants when he fired it and it worked.

E: Excusably so, I’d think – but I adored the entire scene where they visit the creepy phaser inventor in his cool lair who wears a “Han Shot First” t-shirt (love!) and is played by the same actor (the wonderfully named Armin Shimerman) who played odious bartender Quark the Ferengi on Deep Space 9.  Excellent.

M: I love Shimerman, and could tell the second I heard his voice it was him, which was great. But the tee-shirt? and the line:  “Thorian blasters don’t kill. People do.”? Sci fi geek heaven.

C: In the meantime, the actors who played Captain Max and Lt. Chloe soon become suspects, as Ryan and Esposito interview witnesses and disagree about science fiction. Surprisingly to me, Espo is a fan, though he prefers Blade Runner and that sort of thing – dark sci fi with scantily clad robot chicks. He accuses Ryan of liking “that boring-ass intellectual kind of sci fi, like Gattaca or 2001.” Heh. But no, Ryan’s a sword-and-sorcery man! Lord of the Rings all the way.

M: Surprisingly, that was the second Gattaca reference I’ve seen in the last week and a half, as a recent episode of The League made one, too. Neither was properly respectful of what I think is a highly under-rated movie. However, I love seeing the Wonder Twins as sci fi/fantasy fans, and Blade Runner and LOTR are certainly worthy of the props they received.

E: The best thing about that conversation was the assumption that everyone loves some sort of sci fi/fantasy.  I’m always shocked to find out when that isn’t true.

C: Also, while I don’t buy for a minute that the NYPD would let a cosplayer get away with speaking only in a fictional language, it did lead to an awesome interchange when the next witness arrives at the head of the line. “Let me begin by asking whether you speak English or not,” says Ryan. The girl replies:“Obvi.” His expression is priceless as he weighs this response and finally seems to conclude, close enough.

E: That was just beautiful.  By the way, Ryan’s clothes are getting snazzier and snazzier; I thought that was particularly obvious here.

C: Yeah, he had on a really retro fancy blue suit at one point.

M: Ok, two things. First, the facial reaction to “Obvi” was classic. Second, and I can’t believe I’ve even noticed this, Ryan’s clothes have always been snazzy. He wears a lot of vests with his suits, and is always looking dapper. Not sure where you two have been.

E: I swear this is a newer, Jenny-related development – but either way, keep working those vests, Ryan!

C: Meanwhile, Castle begs Beckett to dress up in her old Lt. Chloe costume. “In your dreams,” she replies. His answer’s genius: “Look at my life. My dreams come true.”

E: In a night full of genius lines, that might have been my favorite.

M: That was most excellent.

C: Unfortunately for Castle, his nightmares sometimes come true too… as happens when he finds himself face-to-face with Alexis and some girlfriends, all in matching slutty alien bikiniwear. Holy cow, I had no idea Alexis was that busty. Nor did Castle, who’s trying desperately to cover her with his coat when she scuttles away. “How am I gonna unsee that?” he wails.

E: How sorry do you feel for Castle?  His little girl is, um, not so little any more.

M: Ugh, that was most heinous. Talk about a dad’s nightmare… your little girl has gone off to college (admittedly in the same city you live in, but still), and you run into her in public and she’s almost completely naked? *shiver* So not comfortable. Their awkward conversation in his apartment afterward, though? Very funny. Like them, let’s move on.

C: Alright.  How much did you love Castle’s various impressions? His Shatner, though hilarious, could use work, but his Picard I thought was impressive.

M: Oh, I thought his Shatner was pretty good, he had the timing of the seemingly random pauses down.

E: It’s all good with me.

C: And as if this episode needed to get more awesome, they decide to have a classic “gather all the suspects in one room to reveal the killer!” ending. Or rather, on the bridge of the Nebula 9 ship, where they check everyone’s hands under UV light for the telltale radiation that lingers after firing the Thorian blaster. The victim’s best friend, who was definitely my best bet, turns out to be clean!

E: Especially after it turns out the best friend’s boyfriend has always been in love with Annabelle, and that the best friend was the heir to Nebula 9 (which she sold for a hefty profit).

M: She was my bet, too. Hooray to the writers for once again not being obvious! And hooray to Captain Max for going and buying the other working blaster, which is why his hands were not clean. His hilarious explanation “there’s a hole in my hotel room wall, you can go check” was great.

C: Perhaps I should have seen it coming: the killer is Lt. Chloe, Beckett’s former idol. Or rather — the actress who played her, Stephanie Frye. The distinction is important. “As far as I’m concerned,” says Beckett, Chloe’s “still out there fighting evil and saving humanity.”

E: She was my bet, actually – the other girl was too obvious.  I loved Beckett insisting on the distinction between the character and the actress.  I loved what it meant to Beckett, too – Lt. Chloe was a warrior and a scientist and hot and didn’t have to be one thing; you can see her struggle with definitions there, and it was a nice piece of personal revelation.

C: Aww, loved that.

M: Where as I thought it was schmaltz and over the top. However, I can see that me not being a woman can impact that interpretation.

E: You can say that again. And I loved the final scene; Castle’s convinced Beckett to dress up in one of her old uniforms for him, and so she does – with an enormous nasty Creaver head on top.  He flees in horror.  Was anyone else reminded of the episode “Vampire Weekend,” where she comes in costume in a raincoat, which she opens to reveal a big surprise for Castle?

M: You knew it was coming, but his terrified-little-girl reaction made it great. And her, in seemingly genuine dismay: “Castle? Are we gonna make out?”

C: In case you were wondering what that rather distracting spoken-word song playing over the final scene was… just ask William Shatner about his “Ideal Woman”!

M: Tune in next week for Castle as a rock’n’roll documentary. But for now…

C: Allow me?

M: Sure, why not….

C: May fortune guide your journey.

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4 comments on “Castle Review: “The Final Frontier”

  1. Sportyspud91 says:

    I personally thought probable cause was close to the best ep of the season even though I normally hate serious ep’s I just loved it. I love sci-Fi massive firefly fan but I have to say this has to be my least favorite ep. But hey that’s not saying much when the season has been so great. The. Ep had a great couple of caskett scenes but I found the. Case quite boring and obvious who the killer was going to be. Loved the last scene but who wouldn’t love that scene couldn’t stop laughing for hrs

  2. The Presidentrix says:

    I’m so glad you guys wrote on this episode, because I definitely thought it was epic, and I wanted to hear what you thought, too.

    I guess Beckett has been dropping hints for a long time now that she knows more about geekery than she openly lets on (not to mention how she’s been concealing becoming a big fan of Castle’s writing), but I hadn’t anticipated the show writers using Castle and Beckett getting together as an occasion to really alter her behavior in that regard – getting her to start openly discussing (and comparing) her tastes with him. I love that she totally owned her investment in Nebula-9, too. She may have wanted to keep it to herself at first, but once it was out, she didn’t apologize for it!

    It was also a really funny move on the writers’ part to let Nebula-9 kiiind of be a send-up of Firefly, even though actual Firefly appears to exist in Castle universe, too – as you mentioned above. You get to have your self-conscious in-jokes and your cheesy spoofery, all in one place! Hurray!

    One thing I wondered about – and I’m sure this is the kind of thing where you’re just supposed to let it go – was when Captain Max seemed to be gazing, untroubled, right at the ‘Oracle,’ only for it to turn out to be the dead body of a woman he knows. I thought it must be the case that the proper Oracle is supposed to look *a lot* like that for him not to notice, but when the Fan Experience started up again later, the Oracle turned out to be just a kind of computerized picture, not even – say – a pale female dummy or something. I wasn’t sure why they’d do that.

    And, oh, Alexis. Sometimes I think I want her to stay young and innocent about as badly as her daddy does. Watching Castle splutter and protest is always prime entertainment, but at the same time, I feel for him, I really do.

    • E says:

      Well, right. Alexis. Just because you’re a college student doesn’t mean you have to wander around ComicCon in a bikini. It seems rather too obvious for her, if nothing else.

      • E says:

        ER, which is to say I’d rather have seen her in something sexy but strong, a super hero rather than a glorified Vegas Showgirl.

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