Castle Review: “The Lives of Others”

C: Episode 5×19, “The Lives of Others”, might not have had anything to do with the remarkable German film of the same name, but it was — to put it mildly — inspired by the movies. To be specific, Hitchcock movies.

E: To be more specific, one of my favorite movies ever — Hitchcock’s Rear Window, the Jimmy Stewart/Grace Kelly masterpiece about a photo-journalist laid up with a leg in a cast, who becomes a little too entranced with lives of his neighbors.

M: His neighbor Raymond “Perry Mason” Burr, no less. And where Hitchcock is one of my all time favorites, I was ecstatic at what they chose for the show’s 100th episode. Let’s get to it!

C: Castle’s broken his kneecap showing off on the ski slopes and oh-so-conveniently, Alexis has given him a pair of binoculars “as a joke.” I have to say, I was impressed to think she was so savvy with the Hitchcock references. We know immediately that Castle will use the binoculars to spy on the apartments across the street, and a Rear Window scenario will play out.

E: In fact, Ryan calls him on it specifically when he and Javi drop by to pick up Kate on the way to a murder scene.

M: I hate when shows like this use a classic movie as the basis for their plot but try to hide it, ignore it, or treat it like that movie doesn’t exist in their fictional world. So I loved, loved, loved that they openly acknowledged that they were doing an homage to Rear Window.

E: Yes, exactly. “You’ve gone full Rear Window!” Ryan observes, calling Castle’s attention to a naked woman across the street. Almost as delicious as Katherine, as Martha is so fond of calling Becket, mocking Espo’s would-be intellectual explanation of men who whine about their injuries: “Where’d you read that – You’re Making It Up Magazine?”

M: Oh, that was fantastic.

C: I have to say though — as a professional fiction writer who never seems to spend any time at this desk, shouldn’t Castle see being stuck in the house with a broken leg as something of a blessing in disguise? Finally, he can knock out the next Nikki Heat novel! But no, supposedly the pain killers make him too “loopy.”

M: I thought the same thing, and I could have bought the explanation if he wasn’t so lucid, and so adamantly defending his lucidity, throughout the episode.

C: As noted above, Ryan and Esposito come to pick up Beckett (she’s carpooling so she can spend a little extra time with Castle, aww), and the team goes off to investigate the strange murder of a young woman in an alley, which was caught on security footage but with the head of the killer obscured by a blinding globe of light.

M: That was ripped off from a recent White Collar episode, by the way. But their leaving his apartment led to a great moment.

C: “Hey, what if I consult by phone?” begs Castle. “I could be Charlie and you could be my angels!” The Wonder Twins have obviously worked together long enough to think alike, because both immediately fall into Angels poses. Love those guys!

E: Mr. E and I had to rewind that and watch it again, it was so unexpected and awesome.

M: Might have been my favorite part of an episode with a lot of good moments.

C: Alone at last, Castle can settle into a little voyeurism.

E: Which, let’s be fair, DOES fit in with brilliant Oscar winning Cold War drama The Lives of Others. Which everyone reading this should see if they haven’t already.

M: Also to be fair, this time to Castle, we did get a “trying to keep himself entertained” montage before that. I think in reality, or whatever you would call it in this case, he would have Netflix’d an entire TV series like Breaking Bad and burned through it.

E: That’s exactly what I thought — that he’d have binged-viewed TV, like the Real Housewives of Hell or something.

M: Or those awful reality shows they made up a few episodes back! They totally should have thrown in an “I already watched every episode of The Wives of Wall Street” line. And yes, I cheated and looked back at our review to find the name.

C: That would have made for a pretty dull episode!

M: Not if they made the actual murder case more robust. But no, as we could all see coming, he gave in to the obvious temptation.

C: Across the street, we’ve got a cheating wife or girlfriend who just manages to sneak her lover out of the apartment after her boyfriend comes home early — but misses a telltale hat, which the boyfriend finds. Didn’t you guy love how retro the costumes were? Her bell-shaped print dress was pure 50s, and the guy’s fedora? I know they’re in style, but still.

E: Beautifully Hitchcockian, really.

M: Agreed.

C: Later that day, Castle’s watching again in expectation of seeing the big fight, when the boyfriend calls the girl out on cheating. But instead, he sees the guy pick up a knife. And follow the girl into the bedroom, where the blinds are drawn. And something smash against the blinds, then sink to the ground. Guys, how maddening was it that Castle kept putting down the binoculars while the murder was taking place??

M: At the time I was convinced that it was a misinterpretation, that they had quickly made up and that what he was seeing up against the blinds was something entirely different, all of which would lead to him crying wolf, then having to apologize sheepishly. To quote Castle himself, see what I did there? But you know what, I didn’t really notice the putting the binoculars down thing.

E: Yeah, it didn’t stick out to me either.

C: Oh, it was driving me nuts, and later too, when he and Alexis were both watching. Each time there was a particularly tense moment they had Castle or Alexis put down the binoculars so the audience could get a really good reaction-shot from them, and each time I wanted to yell at the screen: “What are you doing? Watch, damn you!”

E: Whereas I kept thinking, pull out your cell phone!  Get a camera!  Record this, damn it!

M: That’s what I was saying! And the one time he did he was completely unprepared, couldn’t get the camera working, and ended up with a video of an empty hallway. Though I have to say, that part was classic bumbling Castle.

C: Anyway, Castle calls his team and they go over to the apartment to check it out, but find nothing. Beckett tries to get Castle to consider that he might be exaggerating things. “Come on, you’re here with a broken leg, binoculars, seeing a Rear Window scenario play out — what are the odds?” Indeed.

E: Reference number two.  Love that.

M: Exactly!

C: Well, at a certain point I actually started to get annoyed that it was all too similar to Rear Window. I mean, he wasn’t just witnessing a crime, it was almost the same crime, with a very few details changed. That seemed like poor writing until… we’ll get to that later!

E: Yes, but first let me agree; I felt that way at the time, too.  If it’s too slavishly faithful to the movie, then it’s no fun.

M: And in addition to these references, and the fabulous nod to the fans over the 100th episode (and we’ll get to that later too), there were some memorable lines.

C: What, like: “He’s taking off his clothes. Ooo, he’s cute.”

M: Not the first one that came to my mind…

C: Shudder. I never wanted to hear Alexis’s voice sound like that. Makes it worse that they think the guy’s a murderer, too!

E: Well, in context that eventually isn’t so awful.

M: True, but still. I was thinking about this the other day when I saw a picture of her from Hansel and Gretel Get Baked that makes her look much more grown up and a bit objectified, and didn’t like it one bit. All I could think was that, especially as a father of my own brilliant red-headed girls, I’ll have a hard time looking at her as anything but Castle’s little girl. I believe Molly Quinn should be forced to choose her roles accordingly!

C: Agreed. But for good lines, how about later when Castle sees the boyfriend washing blood off his hands. I loved his call to Beckett: “I caught him red-handed! Literally red-handed!”

E: Brilliant!

M: LOVED that! So fantastic.

C: This was around when I began to feel frustrated that they didn’t believe Castle. I was really on his side! With all he’s seen and been through with them, he has more experience than some random paranoid nosy neighbor. The fact that they saw the guy with a woman’s purse, shredding the cards, is actually a good enough reason to call the cops.

M: Yes and no. He had already called the cops, and they had already looked into it and found the guy’s story plausible. Like I said before, I started out assuming that Castle was going to be wrong, though.

C: Sure, but how many innocent reasons are there to open up a women’s purse and start shredding its contents? I wonder if it ever occurred to him to call actual 911, instead of his buddies? That would have been disastrous!

E: I think it was plausible enough that he didn’t.  Why try 911 when you have a cop girlfriend?

M: Agreed, I can’t imagine he’d ever do that.

C: Well, if your cop girlfriend tells you you’re crazy and you think a body is currently being disposed of, I don’t think it’s so unreasonable. Meanwhile, in the other plotline, they’re investigating the murder of a woman they repeatedly refer to as “Mrs. DeWinter” (though Mrs. is not usually how they talk about victims!). So we’ve got Rear Window, Rebecca—did you guys notice references to any other Hitchcock movies?

E: I literally choked on Mrs. DeWinter. Awesome.

C: Thanks to that reference, I knew who the murderer in the B-plot had to be, though there weren’t really enough “real world” clues to work it out otherwise. I liked how in that case it was a much looser twist on that film’s plot, but still an echo.

M: I didn’t notice any other Hitchcock references, but as we already determined with the putting down of the binoculars, I was not as observant as I should have been. Though I did notice the nod to Speed, where the sudden appearance of something gives away that they are watching a video that’s been doctored.

C: I had some more favorite exchanges, like: “Castle, you’re talking about an illegal search.” “When you do it, it’s an illegal search. When I do it, it’s just illegal.”

M: That was fun, as was his whole plan of how he would break into the storage unit, then call security, who would find the body and call the cops, all protecting Beckett. So much fun when he makes up stuff like that. What about when he was about to give up, then saw the boyfriend grab a soda from a cupboard?

E: Instead of it’s more natural resting place, the fridge, where he was convinced the body was being stored in chunks.

C: And Beckett’s utter frustration at his sudden epiphany: “Castle, you just apologized to me!” “I rescind the apology!”

M: That’s the one, loved that! They’re all dressed up for his big birthday dinner, ready to leave, but he can’t let it go.

C: Which it turns out Beckett was banking on. She announces she’s going to storm over and open the man’s fridge, so they can get on with his birthday in peace. And when Castle challenged her with “What if he doesn’t let you in?” I loved Beckett coming back at him with “Look at me. He’s gonna let me in.” Gotta love that confidence.

E: You got to love that dress! It was such a perfect moment from the original, too, because Grace Kelly has a special dress as well.

M: Yes indeed. But then Beckett confronted the boyfriend about Castle’s seeming hare-brained idea, and got attacked while Castle watched. The lights unexpectedly went out, and he called the cavalry.

E: Which frankly was really horrifying — can you imagine that from his position? And then, the big reveal.  Mr. E called it right before it happened. I honestly hadn’t, not even when Castle was scampering across the street on his crutches, getting ready to fly to Beckett’s aid.

C: I had no idea! They really got me.

M: Seriously, you two? I’m disappointed. I didn’t call it particularly early, but at the point that the lights went out I had it. And even though I was watching it alone in my living room, with the rest of my family comfortably asleep, I called out “SURPRISE!” when the Wonder Twins kicked down the door.

C: So sold was I, that even after they revealed the entire thing had been a prank performed by actors directed by Martha, at the behest of Kate (who’s sure willing to shell out a serious chunk of change for Castle’s birthday, btw!), I even believed for a moment that Castle was really upset that they had allowed him to think Beckett’s life was in danger. But of course he loved it.

M: Okay, I have a big gripe that I have to air. I LOVE that they pranked Castle, that they got him hook line and sinker, and that after feigning to be hurt by it he was immensely appreciative.

E: Wait, you think he was pretending to be upset?  I didn’t see it like that at all.  I think he was just so astounded, so shocked and suffering from such emotional whiplash that it took a while for his joy to come across.  (Rather like Michael Douglas in The Game.)  I don’t think he had the presence of mind to pretend anything at that moment.  I mean, come on!  This way, the fact that the plot was a little too close to Rear Window was actually a plus instead of a minus.  In Castle’s words, it was epic!

M: That’s certainly plausible. The gripe I was mentioning, before being interrupted, was with the logistics of it all. How on earth could the actors have known when he would be peeping on the building across the way, let alone that particular apartment? I mean, he caught every important scene that they performed. Do you think they performed the original lovers-get-caught scene over and over until he saw it? I know I should just let it slide, but to quote Beckett, what are the odds?

E: Mr. E and I decided that they must have had some sort of radio signal tuned into the binoculars.

C: I thought about that, and I bet they were spying on him. “Radio tuned to the binoculars” sounds like sci fi, but it would have been the simplest thing for Martha to set up a nanny cam for the actors to keep an eye on him, so they could jump into action when they saw him pick up the binoculars. But, renting an apartment and paying actors to sit in it all day waiting for their cue? See above reference to “serious chunk of change.”

E: Oh, a nanny cam, that’s a great thought, too.  Indeed, adding to the expense.  Granted, Martha has the money to pay her actors — or she could have given them class credit for it, too.  But renting the apartment and the storage space?  That’s some present.  Javi and Ryan better pay for the door they kicked in!  (“We were in character!” they cry as an excuse.)

M: Ok, are you guys forgetting that Castle is ridiculously wealthy? I don’t think they were worried about a couple week rental of what had to be a furnished apartment, a nanny cam and a couple acting students time. But at this point, I think we’re digging in too far. Let’s move on.

C: Yes, lets. Finally, I loved them drawing attention to the 100th episode thing, commenting that they must have solved “about 100” murders together.

E: That was very cute, I agree.  I can’t remember — have they had cases with more than one corpse?  I feel like they have.  So it might be more than one murder each episode?

M: Unlike my thoughts on the logistics of the prank, I don’t think that’s really relevant. The nod was to the 100th episode, and that worked well. Besides, he did say something to the effect of “around a hundred” or “maybe a hundred,” which I think covers it.

C: Plus, some episodes there turned out to be no real murder, so it might even out. And next week—Bigfoot?

M: I thought you were going to say Castle 101.

E: That too. What you think, fellow fans?  Better than Vampire Weekend?  Top five Castle episode?  True genius?  Did you love it as much as we did?  Do tell!

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One comment on “Castle Review: “The Lives of Others”

  1. Gina says:

    Great episode — loved the homage and the twist. The one gripe I had afterward was how panicked Alexis acted when Castle got caught in the apartment. Without him there to see her, why would she have done that? The only possible reason I can come up with is that Martha had been coaching her in some kind of “stay in character at all times no matter what” technique.

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