Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Castle 8x21 Review: “Hell to Pay” (End of Days) [Contributor: Hope]

“Hell to Pay”
Original Airdate: May 9, 2016

The penultimate episode of season eight looked like it was going to be another goofy expedition into the depths of Castle’s imagination... and that it was. I would have loved this episode. It helped that, between the glitchy security cameras, creepy hidden lair, and odd coincidences, there was enough evidence for it to be believable that Castle could think the victim was killed by a demon. It didn’t have the character regression (fight me on this) of chasing after a genie simply because there was a lamp and a woman who happened to be good at disappearing quickly. The episode was wacky, exciting, and lacked character melodrama. It was a filler episode, but a good one.

Unfortunately, there was some very blatant foreshadowing thrown in, along with a notable lack of scenes with Beckett in them that cast a damper over the episode.


The foreshadowing was not only dark, but also pretty cruel. First and foremost was the apocalyptic theme and all this talk of the end of days. Secondly — and more painfully — was Castle realizing he wasn't marked for death, and Beckett telling him he wasn't going anywhere. WE KNOW THAT. Hands off the salt shaker, writers; the wound hurts enough.

Every time Castle claimed he was marked for death, I knew it was supposed to be funny... but it wasn’t. There’s another dimension to these panicked lines that wouldn’t exist if we didn’t already know better. If ABC hadn’t chosen to break the news ahead of time, this could have been foreshadowing that we might have overlooked as just an attempt to build hype and suspense. But now it’s uncalled for. You don’t really need to foreshadow something everyone knows is coming. It’s quite literally called "overkill."


At the start of the season, I was really excited that Beckett had been promoted to captain. It seemed like great character growth, and it seemed like they were working around the fact that the captain doesn’t typically go out in the field. It was also one step closer to senator, without actually making Beckett leave the precinct and go into politics yet.

I say “yet” because the time traveler from season six, who claimed to be from the future (20 years in the future, if I remember right), said she would become a senator. He also said Castle and Beckett would have three kids, and that Castle would switch to writing literature. So many episodes, especially as of late, have had Castle believe in the supernatural, the mystical, and the science fictional. But the time traveler was the only instance — correct me if I’m wrong — where he was not proven wrong. So in my mind, Marlowe gave viewers a peek at the end of this long book; a peek at what, realistically, never would have made it on screen, because season 26 would have been a stretch (minus the possibility of a flash forward). And that, through this whole mess, is what I’m going to believe in. Somehow, through magic or whatever it takes, that is where they actually end up.

Anyway. Right now her being captain just looks like a plot device to keep her at the precinct and separated from the others. However, the gang was all there for the visit to the morgue (ewww), which was bittersweet since this was probably the last time that will happen. Next week likely won’t have a case of the week outside of LokSat. The core crime-solving five — Beckett, Castle, Esposito, Ryan, and Lanie — have a dynamic that I’ll miss. They all feed off each other’s senses of humor, and there’s an energy to scene where all of them are together that helps to make this show what it is.

Much of the rest of the episode involved Castle, Espo, Ryan, Alexis, and Hayley, which I’m guessing was a little peek at what’s to come. And you know what? If it wasn’t for the destruction of Caskett and, I don’t know, the show’s premise, I wouldn’t have an issue with these five working together. I love the characters. And I love that the P.I. office had a secret safe that opened to a secret tunnel, because secret tunnels will never get old.

There was a literal ton of creepiness in this episode, with the glowy eyes in the dark lair taking the cake. Castle decided he was marked for death and that Rick Cosnett’s character (Victor? Let’s just call him Eddie, since that was his name on The Flash), was the Antichrist, and that the escaped/murdered psychiatric patient was right that the apocalypse had arrived. Fine, Castle. I’ll allow it, because it led to Beckett playing tricks on him, and it was amazing. I’m not sure how she kept that sphere spinning around and around, but Castle approaching it with his cross made out of pencils as she snuck up on him was perfect. It was goofy and classic and all I’m really asking from this show. Forget the angst, just let these two play practical jokes forever.

The episode ended with them crashing Hayley and Alexis’ movie night by lurking in the shadows until the two got creeped out and left quickly. A cute ending, right? Not at all ominous. It would have been adorable... if the next instant hadn’t brought next week’s promo.


I want to talk a little about my thoughts on this show’s decisions. I know that next week I’ll have other things on my plate to write about.

I have a fortune from a fortune cookie that has been floating around in my wallet for a while now. It says, “Integrity is the essence of everything successful.” I’m not sure why I kept it in there, other than that I believe wholeheartedly that it’s right.

How does integrity apply to television? How do you know what it means for a show to keep its integrity? Some have argued — correctly — that by continuing on, the show is continuing to provide hundreds of people with jobs. And by wishing that next week’s episode was the series finale, I mean no disrespect to the cast and crew. I don’t want the show to kill off its female lead and disregard its premise. I don’t want Marlowe to watch the series he created go down this path. I don't want hundreds of people to lose their jobs. I don't want the fans to feel stabbed in the back. I don't want this series to self-destruct. I don’t want this show to end.

All of these problems stem from the same root, and that was the decision to not offer Katic a contract for the ninth season. That was the decision to put the male lead over the female lead. That was the decision that was made even though the powers that be had to have known the enormous backlash they would get. It’s an unfortunate position we’ve all been put in, and we’re all in the same boat here.

None of us — regardless of opinion — should be in this position in the first place. We shouldn't feel like we have to take sides. There shouldn't be sides to take.

As fans, we should recognize that everyone is feeling the symptoms of the same problem. That means we have no right to disrespect those who work on the show. I’ve seen the backlash, which is particularly strong against Toks Olagundoye. It’s destructive and abusive. She worked hard to get where she is, too. You don't have to like her, you don't even have to change your opinions; just be respectful. Ask yourself: would Stana and Tamala condone your actions, or would they be horrified at the words you're slinging in their name at their former colleague? Toks shouldn't have to apologize for wanting to keep a job she worked hard for, and she certainly shouldn’t be targeted for standing up for herself.

Then there’s the issue of responsibility. Writers have an unusual job — we have the power to play with the emotions of other human beings through our words and characters. It’s kind of strange when you think about it. If it weren’t for the fact that the audience wants to have their emotions played with, it would be called abuse. Most of the time, we ARE fine with letting television break our hearts and make us cry. The most powerful, touching shows do that.

However, there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, a point where the twist hits too hard. At the start of any story, we’re promised an ending, and it was always pretty clear what Castle’s ending was supposed to be — after all, the premise isn’t “a writer who solves crime.” It’s “a writer and his muse who solve crime and fall in love” And somewhere in the premise, our minds assume there’s going to be a happy ending. It’s why many fans — myself included — have continued to watch. A story should be whole. It’s a question of quality versus quantity, and clearly, ABC is choosing quantity. But there is a moral obligation to the millions of viewers who are invested in this series and have been for years. They stuck around because of the characters and their dynamics. The stuck around because Castle is as serialized as it is. I’m sure there are viewers out there who tune in for the more episodic aspect of the show, and it’s true that episodic shows can garner more viewers than serialized ones. However, serialized shows will build the largest amount of loyal fans. I don’t understand why networks can’t understand this.

Castle has broken an unspoken but obvious promise to its fans, and if you wanted a happy ending, you’re now going to have to pretend that the season seven finale was the series finale, and that season eight was Castle’s evil twin or that everything was just a dream. Castle and ABC know that by killing off Kate Beckett, one of the best female characters TV has seen (fight me on this), one half of an eight-season-strong ship, and a large part of this show’s success, it will devastate, betray, and alienate its audience. If they don’t know this, then I’m not even sure what to say. They knew what they were getting into, they knew many fans would react this way, and in doing so, they betrayed not only Stana and Tamala, but also the hundreds of people working on the show. They have tainted Castle’s reputation beyond repair and guaranteed its demise.

There is no integrity in that.

It was the decision to continue on, whatever the real reasons were. The decision to say that, according to ABC’s promo for next week, “everything ends in tragedy, even an epic love story like [theirs].” It was the decision to take what fans cherished most about this show — their journey — and smash it into a million tiny pieces. Not Castle’s. THEIRS. It was their story, their evolution, their trials that attracted fans. It was the idea that two people can love each other, and eventually get the timing right, eventually knock down the walls that stand in their way. It was the idea that two very different people both found exactly what they never knew they needed in each other. It was the idea that they can make it through all that and in the end, make it to their happy ending.

Castle is the comedic heart of the show, but Beckett is its emotional heart, with her character growth being the most profound. And together, it was something that fans have invested years in. I’ve invested six years. And I never truly imagined the show would go this far off course. I believe deep down that Marlowe never would have done this, because I think he cherished his characters, too. This doesn’t undo the previous seasons for me, and I’ll always love Castle as I knew it. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt more betrayed by television or any work of fiction as I feel right now... and I know I’m not alone.

  • The “it was a dark and stormy night” vibes were so cliché and exactly as they should be.
  • The return of the gun-tosser!
  • WHY would you stick your entire arm into a dark vent through which weird noises are coming? How does that make sense?
  • “I need fifteen minutes and a chocolate milkshake.” I’m going to start requesting chocolate milkshakes for every task I do. Actually, I could use one right about now.
  • “So do you think Castle is right—” “No, no, no, don’t add fuel to that fire.”
  • “What is it all about?” “The end of days... which according to this is two days from now.” Actually... that said 5-10-16, so it was the next day. SORRY. 
  • “Yeah, through a generator... fueled by the flames of hell.”
  • “I’m marked for death.” Jon and Seamus’ expressions were perfect here. Just the right mixture of disgusted and a little bit of freaked-out belief on Seamus’ part. 
  • Again, random objects falling to the sidewalk in front of them was so cliché, and yet I loved it.
  • “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re starting to sound crazy. And not your usual crazy. Next level crazy.” Don’t leave us Beckett, you and Lanie are our links to sanity.
  • All the crosses made out of pencils on Castle’s desk — golden.
  • “Angel dagger, it’s something only a demon would want!” “Did they check for a concussion?”
  • Oh thank God, Castle grabbed that security guard’s weapons. There is common sense left.
  • The way Victor cried “Castle, save me!” was just sooo melodramatic, I cringed. 
  • “I love your sense of humor.” It’s not humor, dude, he’s for real.
  • Castle: “You know, you mock, but you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone.” Beckett: “You’re not going anywhere.” Castle: “How can you be so sure?” That’s cruel and unusual punishment, writers. That’s just low. 
  • Did you just want to sit down and cry after that promo for next week? Yeah, me too.


  1. I understand the problem, but as much as I want to blame the "show" I can't. Katic and the show made the choice they made because they couldn't agree on the money. They didn't keep Fillion because he was a man. They kept him because he is one of the most recognizable actors period. She has stayed relatively quiet most of the series on social media, she has worked on her pet projects, but she is not close to the star Fillion is even though she is just as important to the show as he is.

    Everyone, including Katic to some degree, is in a no win situation with a show that ran its course and has stuck around too long. We can choose a side, a lead character seemingly less appreciated than than her co-lead, the rest of the cast doing a job they love and happily compensated, or the 400 people the show employs. We probably can't help it, and we probably shouldn't, because the best possible outcome has already passed us by, much like other popular shows, it is the hull of the once wonderful show might. Zombie-fied by a network trying to milk it for its all it is worth.

    As for the episode, yes, exactly that.

    1. This is incorrect. It's not that they couldn't "agree" on the money - both the network and her reps have confirmed they never even offered her a deal. So the point remains, they DID choose the male lead over the female one.

    2. They struggled to reach a number in the previous year, and the possibility she wouldn't be back for this last season was well known. Assuming that more money would be asked, and they were already at their "perceived" limit, not offering is just a recognition that they could no longer agree.

      They kept the titular character and actor with the Q-Rating in what just last year still in the top 10 of all TV actors, and they didn't keep the one that didn't even crack the top 50 (to my knowledge). Hollywood does lots of sexist things. This, I think, isnt' one of them.

      That isn't a slight against Katic. She has her projects, she is less involved in social media than Fillion (arguably all of us are), but there is a cost to privacy in such a public field.

    3. And I still think they are undervaluing Katic, and they should have made her an offer, if nothing else, in line with Fillion's. No offer, even if they both knew they wouldn't agree, was poor optics.

    4. In my opinion, they had a choice to try and work things out (money, and I've also heard that Fillion's contract was contingent on Katic not coming back, but I don't know if the source of that was rumor or fact), but the bottom line is they didn't and it's so cold. They didn't even offer her the choice, which means they didn't think she was indispensable enough to fight for her. I get that there are a lot of elements that went into this, and they're just so unfortunate, like the social media involvement. She shouldn't have to pay for being a more private person, but I guess that's the unfairness of the entertainment industry.

      But what gets me the most, from purely a writer's point of view, is how this decision compromised the show's overall story. "Milking it for all its worth" sums it up perfectly. The show just sold its soul in order to continue on for a whopping 13 more episodes.