Castle: Scared to Death
by Stephen Janes (@stephenkjanes)
After the dramatic two-part story arc with “Target” and “Hunt,” it was a delightfully welcome return to the classic Castle formula. Although I couldn’t understand why this episode was not used around Halloween as it complimented all spooky stereotypes, ”Scared to Death” was a strong episode supported by the fact that it was the most watched episode this season.
Very comparable to The Ring, the victim of the episode dies three days after they have watched a cursed DVD. Upon investigating the victim’s death, Castle himself watches the cursed disc and fears he too will be another victim in a short few days. One element I’ve always loved about Nathan Fillion is his ability to bring the charming comic relief to the front with his likeability and ruggedness. He does an excellent job portraying a terrified Castle to the point where you really believe his performance.
I loved the extended look into Esposito and Ryan and their bromance. It was especially fun to watch the two pester Castle for believing in evil spirits and cursed media only to change their tune anytime they were asked to go near the DVD. I erupted in the deepest of laughs when Esposito went to investigate an Inn with Beckett when his tough-guy demeanor was replaced by that of a timid dog. After being ‘startled’ by the innkeeper, Esposito recomposed himself long enough to explain, “…in case you were wondering, that was my startled reaction, not scared.”
Beckett played the role of realistic disbeliever by not buying into the mystical powers surrounding the victim’s death. I’m sure many people would have loved to see her be somewhat broken by the idea that mysterious powers could be at fault, but the episode would have quickly turned into a B-movie knockoff. Another feature I didn’t pick up on was how eerily similar this episode was shot and structured like a typical horror film. With a few extended scenes and a couple of re-writes, this episode could have easily been turned into a TV horror movie which serves as a great compliment to the show writers. I enjoyed every step of it and was actually huddled in my chair with anticipation of where the killer would strike next.
My only real drawback was how this episode served as a stand-alone title. Prior to the three-week hiatus, Castle discovered his father and witnessed his daughter get kidnapped, all while escaping near-death situations. None of this was mentioned once leaving me envious of Richard Castle’s ability to shake off any trauma. At least a scene with Castle and Beckett discussing the matter would have been nice as it would have been something as opposed to ignoring it completely.
I’ve been fairly critical this season in regards to the weak homicide investigations and the paths they take, but this episode was clearly the strongest we’ve seen of this. Whether it was the horror setting or the simplicity of the idea, but every step of the way was believable and seemed too real. Dealing with a serial killer removed from his grave, a mysterious DVD, a creepy closed down Inn and more, we were treated to a great return to television from Castle.
I still hold a place in my heart for “The Final Frontier” episode, but I might be referring to this as my new favorite. It didn’t follow exactly the same progression as previous episodes meaning you were genuinely surprised no matter what happened. Although this wasn’t a continuation of any ongoing story arc, “Scared to Death” was a great hour of television and is highly recommended for slasher fans and Castle fans alike.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars