In its fifth season, Castle celebrates 100 episodes with an ode to Alfred Hitchcock. The Rear Window inspired episode 5.19, “The Lives of Others”, (original air date: April 1, 2013) puts Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) in a wheelchair, poised to witness a murder.
In Rear Window (1954), photographer L. B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart) looked out his New York apartment window and spied on his neighbors while recovering from a broken leg. His curiosity led to him witnessing a murder. He convinced his girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) to help him investigate.
Now, nearly 60 years later, author Richard ‘Rick’ Castle is recovering from a ski accident. His mother is off on retreat, a spa trip—though his birthday is coming up—and soon Beckett, Esposito, and Ryan are off to investigate a case. Castle is left home alone to brood, and the stage is set.
There’s no question the show is playing homage to Hitchcock. Before leaving Castle’s apartment, Det. Ryan (Seamus Dever) notices Castle’s massive binoculars and quips, “You’ve actually gone rear window.”
But in what I believe is a first, this Castle episode presents two mysteries to solve. The first case begins with the very first scene. Two night guards witness a murder on security camera. IRS investigator Mrs. DeWinter (think, Rebecca) is killed by an assailant whose face is obscured by some sort of light. Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) interviews the victim’s husband, Gavin DeWinter, who tells her that his wife was threatened recently by some man she was investigating.
Meanwhile, bored after crashing his toy helicopter, Castle spies on the apartments across the street. His interest is captured by two young lovers getting frisky until another man comes home. The young woman’s lover manages to slip out of the apartment unseen, but her boyfriend discovers a hat the lover left behind. Later, Castle witnesses the boyfriend and girlfriend cooking, then arguing. The boyfriend picks up the knife and stalks into the next room, where the blinds are drawn. Castle frantically calls Beckett to report a murder.
We next see, but don’t hear, Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Ryan interviewing the boyfriend. After a cursory search, they return to Castle’s apartment and report finding nothing…no body, no blood. Esposito goes on to say he spoke to the girlfriend on the phone.
Despite this, Castle can’t let it go. Late at night, he sneaks out of bed to have another look. Beckett catches him and tells him, “You’re obsessing over this because you have nothing else to obsesss about.”
At this point, viewers might wonder: will the two murders be related?
Beckett continues to investigate Mrs. DeWinter’s murder. One suspect, Dan Renner, claims he was going to help Mrs. DeWinter disappear. Another claims she gave him tax advice and in return he gave her money. He also claimed she was afraid of her husband. A quick check reveals the husband took out a life insurance policy on his wife. He also has an alibi.
Castle, in the mean time, is trying to gather evidence of his own to convince Beckett of what he saw. Considering the modern era, Castle tries to film his suspect mysteriously removing a rolled up rug, but fails. Next he explains to his daughter Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) what he’s seen. She soon joins him in watching highly suspicious, highly creepy behavior.
Taking on a more active role than a man with a broken leg should, Castle breaks into the apartment across the street to search for evidence while his daughter plays lookout. Amazingly, he manages not to get caught. The resulting evidence he gathers is enough to sway Beckett into believing him, leading Castle to say, “So I’m not drug-addled crazy.”
But after a trip to a storage facility dead ends, Castle’s case seems without merit.
Then, dressed up to celebrate his birthday, Castle has an eureka moment, and Beckett—looking like a brunette Grace Kelly—will investigate one last hiding place for the body. Her confrontation with the presumed killer leads to one of the all-time greatest Castle twists.
According to the TV Guide (March 25-April 7, 2013 issue), this lighthearted episode is executive producer Andrew Marlowe’s “bubbly glass of champagne for fans.” Marlowe, inspired by Hitchcock’s iconic film, infused the episode with ” ‘self referential Easter eggs’ for loyal fans”, and he and his wife, Terri Edda Miller, make a Hitchcockian cameo (which I didn’t spot). Marlowe and Miller can also be credited with writing the script.
It’s a bit of a stretch to believe that Beckett would so easily dismiss Castle’s insistence that he witnessed a murder, considering all they’ve been through and his contributions to solving past cases. Though I suppose her skepticism makes sense in light of Castle’s oft juvenile behavior, which makes it hard to take him seriously at times. And it works in the end.
Overall, Castle’s half of the story is the more entertaining of the two. I absolutely loved the sight gag of Castle and his daughter watching the aparment across the street with binoculars and eating popcorn like they were watching a really great movie! And the payoff for this Rear Window-esque plot is awesome.
The murder of Mrs. DeWinter, however, relies on too much exposition to explain what happened. The twist in this case is very much a surprise, but also a filmsy one. Without giving too much away, I found there wasn’t enough presented earlier to suggest this component (the twist) to the crime, and the ultimate solution was too predictable. It might have been better to carry the storyline over to the next episode and maybe add a new element. But this isn’t meant to be the focus of the episode anyway.
The conclusion brings us Castle and Beckett together. In a touching moment, Castle asks Beckett how many cases they’ve solved together. She tells him 100, and he toasts, “Here’s to 100 more.”