Castle: Deep in Death

He’s back! Nathan Fillion (Richard Castle) exposed a little “naughty” and a little “nice” in the season opener, Deep In Death. The action heated up quickly when a couple of scantily-clad faux patrol officers used Castle as their private stripper pole during a publicity photo shoot for his latest book. Of course, Detective Beckett (Stana Katic) was offended, or perhaps a little jealous, of the bump and grind. But she was soon reminded by her supervisor that the mayor insisted on the free PR train ride that follows Castle. And, as usual, she was forced to start the season with her civilian partner at her side. But her sly smile was an obvious indicator that she not-so-secretly adores the guy.

The show’s writers wasted no time introducing the star of the show, a dead body. Castle, the show, is known for odd murders with the victims discovered in odd places, and this episode was no exception to the rule. The victim, or “vic” as Beckett spouted nearly every other sentence – it was almost annoying (Very few locations use the term “vic” for victim and “perp” for suspect. Always check with local authorities when researching your stories) –  was found nestled in the forks of a tall tree. As the camera zoomed in on the body, we were treated to our first look at the medical examiner, Lanie Parrish (Tamala Jones) who was perched on the platform of a man lift, examining the victim.

Now, I was pretty hard on Ms. Jones last season. I thought her character was far too wimpy for the position. I know, and have worked with several female medical examiners and coroners, and each of them are very strong women – the best in the business. Anyway, Ms. Jones came out blazing a new trail this year. She started out as tough as nails, with a new look and a bold new attitude. She actually (well, almost) seemed like a real medical examiner. It even seemed like she’d done a little homework, studying her role. Good for her. Her “windpipe was crushed” cause of death was a little shaky for me, but still, this was much better than some of the weird COD statements from last season. So far, so good.

Okay, let’s dive into the story. What was good police procedure, and what wasn’t? Remember, this show is fiction. It’s for our entertainment, and I like it. I really do. I only do this review so the writers who visit this site won’t confuse fact with fiction.

Here goes:

– Beckett was shown taking notes in a small pocket notebook on several occasions. Good stuff. Detectives make tons of notes (have you read any of my spiral notebook posts?).

– During an interview with a murder suspect, Beckett questioned him while they both stood in the interview room. It’s best to have the suspect seated for officer safety, and it keeps the bad guys on a level below the officer (a psychological advantage).

– The medical examiner collected a piece of bloody gauze as evidence, and then placed the item in a plastic, zip lock-type bag. Wet evidence should be placed in paper containers. Plastic bags act as little greenhouses, creating a perfect environment for bacteria, which can degrade or destroy DNA.

– The M.E. claimed she found traces of cocaine residue inside the victim’s body cavity. She would have needed a reason to test that portion of the body for drug residue. This is not a routine part of an autopsy. And, a toxicology report takes a long time (days or weeks) to complete, not the two or three hours as portrayed in this show. Jones was beginning to lose a little of her newly discovered edge by this point in the show. Although, I do have high hopes for her character She’s different this year. I hope it lasts, and I hope her character improves just a bit more (The role, not Ms. Jones’s acting. I’m sure she’s a fine actor).

– I was also pretty hard on Beckett’s two partners last year for entering rooms together, ALWAYS. Not this season. No longer do they seem like Batman and Robin, or conjoined twins. Their dialog and actions seemed pretty realistic, like real detectives in a real world. What a nice improvement over last season. Good job.

– Beckett suggests dusting the inside of a pair of gloves for fingerprints. Good idea. No, an excellent idea. However, a few minutes later we see the medical examiner cutting open a fingertip from the glove in question. Then she proceeded to dust the item with black fingerprint powder using a nylon brush. Nope. Probably wouldn’t happen and there are two reasons why it wouldn’t. First, someone from the fingerprint lab, a CSI tech, or a police officer would perform this task. You don’t see fingerprint techs cutting open dead bodies, right? Why not? because they’re not trained to do those sorts of things, and M.E.’s don’t dust items for prints while a detective watches. Second, dusting with regular powder alone probably wouldn’t reveal a usable print. These methods probably work best:

Ninhydrin follwed by lifting with Gelllifter

Cyanoacrylate (Superglue fuming) followed by treating with Rhodamine 6G

Gentian Violet staining

– The raid on the drug house wasn’t too bad. That’s not exactly how it would go, but it gave a small sense of realism. We’re going to give you guys the opportunity to conduct a real high-risk entry at the Writers Police Academy. Flash bangs and all!

Hey, Castle writers and cast members, you’re all invited to attend our Writers Police Academy in September 2010. It would be our pleasure to show you the ropes, and allow you to experience real police training, designed for writers. Your registration fee is on me.

– Three murder suspects were seated in the same room waiting to be questioned while Beckett and their attorney discussed working a deal for a reduced sentence. Suspects should never be placed in the same room. Doing so allows them to compare stories. AND, police officers DO NOT have the authority to make deals with suspects or their attorneys. Only a prosecutor may offer a deal.

– I like the brainstorming session around the whiteboard. I like this because that’s what I used to do (use a whiteboard). In fact, I still do it for my writing.

– Castle is “wired” and sent inside a secret gambling house. This is believable. We sent people inside places like that all the time. However, cops wouldn’t park the surveillance van outside the entrance and then allow Castle to climb out in full view of everyone on the street. This kind of operation is supposed to be sort of secretive.

– Fingerprint matches DO NOT magically pop up on a computer screen moments after they’re submitted. And they certainly don’t come complete with a suspect’s photo, name, address, and shoe size! The FBI sends back a list of possible matches, which are then examined, by hand and eye, by a certified fingerprint examiner. It is he/she who makes the final determination. This scene was right out of a Sci-Fi flick.

– And let’s not forget the poker game with the two real-life famous mystery writers. I like this touch. I just wish they did it every week. Will we see Lee Child, J.A. Jance, and Jeffery Deaver in a future episode?

So that’s it in a nutshell. I’m glad the season has begun. It was a long off-season.

I’m also glad to see The Big Bang Theory return for another season. I love this show.

*Don’t forget to stop by tomorrow for a visit with a really special guest.

Here’s a hint:

14 replies
  1. Robin Burcell
    Robin Burcell says:

    Hey Lee,
    I hate that I get your messages via digest a day later and miss the Castle recap, but heck. Good to see Castle back and your recap back. Always lots of fun.

    Like you, I thought the ME was much improved, until she did the whole crushed windpipe thing. I’m thinking: she can tell that just by looking at the guy? (Then again, I wasn’t up in that tree, and maybe his neck was all flat and you could really tell it was crushed.) Statements like that need to be saved for the autopsy scene, IMO.

    Loved that the body was stolen. Great twist.
    Hated that they didn’t figure out the drug mule thing until after the ME made the goofy statement that she found traces of cocaine inside. Would have liked to have them think it out. Why gut the guy? Hate? Drug mule? Then go through the motions of testing.

    Drug scene. Are you really saying that these guys are that stupid that they wouldn’t at least rinse off the balloons after gutting the guy? That was a gratuitous shock scene, and unbelievable. In this day and age, everyone knows about blood borne diseases. And even if they didn’t, are you saying that crooks, interested in the almighty dollar, would risk contaminating the purity of their product with blood and guts? If you wanted to show it, show the bad guys rinsing the balloons in the sink, then tossing them on the scale as the flash-bang is flung through the window.

    But all in all, a good show. And for what it’s worth, like Beckett’s hair shorter. I’ll get used to it, though. Didn’t think she was jealous or offended of the pole dancer cop girls hanging on Castle. I think she was annoyed. And the little smile? It was more of a “we’ll see what happens next.” She likes him, sure. She just doesn’t admit it to herself yet.

    Your female cop perspective, for what it’s worth. And no, I never wore shoes like that on the job…

  2. Terri Reed
    Terri Reed says:

    Lee, thanks so much for your police procedure analysis of Castle. Very interesting. I know I appreciate knowing the truth from the fiction, even if the fiction is entertaining.

  3. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Melanie – Yes, the information was for the North Carolina event. That’s the only one we’re doing in 2010. Our committee is meeting this Thursday, so we should have everything (registration, website, etc.)in place shortly.

  4. melanie atkins
    melanie atkins says:

    I really loved last night’s Castle episode, and I’m thrilled to see you recapping the show again this year! Hahaha! It’s great. I love the way you dispel the myths. Maybe their writers will read it on a regular basis and straighten out more than just the ME.

    I’m also glad to hear about the conference. You sent me info a couple of weeks ago. Was that for the NC conference? I’m confused.

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Su – I’ve never seen a female officer wearing heels.

    I’m glad other people noticed the M.E. character’s improvements.

    Carla – Yes, I’d love to see someone from the show accept our offer to attend the Writers Police Academy. We’ll see.

  6. SuGreene
    SuGreene says:

    They softened Beckett’s look this season. Her makeup colors are softer, and her haircut is more flattering, more feminine. Anyone else notice this?

    I meant to ask… I don’t have extensive experience with female cops, but I can’t see them wearing those heels Beckett runs around in. Four-inch stacked heels for running around crime scenes? Really? Perhaps they do. I don’t know. But it looks as if they wouldn’t be very practical, IMHO.


  7. SuGreene
    SuGreene says:


    Love the Castle reviews. Glad you’re continuing it.

    Did anyone else notice the 9/11 poster on the fridge behind Beckett in the police department?

    It had a flag on it, and said “We Will Not Let Them Destroy Our Spirit. America Will Overcome and Rebuild.”

    Just thought that was a nice touch.

    And yeah, the ME was much improved. Loved her sass this time around.

    Looking forward to the WPA!


  8. Carla F
    Carla F says:

    Lee, I wouldn’t be surprised a bit if someone connected to the show caught on to your blog and decided to up the authenticity a notch. A friend of mine blogged about Mark Harmon and found herself mentioned on the NCIS fan loop. The internet is a small world.

    Love your Castle reviews, even if I wasn’t awake to see the show. If someone from the production company takes you up on that offer for WPA ’10, please let us know! It would be so nice if authentic storytelling meant more than ratings.

  9. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    I’ve actually heard a few cops say they smelled cordite at crime scenes. They’re not taught that, so I’m assuming they read it in a book, or heard it on TV. Maybe they attended Dick Wolf University, too.

  10. pabrown
    pabrown says:

    First off, I’m a huge fan of Castle and loved last night’s episode. But I’m not sure offering to let the writers attend the Police Academy would help — I don’t know about the guy who wrote last night’s episode but I watched one last year written by Will Beall and he’s a 17 year veteran of the LAPD and in that episode they used the ‘c’ word. Now get your mind out of the gutter, I mean cordite and he had a cop saying it. I was very disappointed. I thought it would have been the perfect place to dispel that myth. They could have had Castle use the word cordite and have the cops correct him. Instead he took the easy way out and just used the old tried and true.

    On another note, if you love really gritty down and dirty cop stories, read Beall’s L.A. Rex. His portrayal of LAPD cops from the hard core 77th Division is chilling and very entertaining.

    Love your analysis of this show and I’ll be tuning in for more. Like the show itself they’re always entertaining. And like you, I hope they bring in more big name crime writers. It was fun to see Cannell and Connelly.

  11. Rhonda Lane
    Rhonda Lane says:

    Thanks for the clarification on the WPA. Can’t wait to see the website.

    My husband and I joke that we have “TV law degrees” from “Dick Wolf University.” 🙂 🙂 🙂

  12. D. Swords
    D. Swords says:

    Hi Lee,

    I’m glad to see your Castle analysis back this year. I enjoyed it last year.

    It sounds as though someone else may have been reading the posts and making a few adjustments to their stories.

  13. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Rhonda – I just chalked up the Russian mob thing to “for entertainment purposes only.”

    We’re moving the whole Writers Police Academy to North Carolina, so that won’t be a part of the Mad Anthony conference next year. I made the decision to do so because we are now able to host the event at an actual police academy with access to all the tools and equipment used by real police recruits.

    Oh, please don’t use Law and Order as a research tool! Maybe I should start reviewing that show for procedure, too…

  14. Rhonda Lane
    Rhonda Lane says:

    Lee, you must be up late or up early to get these reviews out first thing in the morning. Thank you.

    Anyway, when I saw the new&improved ME, I sat up and took notice, too. Maybe someone got a clue?

    I have to say, though, that I thought Castle was a bit cavalier about popping in to play high stakes poker with Russian mobsters.

    Maybe I’m too big a chicken and maybe I’ve seen too many episodes of Law&Order showing the Russian mob’s scorched earth policy, but I’m not sure I’d waltz in there, especially with loved ones living in the same city. Or has the Russian mob gone all warm and fuzzy in the past few years?

    Also, I’m excited by the Writers Police Academy next year. I’m looking forward to seeing more about it. But I had also been looking ahead to the police day at the Mad Anthony, which is closer to my old KY stomping grounds. Decisions, decisions … 2010 was already shaping up as a busy travel year.

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