Castle: Punked – A Review of the Police Procedure

I was looking forward to watching Castle last night. After all, I figured I deserved a few chuckles after spending all day in meetings about the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy. I know, the show opened with a dead body, as usual, but Fillion quickly lightened the mood when he compared looking at a corpse to watching David Hasselhoff (it’s repulsive at first, but you’re strangely drawn in).

And speaking of train wrecks…

To save time and the contents of my stomach, let’s just list the stupid things she said this week.

1. She looked at a dead body (at the scene) and said the cause of death was a single gunshot wound, probably from a .45. Well, there’s no way she could “predict” the cause of death pre-autopsy. And she certainly wouldn’t be able to determine what size round caused the hole. Besides, she’d only looked at the front of the body. There could have been multiple alligator bites on the other side for all she knew.

2. Lanie stated (again) that lividity suggested the time of death was around midnight. Lividity is NOT used to determine time of death because it doesn’t offer that kind of information. Lividity would tell us if the body had been moved, but not when.

3. I almost kicked my TV screen when Parish said she’d found rust on a bullet, and based on the amount of rust on it she estimated the round to be 200-years-old. So, in addition to her career as a pathologist, she’s also an expert on antique ammunition, and rust? Puhleeze…

Tell me something. How old is this?

Or this? Any idea?

My point exactly. There’s no way to tell how old something is merely by looking at its rusty surface. Lanie would have no way of knowing what sort of conditions the bullet had been exposed to…nothing. Just more of her La La Land forensics.

“Guess what I found found on the victim’s sleeve and glove?” Lanie said. She paused to allow tension to build before answering her own question. “Traces of potassium nitrate and sulfur.”

So, everyone within earshot, including us in television land, was supposed to recognize that those were two of the key ingredients in the powder used to fire the older weapons featured in this show. Why is Lanie’s house of horrors equipped to run every test known to the scientific community? Why can’t she simply send things to the proper testing facilities? And WHY does SHE instantly know everything? There’s no magic machine that spouts off everything there is to know about everything. She’d have needed to know what to test for (potassium and sulfur) before testing. And I wonder why she didn’t find charcoal on those items? I believe that’s the third main ingredient in that type powder. And why would she have tested those articles anyway? Why not a standard GSR test? If she had used a standard GSR test it would have shown positive results, but not the chemical makeup of those results.

Okay, on to a few other points.

– A fingerprint is discovered on the victim’s wallet. In a matter of minutes, maybe even a couple of hours, Beckett’s crew had run the print, learned who it belonged to, and had the guy cuffed and stuffed and seated in an interview room. No way it would happen that quickly, if ever. Wait! Maybe they ran the print in Lanie’s magic bad-guy-finding machine, and when the lights, buttons, and bells stopped flashing, whirring, and buzzing the machine spit this guy out.

– The captain tells Esposito that he’ll see to it that his attacker will get the maximum sentence for his crime. Nope. A police officer has absolutely no say in how much time is given to suspects. That up to the judge and jury.  Officers can’t even guarantee a conviction.

Finally, the show concluded with the predictable “Castle’s jealous over Beckett’s date, friend, co-worker, pizza delivery guy, etc.” thing. They’ve gone way overboard with this stuff. Monotony is no way to keep our interest, guys.

Any thoughts? How about you? Are you tired of Castle’s jealousy? After all, he’s a pretty sharp, determined sort of guy. Would he really behave like this, or would you write something entirely different?

19 replies
  1. rick
    rick says:

    The gun stuff put me off. First of all, the ball taken from the victim was pristine. Antique firearms (and replicas) use very soft lead which deforms when it hits something. They said they were looking for an 18th century weapon (no way of knowing that in advance, could just as easily been 17th century) and then Castle went home with a 19th century cap and ball revolver. Loading balls into these later types of weapons produces distinctive marks which would have been identifiable, thus ruling out that type of weapon. Therefore, they were looking for a single-shot, muzzle loading weapon. As to “modifying” a shotgun to fire a ball, it is not necessary. What is needed is to place the ball in a sabot and load the sabot into a shotgun shell. However, in a smoothbore shotgun, accuracy would have been little better than in the pistols. One might postulate a rifled shotgun, sometimes used for deer hunting, loaded with a saboted ball, loaded into a shotgun shell that would do the job. It would take some familiarity with firearms and reloading.

  2. Dave Swords
    Dave Swords says:

    Hi, Elizabeth.

    I know on the department I retired from, no one would have been allowed to work the street with a neck brace. First, you had to have a doctor release you for duty, and secondly, the department had to permit it. I remember a general rule of thumb was that you couldn’t work full duty with any cast or brace or other obvious injury that s suspect could spot as a weakness and take advantage of.

    Offices could, however, sometimes work light duty, which is basically headquarters duty.

  3. Elizabeth Bryant
    Elizabeth Bryant says:

    Lanie does seem to be the repository for expository BS, but she doesn’t creep me out as bad as the CSI:Miami chick who had a real sexual vibe going with the corpses. Ick.

    My question to Lee was about Esposito. In real life would he be on active duty with a neck brace? Is there a particular point or procedure for when an officer gets hurt but feels well enough to carry on? It seems like since they’re even doing that now with the NFL, there must be someone in charge of evaluating injured officers.

  4. KD Easley
    KD Easley says:

    I love this show. For me the appalling forensics just adds to the humor. Castle’s dialogue is priceless. And I agree, Lanie is awful, but in that train-wreck can’t stop watching way. I keep coming back to see what amazing feats she comes up with next.

  5. GunDiva
    GunDiva says:

    I love Lanie as the shoe-shine guy! And the scene at the firing range cracked me right. the. hell. up.

    I’m suprised that no one has mentioned how red the blood was on the homeless guy’s shirt. Looked more like a red sharpie marker than old, dry blood.

    Last night was the first night I’d ever watched a full episode and I found it humorous, but mostly I caught myself saying…”can’t wait to see what Lee has to say about this!”

  6. Melanie Atkins
    Melanie Atkins says:

    I guess none of you are as much of a Castle freak as I am, as I frequent, the cast/crew Twitter pages, and look at spoiler videos all the time. Andrew Marlowe, the show’s creator, is determined to stretch out the romantic conflict at least through this season. This fall, for sure, both will be involved with other people (Gina and Josh)… “the wrong people”, Andrew says, and there’s no telling what he has cooking for the rest of the season. Most of the fans, including me, want them together — as does Stana (Beckett), but Andrew, Nathan, and other powers-that-be fear the show will suffer if Beckett and Castle get together too soon. What can I say? It’s Hollywood TV.

    The bad forensics really bug me, and I wish they’d get it right. But I can suffer through it for the relationship part. No way will I give up on the show now.

  7. Perry
    Perry says:

    Hi, I guess I cut them some slack on things like test results time. But I have to say, Lanie just seems to get worse every time she’s on the screen. Do you think the writers are doing it to annoy you?

    As to the romance, I think Beckett is totally playing Castle. Or I guess I hope so, having them actually dating could be the death of the show.

    One thing about the call to have the Delorean towed bugged me. They knew the car was there, and must have had the license number. Wouldn’t Esposito have just called someone at the station asking them to have the car towed?

    I look forward to your Castle blog posts, don’t let the nitpickers get you down.

  8. Carol Davis Luce
    Carol Davis Luce says:

    Last night’s show wasn’t my favorite. In fact, I switched over to The Big C halfway into Castle. I thought the chemistry between Castle and Beckett was way off this week. She seemed to merely tolerate his presence. There was a lot of eyerolling and shaking of her head at almost everything he said and did. Maybe the new boyfriend has clouded her mind and she isn’t as enamored with Castle anymore. That’s how it came across to me, even through I didn’t stick around long enough to know about the new beau. Romanace as a subplot is tough to sustain.

  9. Gayle Carline
    Gayle Carline says:

    Does anyone remember the show Police Squad? It was a 1/2-hour comedy, a la Airplane! and featured a shoe-shine man who knew everything. Every episode would have Leslie Nielson sitting down for a shine and being told Everything to help him solve the case. Then he’d leave and someone famous would sit down, like Tommy Lasorda, and ask something pertinent to their line of work.

    That’s our Lanie. She’s the shoe-shine man.

  10. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Okay, I just watched the DVR again. They loaded mini balls into the weapons so untless they had a lot of antique ammo, they had to shoot one round at a time and speed up the film. Now I’m really laughing. It must would take hours to film that scene.

  11. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    I’d forgotten about the shooting range scene, Lisa. Too funny!

    Lee, I have a question on that scene. Besides the quantity of ammunition, what type of ammnition would they had used to test those weapons?

  12. Mary Quinlisk
    Mary Quinlisk says:

    I had to stop doing my homework last night (well, I did work on it during commercials) so that I could watch the show. I didn’t want to miss anything that might make your list this morning.

    With Lanie on board, do they really need anybody else? She seems to fill all the shoes.

    The show’s beginning to get repetitive. We have the Castle-Beckett relationship/not relationship thing. Nothing interesting is going on there. They work side-by-side all day. The interactions come across more like two co-workers who get along really well rather than flirting. Then some guy shows Beckett attention & Castle pouts.

    His relationship with Alexis was cute, but it’s become the same old-same old, too. Let’s get Dad worried about something. He’ll have horror thoughts thru out the whole show. Then at the end, we’re back to Daddy’s sweet little girl. It’s kind of like her character is a cardboard cut-out.

    I did love the time-traveling killer theory, tho. It was pretty funny. And the way the evidence just seemed to support it made it even funnier. Then the discussion about whether or not the ball would have rust on it if it had traveled thru time was great.

  13. Kelly
    Kelly says:

    Though Ive been following your blog for a year now, last night was the first time I watched Castle. I’m just not much of a tv fan, but I’d heard a lot about Castle, from you, Lee, and others, and last night one of the guest stars was Muse Watson,(we graduated from the same program, at the same college) so I thought I’d watch.

    Castle was more fun than I thought it would be- I didn’t realize it was “dramatic comedy” Somehow I’d thought it was more a straight forward police procedural. I liked the character Castle a lot. Not sure about Beckett, yet. Lanie irritated me off the bat with the “Cause of death- single gunshot from a .45” and especially with the “we know the age of the shot by the rust on it” I’m willing to cut dramatic comedy shows some slack with procedures, but that was too much! Somehow I missed the lividity remark. She also seems awfully cranky- she groused at them for not bringing her coffee, then said she didn’t drink coffee anyway!

    I loved “The Talk” between Castle and Alexis- I’ve had similar “talks” with my daughter where she comes in and talks (rants) to me and then says, “I’m glad we had this talk” We??

    I liked the Steampunk/time travel bit a lot. My daughter is a huge fan of both, so we both thought that was cool.

    I know very little about guns and firearms, but I thought Victorian Age guns were sleeker and more accurate than those pistols, (perhaps Ive watched too many Westerns) though they completely fit in the clunky kind of Steampunk world. Lanie said “200 year old weapons” which would put them at War of 1812 era, not Victorian. Also, modifying a modern shotgun to shoot that kind of shot seemed a little far-fetched to me, but what do I know?

    I haven’t seen enough of the show to comment on the Castle jealousy angle, though I agree about the need to keep up the romantic tension- once that tension was broken, on Moonlighting, the show went down hill.

    I watched the Glades over the summer and thought the writers were clever with their finale- the two lead characters (finally!) got together at the end, but whats going to happen when her husband gets out of jail- that tension is going back up! They’ve done some interesting things with the romantic tension on Bones as well.

    I think both of those shows are fun, but way unrealistic when it comes to police procedures, especially Bones.

  14. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Well, I see I need to dust off my old speech, again, about why I do this review.

    I was asked to do this review of police procedures. The request came from a group of writers who’d watched the show and wondered if the procedures used by the actors on Castle were proper, or not. If so, they wanted to use them in their work. If not, they wanted to toss them and simply watch and enjoy the show for what it is, a comedy/drama.

    So I started watching and reviewing the police procedure and forensics portions of the show. Yes, I’m totally aware that the show is not meant to be a tutorial of actual police procedures. I know they’re actors. I know TV only has 40 minutes (without commercials) to get the story across. I know Lanie is not a real medical examiner. I know there’s a storyline about Castle and Alexis. I know their guns aren’t real. I know why they do what they do. I know. I know. I know… 🙂

  15. Lisa Jackson (aka Lisa Haselton)
    Lisa Jackson (aka Lisa Haselton) says:

    I liked the opening with Castle making a s’morelet – gross combination in my opinion, but creative. 🙂 And the Hasselhoff comment was priceless…I’m with Alexis on that one, still revolting.

    I caught the same Lanie-things, but also wondered in addition to her false lividity-as-time-of-death-indicator, how (if it could actually be true) it would be effected by the fact that the body had been moved in order to remove the clothes. But now thinking about it, the clothes were removed quickly after death, so probably moot since no time for blood to pool.

    She also commented on fibers in the wound – I suppose its possible she’d notice it, but I’d think they wouldn’t be obvious unless up close in autopsy.

    Question – is it common for the M.E. to be on scene before the detectives? Lanie is always there first with her crystal ball and then Beckett shows up. I’d think the detective would be there and call the M.E.

    In WPA I learned that more often than not, “ballistics” is used incorrectly – it should be ‘firearms identification’. And in this episode ‘ballistics’ was the only term used.

    Like Michael, I loved the time travel theory and when the Delorean came on screen I laughed. What were the odds? lol It was great. The old vs new bullet if time travel was involved was a good point. I liked the details of that storyline.

    Poor Esposito – the man couldn’t catch a break, well, I guess he got many breaks (sorry for the pun). When he was calling in the plate on the Delorean, Ryan interrupted him because of the homeless guy wearing the bloody shirt. Esposito stopped half-way through giving the plate number and said “I’ll get back to you”. Would that really happen? Seems like they really wanted that car towed, but then he put the request on ‘hold’.

    Oh, and the scene with the target range. OMG, best part of the show last night. Castle not being able to hit the target at all, but able to hit parts of the target to his left. So funny. “This is your target. That is my target.” And then all the stuff they did to try to get the gun to shoot straight. I loved it. Even when they put the laser sight on it…still no joy with the target.

    I did wonder where they got all that ammunition, though. Castle and Beckett shot A LOT of rounds with these antique guns in order to determine they were impossible to sight.

    His jealousy last night was too much. Maybe if he wasn’t already in a relationship with someone else I’d care about his feelings a bit more. But to pine after Beckett when he’s not available. It’s just uncool.

    I love how she’s doing her own thing and dating…and not telling anyone, just letting them be surprised.

  16. Marie-Nicole Ryan
    Marie-Nicole Ryan says:

    I automatically cringe when Lanie comes on screen to give her pronoucements.

    That aside, it was a fun episode until Becket’s out-of-left-field new beau. Realistically with someone Becket’s age, if one relationship wasn’t working out (eg. Castle) then she’d move on. Perhaps on a writerly level this was supposed to mirror Alexis’ falling in love for the first time. Castle was surprised by Alexis’ boyfriend and by Becket’s new fella. Big deal. Pee or get off the pot.

    However if they get together, a la Moonlighting, the romantic conflict is gone.

    How would I write it differently? Since I write romantic suspense, they would be up against a wall by now, having a high old time. But my format needs a happily ever after and TV shows don’t need that until they’re shooting the series finale.

    If I were a TV scriptwriter, I guess I would have to make the internal conflicts for both characters deeper than they have thus far, but that would probably change the character of the show.

  17. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    Lee, I couldn’t wait to get to my computer this morning. I am still laughing at the rust on the mini-ball comment Lanie made. I just knew that would set you off.

    I totally missed the promises of maximum sentences (must have been all that battering of poor Esposito last night), which is why I am here to catch the errors.

    I love your description of Lanie’s put-in-the-fingerprint and spit-out-the-culprit machine. I really do think she has one stashed in her unneeded lab.

    Last week I agreed about the over jealously thing with Castle, but this week, no way. I want to know who the guy is that Becket left with. I can’t wait to see if he’s in next week’s show or if they will drag this out to the finale.

    The other reason I couldn’t wait to see Castle this week was the tribute to Stephen J. Cannell. When I heard about his passing, I wondered what they’d do on Castle.

    Stephen J. Cannell was quite the gentlemen. I had to pleasure to meet him twice in person—once at a conference where he encouraged me to write despite my dyslexia, and another time at a tiny independent bookstore. My sister took me out for dinner and then to the bookstore for my birthday without telling me why, but she told Stephen he was my birthday present. Of course, then Stephen insisted on pictures to document the occasion. Oddly, that is the only picture I have from all my years of meeting authors at conferences. The bookstore was so tiny that you had to go in the front door and out the back while Stephen sat at a table in the middle, but Stephen believed in supporting the independents. He will be missed, both in the TV and movie world and, in the writing world. I’m waiting for his latest book to arrive in the mail. My heart goes out to Stephen’s family and friends.

  18. Michael A. Burstein
    Michael A. Burstein says:

    Lee, I pondered these questions of yours: “Why is Lanie’s house of horrors equipped to run every test known to the scientific community? Why can’t she simply send things to the proper testing facilities? And WHY does SHE instantly know everything?” and I came up with an answer, despite the rhetorical nature of your query. My guess is that given the fast pace in which they try to run these stories, they take these shortcuts because they simply don’t have the time for the other plots to run through. As we keep noting in your posts, the show’s focus is more the relationship between Castle and Beckett, and much of the personal life subplots need to be resolved within a day or two (such as the one this week involving Alexis’s boyfriend). If the show became more realistic in its use of forensics, we’d probably find the drawing out of the subplots over that period to be unrealistic instead.

    Of course, your questions were rhetorical, so you probably already know this. 🙂

    In other things, I viewed the captain’s comments to Esposito as being more reassurance than anything else. I didn’t think the captain was claiming that he could actually ensure the maximum sentence, but that he would work toward it. And I can continue to accept Castle’s jealousy to a point, but I do think that by the next episode, he should either take positive action toward Beckett or move onto someone else. That’s the problem with shows like this; they want to keep up the romantic tension because viewers enjoy it, but at some point it gets to be too much.

    My final point: as a science-fiction writer, I loved Castle’s theory of a time-traveling killer, and I was amused when Beckett noted at one point that it was the best theory they had. But I also loved how they analyzed it briefly and rejected it by noting that the bullet would have been new, and not old and rusted, had the killer actually traveled from the past.

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