Episode Title: "Heroes & Villains"
Writer: David Amann
Director: Jeff Bleckner
An ex-con Tyler Faris (James Ferris) drags a woman into a dark alley and attempts to rape her. However, a gruff voice warns Tyler to stay away from the woman and when Tyler moves to attack the unseen man, his hand is sliced off. And the the killer cuts Tyler in half with a single stroke. Later, Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and her unofficial partner, novelist, Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) speak to the woman, who seems reluctant to share many details about her savior. From Tyler's mother, they learn of his connection with Tony "The Butcher" Valtini (Jamie McShane); a mobster whom Tyler had come in conflict with.
But Tony is adamant that Tyler was killed by the same masked vigilante who carved an "L" on his butt. And upon viewing the security tapes from Tony's warehouse attack, they see the attacker wore a costume with red body armor, prompting Castle to excitedly proclaim their killer to be a superhero. Explaining his theory about the killer's identity to Detectives Beckett, Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Ryan (Seamus Dever) while an incredulous Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) looks on, Castle comes to one solid conclusion: the killer is a big fan of superhero comic books.
At the comic store Comicadia, the store owner recognizes Castle from his new Marvel graphic novel and Beckett as one of his customers. They encounter a freelance artist named Paul Whittaker (Kenneth Mitchell) and they soon learn that the killer's costume matches that of a character called Lone Vengeance from an underground web comic. The creator of the comic calls himself Sean Elt (an anagram of Stan Lee) and appears to have covered his online tracks well. But Castle recognizes a piece of the costume that was mistakenly left at the crime scene. When he and Beckett go to retrieve it, Lone Vengeance swipes it out of their hands and makes an acrobatic escape.
Fortunately, Esposito has a line on where they can find Lone Vengeance. But it turns out that their latest suspect, a thin man named Chad Hockney (Hank Harris) is simply a Lone Vengeance wannabe. Soon enough, Castle realizes that the Lone Vengeance web comic fictionalizes the exploits of the real Lone Vengeance, leading him to assume that the writer is Lone Vengeance himself. Castle and Beckett soon learn that Tyler was a fan of the Lone Vengeance comic and an informant for Paul on his day job as a crime beat reporter. They theorize that Tyler realized that Paul was Lone Vengeance and killed Tyler to protect his secret.
They catch up to Paul just as he's trying to sell off his most valuable comics and skip town. But his quick confession to being Lone Vengeance throws Beckett and Castle, who quickly figure out that Paul is protecting the real Lone Vengeance. Using their information thus far to locate Lone Vengeance's hideout, Beckett and Castle are there when Lone Vengeance returns. Holding the would be superhero at gunpoint, Beckett orders the figure to unmask and it turns out to be her fellow Police Officer, Ann Hastings (Valerie Azlynn) who briefly appeared in the episode. How is that playing fair with your audience, "Castle" writers?
Ann admits to being Lone Vengeance but insists that she never murdered anyone. However, when she recovered the costume piece from Beckett and Castle, she found a fingerprint. This ultimately leads back to a costume maker who fulfilled a special order for Tony "The Butcher;" who turns out to be the real killer of Tyler Farris. Inexplicably, Ann isn't charged for her vigilante activities and she reunites with Paul. Castle and Becket notice the similarities between themselves and the young couple; which becomes awkward when they see Ann and Paul start making out in the elevator.
I know that "Castle" exists in its own world that only lightly resembles reality. But seriously? Ann gets off without being prosecuted and somehow Tony has the strength to cleave a man in two with just a single stroke? Are bones just made out of paper mache in this universe?
That's not even including Ann's incredible acrobatics while she escaped from Beckett and Castle in the alley. And people say superhero comics are farfetched…
Overall, it was an enjoyable episode, but it couldn't have been more of a cartoon unless there was actual animation involved. Superhero comics are pretty close to my heart, so it was fun to watch Castle geek out over the details of Lone Vengeance's costume and his comic book flirting with Beckett was fun, as usual. I do have the lingering suspicion that this episode was constructed just to push the Derrick Storm graphic novel supposedly based on a story by Richard Castle. It is an actual comic that is out this week. But it shouldn't be that big of a shock for fans of the show. There are three Nikki Heat novels "by Castle" that have been pushed on the show in the same way.
Cross marketing purposes aside, it seemed like the episode was just pulling suspects out of thin air. "Castle" has a habit of not giving the viewer enough information to make their own informed guesses about who the killer is. Ann's appearances in this episode prior to her unmasking were so minor that it borders on cheating. The only redeeming factor about her character was that Ann got to throw Beckett's quest to solve her mother's murder back in her face; which were the only overt mentions this week of that long running story.
The new Captain needs to get some character development, STAT. It's one thing to be introduced as a new source of conflict within the precinct. But Victoria Gates is so incredibly unlikable that viewers are going to turn on her very quickly unless she starts showing some characteristics that are least partially sympathetic. If Penny Johnson Jerald was able to give Sherry Palmer some entertaining shades of grey then there's no reason she can't do the same with Gates if the writers make sure she has something to work with.
Castle's daughter, Alexis (Molly Quinn) is also starting to overstay her welcome. It's good that "Castle" seems to acknowledge that it's almost time to write her out of the series (at least as a regular), but her scenes with Castle this week were so repetitive that I'm starting to dread their father/daughter talks.
"Heroes & Villains" was entertaining enough. If "Castle" can't be great every week, I want it to be good at the very least. This one just barely squeaked by.
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.