Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Ghost Town

  • Title: Ghost Town
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Rupert Laight
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Yolande Benstead, Jack McElroy
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Ingrid Adams, Robert Jezek
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/19/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith audio play, Ghost Town is a ghost story. Sarah and Josh, after the events of the last story in this series, decide to have a holiday and visit Sarah’s friend, retired journalist Yolande Benstead. Yolanda now lives in a small village in Romania that is hosting an international peace conference. Josh and Sarah arrive, catch-up with Yolande and meet her butler, Dmitri. Dmitri had simply turned-up at her doorstep one rainy night, in quite a state and with no memory, not even of his own name. Yolande took him in as a kindness.

The first night she is there, Sarah is attacked by something horrible in her room. She doesn’t believe in ghosts but doesn’t know how to explain the feelings of fear and dread she experienced. The next day, Sarah and Josh learn that similar cases of hauntings have been happening all over the village. And two of the delegates to the conference also had similar experiences.

The next night, Yolande invites a visiting American couple to dinner. Paul is with the conference, and his wife, Candy, is accompanying him. But that night, the horror strikes again – and Candy is frightened to death.

Dmitri also confronts someone at Yolande’s house – but because Sarah is attacked again at the same time, no one realises what’s happened. The intruder shoots Dmitri dead. However, Dmitri leaves a clue. Sarah investigates at a nearby library and then at the university. She discovers Dmitri is really a research scientist and lecturer in sonics, who had disappeared recently. Sarah and Josh inform the department chairperson that his scientist is dead. Returning to the village, Sarah checks out the recording equipment from the previous night – there is nothing there.

She goes to the pub and confronts Christian, an ex-pat living in the village who had tried to talk her into having dinner with him. She obtains evidence against him, confirming her theory, and manages with help from Josh to stop him from harming herself. Christian Ian Abbotly is the “CIA” Dmitri warned them about. It seems Dmitri was a scientist, lured away from his university to work on sonic weapons. He developed a weapon that, using radio waves, projects feelings of horror and dread – feelings of fear so strong they can even cause death. Each of the victims had a radio in his or her room that picked up the deadly signals.

Ghost Town runs a bit short, but it is a very atmospheric and spooky story. Romania is the perfect setting for an entire village suddenly besieged by ghosts. Sarah’s friend, Yolande, is an excellent addition to the story. I hope she returns, though I doubt she will. She’s also a bit of a warning to Sarah. Yolande had been a cutting-edge journalist in the 60s but eventually, she was pushed out of the profession because no one wanted to back her anymore.

Recommended.

The CD version includes several trailers for other Big Finish productions.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order Ghost Town on Download only follow the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

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Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 Review

  • Series Title: Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 26
  • Discs: 7
  • Network:  First-Run Syndication (produced by Paramount)
  • Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Colm Meaney
  • DVD: R1, NTSC DVD

I remember when Star Trek The Next Generation was first announced, and watching the entire first season and hating it, so at the time – I didn’t watch any more. I have watched the show occasionally in re-runs since then, so I know it improved from the first few seasons. Due to several factors, I’ve purchased Seasons 3-7 (Amazon’s massive Star Trek sale last year helped a lot) so I will be watching and reviewing all the seasons, plus the Complete Star Trek: Deep Space 9, eventually. But for now, I’m going to focus on season 3.

The third season of ST: TNG seems to be a transitional season – it still has some of the problems of the earlier seasons, but there are some good elements here as well. The early episodes of the season feel very cold and emotionless. They are also surprisingly depressing or sad for Star Trek. There’s an episode where a child loses his mother in a senseless accident. There’s an episode where Data creates a child for himself – and loses her. And just the general feel of many of the episodes is not the hopeful tone we normally associate with Star Trek.

However, about the midpoint of the season, things start to change. First, as is common for ensemble pieces, several episodes focus on specific characters – giving them each more of a chance to shine, rather than a single line in the episode to justify their name in the credits. Second, characters who will become semi-regulars, or at least, frequent guest stars show-up for better or worse. One of my favorites was Lt. Barclay, played brilliantly by Dwight Schultz. In “Hollow Pursuits”, Barclay is a newly transferred lieutenant in engineering. We can see he’s painfully shy, so much so he even stutters on occasion. LaForge is getting annoyed by his constantly being late, and general lack of confidence. Picard, however, noticing that Barclay has been transferred from ship to ship, decides they will help Barclay come out of his shell and become an Enterprise-class officer. So he orders LaForge to make Barclay his special project. LaForge actually takes to the task – giving Barclay additional duties, encouraging him, asking ship’s counselor Deanna Troi how to help him, etc. Troi mentions Barclay is very imaginative. Between Deanna and LaForge, they find Barclay had created a number of adventures in the holodeck – adventures featuring characterizations of the crew. In the adventures, Barclay speaks like an old-time movie matinee idol and works out his issues (among other things, he has a crush on Troi, which becomes a problem when he’s ordered to seek counseling with her). The ship is also experiencing intermittent problems, and it’s Barclay who comes to the realization as to what the problem is – which he works with LaForge to resolve. I liked Barclay – and I know from seeing this show in re-runs we will see him again. But I also enjoyed seeing an entire episode devoted to the engineering crew (we see a lot of O’Brien as well).

We meet Deanna’s mother – who largely seems to exist to annoy Deanna and bug her about getting married. Sigh. Yes, it is as annoyingly “old-fashioned” as it sounds. The Ferengi show up in several episodes – they are disgusting, annoying, and basically “nerdy” – which isn’t the best villain to have in a show like this. For most of the season, the Romulans are also villains. Starfleet is now allied with the Klingons but seems to be close to war with the Romulans. Q shows up once, and even though the character is an updated version of “The Squire of Gothos”, DeLancie is so much fun, I can’t help but like him. Not a character to have to show up every episode though, just the one episode in the season is fine.

One annoying, really annoying, problem with Next Generation is that constantly hits the reset button with every single episode or two-parter. We know characters are never really going to die, or leave, or get married, or have children, or basically change – because, in the next episode, everyone has to be the same. The show is incredibly static, and there is very little, if any, growth in the characters in season 3. This really irritates me – and it irritated me back when the show aired (season 3 would have aired in 1989-1990). Other shows were beginning to show character-development and change around then. Babylon 5 managed to more-or-less follow the show runner’s plan for a 5-year run. And of course, British dramas weren’t afraid of permanently killing off characters, or changing a television series to fit the times. I wanted to see character change and development – and there was virtually none in the entire season.

Finally, season 3 ends with “The Best of Both Worlds”, part 1 – so yes, I took out season 4 and watched part 2. It’s an episode I’ve seen many times, though not always in sequence – Picard is captured by the Borg and turned in to Lucius of Borg. Of course, by the end of part 2, he’s rescued and turned back into Picard. I will say, that considering the Borg are basically Star Trek’s answer to Doctor Who‘s Cybermen (who first appeared in the 1960s) – the Borg soldiers did manage to be quite scary, especially with their built-in weapons. I did find it weird that Star Fleet apparently sent every ship they had to the Battle at Wolf 359, but they all lost – and the Enterprise, all by itself, manages to defeat the Borg within sight of Earth. Really guys? The Enterprise is that good? Didn’t anybody else in Star Fleet have a clue about defeating the Borg? Come on, really?

Overall, the series is worth watching and Season 3 is recommended. I’m probably going to be skipping around between various series, but I will review additional seasons of ST: TNG and link them.

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Test of Nerve

  • Title: Test of Nerve
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: David Bishop
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/07/2018

**Spoiler Alert** Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith Test of Nerve is my favorite so far of the Sarah Jane audios I’ve listened to. It’s fast-moving, has a real sense of danger, and adds to the continuing plot of the series. I lost my first attempt for this review due to an unexpected computer shut-down so hopefully, the second will be OK.

Test of Nerve opens with a radio broadcast of three news stories: a junior minister being “jostled” by protestors and the arrest of one of the same, “New Age Travellers” being forcefully evicted from an old tube station, and a break-in at a bioweapons/testing lab in which the lab officials insist “nothing” was taken. All three of these stories prove to be interwoven skillfully into the plot.

Josh and Natalie, Sarah’s friends, are waiting for her at her house for a meeting that Sarah called. Sarah arrives, late, toting a large gift she found outside her apartment addressed to her. She opens it and finds a living rat in a cage. When she, with Josh’s help, removes the note stuck to the cage, the cage seals and a pellet releases gas – which quickly kills the rat. The note is also a threat – if Sarah doesn’t do something to stop it, all of London will suffer the same fate as the rat. Sarah and her friends have a subject for investigation. Natalie will remain at the flat to investigate on-line; Josh goes off to investigate the bio lab (Bioguard), and Sarah takes the very dead rat to her friend, Claudia, at C19, to find out what happened.

When Sarah calls Claudia she’s busy with someone in her office – but she manages to make an appointment with Sarah for a late lunch. Josh, pretending to be a reporter for Metropolitan magazine, interviews Mr. Harris at Bioguard. It turns out that Ellie Martin was one of the “travelers” kicked out of the tube station. She discusses it with Josh, saying that she and the others weren’t even allowed to take their gear, and they were well away from the platform so it was safe.

When Sarah returns to her apartment, James Carver arrives. He’s a former British soldier, trying to get compensation for soldiers who were subjected to experiments with anti-nerve gas agents without their permission. He had organized the protest mentioned on the news radio program but was released without charge. When he gets to Sarah’s he seems unstable and threatening. Natalie calls the police, but Sarah gets angry – Carver leaves and Sarah tells the police it was a mistake.

When Sarah goes to meet Claudia to find out about her rat, she nearly runs into a man running from the apartment. The door is open and Sarah finds Claudia on the floor, dying. The police arrive and arrest Sarah on suspicion of murder. Josh meets up with Ellie to get her stuff from the tube station and finds her stuck in a glass box. Before long, he is knocked out and they are both stuck in a glass box. Harris threatens to kill them, placing a nerve gas pellet on the top of the box and telling them if they try to escape the pellet will be released – killing them. Why am I now thinking of Schrödinger’s cat? But anyway…

It takes seven hours for the police to release Sarah, and they still do not believe her warnings of an imminent nerve gas attack on London. While she’s being interrogated, and Josh and Ellie are being stuffed in a glass box – Natalie is at Sarah’s when Harris shows up. He threatens her, pushes her out of her wheelchair, and then takes it. He also tells her there’s a bomb in the building and gives her 30 minutes to escape.

When Sarah leaves the building Harris calls and threatens all she holds dear – telling Sarah she can save her friend Natalie from a bomb – or prevent Carver from releasing nerve gas in the tube tunnels (i.e. the subway).

Sarah, surprisingly, shows up at the tube station, where she finds that Carver has just released Ellie and Josh from their trap, Ellie has run off both to escape and to possibly get additional help, and Carver is threatening to throw himself under the train – which will crush and release the vest of nerve gas pellets strapped to him. One thing that Claudia was able to tell Sarah before she died was that C19 suspects that Bioguard lied when they claimed nothing was stolen during the recent break-in, and that in reality a tray of nerve gs pellets went missing and it’s suspected to be an inside job.

Sarah, with help from Josh, manages to get Carver to remove the nerve gas – but he still throws himself under the train. A news report ties into the opening of the story and fills in a few details.

Later, we learn that Natalie dragged herself free of the flat and managed to escape, barely. But when Sarah meets up with her, Natalie tells her: that’s it, she’s had enough. She can’t get over Sarah leaving her to die – even though Sarah had an impossible choice. When Sarah says that even five years ago she would have saved a friend first, but now she has to see the bigger picture and save the world – Natalie cannot accept it and leaves. Sarah accuses Josh of wanting to do the same thing and leave – but he vows to stay with her and help her.

I really enjoyed Test of Nerve from the punny title to the action and suspense. The intercutting between Natalie swearing she “won’t be a victim” as she pulls herself through Sarah’s flat and Sarah rushing, at first we know not where, and later trying to talk down Carver is masterfully and suspensefully done – especially for audio.

There are some plotholes. Sarah calls Natalie’s cell but can’t reach her because it’s in her car – but she apparently doesn’t think to call a neighbor to check on the situation. And Josh, Ellie, and Sarah could have saved everyone a lot of trouble if they’d simply forced Carver into the convenient box that Josh and Ellie had been stuck in. Presumably, it could be sealed. But even so, this was the best Sarah Jane Smith audio so far. I hope the range continues to improve. Highly recommended.

This is a full-cast audio play with the cast performing their roles.

Read my review of the first story in the Sarah Jane Smith audio play series, Comeback.

Read my review of the second story in the Sarah Jane Smith audio play series, The Tao Connection.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order Test of Nerve on Download only, click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Batman The Brave and the Bold Season 3

  • Series Title:  Batman the Brave and the Bold
  • Season:  3
  • Episodes:  13
  • Discs:  1 (Blu-Ray)
  • Cast:  Diedrich Bader
  • Original Network:  Cartoon Network
  • Production Network:  Warner Brothers (Animation)

The third season of Batman The Brave and the Bold introduces the JLI – Justice League International, including Fire and Ice, Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, Martian Manhunter, Plastic Man, Guy Gardner’s Green Lantern and others. However, I thought the characterizations were off a bit – Ice is really dumb, Fire is a sexpot, etc. Still, there’s some fun to be had with the show now being much more of an ensemble piece – and more traditional DC Heroes also make appearances including Superman, Wonder Woman, and the ever-present Aquaman.

The format for Batman The Brave and the Bold includes a short and then the main story. The shorts are completely disconnected from the main story and give the series a chance to really dig into the DC vaults when finding characters to showcase. Many of the shorts are extremely effective. We also get to hear Aquaman sing – twice, first in presenting the theme tune to his sitcom, “The Currys of Atlantis” (one of the opening shorts), and then again when he sings to a de-powered Capt. Atom, “The Rousing Song of Heroism”. Both are a trip – and quite wonderful. Season 3 also includes Vigilante singing “The Ballad of Batman” in an opening short that is essentially a music video. I enjoyed the music of this series.

The regular stories have a great deal of humor, though, at times, it feels like the creators have run out of ideas. But, on the other hand, there are still some very wacky, out there, extremely humorous episodes and I definitely enjoyed that.

The penultimate episode consists of four shorts, and no real Batman story at all. They are amusing in their own way, but not Batman. The final episode is a Bat-Mite story. I’ve never really liked Bat-Mite, but this breaking the fourth wall story as Bat-Mite decides that BTBATB has “jumped the shark” and needs to be canceled so Batman can go back to being dark and brooding, has some fun bits – and Ambush Bug. It’s definitely amusing to have a television show dedicate it’s last episode to getting itself canceled.

Overall, Batman the Brave and the Bold, although uneven throughout it’s run, has some classic moments, and it is worth getting the entire series, including the third season.

Read my review of Batman the Brave and the Bold Season 1.

Read my review of Batman the Brave and the Bold Season 2.

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: The Tao Connection

  • Title: The Tao Connection
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Barry Letts
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner, Maggie Stables
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/07/2018

Sarah Jane Smith The Tao Connection picks up from where the previous volume, Comeback left off. Two police officers fish a dead body from a river, but as Natalie tells Sarah, there’s a problem when the old man has the same fingerprints as 18-year-old Toby. Since Toby is both missing and a friend of Josh and Ellie, Sarah decides to investigate. But there is something much more sinister than an issue with fingerprint analysis going on.

Sarah decides to investigate the Huang Ti Clinic, and Holtooth Hall, now owned by the recluse, billionaire, Will Butley. The Clinic reports to be just another expensive health spa, but its customers seem oddly younger when they leave. Meanwhile, what is behind the disappearances of dozens of homeless teenaged boys?

Sarah and Josh try to get into Holtooth Hall to speak to Butley but are turned away by his security officer. They get the name of the other person in the house though, Mr. Ronald Sharp.

Sarah does interview a master of Taoism, who explains something of the philosophy to her. Sarah sees it as a search for eternal life, though the master explains it is the life of the spirit, not the flesh.

She, with help from Josh, also investigates the clinic. There is a lab in the clinic, where bodies are having their life forces drained away. And when one of the clinic’s new clients arrives, they are told to drink a mysterious draft of “concentrated Chi”. Yes, that doesn’t make sense.

When Sarah finally is able to contact Butley, she finds out Mr. Sharp has cut off his supply of this mysterious draft until he learns the secret to the Dark Sorcery incantations. But there is no secret.

Unfortunately, Butley kills Sharp but then succumbs to extremely advanced old age because Sarah declines to give him more of the draft. This mysterious essence is made by draining the lifeblood of young teenaged boys, who do not survive the procedure.

I first purchased the first few CDs in the Sarah Jane Smith from Big Finish a few years ago and I listened to The Tao Connection and Comeback; however, though I collected the entire series, I didn’t listen to them right away for several reasons. Now I’m re-listening to the few I listened to before and I intend to listen to the rest of the series. A long commute helps. Anyway, the hit-or-miss nature of The Tao Connection is probably one major reason I stopped when I did. The performances in this story are very strong, but it also has things like a fist-fight, which doesn’t work on audio (even after the fight it’s hard to figure out what happened), but the major negative is the way the audio treats oriental religion/spirituality. I’m pretty sure the essence of Taoism is not a search for immortality. I understand it to be more about balance and “going with the flow” instead of fighting nature. But I’m no expert. Still, as this is part of an on-going series, it’s worth at least a single listen. Not one of the best Big Finish audio plays though.

Oh, and yes, this is a full-cast audio play – all the actors perform their roles (often to the hilt, with relish), and the audio includes music and sound effects.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

To order The Tao Connection on download only click the link.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Book Review – Sarah Jane Smith: Comeback

  • Title: Comeback
  • Series: Sarah Jane Smith
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Terrance Dicks
  • Director: Gary Russell
  • Characters: Sarah Jane Smith, Josh Townsend, Natalie Redfern, Ellie Martin
  • Cast: Elisabeth Sladen, Jeremy James, Sadie Miller, Juliet Warner, Nicholas Briggs, David Jackson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 06/05/2018

Spoiler Alert

Comeback is a full-cast audio play in Big Finish’s Sarah Jane Smith original audio adventures line. It is a single disc full play with music, sound effects, a full cast performing all the parts, and it is a play. It is not an audiobook, with someone reading the story, nor is it one of Big Finish’s limited cast presentations. I quite enjoyed listening to a full-cast audio again, as it has been a while (I’ve been listening to and enjoying the limited-cast Companion Chronicles for a while now.)

Comeback opens at the funeral of Sarah Jane’s Aunt Lavinia. After the funeral and celebration (Aunt Lavinia would never call it a wake) the story picks up with Sarah working as a cashier at a bank. She’s trying to convince an older customer that she needs to see his ID to cash a check when the bank is robbed. The robbery is foiled, though a young man who foiled the crime is almost arrested because he is holding a gun (which he took off the robbers) when the police arrive. The young man is Josh, and Sarah takes him under her wing. It turns out that Sarah is in a bit of a jam. She was working for Planet 3 doing an investigative news series, but when the last piece in the series aired – Sarah was accused of making it up. Evidence is produced that proves her research “false”, the people she interviewed disappear, Sarah loses her job, and her television network is sued by the corporation she “attacked”. To make matters worse – Sarah becomes a target of identity not so much theft as identity assignation – her reputation is smeared and ruined, her bank account disappears, her passport is canceled. Sarah is persona non grata – she has nothing. With only a few friends to help, she’s trying to pull her life back together. Sarah had gotten the job at the bank to try and find out what happened to her bank account. But with the robbery, she’s put out of a job again and needs to find a new house.

Josh joins Sarah, and after contact with her friend, Natalie, they decide to investigate the quaint village of Cloots Coombe. Natalie had said their mutual friend, Ellie Martin was there to organize a “protest” against some new company that was behaving suspiciously. When Sarah and Josh arrive they find out from Ellie that she’s suspicious because the “new company” is producing no waste, at all. While Natalie investigates using her computer and contacts in London, Sarah and Josh investigate on the ground in the village. Ellie also mentioned that two people from her advance guard, Jenny, and a young man had left for the village and never returned.

Sarah and Josh go to the village – they run into the vicar, who refuses to answer questions. Sarah notices something odd about the village but Josh doesn’t realise what’s off. Natalie discovers that the village’s promise to never have any “MOD land” (or land used by the Ministry of Defence) is a result of an experiment that went wrong some time ago. Sarah ends up getting the details – the Ministry had opened an experimental lab researching chemical warfare outside the village in the woods. Unfortunately, the chemicals leaked from the lab, into a tunnel, and from the tunnel to the local Wiccan Well (now a shrine named after a saint). The water from the well was used by the church and the entire village for ceremonial uses. However, even with limited exposure – the poisoned well caused everyone in the village to become sterile.

Meanwhile, a new squire has brought a new company to the village. The squire is promising the villagers something but we don’t know what. When Sarah finds out about the village being sterile she also finds out what the company is researching: human cloning. Unfortunately, they haven’t had much success – only breeding a monster in the tunnel that absorbs anything that gets too close. It was this monster that killed Jenny. The story ends in a bit of a stalemate – the company agrees to stop its experiments and destroy its monster – but Sarah can’t go public with her compromised reputation. This makes the story feel more like a pilot – promising much more, later, than a completed story.

I did enjoy Comeback very much though. It was good to listen to a full-cast audio again, and I like the shorter (1-disc) format because it’s easier to listen to in the car on my commute. I also found this to be an intriguing start. The story itself moves swiftly from Sarah’s Aunt’s funeral, to the bank, to the iconic mysterious English village with a secret. It’s a good story and an excellent first volume.

Find out more about Big Finish audios at their website: www.bigfinish.com.

For further details about Comeback click the link. Unfortunately, this story from 2002 is currently out of stock on the Big Finish website.

Note: No promotional consideration was paid for this review. I review because I enjoy it!

Castle Season 8 Review

  • Series Title: Castle
  • Season: 8
  • Episodes:  22
  • Discs:  5
  • Network:  ABC (US)
  • Cast:  Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Seamus Dever, Jon Huertas, Molly C. Quinn, Susan Sullivan
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD

The final season of Castle is very uneven. When the best part of the season is the section of the season where the show returns to “normalcy” there’s an issue, and season 8 is even more uneven than season7. The opening two-parter shows the same case, for the same couple of days, from first Richard Castle’s point-of-view and then from Kate Beckett’s point-of-view, skipping the scenes where the two of them run into each other for the second go-around. In part one, Castle and Beckett start their morning together, then Kate is supposed to start her first day as the captain of the 12th precinct. Castle shows up at Ryan and Esposito’s multiple shooter homicides and finds Kate’s bracelet that he had given her that morning – in a pool of blood. It becomes obvious Kate was kidnapped or something is going on. From Kate’s point of view we find out Kate’s early morning call wasn’t a telemarketer like she told Castle (lie number one) but a warning, and as Castle discovers quickly Kate didn’t have a meeting at 1PP about being a new captain (lie number two). The first lie frankly is forgivable, – the call was a warning, having to do with Kate’s time in the Attorney General’s office, and by her oath and various “security things,” she literally couldn’t tell Rick about the warning or threat. The second lie is a little less forgivable – Kate didn’t need to lie to Castle about where she was going – and he quickly found out about the lie.

Kate is given a warning – a serious one. She meets a new analyst for the AG’s office, who tells her every person in her former team is now dead. In a conspiracy-theory laced plot that spans the two episodes, Kate discovers someone called “Lockset” is behind the deaths of her former team, Senator Bracken in prison, Bracken’s own conspiracy, meaning also her mother’s murder, oh – and eventually, Castle’s disappearance for two months during the previous season. The conspiracy isn’t the focus of every episode of the season, but it is an underlying element that rears its head fairly often. There are episodes almost entirely focused on Lockset, and episodes where it’s barely mentioned but the plot is advanced a bit. And there are episodes where it’s not really present at all.

The worse part of the Lockset conspiracy is that Kate, is convinced that if Rick knows anything about it, he will die trying to protect her, so she decides to walk out. She asks Rick for a trial separation and the two act like a couple on the verge of divorce. Castle decides he has to win her back. About halfway through the season, the two are forced back together by circumstances, the lying stops, and the series is a lot like it normally is: fun, light, romantic, crime-fighting. It’s Rick who discovers Lockset is tied into his missing two months, that somehow he learned information about it in Los Angeles, his actions or lack of action caused the death of Kate’s team, and Rick was so terrified by what he learned that he asked his “CIA handler” to erase his memory (last season’s umbrella theme). Rick also underwent having his own memory erased to protect Kate. To give Rick credit, and Kate too – they decide to stop lying to protect each other. Good move.

This season also introduces Hayley, a British detective and former MI6 operative who knows Rick’s step-mother and whom gets involved in Rick’s detective business. Hayley gets along very well with Alexis who is now working at her father’s detective agency. I liked Hayley, and I liked that she was portrayed as Rick’s friend and business partner – but never as a possible romantic interest, even when Rick and Kate were split up.

Kate gets her own partner, the analyst, who assists her in all things Lockset.

The second to last episode of the season is Castle’s annual Halloween episode, with no ties whatsoever to Lockset or even any of the other on-going themes of the season.

The finale, as promised, is all about wrapping-up Lockset. It’s a bit of a confusing mess. Castle is captured and interrogated under a truth serum. To make things worse, his interrogator asks simply yes or no questions as to who Castle and/or Kate have told about Lockset: his mother (yes, earlier in the episode), his daughter (yes, earlier in the episode), Ryan and Esposito (yes, earlier in the season), Kate obviously. Notably, he does not ask about Hayley or the young man helping Kate. Castle is crying that he had betrayed everyone. The police arrive, but they all get pinned down by an army of troops in the room. Castle breaks the wall, and gets to the basement, to rescue Kate from Lockset – someone she thought she would trust. Castle succeeds and there’s a celebration at the precinct. But when Kate and Rick are celebrating at home, someone they thought had died shows up. He shoots Rick. Kate shoots the man, but not before he gets shots off – at Kate. The camera hovers over the bodies of Rick and Kate, holding hands. Then we hear Rick’s voiceover about “finding his muse” that we haven’t heard for several seasons. And we see an unconvincing flash forward to seven years later, of Rick, and Kate with several children.

It’s a very strange and spooky ending. The “seven years later” additional bit could very well have been all in Castle’s mind, especially as I can’t see Kate have six or more children. One or two, yes. But six? And we know Rick’s a great father, and he’s always seemed to want more kids, though he doesn’t seem to pressure Kate about it. Which begs the question: if the last couple of minutes never happened, or only happened in his head, how much of the episode, the season, or even the last eight seasons was Castle’s “I’m dying hallucination”? And last season had an episode where Castle gets an artifact which transports him to a place where he and Kate never met – and Kate was a captain. He “returns” to this “universe” but it makes one wonder. There have also been several very psychological thriller type episodes in the last two seasons: the one with the twins who were tortured by their psychologist parents (which is very unrealistic), Castle’s whole losing time thing, and believing he had good reasons for it when he starts to remember last season. Even the Halloween episode has a psychological bent to it. So the last episode of season 8 is very, very unsettling.

The best parts of the season were the stories that didn’t mention Lockset at all – or barely did. This season also features two Kate-less episodes, the only time in the entire series she doesn’t appear. And three of Fillion’s former colleagues from Firefly show up. Sigh. I can see why the show was canceled, rumors of fighting co-leads aside. But I actually did enjoy the season more than I thought I would, so there’s that. And even with the final episode being a bit of a mess, I can still say, it’s worth watching, especially if you’ve been watching the entire series.

Read my review of Castle Season 7.

Read my review of Castle Season 6.