This week’s Comic-Con themed episode of “Castle,” “The Last Frontier,” may be the show’s funniest. It’s also a love letter to not only sci-fi, but the fans who love it. Along the way it makes a great argument that fandom, rather than being for losers, can be a positive force in people’s lives. This is such a smart, funny episode that even people who have never watched it before will enjoy it.
We open on a scene from the fictional sci-fi show “Nebula 9.” It’s very “Star Trek.” It turns out to be a fan experience booth a Comic Con. Two fans realize that the show’s Oracle is an actual dead body.
Cut to Castle (Nathan Fillion) autographing books. Beckett tells him about the body. He’s thrilled by the opportunity to solve a crime at the Con. He mocks the elaborate Nebula 9 display in a shout out to “Firefly” for only lasting 12 episodes and being cancelled over a decade ago. He does, however count himself a fan of quality sci-fi like “that Joss Whedon show.” Ha!
Esposito (Jon Huertas) tells them that the victim, Anabelle, was the head of a Nebula 9 fan group who put together the display. The coroner says the victim died a day ago and has a mysterious wound. Beckett suggests reaching out to the Nebula 9 fansite. Everyone is amused she knows that it exists. She geeks out when the real Nebula 9 captain, Gabriel (Ed Quinn, “Eureka“) shows up. He is a hilarious stereotype of pretentious actors. He says he is devastated by her death because she put together the Nebula 9 Fan experience. He says she was alone on the bridge when he left. He hopes the fan experience will keep going because he is ready to get back to work. He sends them to talk to Annabelle’s friends at the Nebula 9 fan booth.
The two fans running the booth, Audrey (Erin Way “Alphas“) and Davis, are devastated. They have been friends for years. They tell them that some fans are angry that they continued the show in webisodes after acquiring rights to the show. One of the other fans embraces Beckett. He knows her from the Nebula 9 fandom. She was a megafan at Stanford. He shows Castle a picture of her dressed as Chloe, using the word “fracking.” Beckett demands the photo, claiming it’s now evidence. Hee!
Castle thinks this is the best, most hilarious thing ever. Beckett defends the fandom and Nebula 9. He says he will forgive her for her bad taste if she wears the costume for her.
The coroner comes back with the news that the victim was killed by a phaser aka a laser beam. Beckett reminds Castle he has a lifesize Boba Fett in his bathroom. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see it. He suspects a crazed fan, though Beckett says they all have alibis. Castle does a fantastic imitation of Captain Kirk as he lays out potential scenarios.
Ryan (Seamus Dever) interviews costumed con attendees, some of whom answer in fictional languages. A fan saw Anabelle with the real Lieutenant Chloe, Stephanie (Christina Moore “True Blood“) who is now a movie star. She says it was a quick conversation about being in the fan experience. She said no because she is building her career. Anabelle was having problems with Gabriel who had been showing up drunk.
Castle sees Alexis (Molly Quinn) in a super skimpy female assassin outfit. He is really upset, though Beckett points out it’s appropriate for the Con.
Beckett and Castle interrupt the Nebula Fan Experience to question the Captain and demand his phaser. Castle shoots it. It’s real. They bring Gabriel in for questioning, He points out that holding onto the murder weapon would make him an idiot. He cops to drinking, but denies that he was fired. He mentions getting Anabelle and her boyfriend into the opening night party. Beckett says Anabelle doesn’t have a boyfriend. Gabriel says he was seeing his doctor about an STD at the time of death. The doctor confirms.
Ryan and Esposito go to a Con party to interview witnesses. Ryan says he’s a “Lord of the Rings” man. Esposito earlier confessed to loving “Blade Runner.” So now you know. The bartender describes Anabelle’s date as a guy dressed likea Creaver,(the evil aliens on Nebula 9) who had a VIP pass.
Beckett and Castle go to a warehouse in search of the phaser manufacturer. A bunch of red laser beams hit their forehead as a voice says prepare to die. It belongs to a sci fir hardware manufacture wearing a “Han shot first” shirt. (Take that, Disney/Lucas merger!) His name is Donnely (Armin Shimmerman “Deep Space Nine”, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“). He says he created the blaster for entertainment purposes. He only sold one, to a collector, whose name started with an S and was in a costume as a Creaver. He drove a SUV with North Carolina plates. Donely warns that Castle may suffer some side effects fro shooting the blaster without protective gear. He worries that his hair will fall out.
The blaster is traced to a guy named Simon (Chris McKenna, “One Life To Live”). He says he bought it for Anabelle as a gift. They were each other’s Comic-con hook ups a la same time next year. At the party he gave her the blaster. Another guy tried to kiss her, She slapped him. The next day she said she was done with the convention. The other guy was Davis, the guy from the webisodes. He cops to confiding his longterm crush on her. But he didn’t kill her. He has an alibi. Anabelle was going to cash out and sell the rights o Nebula 9. The rights now go to Audrey. A production company was offering to buy them for 2.5 million. Audrey closed the deal after she died. Audrey denies it and wont answer the questions.
Beckett admits Nebula 9 was cheesy, but people loved it because it was about leaving home for the first time and making a difference and Chloe was a scientist and a warrior, in what is the best articulation of fandom that I have ever seen on a television show.
Castle and Beckett return to the bridge. Castle notices that his hand is glowing in th UV light. It’s the side effect of shooting the blaster. They gather all the suspects on the bridge.Firing the weapon left a mark that is only visible in UV light. It’s Captain Gabriel Winters. He claims he bought the last phaser that morning and fired a hole in the wall. It’s the real Lieutenant Chloe who hates that Nebula 9 was going to be rebooted.
Beckett isn’t upset. She loved Chloe, not Stephanie. Castle convinces her to try Nebula 9 cosplay in exchange for watching a marathon with her. Beckett puts on the Chloe outfit with a Craver mask and terrifies him.