When the news broke this summer that Andrew Marlowe was stepping down as Castle showrunner, I can’t say that I was actually all that nervous. David Amann was already a Castle writer and I just had a lot of faith in the writing staff to protect Marlowe’s project, especially since 1. He’d still be around (he’s writing 7.02!) and 2. His wife still writes for the show. And after that premiere, I feel safe in my faith in the show going forward. Six plus seasons is a long time to keep things fresh–a typical procedural relies to cycling through “ripped from the headlines” cases and replacing the cast when necessary, not Castle. They somehow brought us fresh dynamics to fuel us throughout the season while keeping the characters the same.
The beginning of the episode was stunning. Kate in her beautiful dress reaching towards the flames, then getting doused in water as she waited for the confirmation that Castle wasn’t in the car. (I’ll forgive them for letting Kate stay that close to a car that could explode at any moment.) After the moment of despaired silence, the action kicks into gear as Kate does what she does best, look for clues. I loved the Sergeant who was so eager to help out, especially after Kate’s “he’s one of our own.” Castle has been granted this treatment before, but it’s always so great to hear. Esposito and Ryan are dashing detectives as they start the investigation still in their tuxes, doing whatever they can for two of their favorite people. Our team finds the SUV that ran Castle off the road, just as it’s being flattened–Beckett takes that to heart as she tackles the junkyard employee flat to the ground.
We return from commercial to see Beckett’s audition for the Gotham City Police Department. I was surprised they continued to let her work the case, but after her brief conversation with Gates, it seems that Gates is fine with it for now until Beckett goes too hard. I guess threatening a man’s fingers one by one isn’t too hard for “one of their own.” Beckett’s barely contained rage is fantastically played by Stana Katic. She has a layer of cool on the outside and manages to fool Gates a bit, but she’s vibrating under the surface, forcing herself to focus to find the answers she needs. She did have over ten years of practice when searching for her mother’s killer. The way her face lit up when Esposito brought her coffee made me so mad at Espo for giving her that hope when he KNOWS what coffee means to her and Castle.
FBI Agent Conners arrives and forces Beckett (and the audience) to consider all the people they have put away and might have a grudge against him. Notable suspects include Senator Bracken, Mickey Barbossa, and the ever popular theory that it’s 3XK. Vinnie Cardano (from season 5’s “Murder He Wrote”) comes in and reveals that he had the SUV destroyed. How? Someone dropped off some money at a downtown dumpster. Tory the surveillance technician scrubs video of the site and who do they find dropping off the cash? None other than Richard Castle.
What I was saying earlier about changing dynamics but remaining the same begins here when they see Castle on the surveillance tape. Esposito immediately goes on the offensive, thinking the worst of Castle. It shows how much Espo is about the evidence he sees right in front of him. Ryan is more about possibility. He wants to watch it again, to see what they missed. This goes back to the ways in which Espo is always on Beckett’s rational side and Ryan usually takes Castle’s more imaginative one. Their character traits haven’t changed, but in light of new evidence, it’s exhibited in ways that will change their dynamic with Castle once he’s found.
Kate goes to see Martha and Alexis, trying to suss out if they knew something she didn’t–did Castle not want to marry her? Was he hiding something? Martha and Alexis quickly quell her suspicions that it was her, but when she meets with Agent Conners, again, he knocks down her renewed faith. “You’re assuming he wants to be found.” Kate refuses to be swayed. In what was a lovely way to show the passage of time (sure, newspaper clippings are a bit outdated–print off those articles from the web! But her notes are handwritten and she consults a the yellow pages, so…), we see that Kate continues to search for Castle on her own. In what is clearly still her old apartment, Kate revives her shuttered windows as her home murder board, with Castle’s face replacing what was once her mother’s homicide photo. Two months later, Castle washes up passed out in a dinghy, stubbly and a little worse for wear.
Beckett’s excitement to see Castle is muted by all the questions she has and the fact that he hasn’t woken up yet. During his extended… vacation, we find out that Castle was drifting off the coast of Maine. He was shot at and who knows what else, so Beckett asks Lanie to take a look at him as best she could, considering he’s alive and not dead like her usual patients. I love the scene with Ryan and Espo arguing about Castle’s intentions and whereabouts, not only because of my point earlier about Espo and Ryan representing Beckett and Castle, but also because they’re both expressing the conflicting feelings Kate’s feeling in that very moment. How could he leave? But after all this time, how could we not give him the “benefit of the doubt?”. Which questions is the right one to ask? They decide to simply move forward to find answers, and end up in Massachusetts where the dinghy originated. Henry Jenkins, owner of the boat, claims to not know anything, but certainly seems suspicious and very conveniently placed: he doesn’t know why he even bought (and refurbished) the boat, didn’t report it missing, instantly identifies Castle as the man camping near his home. Beckett and the boys check out the tent, and it looks like Castle had indeed been there, tracking his own disappearance, cleanly tucking his tux away… Esposito voices the big question: why did he stay here when he could have walked up to the house and used the phone? He wasn’t exactly stranded on a deserted island. Kate begins to feel betrayed just as Castle wakes up.
What other show could get away with not showing the star of their show for 20 minutes, only for it to be on grainy security video, and not have him speak for 45? I think only Castle. Beckett’s hope has now morphed to anger. Even the ever charming Castle’s first line “Just so you know, the doctors say kissing will speed up my recovery” does nothing to melt the icy exterior she constructed when learning he could have been home this entire time. Castle claims not to know what she’s talking about; he remembers the crash and waking up just now, that’s it–but should we believe him? The production of the hospital scene doesn’t give us too many reasons not to believe what appeared to be earnestness from Castle (he’s mostly in shadow but not completely, the musical cues about mimic shock rather than obfuscation), but it makes one thing clear: there is distance between Castle and Beckett and that distance is Castle himself. I really loved the set up of that shot.
A psych doctor debriefs the family: no signs of trauma or any obvious reasons he shouldn’t remember. So Castle, could be lying or they could just not see what’s causing the amnesia just yet. Beckett’s sliding scale of believing Castle versus believing in the evidence is sliding towards the evidence. Even Ryan seems be pulling away from Team Castle in light of the overwhelming evidence of Castle’s seemingly willful disappearance. Beckett takes Castle to the sight of the tent and Castle claims he’s never been there and Beckett seems to have had enough. She asks for the truth and explains how hard she worked to find him whether he was dead or alive and here he was, apparently where he wanted to be. He refutes that statement, as he would never camp there. Research for a book he never finished taught him about weather pattens and he’d have never picked that spot. Beckett takes Castle to Henry Jenkins’ trailer to corroborate the camping tale, but the man she met yesterday isn’t the same one today.
Beckett’s scale seems to tip a bit in Castle’s favor n the face of the Jenkins misdirect, but even as an audience member, I’m not completely sold that Castle isn’t hiding something. As he explains how Jenkins fooled the cops, he seems to have too many of the answers, complete with the beginnings of some very Castle conspiracy theories as to what happened to him. Maybe I am simply a cynic due to other shows with duplicitous characters? Back at home, the aura of suspicion is lifted as Castle and Beckett try to settle back into their lives. Things won’t be back to normal immediately, but neither of these two can let a mystery go unanswered. We’ll find out what happened to Castle one way or another.
I’m excited about this season. I think the dynamics between the group will be great to watch evolve, as all three members of our detective squad resolve their feelings of betrayal and suspicion with regard to Castle’s disappearance. And Castle himself will get some great backstory as we find out who might have done this to him as well as the story of what he did during those two months. Two (similar) things that I think could come up this season: 1. Someone Castle has never met recognizing him from his two month absence 2. Someone being found who appears to have been murdered by Castle–which, of course, takes us back to season 5’s 3XK centered episode “Probable Cause.” There are a lot of possibilities for what adventures Castle went on during two months. And if it isn’t 3XK, this storyline gives us new avenues to pursue in terms of villains and new exciting situations to put our characters in. And of course we still need a wedding. I suspect a much simpler affair, perhaps in the Terri Edda Miller penned “Time of Our Lives,” slated to be episode 6. So all-in-all, the first part of the season is giving us lots to work with; they just need to finally deliver on the wedding and I’ll be a happy camper. (Too soon?)
Some clues about Castle’s disappearance to keep in mind:
- Remember: “three people.” Castle was seen alone for the rest of the episode, but two people dragged him out of that car. Could Henry Jenkins have been one of those people?
- The money Castle took out for the wedding got used for the dumpster drop to trash the car. Who knew about the money? Was that the first thing they did when they grabbed Castle? Made him get the money–where was he holding it that it wasn’t being watched by the cops or the feds?
- Beckett tries Paris, no dice.
- Lanie’s check-in: The 38 key sewn into the lining of his pants. Dengue fever, tropical climate. Grazed rib wound.
Welcome back, Castle fans!
[Photo via ABC]