Castle returned Monday night with “Under Fire,” a very good and extremely stressful midseason premiere. Births on TV shows are often surrounded by complications and hijinks, but they’re usually of a relatively light nature. Having Ryan be in danger while Jenny was in labor added real tension, and I realized that this episode was actually more affecting (for me) than the episodes when Castle and/or Beckett have been in danger, because while I don’t believe they would actually kill off Castle or Beckett, they could have one of the other members of the team die without completely destroying the show. (But please don’t do this, show! I want to keep them around!)
But let’s go back to the beginning: fire investigator Blake McCann is found dead at the scene of an arson – but he was shot to death, not burned. His partner Delia Burton tells the team that he was investigating a serial arsonist known as The Phantom, who leaves X marks in accelerant at all his fires. The team starts trying to figure out the connection between The Phantom’s targets in an attempt to find the arsonist himself. The rest of the burned buildings were unoccupied, but otherwise had little else in common. Another arsonist McCann arrested, Adam Ferguson, gives the detectives a good tip: someone like The Phantom would have hung around at his own fires to enjoy them. Files found in McCann’s car lead Ryan and Esposito to an abandoned factory in Brooklyn, where they find not a target but the arsonist’s workshop. Unfortunately, they trigger a booby trap that blows up the building, leaving them trapped inside. They are knocked out by the explosion, and when they wake up, the building is engulfed in flames and Ryan’s legs are trapped under debris.
Luckily, people on the outside are working on their behalf. Castle finds a video of the first fire online, and he and Beckett conclude that the video being without commentary (or calls for help) and starting right when the fire started means that the arsonist himself shot it. They trace it to a fire fetish site called Pyrolicious.com, and the site’s owner Milo finally admits that, while he didn’t know The Phantom’s name, they had chatted on occasion, and The Phantom had told him that sometimes sick and dying buildings need to burn. It’s also through Milo that Castle and Beckett first learn of the factory fire, and they – and the whole world – soon realize that Ryan and Esposito are probably inside. They can’t get ahold of them, though, and the fire department decides that the fire is too bad to send their men in to try to find people who are probably already dead.
Castle and Beckett stay at the scene of the fire, Castle trying to maintain some sort of hope, and Jenny shows up and, of course, goes into labor. Meanwhile, Esposito manages to get Ryan’s legs free, and they determine they’re in some sort of sub-basement with no doors. Yelling and banging on metal pipes doesn’t draw any attention, but Ryan notices an old phone and manages to get it connected to a landline to call Beckett. This proof of life at least enough to get the fire department interested in a rescue, but they can’t figure out where the detectives are – there is no sub-basement on the building plans. Castle theorizes that the arsonist was someone with enough access to doctor the plans, and that he had a way out planned if he himself was cornered in the building, so they just need to find him.
It’s not immediately clear that they’ll be able to do that in time, though – Ryan and Esposito are running out of oxygen quickly. So Ryan has a heartbreaking conversation with Jenny, who is still in labor in an ambulance at the scene of the fire, with Lanie to help her. She doesn’t want to accept that things could end badly, but he insists on saying goodbye just in case, and she points out that they still need to name the baby together. He tells her to go with Javier if it’s a boy (awwwwww) or Sarah Grace after her grandmother if it’s a girl. The connection cuts out, but of course Esposito overheard the conversation:
Esposito: “You’re gonna name a white Irish kid Javier?”
Ryan: “You’re gonna bust on me now for being sentimental?”
Esposito: “It’s my last chance.”
Awww, these boys. Yep, I was crying by this point. They both passed out, and I did briefly wonder if one of them – probably Esposito – would actually die. (Honestly, the only reason I wasn’t more worried about this was because the episode had already aired in Canada and I figured that spoiler would be impossible to avoid.)
Luckily, the team finally realizes that the link between all of The Phantom’s targets is building inspector Mark Kimball, who would have had the access needed to alter the plans. They realize he’s there at the fire, filming, and Beckett threatens to kill him if he doesn’t tell her how to get her men out. (I love scary righteous Beckett.) He presumably complies, though we don’t actually see his answer, because the firefighters get in and save Ryan and Esposito just in time. There’s a whole lot of adorable hugging, and I cried again, and Ryan is reunited with Jenny – and his newborn! It’s a girl, Sarah Grace, which I sort of expected, but part of me wishes they had gone ahead with little Javier Ryan. The end of this episode is great, with the whole Castle “family” – Castle, Beckett, Esposito, Lanie, and all three Ryans – gathered together around the ambulance, celebrating life.
Next week: Castle’s dad is back! Whee!
(Image courtesy of ABC.)