Welcome to the new season of Castle! The premiere, “Rise”, was certainly a change from the light-and-airy episodes that characterized the early seasons of the show; honestly, it was pretty difficult to watch, but in a good way. Because this show has gotten so much deeper, I’m going to try a slightly different approach to recaps this season: less point-by-point narrative summary (especially of the mysteries of the week), more review and analysis. Let me know if that works for you.
The season starts right where last season left off, with Beckett being rushed into emergency surgery after being shot at Montgomery’s funeral. Josh earns some points with me by recusing himself (as a doctor’s daughter, it drives me nuts when TV doctors treat their loved ones), but promptly loses them by punching Castle, who he blames for the shooting. And Castle, of course, is blaming himself as well. He, Ryan, and Esposito decide to channel their worry into searching for the shooter, but all they find out is that the gun belonged to a long-dead Navy Seal and the shooter may have disguised himself as a groundskeeper. There are plenty of tense operating room scenes as Beckett bleeds and flatlines, and they’re well-executed, but since we know there’s no way they’re killing her off, this beginning really doesn’t come across as particularly suspenseful. The next day, Castle goes to visit her in the hospital, and he’s clearly disappointed to see that Josh is there – and then even more disappointed when Beckett tells him she doesn’t remember anything about the shooting, including, presumably, his confession of love. She’s mad that he didn’t let her go after Montgomery in the warehouse, and asks for some time to herself to process everything. When he agrees and says they can talk tomorrow, she replies, “Do you mind if we don’t?” Ouch. Castle is, of course, devastated, but agrees not to contact Beckett until she initiates communication. His facial expressions throughout this scene (and the whole episode, really) are a good reminder that even though Nathan Fillion is known for his comedy chops, he’s really good at playing serious when necessary.
We then skip forward two months, to the day Beckett returns to work. Ryan and Esposito are thrilled to see her, and shocked that she hasn’t talked to Castle since the shooting; she in turn is shocked that Castle was at the precinct working on her case every day until the new, ultra-strict captain, Gates, threw him out. Castle and the boys were chasing down the money trail behind the conspiracy when Gates shut down the investigation, and the files are home with Castle so Gates wouldn’t find them – which means that if Beckett wants the files, she has to talk to Castle. Beckett is furious that Gates closed the investigation and that she won’t be allowed to investigate her own case, and they did a really good job of making Stana Katic look gaunt and not entirely healthy in these scenes. (The explanation that Gates closed the investigation because they had no leads and needed the resources elsewhere is reasonable, but I still wonder whether she will wind up being part of the conspiracy, and that’s why she was so eager to shut it down.)
Given everything else going on in this episode, I almost made my section on the case of the week “Really, who the heck cares?” but hey, let’s go through it quickly. A celebrity party girl is shot and killed in her bed, and it seems like her musician boyfriend was the only one with means and opportunity, but he insists he’s innocent and they find out that he and the victim were both drugged. It turns out his bandmate was already hiding under the bed when they got home, drugged them both, and then shot her. It was really not a very interesting case, and was basically there to reflect Beckett’s progress in coming back to work. At first she says she’ll sit the case out, and when she goes along to bring in a suspect, she freezes when she sees a gun. But she winds up being the one to break the case (of course), and deals with a gun situation at the end of the episode without freaking out. Good girl!
Back to things people care about: Beckett shows up at Castle’s book signing (where he’s signing books in the wrong place, by the way), and he’s seriously angry with her. I was happy to see that: I was afraid he would be so happy to see her that he’d just forgive her, and this way is both more interesting and more real. Castle is somewhat mollified to hear that Beckett broke up with Josh; she says she needs to break down the wall inside her before she can have the relationship she wants, and that that won’t happen until she solves her mother’s case. Castle, of course, takes this as a challenge and a personal quest: “Well then, I suppose we’re just going to have to find these guys and take them down.”
With this impetus, Castle gets the mayor to reinstate him: “I only let her kick me out because there was no reason to stay.” Gates is less than thrilled, to put it mildly. They resume the investigation, secretly, but the bank files they need were destroyed in a warehouse fire. Beckett is convinced the fire was arson, even though there’s no evidence pointing that way. She yells at the fire investigator and then loses it with Castle, listing off names of people she’s lost and ending with “Everybody’s gone, Castle.” Stana Katic does a wonderful job of playing a desperate woman who can’t quite hold it all together anymore.
There are other files at play, too – files that Montgomery had been using as leverage to keep Beckett and his family safe. A mysterious figure has them now, and calls Castle to tell him that as long as Beckett stays away from the case, she won’t be hurt again. Castle decides to manipulate Beckett into staying away from the case rather than telling her about the whole thing; her breakdown gives him a good excuse to urge her to give things time and get her bearings rather than continuing to investigate right then.
Beckett: “How am I supposed to get my bearing when someone out there wants me dead?”
Castle: “By not letting them rob you of your life. I promise you we will figure this out. We’re going to find them, and we will make them pay. Just not today.”
Beckett: “Castle, if I don’t do this, I don’t know who I am.”
Castle: “You’re who you always were. You’re the one who honors the victims.”
Everything he says here is true, of course, but it’s not the whole truth, and Castle has no intention of staying away from the case himself.
Poor Alexis is very upset about Castle going back to work, and putting himself and the whole family in danger; she tells her father that he needs to grow up and stop playing cop. I liked how this was a more serious iteration of the “she’s more mature than he is” dynamic they’ve always had. By the end of the episode, he tells Alexis that she was right – but that needing to grow up is exactly why he’s doing what he’s doing:
Castle: “Everything that’s happened happened because of me, and I need to be there for her. I owe her that.”
Alexis: “Does she make you happy?”
Castle: “Yeah, she does.”
Alexis: “Is it enough?”
Castle: “It’s enough for now.”
Alexis: “Dad? Don’t grow up too much, okay?”
Castle: “Hey, it’s me we’re talking about.”
Aww. This was adorable, and resolved some of the tension, but I hope they don’t drop this thread altogether. I’m all for Alexis being more involved and having more opinions on the huge things happening around her.
At the very end of the episode, Beckett confesses to her therapist (Michael Dorn!) that she actually remembers everything about the shooting, and therefore, we assume, remembers that Castle said he loves her. This means that the episode concludes with Castle and Beckett lying to each other: Beckett about her memory, to protect herself or buy herself some time, and Castle about continuing the investigation, to protect Beckett. It should be interesting to see how long those secrets can last, and how much everything blows up when they get out. If this weren’t a TV show that’s clearly headed in a certain direction, I’d say that I’m not sure Beckett will ever forgive him, and Castle, who doesn’t know he’s on a TV show, must be thinking the same thing. But, of course, he’d rather have her alive and hating him than dead.
Overall, this was a very solid season premiere, even if parts of it weren’t exactly fun to watch. It showcased one of the things that Castle does best: showing equally sympathetic characters with clashing points of view and motivations, as a way of creating believable conflict that doesn’t hinge on anyone acting irrationally or out of character. And it certainly made me eager – and slightly nervous – to see how the rest of the season will progress.
Photo Courtesy of ABC