Castle: After the Storm

Well, we made it through the long, long summer after that amazing season finale! Castle returned this week with “After the Storm,” and we’re right after: The episode starts with Castle and Beckett the morning after the events of the finale, which, let’s face it, is probably more interesting to most fans than the specifics of any case at this point, even Beckett’s mother’s case. Castle wakes up alone, but Beckett soon walks in wearing his shirt, with mussed hair and two mugs of coffee. Castle: “So it wasn’t a dream.” They’re completely adorable talking about how much they liked their night together, and then – miracle of miracles! – they go right ahead and discuss the status of their relationship. They agree that they’re both fully on board, and that this is real and not just a reaction to a crisis.

Beckett: “But, um, I did just quit my job. And I do have the day off.”
Castle: “So what would you like to do today?”
Beckett: “Um, I don’t know. We could read.”

Awww. Seriously, this was all just RIDICULOUSLY cute, and great payoff for the fans who have watched this relationship develop over the years.

But, of course, it can’t last – Martha comes home unexpectedly, and Castle makes barely-dressed Beckett hide in the closet. It turns out that Alexis is home too: the graduation party she was at got out of hand, and when her father didn’t answer his phone, she called her grandmother. Castle deals with Alexis’s first hangover – “As your father, I have to say I’m deeply disappointed in you, and yet oddly proud.” – as he tries to keep Martha and Alexis distracted while Beckett sneaks out. Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Gates and Ryan are looking for the shooter. He took Montgomery’s wedding album from his home, and they see it’s missing a picture. And in a neat bit of foreshadowing, they mention that they’re understaffed because the Vice President is in town – and we see him on TV, being introduced by a Senator Bracken. And then we cut to Maddox torturing Mr. Smith, demanding information about “the file.”

When Castle shows up at Beckett’s apartment, she’s annoyed that he hid her, but he says he’s not embarrassed to be seen with her – he’s just selfish and wants to keep it between them for a while. As he’s offering to make it up to her, if you know what I mean (“Well, technically it would be a round four.”), Ryan knocks at the door, and it’s Beckett’s turn to tell Castle to hide. He refuses, reasonably pointing out that he’s fully dressed so Ryan wouldn’t know what they were about to do. Luckily, Ryan’s too distracted to take much notice – he tells Beckett he needs to talk about the case, and when she points out that she quit, he sort of apologizes for his part in that. Beckett insists that she’s not holding a grudge and knows he was trying to keep her safe, and I think I believe her. Anyway, they think Maddox is looking for the guy Castle’s been talking to (who is the one in the missing photo), and realize they have to find the man before Maddox does. But Beckett isn’t exactly eager to jump back in: “This was supposed to be over. I can’t go back again, not now.” She says she doesn’t know how to do this now, when she’s not even a cop, but Castle is perfectly supportive and encouraging: “This is what you’re great at. And I’m not so bad myself.”

Elsewhere, Esposito gets an old army buddy to use the DoD database to look for Maddox’s real name. (He promises to protect his friend’s identity by using a throwaway laptop, but wouldn’t there be some sort of login credentials involved anyway?) Castle and Beckett trace the mystery man’s watch to a set of gifts given to a certain law firm, and Ryan traces mystery man’s call to Castle’s cell to a certain yacht club, so by comparing the rosters, they identify the guy as Michael Smith. They find Smith at his house, tortured and almost dead, with something that looks like a file burning in his fireplace. Before he passes out, he manages to say “The file. It’s not safe. 86 Mm . . .” to Castle, but when Castle and Beckett search the house after Smith is taken to the hospital, they don’t find anything, and Beckett accuses Castle of grasping at straws. “Yes, I’m grasping at straws, because if that file is gone, that means they’re coming after you and there’s absolutely nothing I can do.” Aww.

Luckily, they happen upon a piece of paper that says Smith owns a building at 86 Markwell Street, which matches what Smith whispered to Castle. They go there and begin to search the building, which is in the middle of being renovated. Beckett confesses “I know I never would have gotten this far if it wasn’t for you,” and Castle says they’ll find the answers together, and they are just so darn cute. They find a bank of old mailboxes that shows that Smith had an office in room 523 – but then Maddox shows up and ties them up, promising to kill them as soon as he finds the file, which Smith told him was in a floor safe. As Castle tries to get them out of their zipties, they continue being adorable:

Castle: “If we got murdered right now, I’d feel so ripped off!”
Beckett: “Yeah. Me too.”
Castle: “At least – at least we had last night. We should have done that four years ago.”

And just then, of course, Esposito walks in. “Done what four years ago?” Heh. He tells them that Maddox’s real name is Cedric Marks and that a BOLO on Marks’s car led him to the building. They catch up with Maddox just as he’s about to open the safe – which promptly explodes and kills him, but hey, at least our heroes are okay. Montgomery’s file, unfortunately, is turned into confetti.

Gates in no way buys their “concerned citizens just walking by” cover: “I am not interested, Mr. Castle, as you specialize in fiction.” Good point. Ryan helps them cover, even though he and Esposito are still mad at each other, and later brings the confettied file to Beckett’s apartment, where the four of them treat it like a giant jigsaw puzzle. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who thought this looked really fun.) They manage to find enough matching pieces to trace an old money order back to a bank account closed in 1993 – but owned by now-Senator William Bracken. When Castle and Beckett confront Smith, he confirms that Bracken, then in congress, was using money from Montgomery’s cronies to finance his campaign, but he says there’s no proof and he will never testify. He was protecting Beckett because he owed Montgomery, but he doesn’t owe Beckett, so she’s now on her own. And then, as soon as Ryan is talking about trying to encourage Smith to talk because he can’t find the Maddox/Bracken connection, Smith is murdered in his hospital bed.

This leaves Beckett frustrated, watching Bracken on TV and knowing that she knows who killed her mother but there’s nothing she can do. Castle wants to take her away somewhere safe, but she’s unconvinced: “I’ll never be safe.” Later, in the darkness, she gets up, looks at her mother’s picture, and then takes her gun and leaves. When Castle wakes up alone, he realizes she’s gone after Bracken. He gets Ryan and Esposito and they follow her to Bracken’s fundraiser, worried that she’s going to kill him. Castle manages to stop Ryan from calling Gates, though, just in case Beckett doesn’t do what they fear: He doesn’t want to be responsible for her mistakenly being labeled an assassin.

Beckett bluffs her way into the fundraiser and gets Bracken alone in a room, where she tells him she’ll release all the information if he doesn’t guarantee the safety of herself and everyone she cares about. He tries to stay on his campaign talking points, convincing her that he’s trying to do good things now, but she’s completely unimpressed. And then he tries to threaten her: “Here’s what you don’t understand. It’s not who has the gun. It’s who has the power.” But she convinces him that she has the file, and therefore the power:

“One more thing. Whoever it is you think I am, whatever it is you think you know about me, you have no idea what I’m capable of or how far I will go. I am done being afraid. It’s your turn now.”

Wow. She is a COMPLETE badass in this scene. Castle and the boys, of course, are relieved to find that Bracken’s still live, if a bit confused that Beckett ended things the way she did. She tells them “I’ll get justice for her. Just not today. Until then, I’ll get it for others.” That line was a very neat way to tie up this case – for now – and put her back on track toward wanting to solve all the other murders in the city.

But first she has to get her job back. She goes to Gates, who understands the basics, if not the particulars, of what everyone’s been hiding from her. And Gates says something that makes me really love her: “The fact is, I – I admire your loyalty. I hope you feel that for me someday.” And yet, Beckett needs to serve out her suspension before she can return to work – but Castle will clearly be more than happy to keep her busy.

So. What did everyone think of this premiere? I was surprised that the search for Maddox and his boss was wrapped up so quickly, but it’s just as well, because I’m eager to see how the normal cases of the week work with the new change in the status of Castle and Beckett’s relationship. I thought those relationship notes were played perfectly in this episode, and though I’m sure that they will run into some bumps in the road, I can’t wait to see how it all plays out.

(Photo courtesy of ABC.)

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