Castle: Target & Hunt

It’s time for the annual February sweeps Castle two-parter, so I’m going to recap “Target” and “Hunt” together for you. In the past, these two-parters have dealt with very high stakes like saving New York City, and as creator Andrew Marlowe discussed in an interview with Give Me My Remote, this year they decided to go with more personal stakes: Alexis.

But it’s not immediately obvious that the case of the week involves Alexis. It starts out as a routine murder case, and the victim, Hasim Farouk, has no connection to Alexis other than that he’s a student at Columbia, which is of course a very large university. It turns out that he was monitoring a student named Sara El-Masri, and died trying to prevent her kidnapping. Once they find Sara’s parents, they discover that Farouk was hired by Sara’s father to protect her. “Who hires an ex-commando to babysit their daughter?” Castle: “I’ve considered it.” Heh. But this becomes all too serious when they figure out that Sara was kidnapped from a climate change lecture that she attended with Alexis – and that Alexis has been taken as well.

Now, I never really thought that anything permanently awful would happen to Alexis, and I’m sure most other fans didn’t either. That said, it’s impressive how much tension the writing and acting injected into these episodes. As the team and the FBI (led by Agent Harris, played by Dylan Walsh) follow a bunch of leads and make slow progress, Castle tries to hold it together and Beckett and the others try to help him. Even as he insists he doesn’t want to be handled, he’s obviously comforted (and surprised) by Beckett hugging him in public. “Gates will see.” “I don’t care.” Beckett’s not the only one concerned – the boys are clearly upset, and Gates is blunt in her words to Beckett: “You do whatever you have to do to get him back his little girl. Anything you need, detective.” Martha, however, is calmer than Castle expects and claims she’s sure Alexis will be fine.

Nathan Fillion does a very good job of showing Castle’s grief and despair, and Castle is blunt with Beckett: “Don’t promise me you’ll find her unless you can do it, because I would never forgive you any more than I’d ever forgive myself.” Eesh. Beckett has a difficult line to walk here, as she has to be a cop while also being Castle’s partner. She goes so far as to leave Castle alone with a suspect to torture him into producing information, which honestly shocked me a bit. Though Beckett seems a bit surprised too: “I didn’t think you had that side to you.” “When it comes to the people I love, I do.”

Meanwhile, glimpses at Alexis and Sara in captivity show the audience just how well Alexis is handling things. She keeps Sara calm, puts together a fair amount of information based on their surroundings, and tries to build a relationship with their guard. When that goes nowhere, she picks a lock with bobby pins and convinces Sara to escape. They split up to double their chances, and Alexis finds a phone, tries and fails to call 911, and finally manages to Skype with her father. She can’t really tell him much, and he urges her to run – and when she gets outside she discovers that she’s in Paris.

The cops trace the Skype call to Paris, but just as Castle is getting upset about how long it will take to start investigating there because of embassy protocol, El-Masri gets a ransom call. The kidnappers promise to release both girls when their demands are met, but only Sara is released. Agent Harris starts talking about “managing expectations” but Beckett is still determined to find Alexis – and Castle sneaks off to Paris alone. While Beckett and the team continue working the case from New York, Castle uses his connections in Paris to track down the kidnappers. He soon realizes that Alexis was the real target of the kidnapping after all, and when he tries to meet up with the kidnappers to pay ransom, his supposed ally turns him over to the kidnappers.

This is all dragged out a bit, but let’s get to the point: Castle is rescued by a man using the name “Jackson Hunt” who turns out to be his father. (Played by James Brolin!) He’s a spy, and left Martha (who never knew his job) so abruptly all those years ago because he was called away on a job. He never came back because he didn’t want to put Martha or Rick in danger, but he watched out for Rick all his life and evne met him at the library when he was ten and gave him a copy of Casino Royale. “That book made me want to become a writer,” Castle tells his father. Awww. Hunt also used his connections to help Castle get research access. “I know that’s not much, but for a minute there, it made me feel like a father.”

But now, Hunt’s connection to the Castle family has caught up to them: Alexis was taken by Gregor Volkov, whose wife Hunt had killed. (Hunt explains that Sara was taken as well to ensure that the incident was big enough news that it got Hunt’s attention.) Castle is definitely not ready to let bygones be bygones with his father, but they agree to work together to save Alexis. “Whaddya say, kid? You’ve been playing cop for years. You ready to play spy?” Their plan goes flawlessly: Castle lets himself be captured so that he’s held in the same place as Alexis and his walkie talkie, which is actually concealing a bomb, is confiscated by Volkov. Its detonation provides enough distraction for Castle and Alexis to escape, and they make it to the embassy.

Castle is upset that Hunt has to disappear rather than spend more time with his family, but Hunt says they may see each other again someday. And in the meantime: “I just want you to know, son, I’ve always been proud of you. Always.” Always. This show. Castle and Alexis make it home, where Martha and Beckett are waiting. As Beckett and Castle embrace, she tells him “Please don’t do anything like that again without me.” That’s our girl. Beckett and Alexis hug too. Aww. And then a package arrives, with a copy of Casino Royale – a sign to Castle that his father made it out of Paris safely. The episode ends with Castle saying “Mom, there’s something I want to tell you,” so I’m very curious how Martha reacts to the news and whether we’ll see any fallout in the future.

(Image courtesy of ABC.)

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