Castle: Valkyrie

Castle returned tonight for season six with “Valkyrie,” and I have to say, the cliffhanger at the end was not really where I expected this premiere to wind up. But let’s back up for a moment.

We ended last season with Castle’s proposal, and had to wait all summer to see Beckett’s reaction. She was shocked – she had feared he was breaking up with her – and ultimately happy, though she didn’t exactly say yes immediately. First she had to tell him that she wanted the job in DC. Castle, to his credit, insisted that that was fine and that he wasn’t proposing to try to make her stay: “I’m proposing because I can’t imagine my life without you.” So she says yes. I thought about this all summer, because I wasn’t thrilled with the situation set up with the job and proposal in the finale, and I guess this was the best option, because I really didn’t want her to turn down the job to stay with him, or to say no to his proposal because she wanted the job. Of course, this does leave open the question of how they’ll get Beckett back to New York.

Two months later, Beckett’s in training with Lisa Edelstein’s Rachel McCord and the rest of the team, and when a big case forces her to cancel a weekend trip home, Castle shows up to surprise her. The night he arrives, they obviously get distracted by an adorable, affectionate reunion, but by the next morning, Castle has started trying to figure out the case Beckett’s working on, because, you know, he’s Castle. Beckett scolds him and he tries to be good, but when she drops a photo on her way out the door, he can’t help but pick it up – and then call back to New York to get Ryan and Esposito to help him decode it. (Ryan is very busy practicing swaddling a baby doll throughout this episode. Aww.)

Castle’s digging leads him to the same place as Beckett and McCord’s real investigation: a golf course near a power plant that was sabotaged, causing a blackout. (I’ll admit that I got frustrated with Castle for insisting on interfering again – but it was also totally in character.) When McCord sees him there, she tells him to stay out of the case in no uncertain terms, and he tries – until McCord and Beckett’s suspect, a former Marine named Jack Bronson who had C4 and wirecutters in his apartment, abducts him. Bronson just has enough time to say some cryptic things to Castle – asking him about “dreamland” and “valkyrie” – before he suddenly drops dead. Castle, found in the suspect’s crashed car, is briefly arrested, mostly so Beckett’s new coworkers can pump him for information on Bronson and convince him, yet again, to stay out of the case.

McCord and Beckett think Bronson sabotaged the transformer in order to steal an encryption system from a company called Cybertech during the blackout – and his girlfriend, Jeanette Miller, was an aide to a senator on the foreign relations committee, which would give her the connections she needed to sell the stolen goods. They track her to Union Station and arrest her, but Miller insists that Bronson was being set up. Beckett comes to believe her, because she doesn’t think someone with Bronson’s training would leave such a sloppy trail of clues leading right to him were he actually guilty. Beckett theorizes that the encryption system theft might have just been a diversion from the actual theft – and then realized that there’s something classified on the eighth floor of the building that houses Cybertech.

Meanwhile, Castle’s back in New York trying to talk out his relationship issues with Ryan and Esposito. Aww. I love that he goes to them. But when he mentions Bronson’s questions about “dreamworld,” Esposito tells him that that’s the name of a highly classified military ghost base in the Gulf. Castle’s best intentions not to meddle are out the window now that he fears Beckett may be into something dangerous (um, that’s her job, dude) so he starts researching ghost bases – just as federal agents arrive at his apartment to take him away. They take him back to DC and draw some blood, and then Beckett appears in the room where he’s being held. She explains that the actual theft was of a dangerous chemical agent – and that Bronson was killed by it. It was in the ventilation system of his car, so Castle was exposed too, and he has less than a day to live. I was shocked by the episode ending with a cliffhanger like that, as I was primed for some sort of heavy relationship moment, but of course I don’t for a minute think that Castle will actually die. It did nicely delay Beckett’s return to New York, though, and I can’t say I mind spending a bit more time with this DC team.

Much of the comic relief of the episode was provided by Alexis’s new boyfriend Pi, who she brought home from Costa Rica. He’s a fruitarian with spelling issues: “Personally I feel the whole spelling thing just stifles creativity.” Castle, not surprisingly, is unthrilled. I’ll be interested to see how long Pi sticks around – he was fun for an episode but his shtick will get old fast.

The cliffhanger at the end sidetracked things a bit, but both Beckett and Castle had to think about their relationship like adults in this episode, and I was happy to see that. As much as Castle’s interference in Beckett’s case annoyed me, I realize that it was his way of trying to hold onto her, that he fears their connection will weaken when they’re not working together. He does finally get it: “I can’t make it like it was before, can I?” “Maybe it’ll be better,” she tells him, and she has a point: taking the easy focus on cases out of the equation has the potential to make their relationship stronger, if they both put in the work to get there. On the other hand, this is a show primarily based on the two of them solving cases together, so I’m still working under the assumption that they’ll wind up back in New York working together within a few episodes.

Next week: “Dreamworld.” Will Beckett and her team find the antidote in time to save Castle? (Yes.) Will he keep interfering? (I’m sure.) Will Pi find his passport? (I hope so.)

(Image courtesy of ABC.)

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