Review: Castle 8.01

Summary: When Beckett goes missing on her first day as Captain, Castle and the boys work together to find out what happened. Along the way, they meet Hayley Shipton, a Scotland Yard detective-turned-specialist, who, along with Alexis, provides support to their investigation.

Best Scene: In a gooey “calm before the storm” scene, Castle surprises Beckett with a cake, engraved bracelet, and husband-y words of encouragement.

Best Line: “You really love her, don’t you?” “Like a house on fire.”

My Review: Castle is one of the few shows that I don’t worry about too much come premiere time. While some shows struggle to find their footing at the start of a new season, Castle jumps in head first. Its premieres are usually taut, tense, and emotional, exactly what I’m craving after a summer off of scripted fare, and I think that’s exactly the kind of episode that we saw here.

However, before we got to the high drama, we were treated to one of the sweetest Caskett scenes to date, one that highlighted the unconditional love and support that these two continue to give one another, while also providing some levity to a rather dark episode. I had a feeling that there was more to the phone call than what Beckett let on (mainly because I didn’t exactly avoid spoilers this summer), so I was more intrigued by Beckett lying to Castle in that moment than the phone call itself. She’s a smart lady, so the writers will have to do a lot next week to convince me that she couldn’t have mumbled something to Castle or signaled him somehow when she went in for that kiss. I’ll probably say this a million times, but I’m very curious to see her side of the story next week.

We were introduced to a couple of new characters in this episode, but let me talk about one of our returning players first, the lovely Alexis. I loved that we saw a new, more grown-up side of her in this episode. Loved it. To be fair, she’s been a grown-up for a few seasons now, but the writers seemed to embrace her age here in a way that they haven’t before. They tried last season with the Pi arc, a storyline that I didn’t love, mainly because it presumed that having a boyfriend automatically makes a character look mature. This season, I’m hoping (and the premiere seemed to suggest) that we’ll instead see Alexis’s maturity through success in a professional setting (similar to her stint as Lanie’s intern), maybe as Castle’s P.I. assistant of sorts. She certainly showed that she has a knack for it; whether running down leads, using her womanly wiles on unsuspecting EMTs, or being heartbreaking-ly real with Hayley to get the information she needed, Alexis was an integral part of the team in this episode. And speaking more generally, Molly Quinn gave her character a lovely confidence here that we haven’t seen before, something that I hope we’ll continue to see this year.

On to our true newbie, Hayley Shipton. I’ll be honest, when I heard the show was adding a new series regular this late in the game I was nervous, especially because you never know how a new character will change the chemistry of, in this case, a very established cast. Though she didn’t interact with the whole team this episode (you miss things when you’re on the run, K Bex), I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed her interactions with Castle, Ryan, Espo, and especially Alexis. Her scenes with the boys showed us that she’s a sharp, snappy character, while her moments with Alexis suggested there’s a softness there as well. Couple that with an intriguing slice of backstory (past with Scotland Yard, dad’s in jail, etc), and I think we have a cool new character on our hands. I’m curious to see what kind of dynamic she’ll have with Kate when they do meet, though a lot of that may depend on what role Hayley ends up playing long-term. At this point, I’m picturing Castle, Alexis, and Haylely working the P.I. business together, with cases that frequently intersect with the NYPD’s. Total speculation of course, but that’s what seems to make the most sense, story-wise.

On the plot side of things, I knew going into this one that we were mainly getting Castle’s side of the story this week, a cool storytelling device that I think worked very well here. It put us solidly in Castle’s shoes so we could feel his desperation and also gave the episode a bit of room to breathe. Kidnapping storylines (or I guess missing people storylines, in this case) happen a lot on TV (and on this show, really), and while the back and forth between captive and searchers increases the tension in an episode, it can also feel a bit frantic, and make it a little harder for the hour to reach its full emotional potential. Here, we really had to sit with the worry that everyone had about Beckett, and briefly, Castle, which only increased my investment in the story. Also, since Beckett has gotten herself in so many scrapes before, her radio silence for most of the hour, as well as the reveal early in the episode that she had been shot, worked to make her plight feel high-stakes, even knowing that she’s going to come out of this just fine.

Speaking of people worrying, I want to talk about a couple of scenes in particular that stood out to me on that front. One, Castle pleading with Hayley at the elevator because the desperation in his eyes was so clear (and the way he said “I just want my wife back”, ugh!). Two, Alexis bursting in on Hayley’s interrogation, tears in her eyes, to beg her to reveal what she knew about Castle’s disappearance. That scene was a painfully real callback to this time last season, and one that was completely appropriate considering the circumstances. I also loved Alexis and Castle’s conversation after they found him, where she admitted how terrified she was when he went missing. I’m still not crazy about that particular storyline, but I am glad the writers are still acknowledging the ramifications of it.

Alexis’s fear for Beckett’s safety and determination to find her was also one of my favorite aspects of this episode. Obviously Alexis has always liked Beckett (save for season 4, when she was rightfully concerned about dear dad’s heart), but the lengths she went to to find Kate definitely showed the deepening of their relationship; it was clear that Alexis was searching for Beckett her step-mom (even if they have more of a big sister/little sister bond), rather than just Beckett her dad’s partner. Basically, you got the sense that Alexis was worried about Beckett for her own sake, not just her dad’s, which we haven’t seen too much before. And, in that scene I mentioned with Castle, it was great that Alexis made the point that he needed to trust Beckett, that she loves him and has his best interests at heart.

Another moment that stood out to me was Castle’s short scene with Bracken. Jack Coleman is so delightfully slimy in that role, and it was weirdly comforting that Bracken hasn’t lost his creepy confidence in prison. I’m really curious to see his scene with Beckett next week, because his role in all of this was left completely up in the air at the end of the episode. Does he have something to do with the hit, or is it really just because of a case Beckett worked for the A.G.? Did she go to him for information? Why did Bracken taunt Castle that Kate can’t let go of her mother’s murder? Is her disappearance somehow connected to that? I have no idea, but I’m definitely excited to find out!

One other scene I enjoyed was Beckett saving Castle towards the end of the hour. Though we don’t know the whole story yet, Beckett trying to explain to Castle how much she loves him, that it’s why she’s keeping him in the dark, and Castle trying to make sense of it while really just wanting his wife back, was done to perfection. Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion really made their scenes together count, and I liked that this one served as a bookend of sorts to the one at the start of the hour, proof that even when nothing makes sense these two still have each other’s backs.

The reveal at the end of the episode that it was all connected to the A.G.’s office and not directly to Bracken (as far as we know) was surprising, and much more interesting than our favorite disgraced Senator being the one behind it. The information about Beckett’s old team being hunted added an urgency to the last few minutes of the premiere (the idea of people being taken out one by one is always creepy). Also, McCord being one of them (really the only person I remember from that arc), was sadder than I thought it would be, but my love of Lisa Edelstein may be affecting me there…

So all in all, I think a strong start to season 8, one that has me excited for next week, and curious about the structure of the show moving forward.

What are your thoughts on the premiere? Already counting down the days ’til Monday? Let me know in the comments!

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