The annual “Castle” two-part episode event kicked off on Feb. 18 with 5x15 “Target". Andrew Marlowe promised a two-parter this year that would be much more personal compared to the previous years’, and they certainly hit close to the Castle home with this one. The writers have been foreshadowing it for weeks, and now Rick Castle’s worst nightmare has finally come true: Alexis has been abducted!
“She was the center of our lives for so long and now she’s just...gone.”
Of course, Castle and the team don’t realize Alexis is actually gone until about fifteen minutes into the episode, and it’s business as usual trying to solve the case at first. The foreshadowing of something happening to Alexis is blatantly obvious though; Castle and Martha's talk about missing her now that she’s at Columbia, Castle telling Beckett how he feels he’s reached a level of acceptance when it comes to worrying over her whereabouts and activities, and then the painful scene of Castle watching the El Masri family from the break room before he knows his own daughter was taken along with theirs, too. “I can’t imagine what they’re going through right now,” he says, and all too soon, he does know.
“Gates will see.”
“I don’t care.”
Beckett is at Castle’s side from the start, being the emotional support and fiercely driven partner that he needs. She comforts him in the precinct, all with Gates watching, not even caring whether the public displays of affection and support may unveil their secret, and as soon as Castle is off to the loft, she gets right to work with the boys, determined to bring Castle’s daughter back home. Oh, if only it were so simple though. The more leads turn up, the more they hit dead ends, and the more anguished Beckett becomes because as hard as she tries to help him, at some points he’s just inconsolable. Case in point: in quite possibly the most heartbreaking scene of the entire episode, Castle rushes out to Greenpoint to find that they’ve found the van, but all that’s left inside is someone’s blood.
“Lanie, whose blood is that? Did someone die in there? Lanie, did she die in there?!”
Nathan Fillion really kills it in this scene with some great support by Stana Katic and Tamala Jones. Castle breaks down and the girls’ (and all of us viewers’) hearts just break for him, too. The way he portrays Castle going through the despair of not knowing whether his little girl has survived or not is gut-wrenching. The tears were flowing, his voice was cracking; he was just phenomenal. There’s no other word for it. In a later scene with kidnapper Douglas Stevens, the dark side of Castle emerges, and we see a whole other side of Nathan Fillion’s acting that we’ve yet to ever truly see in Castle before. He’s desperate, seething, and even anguished over the fact that the only option Douglas has left to him by his refusal to cooperate is to resort to getting information out of this man by force. Although it occurs off screen, what’s left to our imagination all leads to the same thing: Castle tortured the guy in some fashion to squeeze the information out of him, and Beckett merely stood outside the door and listened as it happened. It's scary to think that this side of Castle exists when he's pushed over the edge, and even Beckett seemed rather shocked by it.
“Castle, listen to me -”
“Don’t. Don’t promise me you’ll find her unless you can do it, because I would never forgive you...anymore than I’d ever forgive myself.”
This line was particularly painful to hear, but so very understandable at the same time. Castle makes it crystal clear early on that he doesn’t want to be handled, even if it’s for his own sake. What’s even more heart-wrenching is that he seems to blame himself, as if he could have possibly done anything to prevent Alexis’ kidnapping in the first place. Fortunately, his mother is quick to set him straight. It’s rather interesting to note that the most dramatic member of the Castle family, the one you’d almost expect to go into hysterics in harrowing situations, is actually the most level-headed and optimistic of them when it comes down to it. Castle’s mind goes straight to worst-case scenarios, but that’s not the case with Martha Rodgers. Just as she did for him after Beckett’s shooting, she’s the epitome of strength for her son.
“Alexis is her father’s daughter. She is strong, and she is smart, and she is going to get through this.”
Alexis does indeed prove to be every bit her father’s daughter. Straight away, she gets down to the business of searching for clues and plotting an escape. Utilizing investigative skills likely picked up from dear old dad, Alexis comes to the conclusion that they’re not being held in a basement, and are probably not in New York City. Alexis tries to make nicey-nice with one of the guards to no avail, and eventually using a lock picking skill picked up from her father at age ten (Oh, Castle. You’d be so proud.) she manages to use the bobby pins in Sara’s hair to unlock the door and escape. Molly Quinn’s performance from the Skype call up until the end of the episode where Alexis discovers she’s not in NYC, but Paris, France, was so fantastically done. Unfortunately for many of us, the news that the two-parter would partially be taking place in a setting outside of the country was leaked online a few weeks back, so the cliffhanger lost a little bit of shock value, but Molly Quinn really did knock that entire scene out of the park. It truly leaves you wondering where they’re going to head with this story arc next in the conclusion episode, “Hunt”, especially since Castle’s father will be making an appearance in it.
Lastly, two final thoughts on the Castle and Beckett moments, as well as Gates. As mentioned in the preview for this episode (and in so many episode reviews before this one) it’s been highly suspect that Gates was already in the know on their relationship. After “Target”, it's undeniable. While a hug could simply be seen as a sign of comfort for a colleague, the hand holding as Castle spilled his heart out to Beckett at her desk was one that Gates literally had to look the other way from. She knows. There’s no way she can’t see it, and she’s physically trying not to see it now. It will be interesting to see how the two-parter resolves itself next week, and if Gates will speak up about anything on that front.
As for Castle and Beckett, there was an interesting parallel and some callbacks to previous episodes in this one, and some very heartfelt moments between them. It's been said time and time again, but it's the little intimate moments that shine brightest when it comes to the Castle and Beckett relationship, and while this was not at all a Caskett-focused episode, they did have their moments to shine in, and subsequently break our hearts a little bit in the process.
For example, usually it’s Castle trying his damndest to comfort Beckett in a time of need, but this time we had a role reversal with Beckett finding out how it feels to be on the other side of the coin, attempting to comfort someone that is nearing inconsolable. It’s a complicated situation for her also because while she clearly wants nothing more than to be there to him, she also has to shut him out of the investigation at times in order to do her job. And at times, she’s also just struck speechless and unsure of how to console him in the first place, if the van scene is any indication. While Castle paced around with tears streaming down his face, waiting for Lanie’s blood test results, all Beckett could do was watch helplessly as Castle agonized through the wait.
“You know, I still remember when Alexis was born, they handed me this tiny person, all bundled up. She just...stared up at me. And when I looked down at her, this feeling hit me, like I’d been struck by lightning. It was love. That instant, inexplicable love you can only feel for your child. In that moment, I knew. I knew my life had changed forever. And now it's about to change again.”
Now this...this is a scene that we’ve been waiting for: Castle opening up about the deepest, most sacred parts of his life and baring a piece of his soul. And it all happens with Beckett listening intently, holding his hand in hers. It occurs right in the middle of the precinct where all eyes could be on them, but they’re just lost in their own little bubble. It’s like Beckett said: she doesn’t care. In this moment, and throughout most of the case, the consequences she’s been so afraid of no longer matter. All she cares about is Castle, and bringing his daughter back to him. Because if she doesn't? Not only his life, but Castle himself will be changed forever.
“We’re gonna solve this, Castle. We will find a way. We’ve done it before with less to go on. You know who told me that?”
He did. Those were the exact words he gave to her in the season premiere, when it all looked hopeless. "A fit of irrational optimism” it may have been, but they solved the puzzle. Much like how Castle walked Beckett through her despair in “After the Storm”, Beckett reaches out to some familiarity to help Castle in the same fashion. Earlier on in “Target”, she offered him a coffee and he declined it, saying his adrenaline would suffice. Coffee has always been a symbol of love for these two, and if you'll notice, Beckett's been bringing him coffee a lot this season instead of the other way around. It's a sign that she's finally able to accept that love, and give it back to him, unlike in seasons past. His rejection of her offer could be seen as akin to pushing her away and shutting her out, even if he was still right there beside her.
"Here's a decaf. It's for the road."
Beckett offering him a decaf to-go at the end of the episode is a parallel to season 4’s “Kill Shot”, where Castle offers her a decaf after she suffered through a bout of PTSD during the sniper case. This final scene between the two of them in “Target” is so poignant, because it shows how she’s not going to give up on him. She’s reaching out to him using his own words and actions, things that helped her in her darkest hours. His "thank you" and acceptance of the cup finally allows her to breathe out a sigh of relief as he walks away because it means that she's gotten through to him at least a little, and perhaps that he understands she's trying to help. It's still not those three little words we're so dying to hear again, but maybe by the end of this we'll see some movement on that front.
Overall, "Target" was wonderful start to the two-parter, and it's already easily competing for the top spot amongst all-time favorite "Castle" episodes to date. Depending on how the conclusion unfolds and Castle's father comes into the mix, this two-parter may finally surpass the greatness that was the first one in season 2. It's going to be a grueling wait until next Monday, but here's to hoping that those sneak peeks don't take too long to surface.
That's all for this review and analysis. See you next week!
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