The well of fire puns for this episode may have run dry (or maybe after using so many, I’m just burnt out—oh, there we go!) but to say this episode was sort of a roller coaster would definitely be hitting the mark. “Castle” made a strong return from its winter hiatus on Jan. 6 with an episode that was intense enough to have you on the edge of your seat, only to gut you in the next minute thanks to the phenomenal acting and chemistry between the entire cast of characters in the season’s eleventh episode. Sarah Grace Ryan was finally born in “Under Fire,” but her father and uncle Javi very nearly didn’t make it out alive to welcome Baby Ryan into world. It was an event that led us to some compelling storytelling, and one hell of a excellent episode last night.
You pretty much already know from the beginning that this one is going to ruin you a little bit emotionally when it starts out with the building fully engulfed and Beckett talking to a frantic Jenny (Juliana Dever.) Just the emotion in her voice alone was enough to send chills down my spine, never mind the tears welling up in her eyes. There’s that saying amongst “Castle” fans that comes in various forms of wording, “When Beckett cries, we all cry.” And Beckett starting to lose it on the phone call with Jenny set the tone for the ride we’d all be getting on very shortly as the episode progresses.
“Castle” has had a few cases in the past dealing with explosions and fire, and bodies found charred in a pizza oven of all places, but this time around we get an arsonist that not only torched a building, but shot and killed an FDNY fire investigator in an effort to hide his tracks and remain hidden behind the shroud of his notorious title, “The Phantom.” The case as a whole was rather fascinating in this one (an opinion as to be expected from a self-proclaimed pyro like myself, but shhh.) It has to be said though: there were some moments that did require an effort at suspending my disbelief. An explosion and fire of that magnitude probably should have obliterated the boys and their chances at survival, and the phone that Ryan found and wired up to call out did make me chuckle at how convenient it all was. I would have been a little happier if he’d have just found some lucky, weak cell signal in the dark to call out on, rather than a busted rotary dial phone miraculously being found amongst the rubble of the basement. Ah, well. Can’t win them all, and I suppose it did show off some of Ryan’s technical skills that he’s so notable for. And speaking of the explosion, how awesome were those special effects and cinematics? Super cool. Anyway, these are some very minor complaints and nitpicks, and they didn’t at all pull me away from the emotional draw of the episode, which was the most important part.
The 12th Precinct’s relatively new and savvy tech, Tory Ellis, was back again in “Under Fire” and, as usual, she helps the team out with tracking down some vital information leading back to our arsonist and killer. Tory has been a source of great interest and scrutiny for me since her first appearance. She’s sort of losing that aura of suspicion though, I must say. Perhaps it’s because she hasn’t done anything shifty as I was kind of expecting her to, or maybe it’s because I’m following Maya Stojan on Twitter now and her social media presence alone has desensitized me to the character she portrays. I’ve still got my eye on you though, Ellis.
Also amongst our guest cast in this episode was Wendy Davis (“Army Wives”, “Scandal”) in the role of fire investigator Delia Burton. I actually kept thinking she was going to end up our arsonist slash killer. Oops? I blame it on one too many cases of partners stabbing each other in the back on this show (or whatever other weapon of choice they used.) Or maybe it’s the movie “Backdraft” with Kurt Russell that influenced my suspicions. I guess it would be too cliché for the killer to be someone in the FDNY as opposed to a building inspector. I was somewhat on the right track though, yeah?
Now, for the most important parts of the episode: Castle and Beckett, Ryan and Esposito, and Lanie helping Jenny deliver her adorable little girl!
First off, Castle and Beckett had me all over the place emotionally in this episode, and most of that was from sheer body language alone. You really can’t say enough about the chemistry between Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic. Whether it’s the back and forth banter between their characters, or watching them desperately try to hold themselves together in a crisis, these two actors just play off of each other so well, and the way it translates onto the screen is simply magical. Case in point: during Ryan’s phone call to Jenny, there’s this moment after Jenny says to Ryan, “Don’t say that. Please don’t say that,” and the look on Castle’s face as he has to turn away just guts me, but seconds later Beckett’s losing it, too, and then they’re both just staring at each other with this helpless, hurting look on their faces. Maybe they’re even thinking, “What if that was us?” Because it’s definitely a possibility. Hell, it just happened last season with Beckett on the bomb in “Still.” They know that agony already of thinking, “This is it,” and having to say their goodbyes. Given all of the times over the past five seasons that their lives have been in danger, and the fact that Jerry Tyson is still out there plotting his next move, there could be a point in time where these two may be forced to face this situation once again, too. And who knows, maybe they’d have a little one of their own at that point in time as well? That’s the future they’re aiming for for themselves: marriage and a family.
It’s got to be heart wrenching to experience on your own, of course, but even more so to watch the people you love have to go through the same thing and being completely powerless to stop it from happening to them. Like Beckett said, it was like some horrible dream she was just waiting to wake up from because the reality of it all was just too much to bear. And there was no time or moment for them to just break down and let it all out either, because they had to be strong for Jenny, for Ryan and Espo, too, so they could get the boys the hell out of that building alive. And it just wrecked me seeing all six of them reacting to the situation at hand. How do you not shed a tear during a moment like that? It choked me up some, especially seeing Castle trying to be that pillar of strength for her, and Beckett trying so hard to compartmentalize everything and stay focused on what she could do. She’s so used to being in control of the situation that when she’s powerless to do something, and for the boys no less, it must drive her crazy with worry.
Now, as far as Ryan and Esposito go, it must be said that the supporting cast on this show just does not get nearly enough credit than they are due. I said this last year regarding “The Wild Rover,” with how episodes centered on characters outside of Castle and Beckett get an unjustified bad rap. Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas are amazing actors and they’re fully capable of holding their own and carrying an episode, just as their characters’ dynamic is fully capable of delivering us some material that will tug at the heartstrings and bring tears to our eyes. Watching our favorite bromance go through life or death situations isn’t exactly anything new, but this time there was way more at stake for them, and the situation far more dire than ever before. Ryan’s wife was due to go into labor at any moment, and then they’re finding themselves trapped in a firestorm? Ryan and Jenny have always had this aura about them of being this next to perfect, sweet couple; they were the example of how well a marriage can work between two people who love each other, and with few complications in their relationship in contrast to everything Castle and Beckett have gone through to get where they are. I mean, the two of them were setting up a phone system together for when the baby arrives so that they’d be fully prepared. That’s how Ryan and Jenny roll, and to see all of their careful planning, and everything nearly go up in smoke for them, that’s rough. But to see how they still work through that, saying their goodbyes and naming their child as what could have become their final act together, that hurt. It wrecked me pretty good.
I do love the levity they brought back to the moment after all was said and done though, with Espo being like, “You’re gonna name a white, Irish kid ‘Javier’?” That’s just so them. At that point, you kind of get clued in to the fact that the baby was probably going to be a girl, and I’m really glad that they went that route. Given the fact that Ryan’s sort of “Castle Junior,” I can’t wait to see all of the parenting advice and wisdom Castle will have to impart on him with raising a daughter.
For some final notes on the episode, I have to say that I loved all the affectionate moments between Castle and Beckett. Her calling him “babe” again, and them joking around with each other about the wedding and the fire fetish comments, that was great to see. I loved that Gates took a more active participation this time around due to her people being in danger, and I especially loved that we got to see the reaction of the rest of the cops at the 12th Precinct, portrayed by the awesome cast of extras that have been seen on a regular basis since the very beginning of the series. And that end scene, I really could go on and on about my love for it with all six of them in their happy bubble of safe and sound bliss. I said this on Twitter last night but I’ll say it again: this is one of those episodes that truly shows a fan just how deeply invested you are in all the characters of the show, when it moves you so profoundly and has you rooting for that happy ending for all of them.
“Castle” at its heart is a love story between the two leads, but the supporting cast of characters are so very important. Ryan and Esposito aren’t just the plucky sidekicks that you can do away with in an episode anymore, or easily replace with someone else and expect the same result. Their presence has meaning to the heart of the show, to Castle and Beckett, and their loss would just wreck them if this episode was any indication. This is why we need more focus on their stories as the show progresses—they don’t draw away from Castle and Beckett’s story, they help to enhance it. Only the boys in mortal danger could draw the emotions out of Beckett that was seen in this episode, and it’s by fleshing out Ryan and Esposito’s characters the past five seasons, giving us those backstories and bringing them more to life, that enriches the whole show as a result and allows for the beautiful moments we get. They’re her team; her friends, her brothers. We’ll always primarily tune in for the Castle and Beckett love story, but the show just wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t know the stories of the other people important to them, too.
“Under Fire” was a fantastic episode, and it’s certainly kicking “Castle” off to a great start in 2014. Considering where things appear to be heading in “Deep Cover” next week, I think it’s safe to say we can expect the second half of the season to start really picking up! I’m rather looking forward to it. How about you all?
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