ABC's Castle is a lot of fun when it takes on the lighter side of its characters, but every now and then it gears up to deliver a gut-punch of a dramatic episode. Now, in the first part of this two-episode story arc, "Target," Castle (Nathan Fillion) and Beckett (Stana Katic) begin a murder investigation that also exposes a plot to kidnap the daughter of a wealthy Middle Eastern businessman. First they think it might have something to do with terrorism, than the businessman's Egyptian enemies, and that's all juicy and international enough for any "Nikki Heat" novel, but the world of Castle is a bit more grounded than that. When it turns out that Alexis (Molly Quinn) is friends with this kidnapped girl and was actually taken along with her, too, because she was a "witness," that's when things really sober the NYPD up.
"Target" sets out to show just how serious these people can get when one of their own is at stake. It's nothing new to the show, except this time, that "one" is a completely innocent party-- not someone who risks her life everyday as a cop, not someone who voluntarily stands alongside those cops everyday, but instead someone who's guilty by association. Castle says she's "in the wrong place at the wrong time," but really, it may be a matter of digging a little deeper-- only everyone's so emotionally connected they can't see that at first. Even the Captain (Penny Johnson Jerald) tells Beckett to do whatever she has to to get his "little girl" back.
The turn of events is so dark and dire that it even inspires Beckett to break some rules and embrace Castle in the station, not caring who may see them. But it doesn't come without its own emotional strain for our beloved Caskett as Beckett is forced to adhere to other protocol, which includes keeping family member Castle in the dark about some things, as the investigation proceeds. Castle doesn't want Beckett to make any promises she can't keep about finding Alexis before it's too late, and we feel Beckett's helplessness right alongside her when the case dead-ends. The pressure to go above and beyond is hanging over everyone.
"Target" needs to be Fillion's Emmy-submission episode, as we see a side to him as an actor (and of Castle as a character) that was quite unexpected. To say a parent will go to any lengths to make sure their child is okay should be a given, but to watch a darkness settle behind one's eyes when he realized he was in a position to get answers but would have to act out of character to do so was certainly something else. We've had a lot to say in the past about the realism of Castle riding along as closely and on as many high profile cases as he has, but this time around, his layman position actually proved to be more helpful than one might expect.
But as time ticks on without a ransom call to that businessman, and as Castle peruses the Columbia freshman website and makes mention of Alexis' own video blog, we had to wonder: what if it was actually Alexis who was the target, and the other girl just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Think about it: Alexis is already in the public eye for having a best selling author as a father, but she has thrust herself more deeply in that world by being so front and center on that Columbia site, as well as describing her every whereabout on her own site. There is certainly a lesson in online privacy embedded in this story!
The best part about "Target" is that the story doesn't shy away from Alexis' side of things, though. It would be too easy to simply follow the case through the eyes of the confused detectives looking for Alexis, but to give audiences a bit of peace of mind (not to mention additional perspective), the story does cut to Alexis in her "holding" cell of sorts, showcasing how her own strength and smarts is on par with the NYPD's. It's a little like a Nancy Drew mystery, but it proves Alexis has the right instincts for policework, and it gives Quinn a chance to shine, too.
But for the story itself, it isn't until the second half, "Hunt," that dives into the deeper meaning in Alexis' involvement in this case. When the FBI (including special guest star Dylan Walsh) fails to get his daughter back, it's Castle to the attempted rescue yet again, reaching out to "a shadowy fixer" to help him. And it is here that he soon learns that his daughter's kidnapping may be part of an even more sinister agenda.
Are we the only one who feels like Alexis' mom should have at least been notified about what's going on, even if she's not really equipped to help?
Castle airs on ABC on Monday nights and 10 p.m. "Target" airs on February 18th 2013, and it's part two, "Hunt," airs on February 25th 2013.
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