Castle: Sacrifice

ABC / Richard Cartwright
ABC / Richard Cartwright

Last week’s start to the Castle’s eighth season was intense, dramatic, and wonderfully suspenseful, truly one of those classic darker episodes that delved into a world we see only so often throughout the series, yet a world that the Castle team has always excelled at diving into. Some of the most impressive episodes of the series, at least in this reviewer’s opinion, have been these episodes that thrust the characters out of their usual routine, and push them past their limits, as they are forced to face some of the most unimaginable challenges possible. Ultimately, the episodes that delve into this darker and more character-driven territory are also those that have defined and developed Castle, Beckett, and their friends and family in leaps and bounds over the years. Monday’s conclusion to the seemingly game-changing season premiere did exactly that.

While experience tells me that it is very likely that a large portion of the Castle fandom have not yet recovered from the gut-wrenching final minutes of the episode, and that it is most likely that TV repairmen everywhere are being called out across the world at this point to remedy the damage of those who may have thrown one too many things at their screens after those last few minutes, it is also experience that tells me that what the Castle team put forth is exactly what great television, and great storytelling in general, is truly all about. Where is the reward without the risk? Where is success without failure? And where is sheer joy without pain? A great story is one which takes risk, forces its characters to fall here and there, and challenges them with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, all because it makes the reward, the rise, and the beating of odds mean so much more in the end.

Written by co-showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter and directed by Paul Holahan, Monday’s “XX” both continued the story begun in last week’s “XY,” as well as filled in the gaps from the previous episode by explaining the events from Beckett’s perspective to give us the full story behind her mysterious disappearance. With her former team at the Attorney General’s office in D.C. being murdered as part of a cover-up mission, Beckett was forced to go on the run with the AG’s newest tech analyst, Vikram. Guest star Sunkrish Bala provided a wonderful performance throughout the episode as Vikram, delving into a wide range of emotions while also keeping us guessing about his possible involvement in the murders themselves. Along the way, Beckett had to protect herself and Vikram from a team of mercenaries while keeping herself hidden from Castle to protect him as well. Also, there was a surprise introduction to Castle’s stepmother, Rita, played beautifully by guest star Ann Cusack, who actually added some of the more compelling moments in the episode as she seemed to truly have a personal connection to her stepdaughter-in-law, and an intriguing link between the AG team’s murders and William Bracken, something that would set the stage for a new ongoing mystery for Beckett and Castle to solve this season.

It was truly a packed hour of storytelling and provided unknown details of the case itself while also continuing the story on and throwing in a few massive curveballs along the way. At times it did feel somewhat off in that way, simply a case of blowing through too many important story points and perhaps leaving a few of the more vital moments in the episode with too little emotional attention–most notably the murder of William Bracken and the emotional affect that would have had on Beckett. After spending more than a decade hunting down her mother’s murderer so as to bring him to justice and put him behind bars for the rest of his life, his being murdered and her being robbed of that sense of justice could have been explored more deeply and with greater emotion, but the pace of the episode forced the story to move beyond that–though perhaps it will resurface later on down the road. It also seemed a bit of a wasted opportunity to have that be the end of the line for recurring guest-star Jack Coleman, as even behind bars, Bracken proved to have quite the knack for adding gripping and chilling moments to the season.

The episode also explored a bit more of the Alexis/Haley friendship that had begun to bloom, an interesting and rather immediate kinship that helped put Alexis into a new realm of maturity and independence. While Haley was set to embark on another adventure elsewhere, it certainly seemed apparent that it would likely not be long before we see her again, especially given the fact that Toks Olagundoye is listed as a full cast member for the season, not a guest star (credits give things away, folks!). Who knows, perhaps fans will even be treated to a Charlie’s Angels-esque moment with Stana Katic, Molly Quinn, and Toks Olagundoye working a case (and being badass, of course) at some point this season?

ABC / Richard Cartwright
ABC / Richard Cartwright

As with all great Castle episodes, the heart and soul of the hour was the focus on how Beckett’s disappearance and the subsequent fallout from it had both challenged and strengthened the relationship between Castle and Beckett. The episode seemed to cover every range of classic Caskett moments, from their mind-melding theory building (though not even in the same room at that time) to their blissfully happy reunion, to their powerful and stirring argument over the secrets they have both kept from one another, to that heartbreaking goodbye to close out the hour. Again, at times, it all seemed too rushed, and there were points where the emotional impact was perhaps not as poignant as it could have been. Even still, there is no greater asset to this series than the chemistry between leads Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic and its that power  in absolutely captivating the audience together, that shone through in each and every scene they shared, even those that took their characters into darker territory.

But while the impact of this episode would land squarely on the Caskett relationship in the end, it was also quite interesting to see the impact these events had on Beckett herself, forcing her to perhaps face the demons of her past that she had believed were long gone. Even after putting her mother’s killer behind bars, moving on with her life with Castle, and achieving her goal of becoming Captain, something unresolved still stirred beneath the surface of this character, something that kept her unknowingly restless until this latest brush with the evils of the world came crashing down on her. As I said before, this is what great storytelling is really all about.

Ultimately, it seemed as though the evils of the world had once again forced Beckett to accept what may be her fate, living in that rabbit hole to fight the never-ending fight for justice. Or are things not truly as they appear? While that concluding scene was perhaps one of the most painfully emotional scenes to watch in recent history between Castle and Beckett, this reviewer firmly believes there is much more to the story than what we witnessed. After all, Beckett swore there would be no more secrets between them and despite Rita’s warning to be careful who she took down that rabbit hole with her being meant as a deterrent, it may have also been exactly the opposite, convincing Beckett not to go down that path alone anymore, yet also not to risk Castle’s life in the process.

So if you are one of those Castle fans who are still reeling over those final few minutes or still yelling obscenities at your television screen, be sure to dry those eyes, wash your mouth out with soap, get your television repaired if needed, and take a deep breath because the season is just beginning and something tells me you do not want to miss what is sure to come because with great risk comes great reward and this was quite the risk indeed.

QUOTE-WORTHY LINE OF THE NIGHT:

Beckett: I thought I’d put it all behind me. But it’s back and it’s stronger than ever.

Rita: A devil like that is very hard to cast out. But you have to try. Don’t you see the gift that you’ve been given?…  You’re a big girl, dive down that rabbit hole if you must. But think twice about who you bring with you. Because unlike McCord and her team, anybody who dies now, that blood is on you.

What did you think of Monday’s episode of Castle? What were your favourite moments or scenes? Were you upset about the way the episode ended or do you share my belief that there is much more to the story than what we saw? What did you think of Rita and her big secret? Do you believe she’s really who she says she is? Were you sad to see Bracken meet his demise? Share your thoughts with us in our comment section below!

Castle airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on ABC and CTV.

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