“Valkyrie” – Castle

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 1.08.47 PMGood start here from Castle. Good, but not great.

We’ll start by answering that major cliffhanger question: ring or job? Well, as we hoped and expected, the answer was both. Beckett is, after all, a modern woman, and the idea that she could only have one or the other was ridiculous. Of course she said yes to Castle (though that scene felt strangely anticlimactic after three months of waiting). Their love is forever. But she said yes to the job, too. And we’re glad.

As predicted, this leads to a bi-locational Castle, at least for now. We suggested last season that splitting the show between New York and DC would be an interesting way to shake up a story that was at serious risk of becoming stale and formulaic. We suggested that the introduction of Tori Ellis was a means of bolstering a team that would suffer without Beckett. We may have been right on both points.

What we weren’t necessarily expecting was the apparent permanence of the whole thing. We anticipated the writers balking after a few episodes and, through a series of contrivances, bringing Beckett back to New York. And, of course, that’s still a possibility, especially in light of this episode’s ‘cliffhanger’. And yet the team surrounding Beckett in DC is by no means sketchily painted. These are not hastily drawn characters we’re not meant to care about. This feels like something we’re supposed to become invested in. That feeling is strengthened by the casting of Lisa Edelstein (House, Ally McBeal, The West Wing) as Beckett’s new partner, Agent Rachel McCord. To our minds, Edelstein is not a bit player. Her television pedigree – those six seasons on House – means she is no longer someone to be trotted out to play a two or three episode arc. We could, of course, be wrong about that. And there is always the possibility that Beckett will return to New York, but liaise with this team from time to time (never really letting it fall by the wayside).

Regardless, we’d be happy with any of the possible outcomes. What this episode showed us is that the new formula can work just as well as the old. Castle can still inspire Beckett (and vice versa), the distance is no obstacle to true love (although it’s not without problems), the writers are still able to write in surprise twists, and the old team doesn’t suffer (much) from Beckett’s absence. And yet this episode was a trial run. This was the set-up episode. Espo and Ryan were consciously brought into the plot by a meddling Castle. Were this formula to run long-term, how would both teams be represented? Dual – but separate – cases in New York and DC? Occasional crossover? One central location (likely DC) with a Ryan and Espo spin-off show and frequent guest starring roles for them on Castle? That remains to be seen.

The case of the week (or, in this instance, fortnight) was fairly standard Castle fare – potential terrorist plots, black ops, the usual. Where it raised the bar was in its scope. While cases like this have crossed the desk at the 12th before, they have been seldom and have always been painted as ‘fish out of water’ scenarios. Episodes like Alexis’ kidnapping or that one with the CIA have always felt accidental in the grand scheme of things. This one felt intentional and believable and plausible. Beckett is operating in a bigger arena, now, where the theft of chemical weaponry can be an every day occurrence and a grand step up from ‘murder of the week’. And its nice to see Beckett getting to spread her wings a little, even if it is hard going for her at first.

Then, finally, that surprise ending. Hell of a twist, but the Castle and/or Beckett in mortal danger trope is getting a little tired, isn’t it? And that’s what pushes this episode from ‘great’ to merely ‘good’. Because we know by now that neither of them will die (the show’s called Castle for Christ’s sake, and it wouldn’t get far without, well, y’know, Castle), so what’s the point? Putting his life in risk isn’t a cliffhanger anymore. It’s just a way to prolong a story arc. And, yet, we fickle, fickle viewers will tune in on Monday, no less heart-in-mouth, knowing he’ll survive, but dying to find out how. And they get us, once again. Here’s to a full season of being sucked right in. – K

Quoteworthy:

“I can’t make it like it was before, can I?”
“Maybe it’ll be better. I mean, this way when we come home at the end of each day we’ll have something to talk about, like normal couples.”
“Only your day will be classified.” – Castle, Beckett

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