Before I get to my recap, I have to wish a very happy birthday to Leah, a great writer, great friend, and the Kevin Ryan to my Kate Beckett.
Two-Sentence Summary The murder of a Columbia student leads the team at the 12th precinct to the kidnapping of the daughter of a high-ranking member of the old Egyptian regime. When Castle discovers that Alexis was also kidnapped, he proves that a father will do anything to protect his child.
Beckett: I didn’t think you had that side to you.
Castle: When it comes to the people I love, I do.
My Thoughts WOW. I’m not sure there are words to describe “Target” beyond that. Everything about it was exceptional: the characterization, the music, the plotting, the twist, and the ACTING. I’m the kind of person who gravitates towards performances more than I do towards any other aspect of visual media. So when an episode of a TV show features the finest acting by its very talented cast to date, it’s safe to say that the episode is going to be one of my favorites.
I felt the setup at the beginning of the episode went on just long enough to build the tension. While some parts were certainly a little heavy-handed (Castle talking about setting Alexis free), it all functioned as a kind of calm before the storm we all knew was coming, a brief period to get settled in before Castle found Alexis’s phone and the wild, emotionally turbulent ride began.
In an episode that depended on Molly Quinn more than she’s ever been depended on before, she truly shone. I loved that the writers kept Alexis in-character. She’s her father’s daughter—like Martha said—brave and smart and strong. She’s also been shown throughout the series to be incredibly resourceful, which served her well here. It would have been easy to turn her into a crying, frightened mess, but I loved that she was the strong one. She used her brains, and she used them to the best of her ability. Alexis has always been one of my favorite representations of young women on television, and this only added to my love for the character.
Speaking of the women in Castle’s life, let’s give another standing ovation to Susan Sullivan, shall we? This woman can take a few minutes of screen time and use them in a way that makes her performance unforgettable. I loved seeing her strength rise to the surface again. Martha has grown in such a natural, believable way along with her son over the course of these five seasons. In a time of total crisis, it’s Martha who becomes the glue holding her family together—and Sullivan nailed that mixture of hope and fierce determination with her trademark power and passion.
Castle’s family at the precinct was also a subtle but huge source of support in this episode. I loved the moment when he walked out of the meeting with the FBI agent and the rest of the team watched him go. You could see the sadness, pain, and resolve on all of their faces. Castle is a part of their family and has been for years. And these people protect their own. I never doubted once that they were ready to do anything in their power to save Alexis, who is part of their family, too.
Captain Gates was especially powerful in this episode. I got tears in my eyes for the first time in the episode (but certainly not the last) when she told Beckett to do whatever it takes to “find his little girl.” For all her gruff exterior when it comes to Castle, it’s clear that Gates sees him as part of their family, too. I also loved the way it became clear that Gates knows about Castle and Beckett’s relationship. Like “Probable Cause,” this episode didn’t make a comedic moment out of the reveal. Instead, it was a quiet but important moment of recognition when Gates saw them holding hands. I’m sure this will cause tension after all is said and done with Alexis, but I liked that it was handled in an understated way for now. There were more important things to deal with.
Like any strong Castle episode, “Target” got its strength from its leads. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic both have never been better than they were here—and I say this is as someone who was blown away by their work in “Always.” I know it’s common fandom hyperbole to say that an actor deserves Emmy recognition after a particularly good episode, but I genuinely believe Fillion deserves at least a second look by the Emmy nomination committee for his work here. His vulnerability was something we’ve never seen from him before—not even from his best work on Firefly. And his darkness was something I’d missed from his days as Captain Mal. There’s something truly terrifying about watching those beautiful blue eyes go dark and cold—and it was absolutely necessary here.
Fillion had a number of standout moments in this episode, but his two best scenes pushed him to new heights as an actor and allowed him to create an almost too-real portrait of a father desperate to save his only daughter.
The first was his discovery of the blood in the van. In just a few short minutes, Fillion goes through a spectrum of emotions that would be impossible for a lesser actor to balance. He moves from anger to panic to relief in a way that makes you feel Castle’s helplessness. And Katic is his anchor through it all, keeping Beckett’s emotions just under the surface (the little break in her voice, the whisper of thanks), allowing Fillion to find that raw fear that renders this scene incredibly hard to watch.
Fillion’s other shining moment came when he “interrogated” the driver. This scene was one of the most chilling things ever shown on Castle. At first, Castle tries to use his words, to reason with him. But when he sees that his words won’t be enough, he makes the decision to act. Fillion closes his eyes, and when he opens them, Castle is gone. The light, the hope, the spark is gone. And in its place is desperation created by love. The decision to focus on Beckett’s reaction to the man’s scream was genius. Because in that moment we were all Beckett, shocked by the darkness in the soul of Richard Castle.
I initially felt uncomfortable with Beckett asking Castle about what happened. I was afraid her comment about not knowing he had a dark side would lead to tension between them, but that was far from the case. Instead, Castle tells her the truth—he would only go to that dark place to protect the people he loves. And we know that. We’ve seen him pummel Hal Lockwood into unconsciousness to protect Beckett. We’ve seen him tell Senator Bracken that he would have watched him die like it was the easiest thing in the world if it meant Beckett’s safety.
Castle has a dark side, but don’t we all? Isn’t there a breaking point for all of us (even if I hope most of us never have to find out)? Beckett certainly has her own dark side. And that’s why this moment was so necessary. Castle loves all of Beckett, and he’s seen all of Beckett—her light and her darkness. In order for Beckett to truly love Castle the way he loves her, she had to see his darkness and learn where it comes from. And she learned that even his darkness is born out of love. That scene marked a turning point in their relationship, the moment in which Beckett first saw all of Castle. And she didn’t run away.
Instead, Beckett stood by his side as patiently and as beautifully as he’s stood by hers for five years. She risked being discovered by Gates to hold him, to cover his hand with hers—because what mattered to her wasn’t rules but instead making sure Castle could feel her support, could have something—someone—tangible to hold onto as his world was falling apart.
Beckett couldn’t offer Castle anything but herself. She couldn’t offer him false platitudes because she knew—because he told her—that he’d be so broken by false hope that their relationship would never recover; he would never recover. She couldn’t solve the case for him because nothing was going right. And she couldn’t go home with him to hold him and comfort him because she knew that this was how she was needed most—to work on the case with everything in her until it was solved. Both Castle and Beckett were helpless in different but equally poignant ways in this episode. And Fillion and Katic played off each other brilliantly.
Castle opening up to Beckett about the feeling of being a father was one of those moments of beautiful synergy between characters and between actors. For so many seasons, we’ve watched Beckett let Castle into her heart with little moments like this, as he looked on with a soft but sad smile. Now it’s Beckett’s turn. Castle opened up to her about the most intimate, most sacred thing in his life in a way that destroyed any of the fears Meredith put in her head about Castle not being open with her, about him having too many walls.
There was a very definite and moving shift in Castle and Beckett’s dynamic in “Target.” For so long, Castle was the strong one, the reassuring one. In this episode, Beckett had to be the voice of hope, the hand to hold, the one who offers the cup of coffee (decaf, like he did for her in last season’s “Kill Shot”) and the love that goes along with it. It was her turn to be strong for him. That equality showed off their relationship better than anything else we’ve ever witnessed between them. They’re a romantic partnership of equals, and I walked away from this episode believing that more strongly than ever before, especially after the final scene between them.
I honestly don’t know how I’m going to wait until Monday night for the continuation of this cliffhanger. I loved the last scene with Alexis, and kudos to whoever made the executive decision to actually shoot that in Paris. It added a level of realism that made the shocking twist even better.
I’ll wait until Monday to make a final judgment, but if Part 2 lives up to Part 1, then this will definitely be the best Castle two-parter since Season 2…and maybe the best they’ve had yet.
Utterly perfect review. Thank you for hitting every single point I thought to myself over the course of the episode and especially for highlighting the moments you chose with Nathan, Stana and Caskett and what they meant in a wider sense to the show and the relationship.
Thank you so much! I thought this episode did a great job of highlighting the Castle/Beckett relationship in a uniquely powerful way, and I’m thrilled you liked what I had to say about it.
Loved what you had to say!
To me, this wasn’t a ‘Caskett’ episode, but yet it served to expand and inform on their relationship in a way that they never have been able to before. Without making it ‘about’ Caskett. Wonderful balance and subtlety in the midst of seriously epic character moments.
entirely agree with Ghostlinz! very good episode, great acting from entire cast. The moments between Beckett and Castle were honest, real and deeply emotional…you could feel the love, fear and deep respect between the two.
Very well put! Their moments were born of very honest performances, and it made the respect and love between them really shine.
I fully agree with everything you said! One of the things that make castle and Beckett such a compelling couple is that their relationship is realistic…it’s a TRUE partnership…it’s not lust or anything animalistic…it’s respect and trust and comfort and holding each other up when the other is falling down…and that was SO beautifully portrayed in this episode!
Also – thanks for mentioning Martha! In everything I think we sometimes forget just how amazing Susan Sullivan is and how wonderful Martha is! She was fantastic in this episode!
Truly one for Emmy consideration ALL around – the lighting, the directing, the cinematography, the music – were ALL just as astounding as the acting and writing!
Another wonderful job by the Castle cast and crew! And a perfect review’
Thank you for the comment!
One of my favorite things about Castle and Beckett’s relationship is that they have such a strong foundation of respect and trust. They are partners in every sense of the word, and that’s what made their interactions this week so compelling.
And I couldn’t forget Martha! Susan Sullivan is such a phenomenal actress. She brings so much to every scene that she’s in.
Truly a perfect review. You’ve said it all… amazing episode, brilliant acting by the entire cast… so heart-wrenching and gut-twisting and raw… it really made me think of what so many parents go through when this happens in real life, as it does every single day. Cannot wait for the next episode.
Thank you for commenting! I totally agree—and I definitely am waiting with bated breath for next week!
I just finished watching the episode and wish I had something more to add, but your review really did say it all. This was a phenomenal episode of Castle.
I feel emotionally exhausted after watching this episode, more so than I ever have with this show before. Nathan did a really good job making us feel his heartbreak and worry and I loved the way Beckett had to be strong for him. I also really love that she didn’t care if Gates caught them because all that mattered was being there for the man she loves at a time when he needed her.
I still feel emotionally drained even days later. I didn’t think any Castle episode could ever put me through the wringer the way “Kill Shot” did but I think this one was even more exhausting—in the best possible way.
I realize Castle fans tend to be female, but this male fan also thought your review was as stellar as this episode! Your analysis is spot on and very insightful. No fan I’ve ever read comments from has a better handle on the character dynamics of the show than you seem to. Just to add a comment of my own on the show: the last scene of Alexis on the roof felt exactly like a scene from “Fringe” – an astonishing realization that you have been transported to an entirely different world and having no idea how. For a few seconds, you almost forget how to breathe…
Thank you so much for the kind words! I completely agree with your about forgetting to breathe during the last scene—it was done so well and with such perfect pacing. “Fringe” is another show on my to-watch list, and now I have another reason to start it asap!
you always say the best things: “Castle loves all of Beckett, and he’s seen all of Beckett—her light and her darkness. In order for Beckett to truly love Castle the way he loves her, she had to see his darkness and learn where it comes from. And she learned that even his darkness is born out of love.”
also i saw on tumblr that someone wondered why beckett didnt try to go home with him any of the nights in the episode and i completely agree with you that she needed to be at the precinct. he doesnt need her to hold him, he needs her to find alexis and to make sure everyone else is doing the absolute best they can and to not stop until she is found.
is it next monday yet?
“is it next monday yet?”
I WISH! The only thing keeping me from wishing this week away completely is Parks and Rec’s big event tomorrow! 😉
I also saw a lot of posts on Tumblr that were unhappy with Castle and Beckett not being together more at his place in this episode. But I loved that Beckett understood that nothing she did could comfort him as well as the knowledge that she was working her hardest to get his daughter back. That’s how she showed her love the most in this episode, and I think he appreciated that more than any night spent at his loft.
HOLY COW THIS EPISODE. It was SO GOOD. “Wow” pretty much sums it up (as does everything else you wrote here, which I wholeheartedly echo!).
Also thoroughly appreciated that they decided to send the kidnappers’ van down streets I walk EVERY DAY. Cool, Castle writers. Thanks for freaking me out. I really appreciate it.
I was freaked out by this episode and I live 8 hours from NYC, so I can’t imagine being in your shoes! *send you lots of hugs and chocolate because chocolate makes everything better*
Thank you!!! *sending some in return because TONIGHT IS A HAPPY OCCASION and deserves celebratory chocolate*
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