Two-Sentence Summary With Castle in Paris after going rogue in his quest to get Alexis back from her kidnappers, Beckett and the team back in New York City make the chilling discovery that Alexis was deliberately targeted by her kidnapper. As pieces to a puzzle long left unfinished are revealed, it’s discovered that Alexis was kidnapped as bait to lure an elusive intelligence asset—her grandfather (aka Castle’s dad).
“I just want you to know, son, I’ve always been proud of you. Always.” (Jackson Hunt)
My Thoughts It’s official: Castle has grown up. Who would have thought five seasons ago that the show which began as a quirky take on the procedural genre would be capable of producing something as intense, complex, and riveting as these last two episodes have been? I’m not ashamed to say I never saw it coming. I’ve always loved Castle’s more dramatic efforts, but “Target” and “Hunt” surpassed even my high expectations for what this show is capable of. I think it’s safe to say I have a new favorite two-parter.
“Hunt” took all the best things about “Target” and added another powerful ingredient to the mix with the introduction of Castle’s father. This was the first episode to separate Castle and Beckett for nearly the entire thing and have me walk away impressed, which is a testament to both Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic’s great standalone performances as well as the impressive work done by the supporting cast, especially James Brolin and Molly Quinn.
The episode began with another quietly powerful moment between Castle and Beckett, building on the shift in their dynamic that we saw last week. Once again, it’s Beckett’s turn to bring Castle a cup of coffee as well as the reassurance and stability that comes along with it. The whole scene was a beautiful parallel to the moment Castle held her hand in the precinct in last season’s finale. This time, it’s Beckett’s job to remind Castle that he’s not alone. She’s not giving up on this case, on Alexis, on him. Because she loves him. It wasn’t the time for her to make that big confession, but it’s been there in all of the little things she’s done for Castle in the last two episodes.
I was especially happy to see Castle accept Beckett’s hand and hold it. To be honest, it wouldn’t have bothered me if he didn’t; the man has a lot on his mind that he has to face down on his own. But he held onto her hand; he let himself lean on her if only for a brief moment. This episode was Castle’s time to make a stand for Alexis, the person he loves more than anything on Earth—even more than Beckett. And this moment was Beckett’s way of showing that she’ll stand with him for as long as it takes. He’s done that so many times for her. It’s her turn now.
Throughout both of these episodes, I loved watching Beckett work to stay strong for Castle and help him in the only way she really could—by being a good cop. But we were able to see the strain it put on her in this episode. Katic made Beckett’s helplessness tangible. The scene between Beckett and Esposito in the precinct was heartbreaking because you could tell she was so torn between wanting to be with Castle and wanting to stay in the precinct for as long as it took to get Alexis safely home.
The relationship between Beckett and Esposito is one of my favorites on the show. From early on, he’s been her voice of reason, her guiding light when she’s searching for answers or the right path to follow. Esposito has always helped her see who she really is and what she really wants. I have such a soft spot for moments when he nudges her towards the man she loves, so I thought it was a great touch to include the scene between them where he basically tells her it’s okay to leave the case behind for the night to comfort the man she loves (him calling her “Kate” for the first time was a beautiful little detail to show how serious and personal the situation is for all of them).
From the moment Beckett and Martha discover that Castle is in Paris (I’m just going to try to forget how bad the backdrop of Paris was in that shot of him on the phone with them), the plot starts running and never looks back. There were so many twists, turns, and betrayals that it left me breathless. “Hunt” was a spy-family thriller in the same vein as the greatest spy-family thriller of them all, Alias.
Castle’s initial meeting with his contact in the Parisian café was another stellar acting moment from Fillion. The man is a master of restraint. He says more with the simple act of fighting back tears than most actors can say in any sob-filled monologue. He was also brilliant in the scene where Castle is forced to listen to his conversation with Alexis over and over while the audio technician analyzes it. The anxiety, exhaustion, and desperation Castle felt could be seen in his body language and the darkness in his eyes. The score in that scene was also astounding. Robert Duncan’s work this season has been nothing short of extraordinary, and he outdid himself yet again with the tension-filled arrangement he composed for “Hunt.”
Katic also had her dramatic moment to shine in this episode, and she ran with it. After an episode and a half of stoicism, she got to explode in a very raw, real way. Her interrogation scene was unsettling in the best possible way—much like Castle’s torture of the suspect last week. This is a woman pushed to her breaking point, desperate to help the man who has always helped her, the man she loves. Kate Beckett doesn’t like feeling helpless; she’s a woman of action. The way she kicked over the suspect’s chair was amazing, but it was Katic’s delivery of “I’m not a cop today, honey,” that got to me the most. Beckett has her own dark side, and, like Castle, it comes out when the people she loves are in danger. She has always been a cop, even when she was forced to defend the man who killed her mother. But when it comes to Castle and Alexis, she’s willing to put aside the job title she defined herself by for so long and let her usually rational self be driven by the most irrational, volatile force of all—love.
Going back to the Paris scenes, I was very impressed with the actor who played Castle’s guide through the Paris underworld/betrayer. There was something incredibly dark and sinister about him without being melodramatic. In that sense, he was a great match for Fillion.
You know who else was a great match for Fillion? James Brolin. I was spoiled for the big reveal, but that didn’t ruin anything about the episode for me. In my opinion, the story of Castle and his father’s reunion was less about shock value than it was about depth and character development.
As the episode progressed and we saw Castle interact with Hunt, it became clear that—although Castle got some traits from his mother—he’s his father’s son. Brolin had a wonderfully sarcastic side at the beginning which gave way to a sad kind of softness that was quietly heartbreaking in a way so few things on Castle are. When he told Castle that the life he chose to live before Castle was born meant that he could never have any real relationships, I felt ready to cry. Brolin’s regret and sense of loss were palpable as Hunt looked at the son he could only watch from afar for 40 years.
Brolin’s subtle depth brought out the best in Fillion. While I’m not sure anything could beat the work he did last week in “Target,” his performance here was powerful in a different—but still affecting —way. My favorite moment of his was the look on his face after Hunt revealed that he gave him Casino Royale in the library when Castle was a boy. You could almost see the wheels turning in Castle’s head, the pain and the joy of knowing that his father was the one who put him on the path to becoming a writer, a path that ultimately led him to Beckett as well. I remembered Castle’s connection to Bond from “When the Bough Breaks” back in Season 2 (one of my favorite episodes), so I found that moment to be a beautiful little bit of continuity.
Another beautiful bit of continuity was the use of “Always” in this episode. In Castle mythology, that word is synonymous with unconditional love and support. I found it incredibly moving that Hunt used it when talking about his pride in his son. The way Fillion’s eyes filled with tears upon being called “son” by his father for the first time was exquisite, as was the little choked-up swallow he did after Brolin said his line. The connection between these two actors—both masters of quiet poignancy—created a moment of love so layered that it transcended the procedural genre and instead entered the realm of great TV drama.
But Castle has never been just a procedural. It’s a love story. However, it’s not just a love story between Castle and Beckett. It’s a story about the love between family, friends, and friends who become your family. And every single kind of love was on display in this episode.
We saw the love between friends in that great scene between Beckett and Esposito. We saw the love between a father and daughter when Castle finally found Alexis. (Molly Quinn’s acting has never been better. Her tears were gut-wrenching when she thought they were both going to die.) We saw the love between a grandfather and his granddaughter. A father and his son. A mother and her son. And of course, romantic love was on display, too.
I adored the look of relief on Castle’s face when he was finally back in Beckett’s arms. And I loved that Beckett told him not to do anything like that again without her—and that he agreed. She knows he would do it all again if it meant Alexis would be home safely again, and his dedication as a father is part of what initially drew her to him. She just wants to stand by his side, to be his partner, and I love that he understands how important it is for her to say that—how much it says about her feelings for him.
Of course I loved the big twist in the action sequence part of the conclusion. I loved the shots of Castle and Alexis running through Paris. But what made this episode so strong to me was the very ending, with Castle surrounded by all of the people he loves in whatever way they can be there (the Casino Royale book). Castle is a show about two people slowly becoming a part of each other’s families as they fall in love. Castle is part of the precinct family now, and Beckett is a part of his family.
There were so may layers to this episode, and I’m sure I’m going to uncover even more after another viewing (or 10). But even after just one viewing, I’m blown away by the depth and power of this two-episode arc. Were you as impressed as I was? What did you think of Castle’s dad? How can this team possibly top this two-parter next season?