Two-Sentence Summary After learning that Castle has only a day to live after being exposed to a deadly chemical related to her latest case, Beckett frantically searches for leads to keep her fiancé alive and prevent a possible terror attack in Washington. Her investigative work leads her to a journalist, whose grief over his own fiancée’s death at the hands of an air strike from the secret military base known as Dreamworld has driven him to seek out revenge against the sitting Secretary of Defense.
Castle: Next time I say I’m dying to see you, let’s keep it metaphoric.
My Thoughts One of my favorite things about Castle is its brilliant character continuity. We can be presented with new situations and obstacles for these characters without the show feeling completely foreign because the characters’ reactions to these situations are always true to what we’ve learned about them over the last six seasons. It’s why Castle and Beckett making the leap from partners at work to partners in life was so successful last season, and it’s why “Dreamworld” was so successful as well. The way every character in this episode reacted to its events was such a shining example of what makes Castle a great show: It’s a rare procedural that’s driven by characters rather than plot, and it never tries to shy away from that. In fact, it embraces our connections to those characters and the characters’ connections to one another. Those connections are what made this episode so compelling and emotionally engaging.
I think we all knew there was no way Castle was dying in this episode. The real reason the end of last week’s “Valkyrie” was such a great cliffhanger was because it blindsided the characters in addition to the audience. And the reason this episode was still so suspenseful—even with our collective belief that Castle couldn’t die—was because it was so suspenseful for the characters. When you have writing that allows the emotional stakes to be the focal point of an episode, even the most predictable plots can leave you on the edge of your seat with tears in your eyes, which was basically my default position for all of “Dreamworld.”
The case itself was interesting enough, even if it did borrow heavily from common Castle plots: the impending terror threat looming over a two-part episode, the loved one out for vengeance, and the shady political maneuverings. But what I liked about this episode was the fact that all this heightened action happened right at the start of the season rather than at its midpoint. Like I said after last week’s premiere, starting the season with a two-part episode felt like a very confident and intelligent move to secure the interest of new viewers and get casual fans hooked right at the start of the season.
I liked the twists and turns in the case, but my favorite thing about it was the way it helped set up a believable reason for Beckett to leave Washington (because I think we’re all 99.99% sure she’s going back to New York at some point). If she left just because she missed Castle or because she wasn’t good at the job, this whole arc would feel hollow and empty. But it looks like this job is going to force her to confront her beliefs about justice. Kate Beckett has always been driven by her desire to get justice for others because she knows how it feels to lose a loved one. Now, she’s left with the idea that her dedication to getting justice for all victims and their families may have to take a back seat to politics. I’m not sure Beckett will ever be able to justify putting other things above getting closure for a victim’s family. The look on her face when McCord told her the Secretary was going to get off without any real blame said it all: How can she be the one who honors the victims when she’s in a place where not all who are guilty can be brought to justice?
Beckett’s motivation for solving crimes has always been personal, but this episode took it to another level. Like Sydney Bristow and Chuck Bartowski before her, Kate Beckett proved that she’s a force to be reckoned with when the love of her life is in need of an antidote. I’ve seen this general plot so many times before, but what kept it fresh in “Dreamworld” was the way it affected each character. The “search for an antidote” plot may have been done on Alias, Chuck, and a thousand other shows, but there was nothing generic about the way it was handled on Castle.
It started with the way this episode worked in the show’s supporting cast, allowing us to reflect on Castle’s relationship with each of them. Did anyone else start tearing up the moment Castle asked to talk to Alexis? That’s because we know how much these characters mean to one another, and that’s also why it killed me to see Ryan and Esposito so desperate for the truth about what was going on with the friend.
But the real star of the supporting cast this week was Susan Sullivan. Every dramatic episode of Castle should have at least one scene featuring Martha because Sullivan is an exceptional dramatic actress. Her reactions to Castle’s phone call were devastating because you could see Martha putting the pieces together and realizing she was possibly saying goodbye to her son forever. And I was moved to tears when she showed up at the 12th precinct, looking for help from Esposito and Ryan. It was a beautiful way to show that all of these characters have become parts of each other’s families.
I was oddly proud of the writers for refusing to be melodramatic or excessively sentimental in this episode. It was a brave choice to go for subtle emotion instead of predictably big moments of drama, but it was the best choice for these characters. Castle proved through his conversations with Martha and Alexis that he didn’t want to talk as if he was dying; he wanted things to appear as normal as possible. Castle may be as dramatic as his mother when it comes to trivial inconveniences (his broken leg in last season’s “The Lives of Others”), but he was admirably strong in the face of death in this episode. Of course he used humor to deflect in some instances (his line to McCord about how he’d rather die than drink their coffee), but for the most part this episode was about the courage of Rick Castle and the serious side underneath his playful exterior.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes in this episode was when Castle asked McCord how Beckett was doing. When McCord said she was doing well and Castle responded, “So…she’ll be okay,” I was overwhelmed with emotion. Nathan Fillion’s delivery of that line was characteristically beautiful. It said everything without being too heavy-handed: All Castle wants is for Beckett to be okay if something bad were to happen to him. It was such a simple line, but it was worth more than 1,000 sappy goodbye speeches from Castle to Beckett.
There was no way in heck we were getting a sappy goodbye speech from these two characters anyway—because Beckett wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I think so much of Castle’s courage in this episode came from his knowledge of the way Beckett handles grief. He had to be strong because she needed to be strong. And she was strong; although you could see in Katic’s eyes and the tension in her body language that her strength was a product of necessity. Beckett couldn’t act as if Castle was going to die because the second she did that, she would be admitting that she couldn’t save him.
Beckett cannot lose Castle, and we as an audience understand how important saving him was for her character. She was afraid to love someone for so long after her mother died, and then she finally stopped being scared with Castle—only to come face-to-face with losing him, too. If she ever let herself believe that he was going to die on her watch, she would have fallen apart, and we understand that because we’ve seen her fall apart before.
Beckett and Castle have now both had to stare down the idea of life without each other, and that parallel was made visually explicit with the image of Beckett kneeling over Castle’s lifeless body on the grass—a haunting mirror image of the end of Season Three’s “Knockout.” Both of them had to watch the life drain out of someone they loved, believing they weren’t quick enough to save them, but thankfully both were proven wrong.
And this time, there were no secrets hidden, no hospital bedside angst, and no one else to come between them. Beckett could be by his side when he woke up in the way he couldn’t be when she woke up after her shooting. Those parallels showed how far these characters have come in just two seasons. What was once a scene filled with a thousand things left unsaid now becomes a scene filled with the glow of the kind of love to build a life on—stable, peaceful, and strong. Katic’s smile throughout that hospital scene was a thing of quiet beauty, and the easy warmth between her and Fillion was perhaps more palpable than ever before. That whole scene felt like a sigh of relief for these characters, and it was executed perfectly.
The end of the episode saw Beckett contemplating the idea of partnership and what partners do for one another. Yes, McCord is her new partner—and she’s a good one. But her real partner was behind the hospital doors. In this episode, Beckett was forced to confront the idea of a life without her partner, and it’s not a life she ever wants to live. Not only does she miss her fiancé; she misses her partner. And no matter how good her relationship with McCord may be, she’ll never be the first person Beckett thinks of when she hears the word “partner.” When Castle was relegated to “plucky sidekick,” he almost got killed; I don’t think it’s going to take long for Beckett to realize she needs to head home—to her family, her way of honoring victims, and her partner.
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As always, I love your thoughts and I wholeheartedly agree. I, too, felt like the conversation between Beckett and McCord at the end was something of a “beginning of the end” for Beckett in regard to this job. I’m not saying that Beckett is completely rigid and incapable of compromise, but when it comes to justice, that’s a very black and white subject for her. I couldn’t help but think of the current situation with Bracken, of her being aware of his complicity in her mother’s murder, and how that mirrors the Secretary of Defense’s responsibility in the death of the intelligence asset. I don’t think that’s something she’s going to be able to live with, not for long anyway. Kate’s jobs have meant a lot to her, and being a homicide detective fed her soul, tangentially giving her the justice she sought for her mother. It just seems like the political maneuverings of the AG position will just sap her strength. I don’t see it lasting long either.
Always love reading your stuff Katie!! And God bless the Sydney Bristows, Chuck Bartowskis, and Kate Becketts of this world, who will stop at nothing to save those that they love!
Thanks so much for the kind words, Megan! I love the connection you made between Bracken and the Secretary of Defense; I’ve never really believed Washington is the right place for her, and I feel like the show is starting to confirm that for me.
So emotional of a review and I love that. I did go awww a few times in certain scenes and my favorite moments were Beckett’s loving looks at Castle in the end hospital scene. Stana can act the heck out of those! Her acting talents continue to amaze me.
Thanks—that episode made me very emotional. 😉 I agree about Stana; her acting never fails to impress me.
Loved this episode and love hearing your thoughts about it! Overall, I really liked it. I think there could have been a couple more Castle/Beckett moments, but that end scene was so sweet, I’m not complaining!
I’m also really glad that it seems like it will be Beckett not being able to get real justice for crime victims that will bring her back to NY rather than being bad at the job or missing Castle. Kate’s one tough girl and it feels wonderfully true to the character for her to leave not because she can’t handle what the job means for herself and her own happiness, but rather because of what it means for the victims and their families.
I was also glad that Castle and Beckett didn’t get overly sentimental. We’ve seen that emotional side before (man they find themselves in a lot of life-threatening situations!) and I liked that this was pretty subtle. I also think it let Nathan, and even more so Stana shine with this subtlety. There were some great moments where you could tell Beckett was terrified she was going to lose Castle, even without any dialogue to tell us so.
I think the D.C. arc is important for Beckett’s character (now she can go back to the NYPD and Castle knowing that it’s where she is happiest) but I can’t wait to see Beckett and Castle as partners again! Hopefully soon! 🙂
I’m with you—I can’t wait to see Beckett and Castle back together as partners asap! I’d been wondering how they were going to write Beckett coming back to NYC in a way that’s believable, and I’m so happy that it seems to be playing out in a way that will be true to her character.
Stana’s subtlety in this episode was breathtaking. You could feel her trying to keep her panic at bay in the smallest moments, and then you could feel her relief just coming out of her pores in that last scene. She allowed us to feel for Beckett rather than just be told how to feel through the dialogue, and that’s the mark of an actress who is completely in-touch with her character.
I think you are dead on regarding the tone of the episode. While all the harrowing race against the clock was happening there were tons of wonderful subtlety in the quiet moments that were so very powerful. I agree with you that I think the writers chose well to keep the tone from sliding into melodramatic, because historically these characters, specifically Castle and Martha, are over the top on nonsense – Santa, Zombies, et al. However when it comes to reality, both border on stoic. You see it when she advises him around Beckett, we saw it in the kidnapping and you see it when the stakes are real. It’s a consistency that I so admire about the show and its ability to remain true to the characters. You are so right about Susan Sullivan. I tweeted the other night during the Paley event that she is everything. He choices are so specific and wonderful. I adored when she ripped him off speaker to dismiss Pi from the conversation. It’s moments like those that you see the parallels of mother and son.
There’s a lot of justified Stana love because of the arc and because she’s doing a great job with it. I thought the hospital scene in particular was delightfully strong and hadn’t thought about the parallel to when she was shot – but indeed how far they’ve come and it is a great side by side, visually and tonally. But I am going to take a minute to wax poetic about Nathan Fillion. That scene with Castle and McCord took my breath away, literally. I just gasped as he looked to McCord searching for assurance and a lifeline that Beckett would be OK if he didn’t survive. Not simply because he loves her, but because he was responsible for the predicament they were facing. The physicality of his response in that conversation was exquisite, searching for something that would ensure she would not take responsibility for not being able to save him. To watch the always optimistic Rick Castle prepare for an alternative ending was really interesting. We’ve got a new Rick Castle in season 6, one who has a sense of purpose beyond his own needs. The brilliance of that scene with McCord is it comes on the heels of a trademark throwaway quip about the lousy coffee. No one pivots in and out of gravity like him and he can do it with the raise of an eyebrow. Perhaps it’s because I appreciate the sarcasm and need to deflect as a defense mechanism. Fillion has taken a lot of hits lately about being bored and disconnected with the show, which baffle me because I don’t know how you watch the first two episodes and think he isn’t bringing anything but his A game. I thought it was a great hour not for the central story, but for the advancement of the characters we’ve grown to love. Fillion serving as the source of strength as Beckett reconciles the two worlds she straddling is interesting to me. I feel like the first couple of hours of this season are really reminiscent to season 3 (my favorite season) when they felt really unified in their partnership/friendship.
I hope everyone who reads this review takes a second to read your paragraph about Nathan Fillion. I try to stay away from all of the fandom drama about the actors; I don’t care what they say/don’t say about the show or the characters as long as they continue to produce incredible work, and that’s exactly the word to describe what Fillion does on a consistent basis—incredible. The man is a master of realistic subtlety and nuance, and that scene between Castle and McCord absolutely took my breath away. He was saying so much without really saying anything, and that’s such a beautiful thing to watch.
Oh man, a million times yes to this! My initial interest in Castle was due to Nathan Fillion and the projects of his that I had enjoyed in the past. I’ve come to adore Stana as well, but I continue to appreciate Nathan and his abilities as much as ever. There’s no over-the-top emoting. He’s plays ridiculous and child-like without being bratty and insipid. God forbid you mess with someone he cares about because he will unleash hell upon you…just ask Hal Lockwood after he knocked him unconscious for threatening Kate, or Douglas Stevens after he tortured him to find the whereabouts of his daughter. He plays the father, the son, and the partner so seamlessly, and dear Lord the man seems to get no credit for doing so. I understand that Stana is often required to carry more of the heavy emotional load (especially when it’s a story line that touches upon her mother’s case) but Nathan transitions from the silly to the serious with a tremendous amount of natural grace. I LOVED the scene between him and McCord as well. We got to see first hand that shift from cracking jokes (Castle’s go-to defense mechanism) to serious concern for his partner if things don’t go his way. No question of “Do you think I’ll be okay?” Just concern for Kate’s well-being if he’s taken from her as well. Seriously, Nathan’s portrayal of Castle has ruined all other men for me…
And Katie, may I just convey a huge THANK YOU! for not engaging in fandom drama. The whole thing is embarrassing and shameful, in my humble opinion, and grounds for an immediate unfollow on my tumblr…
I’m so happy all the Fillion fans are coming out to play in this comment thread! 😉 He’s the rare actor who never overacts, and I think “natural grace” is the perfect way to describe his skill at transitioning between comedy and drama the way he needs to in order to make this show work so successfully.
Your opinions about fandom drama are my own; it makes me very uncomfortable—especially when fans begin to say things directly to the actors/show runners on Twitter. The people behind our favorite shows (and the people some fans argue with about characters or relationships or storylines) are still people, and I always try to remember that.
Megan if I could star and favorite this I would! I agree with you regarding ‘credit’. I think it’s so natural and understated people don’t appreciate the nuance. I mean all one has to do is listen to the commentaries on the DVDs (particularly the ones Fillion doesn’t do) and you hear about how Bowman and the directors have multiple choices when they go into an editing room, especially given the number of takes they do. I mean when you look at that murder board shot that Castle’s is checking out Beckett at the open of season 3 and then look at the alternate shot you can see the nuance in how he communicates with his body as he acts. I mean character trajectory has been so interesting, especially when you look at his relationships with Martha and Alexis. I spit out my drink when I read your last line, because it is pretty true.
I would also like to co-sign on the thank you to Katie for not engaging the nonsense. The twitter crap makes me cringe. I love this blog for that reason, it’s about discussing the content of what we saw – the acting, directing, writing etc. It is a joy to read your take and then the comment dialogue that ensues. It keeps the fan in fandom and the sensibility that we come at this from our living rooms, not a back lot in LA. I was particularly sensitive to Fillion’s performance because I have really enjoyed it over the last year as Castle and Beckett entered this phase of their relationship. I suspect the solution for me is to stop reading TV Line once I am done with the articles. LOL!
I’ve gotta ask, what made you spit your drink out, Nathan ruining me, or me unfollowing people on tumblr? Because I was dead serious about both… 🙂
And likewise, I spit MY drink out when I saw your comment about TV Line. I kid you not, I was JUST talking to a friend about how I enjoy the articles, but I simply canNOT read the comments anymore. I became infuriated one time too many before I finally learned to stay far, far away.
Oh Nathan Fillion ruining you for all other men, I’m still laughing. The unfollow on tumblr just seems like good sense and taste to me. You are right about TV Line the comments section is just obscene and crazy. Too bad because their reporting is pretty solid and interesting.
Yes! To everything you wrote, but especially the words about Nathan. I think sometimes people forget he said, “I am this guy!! ” when initially approached about playing Richard Castle. That man is thoroughly devoted to this character and show. While the scene with McCord was absolutely poignant, my favorite will forever be the scene in Always where he tells Beckett he loves her. The desperation and emotion (not to mention tears) in his face was powerful.
Totally agree!! I don’t think I can
add something else, your
conclusions are correct she’s
gonna come back, and Martha in
this ep… Was definitely
This blog is my new must!
Thank you so much for the nice comment! 😀
I don’t have anything meaningful to add or comment, but is it possible to have a crush on reviews? If so, yours win hands down.
I agree with Lindsay! Your reviews are the best ones I have found so far (for other shows but specially for my favorite one: Castle) – i actually stopped looking for other reviews. Even though I’m not commenting a lot myself, I am reading all the comments and enjoy the discussions very much!
Oh my goodness—you’re both going to make me blush! 😉 Thank you so much for your kind words!
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