TV Time: Castle 6.11

KATIC, NATHAN FILLION, SEAMUS DEVER

Title Under Fire

Two-Sentence Summary When the team at the 12th precinct investigates a murder tied to a string of arsons, Ryan and Esposito find themselves trapped in a burning building. Struggling to stay alive and to make contact with the people looking for them outside the crime scene, Ryan has additional motivation: His wife Jenny is about to have their first child.

Favorite Lines
Esposito: You’re gonna name a white, Irish kid Javier?
Ryan: What? You’re gonna bust on me now for being sentimental?
Esposito: I figure it’s my last chance.

My Thoughts It’s often said that what makes Castle different from others in its genre isn’t just its sense of humor or unique protagonist; it’s the fact that it is admittedly a love story first and a procedural second. “Under Fire” served as a brilliant reminder that Castle isn’t just telling one love story; it’s telling a bunch of love stories. Friends, partners, lovers; captains and detectives, husbands and wives, parents and children—these relationships are the heart and soul of Castle; they’re the reason we keep watching, the reason we keep caring.

Castle and Beckett’s love story may be what gives the show its spark, but it’s all the other little love stories highlighted in “Under Fire”—Gates and her team, Beckett and her boys, Ryan and Esposito, Lanie and Esposito, Ryan and Jenny, Castle and his “brothers”—that keep the fire burning throughout each episode. A show cannot live on one relationship alone, and, thankfully, Castle is a show built around a plethora of diverse, well-developed, and well-acted relationships.

As is the case with most Castle episodes, the actual procedural elements of this episode took a backseat to the emotional elements. I didn’t care very much about who set the fires or why, but that’s not why I watch Castle. I watch for the characters, and this episode was as good an ensemble piece as I can remember, giving each member of the 12th precinct team an emotional arc to rival any they’d been given before. Of course we knew Ryan and Esposito would make it out alive, but what was important was that the actors never played that like it was a certainty. It made each scene come alive with a kind of desperation that felt necessarily raw and painfully real.

For as much as I love Castle and Beckett’s relationship and always want it to get more development and screen time, I liked that it wasn’t the focus of “Under Fire.” There is a time and place for “Caskett” relationship development, but it’s not when Ryan and Esposito are in a near-death situation as Jenny is about to have her baby. Yes, the first half of the episode was peppered with some fun, cute moments, such as their banter about their wedding date and Castle’s intriguing knowledge of fetishes. But once the action kicked into high gear, the time for banter was over. Instead, it was time to show the other side of Castle and Beckett’s relationship—the supportive partnership. In an episode featuring plenty of uncertainty and emotional turmoil, it was nice to see Castle and Beckett’s stability on display.

Both Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic used their gifts for subtlety to great effect in “Under Fire.” Their reactions to Ryan and Jenny’s phone conversation broke my heart because you could see them both imagining what it would be like to be on either side of that phone call. It wasn’t a melodramatic moment or a moment that overshadowed Ryan and Jenny’s relationship; it was a little detail that connected these two characters to the moment in a very believable way. That depth of feeling was matched by their reactions to Ryan and Esposito reuniting with their loved ones. That one shot of Beckett in Castle’s embrace conveyed all the right emotions without pulling the audience’s focus away from Ryan meeting his daughter. It showed us their stability, warmth, relief, and joy without having to tell us anything—and all in a second of screen time. It was all I needed to see from them in this episode. After season after season of angst and tension, I live for those moments of pure happiness, moments that Katic and Fillion sell so brilliantly.

While Castle and Beckett had their share of moments in this episode, ultimately, “Under Fire” wasn’t about them. It was about Ryan and Esposito and the relationships at the centers of their lives, relationships that were literally tested by fire in this episode. It was about Captain Gates doing everything she could (including showing her grit in the interrogation room) to save her people. It was about Castle and Beckett’s very real sense of helplessness as their friends—their brothers—fought for their lives. It was about Lanie’s quiet devastation as she faced the possibility of a life without Esposito and her strength as she put on a brave face for Jenny because she knew the mother-to-be couldn’t afford to see her fall apart. (Kudos to Tamala Jones for killing me with her resigned stoicism in this episode.) And it was about Beckett going into total BAMF mode to get her boys back—a mode I’d missed more than I realized.

Ryan and Esposito’s partnership is as much a part of Castle as Castle and Beckett’s romance. It often gives the show levity, but in “Under the Fire,” it gave it depth. Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas have created a kind of brotherhood that goes deeper than the clichéd term “bromance.” There was a reason that the moment Ryan told Jenny he wanted to name their son Javier carried such emotional weight; their relationship has been treated with the same respect, care, and honesty as Castle and Beckett’s, so we can feel what it means for Ryan to want to honor his partner in such a lasting way. And even though Esposito made a hilariously snarky comment about it, we could feel how much it meant to him, too. That scene between the two partners made me laugh even as it was breaking my heart, and it was all because of the genuine warmth Dever and Huertas gave to that moment.

Those genuine emotions were present once again in the moment where Ryan discovered that Esposito lost consciousness. The desperation Dever gave to that moment was fearless. It takes guts for an actor and a show to portray male friendship with the kind of emotional honesty that made that scene so painful. It also made for a very smart parallel between Ryan clinging to a lifeless Esposito in the middle of a raging fire and Castle cradling Beckett’s lifeless body in the freezer back in Season Three—two very similar scenes, two partnerships that form the heart and soul of Castle.

Although Ryan and Esposito’s relationship was very important to the emotional core of “Under the Fire,” it wasn’t their scenes that had me crying until I couldn’t breathe. It was Ryan and Jenny’s love story that took center stage, and what an impact it made. I’ve always loved the sweet normalcy of this relationship, but nothing prepared me for how emotionally wrecked it would leave me in this episode. Whenever a real couple plays a couple on television, it could either go very right or very wrong, and, luckily, Seamus and Juliana Dever fall into the “very right” category. I couldn’t imagine anybody else playing Jenny to Dever’s Ryan.

Ryan and Jenny’s phone call turned me into a sobbing mess. Juliana Dever was perfect in this scene, never crossing the line into hysterics or overwrought emotions. Her pain was so hard to watch because it felt realistic. Her “Please don’t say that” to his admission that he was going to miss their baby being born was devastating because it felt like a private moment between a husband and a wife. And don’t even get me started on the moment he tells her he doesn’t want to leave her. I’ll just start crying all over again thinking about how intrusively real that moment felt. Seamus Dever is my favorite member of the Castle supporting cast, and he’s never been better than he was in that phone call scene, with love, regret, and faltering strength in his voice, his body language, and his eyes.

The intimate heartbreak of that phone call was contrasted beautifully with the intimate joy of Ryan and Jenny (and Sarah Grace) reuniting. Like the phone call, what made that scene so effective was the feeling of intruding on something real. Seamus Dever did a truly beautiful job of showing Ryan’s overwhelming sense of love and relief without going over-the-top in his reactions. The real, honest love between husband and wife made what was already a poignant scene even more affecting.

I’ve cried a lot while watching Castle (shocking, I know), but I’ve never cried as hard as I did while watching that last scene of “Under Fire.” The love, warmth, and feeling of family that ran throughout that scene was so genuinely moving. I love moments that come by their emotional reactions honestly, and that’s what this episode was all about. I never felt emotionally manipulated; I felt emotionally invested. I care about this family as if it were a part of my own; I’ve watched it grow and change in such wonderful ways from the pilot until now. Castle is a story about love, but what makes it special is that it acknowledges that there are so many different kinds of love—so many different ways to make a family. 

Castle is the story of two kinds of families: our biological families and the families we choose. Both are beautiful, and both are treated with respect by this show’s creators and writers. “Under Fire” was about the 12th precinct family, one of the most beautiful “chosen families” on television right now. But it was also about the start of a new biological family as little Sarah Grace Ryan entered the show’s universe. The melding of these two kinds of families made for one of Castle’s most emotionally stunning episodes ever, an episode that highlighted everything special about this show.

 

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22 thoughts on “TV Time: Castle 6.11

  1. Great review Katie! I completely agree with you on pretty much everything, especially about how well Castle and Beckett’s relationship was portrayed. I love Castle and Beckett’s banter, but it was really lovely how the writers just let them be for the last half of the episode, using only their body language and shared looks to convey their feelings for one another. Just a really good ep overall, and like you said, the Devers in particular really brought it!

    • Thanks, Becca! I love when episodes take advantage of Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic’s great nonverbal acting skills, and this episode did that really well. They’re so good at subtly showing Castle and Beckett’s emotions, and that was used to great effect here.

  2. I didn’t catch the similarity of the unconscious (not lifeless) scenes until someone posted it on Tumblr. One scene I really enjoyed was Castle and Gates building theory together. It was Castle trying to find the story that would save his friends, like he did for Kate in ‘Still.”

    • I’m so happy you mentioned the scene with Castle and Gates building theory together because I loved it as well. It really showed how far their relationship has come. 🙂

  3. Excellent recap as always, my dear!

    I love it when a show can make me emotional over characters who I know aren’t actually going to die. Like you, I was a sobbing mess at Kevin’s conversation with Jenny even though I knew that he was going to survive somehow. It has been a long time since I cried that hard over an episode of TV and I loved every second of it. This was a fantastic episode for both of the Devers and the rest of the cast.

  4. If “Still” was a love letter to fans, “Under Fire” was the favorite poem tucked into a cherished book. Like you, this was an episode that got under my skin and reminded me what makes this show so special, the beautifully drawn relationships that cross over all areas of where and how we connect to people in life – friends, partners, lovers, parents all were on display. I think what you wrote about Seamus Dever and in particular the story arc for both he and Jon Huertas as well as Juliana Dever said it all. Perfect.

    I do want to offer a shout out to those we sports fans like to call, the “off the bench players”. I have always stated one of my favorite pieces of this show is its ability to use day/recurring characters in such an effective manner that we are connected to them even though they are seldom actually seen on screen. “Under Fire” put that on full display. I was grateful for the small but significant moment Marlowe and Co. gave us at the 12th with Gates and all the background players whose faces we’ve seen and who round out the family that is the 12th huddled together while two of their own were hanging in the balance. It was a small but great touch in an episode that was filled with great small, silent moments, of which Lanie and Kate’s just stripped me raw. For all of Lanie’s optimism and strength Kate’s looks that confirm Lanie’s worst fears are devastating. That Tamala Jones takes all of who Lanie is and channels it into having a purpose around Jenny and the baby mirrors Javi’s actions when Ryan is first pinned down. She and Javi are people of action. They may not be able to change reality but they will act and rage against it for as long as possible. We watched both do it in their own ways throughout the latter half of the episode.

    After 6 seasons, we’ve watched Castle and Beckett caught in life and death circumstances. It was interesting watching them be on the side of the fence usually reserved for Ryan and Esposito. They did a great job of simply being lost in a moment they could not control or fix. I think to watch Kate completely helpless and how Castle stepped into that space, capped off with that wonderful ‘theory’ call with Gates really showed how much the walls have come down – for everyone. Given how invested we were in Montgomery as viewers, huge credit needs to be given to Penny J. Jerald for growing Gates into someone who is different from Montgomery but equally effective as the backbone of the 12th. It was nice to see Gates accept in Castle as one of her own, in her own way.

    Ryan’s phone call had me crying from jump. And like everyone else, it was really great to have that emotional punch knowing full well they weren’t going to die in that moment. It was a scene that for it’s heightened emotion built up quietly, whether it was the look of ‘they’re not going to make it’ exchange between Kate and Lanie to Castle looking away or Jenny steeling herself enough to make the moment count by telling Ryan they had to name the baby together. When the phone cut off I was left sobbing like a baby.

    You wrote: “Her “Please don’t say that” to his admission that he was going to miss their baby being born was devastating because it felt like a private moment between a husband and a wife.” I think that’s exactly how they played it. When Castle looks away in that moment I absolutely felt like he was doing so not merely in despair, but to give this couple the privacy they deserved in a moment they all believed was going to be the end.

    And a quick word about the Devers. Yes they’re married in real life, but to convey connection and emotion in a TV scene that is separately shot because it’s a phone conversation speaks to how well they connected to the material and as a result connected us to this moment in the show. We love and care about Jenny, because we’ve grown to care about Kevin Ryan over the last 6 years. Lanie’s stoic stance is heartbreaking because we love Javi, like she loves Javi and because Tamala Jones can convey a lifetime of regret by simply holding her breath and offering a passing glance.

    This show has always been about the sum of its parts. That was on full display throughout this episode. That’s what made it so emotional. It wasn’t that we believed the characters of Ryan and Esposito were in danger, they weren’t. We were emotional because the circumstances of the episode highlighted just how interconnected these characters are and how strong the fabric of the family they’ve built is. The closing shot was wonderful and the music felt like a rejoicing prayer. It reminded me of when I thought this group first became a family in the closing shot of Last Call. I loved the five of them singing Billy Joel heading off to the Old Haunt. It was a moment that brought them together as a unit. In this moment we see just how far this family has come and grown. They are older, a lot has happened and they are all stronger for it. So is the show.

    • I was so excited to read your comment because I couldn’t wait to read your thoughts on this fantastic episode. And you did not disappoint! All I could do as I read was nod along and smile because everything you said about the Devers, Gates, and Lanie was so spot-on. I especially love reading your thoughts about Lanie because you have such a great handle on analyzing her character. Everything you said about her being a woman of action felt so right for me as a fan of hers and of how Tamala Jones plays her. It also rings so true in describing why she and Esposito work so well.

      I also have to say that your mention of the Billy Joel sing-along in “Last Call” warmed my heart because that is still one of my favorite Castle moments. Like you, it was one of the first times I really connected with the whole group as a unit and felt the sense of warmth and family between them. It’s amazing to see how far all of these characters have come since then, but that sense of family is still stronger than ever.

      “They are older, a lot has happened and they are all stronger for it. So is the show.” – I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      • Love that you guys thought of Last Call! That’s still one of my favorite episodes ever and the end scene in that ep was the moment where I was like “Wow, I really love this show”. And like you said, it really is a great parallel to the ending of this ep.

  5. Hi Katie and everyone,

    Wow it’s 2014 already. Seems like only yesterday we were lamenting that its would be a few weeks until Castle aired again.

    And the show has opened with an absolute bang. Katie your review hit all the right spots for me. This is most definitely a show about relationships and it’s what makes the show so good. With an ensemble cast if the relationships aren’t true or even exist then there is no reason for the characters to exist.

    I have to say though that I had to hold back a few tears, the struggle between Kate’s wanting to go in all guns blazing reminded me of the bank hostage episode. The sense of helplessness on Kate’s face summed up so much and also showed how much her family means to her. I loved Ryan’s constant checking of the phone, waiting for the call and Esposito taking the mickey out of him for his choice of name.

    And while Castle took a back seat to the events it was rightly so as this was ultimately Ryan’s story. Man is he in for many sleepless nights.

    • Hi Mark! I hope you had a great holiday season and are having a good start to 2014!

      Thank you so much for your comment—once again, I love getting your perspective on things, and I really liked the comparison you drew between Beckett’s struggle in “Cops and Robbers” and her struggle in this episode. When people she loves are in trouble, I love watching her protective instinct take over.

  6. I may have gotten misty eyed reading this and clicking the links. Haha! I honestly had no idea the episode would be THAT emotional. Oddly enough, that’s what I live for when it comes to television shows and Castle is phenomenal at catching me off guard. And you can’t go wrong with Marlowe and Amann writing together. 😀

    Although this episode contained many “one of the best” scenes, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the phone conversation between Castle and Gates. It actually made me sit up a little straighter on the couch. We’ve never seen those two characters build theory together like that and it spoke volumes to have far they’ve come. On another note, kudos to Penny Johnson Jerald for the great interrogation scene. When Gates unbuttoned her jacket I thought, “Oh! Sh*t’s about to get serious!” 😉

    Thanks again for the great review, Katie!

    • Thank you for another lovely, thoughtful comment, Lindsay! I hope you had a lovely holiday season! I completely agree with what you said about living for getting emotional while watching television. I love it when a TV show makes me cry, and that’s exactly what this episode did. And, like you, I was surprised by just how emotional this episode made me, but that’s how I knew it came by all of its emotion honestly. I never once felt like I was being told to feel emotional; it just kind of happened. 😉

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