Title Deep Cover
Two-Sentence Summary The murder of a young man with a history as a high-level hacker unexpectedly brings Castle back into contact with his father, whose identity is finally revealed to Beckett when he becomes a leading suspect in the murder investigation. Meanwhile, Castle and Beckett’s search for the ideal wedding date keeps hitting roadblocks.
Beckett: I just—I want to be flexible.
Castle: Oh, you are flexible…You see what I did there?
My Thoughts “Deep Cover” was as perfect a thematic follow-up as you could imagine to last week’s incredible “Under Fire.” Both episodes brought into sharp focus the concept that gives Castle its beating heart: family—the family we’re born into and the family we choose. In the world of Castle, a family isn’t defined by biology; it’s defined by selfless, unconditional love and support. The families that exist on the show are sources of strength and happiness. But the absence of family is also a topic that Castle has touched on over the years with great emotional resonance. Both Castle and Beckett are defined in many ways by the absence of a family member—his father and her mother. And while we’ve watched Beckett struggle with that absence, we’ve been given relatively little development concerning Castle’s feelings about living his whole life without a father. “Deep Cover” finally examined that aspect of Castle’s character, and it did so with the show’s characteristic warmth and sense of surprise.
Last season’s spectacular two-part episode “Target/Hunt” introduced us to Jackson Hunt, Castle’s father, but the suspenseful nature of the episode didn’t allow for much father/son bonding time. However, what we got was fascinating—an adult son trying to understand a father who was both completely absent from his life and also the force behind his entire life’s inciting incident (giving him Casino Royale, the book that made him want to be a writer). James Brolin and Nathan Fillion were such spectacular scene partners (and such believable father/son lookalikes) that I remember hoping that Hunt would make an appearance again. And I’m so happy to say his reappearance lived up to my expectations.
The actual spy plot of this episode wasn’t the show’s strongest case, but it didn’t have to be to drive the emotional arc forward. I found Hunt’s repeated disappearances and betrayals a bit overly predictable, but what felt trite in terms of the plot actually worked quite well on a thematic level. Jackson Hunt is a man who’s good at disappearing—it’s literally part of his job, but it’s also the defining aspect of his relationship with Castle and Martha.
The same could be said of his insistence on Castle keeping his identity secret from Beckett. At first, I was annoyed by another secret coming between them (but I did love that Beckett knew something was wrong as soon as Castle seemed indifferent to coming up with a crazy theory). However, it served as an excellent reminder of why Hunt could never really be family to Castle—he demands too much secrecy. Castle has shown time and again the price of keeping secrets—no matter the good intention. So for Hunt to ask Castle to keep such a huge secret from the woman he loves is asking him to violate something that family is built on in this show—trust.
While I didn’t have much of an emotional investment in the actual murder, I had a very strong emotional investment in the character arcs in this episode. I was hoping from the second Hunt showed up again that he would share a scene with Martha, so imagine my delight at the depth of their interactions in this episode. Brolin and Susan Sullivan had phenomenal chemistry. It takes two talented actors to create a sense of such shared history, longing, and regret all within the span of a few moments.
Sullivan was marvelous in this episode as a whole. I love when she gets to show her dramatic acting chops. Martha has always felt like a woman whose advice and attitude come from the hardest teacher of all—experience. She’s earned her years for better and for worse, and this episode showed the sense of “what could have been” that she carried for 40 years with heartbreaking gravitas.
There’s a strength to Martha that borders on ferocity at times, but there’s also something about her that’s shockingly vulnerable. This episode allowed both facets of her personality to come through beautifully. You could see the young woman who wished Hunt would come back for her and their son, and you could also see the mature woman who only needed closure from this man—nothing more. To watch those two women battling for dominance within in her as she interacted with Hunt was beyond impressive—it was perhaps Sullivan’s best work on Castle to date. And to watch the acceptance settle over her features at the end of the episode was the perfect end to her arc. She doesn’t need Hunt; she has the best of him with her in her son, and that’s all she really needs.
While Martha’s journey to realizing she didn’t need Hunt was never in doubt, what interested me the most was seeing just how bumpy Castle’s journey to that same realization was. There was a quiet kind of desperation to the way Fillion acted in this episode; you could feel how much Castle wanted to trust his father despite knowing how untrustworthy his father is. But Fillion also did an excellent job of showing the anger Castle carries towards his father that lies just below his happy-go-lucky surface. The scene between Brolin and Fillion in the park, when Castle talks about the 40 years he spent without his father, was filled with the kind of emotional tension that makes me hold my breath.
As the episode went on, you could feel the little boy and the grown man warring inside of him even more intensely than you could feel the conflict in Martha. Fillion has an uncanny ability to make himself look so young and vulnerable in his scenes with Brolin, and it breaks my heart. When Hunt hugged Castle, you could see in Fillion’s expression the hopeful child finding something he was always looking for. But when he found out that the hug—and all of the desire for a relationship it represented—was merely a means to an end, you could see the jaded man who lived for 40 years with the weight of being abandoned by the father he never knew and still doesn’t really know.
In the end, Castle had to face a hard truth: His father will never really be family to him. He can’t ever be family to him. Because, on this show, family means trust, and it means finding someone who will be there for you, whether it’s “always” or “’til the wheels fall off.” Castle has that family on multiple levels: He has it with his mother and his daughter, and he has it with the family that’s built around him at the 12th precinct.
And then there’s the woman who exists for him on both levels of family—Kate Beckett. She’s part of his precinct family and part of his traditional family; his partner in work and his partner in life. I loved that this episode showcased the way they’ve both seamlessly woven themselves into the fabric of each other’s families—from talking with Martha in Castle’s loft about wedding dates to finishing each other’s sentences in front of Lanie in the morgue.
This episode showed Castle and Beckett at their best—affectionate, playful, stable, and supportive. So it felt right for this episode to be the one in which a wedding date was finally set. I liked that their conversation about picking the right date felt true-to-life, complete with all the considerations that have to be taken into account in the real world of wedding planning. But, ultimately, I loved the way it was resolved more than anything. Castle ultimately put officially starting his family with Beckett over work, something his father could never do.
And so we’re left with thoughts of September, thoughts that leave most of us as happy as Beckett herself. Do you think that means we’ll be kicking off Season Seven with a wedding premiere, or will Castle pull a Parks and Recreation and hint at one date before surprising us with a different one?
No matter when we actually get to see the wedding, the important thing in the show’s universe is this: Castle and Beckett are family in every way this show has come to define that word. They’re part of the precinct family that was the driving force behind “Under Fire” and part of the family that exists for them both outside of the 12th, which was the focus of “Deep Cover.” These last two episodes were a brilliant exploration of what family means on Castle, and it’s no coincidence that the relationship which served as the connecting string between both was the one between Castle and Beckett.