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.
very good overview. I know they said September wedding, But with Castle we really don’t know what to expect next!! It is always a joy though to sit in front of the tv and see these fine actors weave their web.
Thanks, Lynn! And you’re right—I have a feeling we have plenty of surprises in store before we get to the wedding (whenever it may be)!
Each week I read your reviews. Each week I always try to find something worthy to add. Each week I fail because you’ve already stated everything so perfectly. And that’s perfectly fine with me! 🙂 Thank you for writing them!
I loved the episode so much. How Nathan portrayed the grown man as well as the approval seeking child. With each passing episode I see the growth of the Castle character… and that is beautiful. Susan Sullivan was amazing and I’m so excited we got to see the more contemplative, quiet yet fierce emotional side of her.
Thank you for leaving such a nice comment, Lindsay, and for always making me smile when I see that I have a comment from you waiting for me to read! 😀
This is the best review of yours I’ve read so far. Thank you so much, you’re precious.
About this episode, season 6 is overwhelming with emotions, I can’t decide which episode is my fav (this one could be).
I wanted to address something interesting I noticed. In this episode we can clearly see closing two threads from back in the day.
1st: Rick finally sharing his feelings about his father to his fiancee. We can remember the reason why his wedding with Meredith came to an end: because he didn’t open, expecially about his father (S5E10 Significant Others). Caskett are different, they’re meant to last.
2nd: the evolution of Kate is full. Now she’s in love, very feminine, and she’s able to smile at a crime scene (no more: “Castle, focus, crime scene”) and be playful and jackass at the precinct. This closes the thread opened by Capt. Montgomery in the end of Season 3.
This is a great episode, Martha was outstanding and the absence of Alexis was perfect, considering that she had almost no relationship with her grandpa.
Your observation about Castle finally opening up is a perfect example of the character evolution I mentioned in my comment! After the pre-season 5 hype of delving more into the Castle character, I was sad when it didn’t happen. We saw a hint (if a bit forced, IMO) of it in The Wild Rover, but that was it until Watershed. This season, though, it has been all about Castle – and in the subtle ways we’ve seen the Beckett character evolve over the years. Looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you so much for the compliment! I really enjoyed writing this review, so I’m thrilled that you enjoyed reading it.
Your appreciation of Castle opening up about his father (and, by extension, himself) to Beckett is spot-on. I feel like we were teased in Season Five about Castle needing to open up to Beckett, but it was never really followed through until this season. And now that we’re really seeing that process of him sharing so much of his life with her, it’s opening up Castle in new ways for the audience, too. It’s a great way to keep the show fresh after six seasons.
I also agree with you about the smart move of keeping Alexis out of the episode. It would have been too cluttered with characters for her to also need a story arc with her grandfather. It made sense for it to be focused on Castle and Martha—the two people whose lives were most affected by this man (and his absence).
A great review as always. Much has been said about Castle opening up to Beckett and his journey and whilst I can see this I feel that more has been revealed about Beckett in this episode.
Castle is obviously seeking the approval, for whatever reasons, from the Father he’s never known, even at the risk of hurting his relationship with Beckett. Once Beckett is aware of who Cross is why does she throw protocol out the window and assist, even though deep down she knows she should haul in him in handcuffs. In the episode ‘Like Father Like Daughter’ Beckett confided to Lanie that she was soon to become a family with Castle. So Beckett realising what Cross means to Castle is seeking acceptance and admittance into the Castle family. When Castle states outright that Beckett is family you see the joy on her face and the realisation that she already has what she’s been longing for. The giddy smile and jiggle of the head is the sign of a woman deeply in love who realises that all is right in her world.
Hi Mark! Thank you for taking the time to dive into what you think this episode was saying about Beckett. I’ll admit to getting so caught up in Castle’s arc in this episode that I didn’t really think about Beckett’s side of thing very much. I really appreciate having commenters like you who can fill in the gaps for me when I focus on other areas of an episode!
“Castle ultimately put officially starting his family with Beckett over work, something his father could never do.” — This is why I eagerly await your reviews of shows. The layers you see are so spot on and wonderful. I loved the ending for several reasons, but hadn’t considered that setting a date for September was acting in opposite of his father. For me the move went to taking his mother’s advice to heart, there will never be the perfect time. However, I love your take so much more.
I loved everything about the opening sequence, the winks and nods throughout this episode showing just how well this family knows and accepts each other for who they are. The exchange with Ryan, Kate and Espo; Kate’s questioning of Rick’s odd behavior and especially Lanie’s call out. It tickles me that over 5 years we’ve gone from “it’s so cute when you guys do that” sarcasm meant to poke fun at the connection Kate is refusing to see in season 2 to “OK you two creep me out when you do that shared brain thing” exasperation of seeing it so many times over.
But for me this episode was the one I had been waiting for all season long. An episode that allowed us to bask in Susan Sullivan’s sun. I have adored her take on Martha from the moment she showed up at the bar in episode 1. Sullivan offers such diverse performance over the course of this episode and it gives us the full swath of the many flashes of Martha’s personality we’ve seen in passing over the years. We see her vibrant ‘grab life by the horn’ approach that makes her larger than life in her advice to Kate and Rick and her internal battle at the prospect of seeing the man who forever changed her life and her concern over that 40 year span raining down on her son. Sullivan has always been deft at navigating the robust side of Martha’s personality without ever making it cartoonish. Yet it has been the pivotal moments that she gives such gravitas and wisdom to Martha. A woman who has navigated her life, it’s pitfalls with a great sense of irreverence, but managed to quietly absorb the lessons it has brought. I miss Martha when she’s not around and I relish her scenes even though they’ve been scarce this season. So to watch her step into a front and center position was marvelous. She has all the vulnerability that we watched Kate find over the last 5 seasons and it was on full display in this episode. Her scenes with Brolin were everything I wanted and hoped for and frankly exceeded my expectations. I loved the exchange between her and Kate as they headed for the library – finishing each others thought about keeping Hunt at the Loft. Both women knowing better than to fully trust him. Both decisive and dedicated to protecting Castle. It was a great small moment that shows just how much these two women share respect and love for one another and for the important roles they play in Castle’s life.
For as much as I enjoyed the giddiness of the decision to marry in September and for how wonderful it was to watch Fillion sweep in to kiss her on the forehead as he declared screw it to his book tour this episode ended like most of my favorite Castle episodes before it, in a scene between mother and son. The episodes of Castle that humanize the man child that he is have always rested in the viewer seeing Castle through the eyes of Martha. The flamboyant, pragmatic Martha who so beautifully cuts to the core of who her son is, managing to be fiercely loyal and quick to defend him as she is to drag him back down to reality. The final scene of this episode was one of those moments and in a lot of ways felt like the final piece to unlocking the door that gave us the true depth of who Rick Castle is and why he and Beckett connect so deeply. After seeing him fight within himself to believe in this man who is his father, to make him family he was left with a facade, a hollow reality that didn’t fit the hope he held from Paris. After a lifetime of imagining all that his father could be, he wasn’t close to what he would have wanted. It was an arc that reminded me of “The Final Nail” when he fights so hard to believe in the person who he considers pivotal to the man he is. What that final scene gives us through Martha’s uncanny ability to see the good in life is that she gives her son the most critical self discovery he could have hoped to find in gaining closure around his father. That who he is both in his professional life and his personal life isn’t defined by the absence of his father, but the very real and constant presence of Martha. He and Kate at their core share the choice to not be defined by the absence of a parent – Kate when she walked away from the roof and Rick when he chose to get married in September. While Kate gained peace, Castle gained a whole sense of self. He is his mother’s son. To see Castle land there by episode’s end was for me the perfect conclusion to what shaped the Rick Castle we as viewers have come to adore.
Hi: just had to respond to your review! I couldn’t agree with you more, and actually you are the first one who mentioned the quiet nod between Martha and Beckett to ensure they both knew that neither trusted Hunt fully and Martha should be sure he didn’t sneak away! I thought it was just me reading something into this, but no, you have reassured me that this was in fact the case! So thanks for your post, very interesting overview!
Thank you so much for the compliment about my take on the “September” moment, and now I must turn around and compliment you on your take on the episode’s final scene. The depth you found in it and what it said about Castle finding his sense of self in his relationship with his mother (versus the lack of one he has with his father) was beautifully stated. Castle is truly his mother’s son, and her presence has shaped him far more than his father’s absence has. The relationship between Castle and Martha is one of the show’s richest and also one that has developed and grown with subtlety and grace over these six seasons. That’s because it’s in the hands of two actors who are excellent on their own but outstanding when put in a scene together. Susan Sullivan is a true gem of an actress, and I love when she gets to show that to the world in episodes like this one.
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