TV Time: Castle 6.17

Castle 6.17

Title In the Belly of the Beast

Two-Sentence Summary Beckett is tasked with going undercover to infiltrate a drug ring, but things take a turn for the worse when the woman she’s pretending to be is revealed to be a contract killer. The situation grows even bleaker when an old foe is revealed to be the head of the operation that holds Beckett’s life in its hands.

Favorite Line “Dear Rick, I don’t know how much time I have even to write this letter. What I do know now is that I’m in this and the only way I’m gonna make it out alive is to see this through. I’m sure everyone is looking for me, and if they figure out I was here, CSU is gonna search this house. They’re gonna look for blood, and they will find it. Which will lead them to this letter. Babe, it’s your letter, and I hope you never have to read this and I can tell you all of these things in person. But if something happens and I don’t make it, I need you to know that our partnership, our relationship, is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. You’re an amazing man, and I love you with all of my heart. Always.” (Beckett’s letter to Castle)

My Thoughts It’s been a while since Beckett’s life was in immediate danger on Castle, so I’d almost forgotten just how horribly tense and emotionally gripping those kinds of episodes could be. This season has seen Castle in more life-or-death situations, and, while I liked the role reversals at the time, there’s nothing like a good “Beckett in danger” plot to remind me why the more dramatic Castle episodes are so often my favorites. I think it’s because these episodes allow Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic to shine. Fillion’s ability to portray the quiet desperation that comes from protectiveness and love is matched perfectly by Katic’s skills at showing controlled terror and fierce resolve.

The more dramatic episodes of Castle are often responsible for pushing the show’s mythology forward in major ways as well, which was certainly the case with “In the Belly of the Beast.” This episode rewarded you for paying attention—not just during the hour but during the last six seasons. It used the show’s history to make each plot twist resonate and to land each emotional blow with stunning force.

I liked that this episode began with a moment of domestic bliss because it helped build the tension while still setting up an important theme for this episode: Beckett is different than who she was when she first went back down the rabbit hole of her mother’s case. She’s happy. She has a man in her life who loves her, who has built a life with her. Yes, the “font” discussion was playfully sexy in a way we don’t see nearly enough with these two (but if I had my way, entire episodes would be spent watching them talk about fonts in heated whispers and no crimes would get solved ever). However, the scene did more than just give us that hilarious Fillion reaction to being abandoned just when he was starting to get hot and bothered. It reminded us that Beckett has something to lose now, but she also has something to draw strength from.

From the moment Beckett got to the precinct, the tension began to build, and it didn’t let up until the final credits rolled. I have to give special credit to Penny Johnson Jerald for her work in this episode. I loved seeing Gates so protective of Beckett. Their relationship has developed very organically into something that has benefitted both characters. Gates is never better than when she’s defending her people, so this was an excellent episode for everyone’s favorite precinct mother hen.

Another character who was handled very well in “In the Belly of the Beast” was Esposito. For as close as Ryan and Beckett are, the audience has always been able to tell that Beckett’s bond is different with Esposito. I thought Jon Huertas was very strong in this episode, especially when Esposito was trying to convince Castle that Beckett was a good enough cop to handle whatever she’d gotten into. You could feel his faith in Beckett in that moment, and it spoke to the kind of shared history that I love between TV characters. And you could also see his intense need to believe in his own words, because all they had to hold on to was their faith in Beckett’s abilities as a detective.

The helplessness felt by everyone in the precinct was palpable, but nothing compared to what Castle was going through. Fillion was able to say so much with so little in his scenes in this episode. It always amazes me how much of an impact he can still make in episodes that are centered on Beckett and her development. His impassioned plea of “It’s not enough!” was an example of everything Fillion does right as an actor: It wasn’t melodramatic or over-the-top; it felt like it came from a place of genuine emotional distress because Fillion allowed us to watch Castle struggle in relative silence for so long before it. Beckett isn’t just his fiancée; she’s his partner, and she was all alone. Castle is a man of action, and Fillion made us see just how much it killed him to be away from his partner’s side when she needed someone to have her back more than ever.

In episodes like “In the Belly of the Beast,” are we ever really worried that Beckett is going to die? No. If she could survive a bullet to the heart in “Knockout,” she could survive anything this show throws at her. But somehow Katic always makes me feel an oppressive sense of suspense during episodes like this one. She has a real gift for making Beckett’s internalized terror creep under your skin until you’re breathing with the same shallow pace she adopts. This episode was filled with brutally tense moments, but I’m not sure any could top the moment when Beckett is swept to see if she was wearing a wire. Underneath Katic’s stoic façade, you could feel Beckett’s raging anxiety. Fear is an easy emotion to exaggerate, but Katic never made Beckett’s rising sense of panic feel anything less than real throughout this episode.

That rising sense of panic was helped by the episode’s incredible direction. I should always assume that a Rob Bowman episode is going to be visually stunning, and yet I’m still always left surprised by just how stunning his camerawork is. There were shots in this episode that were framed so perfectly it was like watching a work of art, and this was probably the most cinematic episode of the season in terms of its overall style. The use of the handheld camera (or at least shaky technique) as Beckett approached Lazarus’s office made me feel genuinely unsettled, which I’m sure was exactly what Bowman was trying to do. Mission accomplished, sir.

In between the moments of panic, we were given small respites from the suspense, but what took its place was heartbreaking drama. Beckett’s letter to Castle worked on an emotional level not because we ever doubted Beckett’s survival but because Katic made us believe that Beckett doubted her own survival. At first I worried that she was going to write the letter in her own blood, but the purpose of the blood was very smart—something completely in-character for a detective like Beckett to know about a crime scene. And the letter itself felt very much like the woman who wrote it—businesslike at first before opening up and revealing vulnerabilities and a capacity to love reserved for one man alone.

From the moment Beckett wrote “babe” in the letter, I was an absolute emotional mess. There was such warmth in Katic’s tone as she read the words we all know to be true: their partnership means more to Beckett than anything in the world. Kudos to Andrew Marlowe for writing “partnership” before “relationship” in the letter because that’s how I’ve always seen their dynamic—they are partners, and the fact that they were partners even before they became romantically involved is something they both cherish. It’s why this relationship is different from any other they’ve ever had—it’s a partnership first and foremost. And—because it was a Marlowe episode—there had to be at least one tear-jerking “Always” moment. This one, as usual, delivered.

The letter is probably one of the things this episode will be most remembered for, but I think the lasting impact of this episode resides in its twists. From the second I saw Jack Coleman’s name in the opening credits for this episode, I thought Bracken was going to be Lazarus, so imagine my surprise when Beckett stepped into his office and we saw a hand that we all knew didn’t belong to Coleman. Then, that voice appeared, and no one who has heard it could ever forget that voice.

I gasped so intensely it hurt my lungs. Vulcan Simmons. One of my favorite Castle suspects from all the way back in Season Three’s “Knockdown” had returned, and I never saw it coming. Bravo, Marlowe, for making a plot twist carry real weight for the characters by bringing back a character no one ever thought we’d see again—our own Castle Lazarus. From the moment I heard his voice, I knew Beckett was in grave danger. Of course he’d remember her, and of course she’d remember him. I wonder how casual viewers of the show felt about the twist. There’s no way it could have been as entertaining for people with no previous experience with the history between these characters, so I am once again thankful for the fact that my obsessive watching (and re-watching) gets rewarded with great nods to past moments in the show’s history.

I’m not going to spend too much time on the torture scenes because they were brutal, and there’s no need to analyze them in great detail. I’ll just say that Katic was absolutely marvelous in those scenes. Beckett may be a brighter human being now that she’s found love and stability with Castle, but she still has steel in her spine. Her determination to survive even the most brutal torture and near-certain death with her dignity intact reminded me just how extraordinary this character is. When backed up against a wall (or in this case when pushed into a tub of freezing water), Beckett doesn’t back down, even when all reason says she should. That’s just who she is, and it’s one of the hundreds of reasons why I admire her as a character.

The Bracken twist wasn’t as fun as the Simmons one because I saw it coming, but it was still fun to watch Katic play Beckett’s dawning realization of his involvement as the precinct team pieced together the case. It was subtle and nuanced work done without any dialogue, and I understood everything she was trying to convey.

In the end, Bracken and Beckett are on an equal playing field again—at least in his eyes. This episode set up a huge future showdown between them, which I’m now more sure than ever will happen before Beckett and Castle get married. It’s time for this storyline to end once and for all—Beckett doesn’t need it anymore, and the show doesn’t need it anymore. It still provides for good drama (and Coleman is so good at being bad), but one more episode—one more final battle of sorts —is enough.

What “In the Belly of the Beast” showed us is that Beckett has grown beyond this story. It will always influence who she is as a character, but it’s no longer what drives her every action. As she told Castle, she fought to stay alive because he was with her. Beckett used to be a woman who chose to put her life in danger because of the loss she suffered. Now, she is a woman who fights to live because of the love she’s found. Beckett used to be a woman who would think of nothing but her mother’s killer. Now, she is able to take Castle’s hand and walk away from Bracken’s presence in her home.

That gesture—Beckett smiling at Castle and accepting his invitation to come to bed—symbolized so much character growth. Before opening her heart to Castle, Beckett was a woman who chose her obsession with finding her mother’s killer over love every time that choice had to be made. Now, she has become a woman who can walk away from it for the time being and lay her burdens down with someone she has let herself love freely. Kate Beckett has grown so much since we first saw the impact of her mother’s death on her life and on her heart. And it’s been a real treat to be a fan who has been there for every step along that journey, including the steps she took in this episode.

20 thoughts on “TV Time: Castle 6.17

  1. totally agree with your outline. I was really taken back when Vulcan Simmons voice first hit the screen! Not only has Beckett grown since Castle started, but Stana Katic has gone from a very good actress to one of the finest around today! Her range from comedy to dark serious drama is amazing.The whole cast of Castle is stellar and give each other great support in showing the audience the close almost family ties each feel towards each other. So cudos all round.

    • Thanks for the comment! I completely agree with you about Stana Katic’s growth as an actress. She has always been talented, but it’s been a true joy to watch her really expand her range over these past 6 seasons.

  2. I couldn’t wait to hear your thoughts on this ep, Katie! I totally agree with you that this ep really showed Kate’s journey as a character. It had so many great individual moments, but ultimately it severed to show just how far she’s come. She’s still the bad ass we met in the pilot, but her relationship with Castle has given her a joy she didn’t have then. I loved the letter, Castle looking at her empty chair, how she actually followed Castle at the end and let him take care of her, so many things that showed her character development and how strong her relationship with Castle is. Another awesome ep in an awesome season!

    • Thank you so much for the comment, Becca, and I hope my review was worth the wait! I love what you said about Beckett still being a badass but now being able to find joy in her life as well. It’s so true. She’s never going to stop being the fierce female detective we met all those years ago, but she’s grown since then into a woman who can balance that ferocity with true happiness.

  3. I’ve watched the episode twice and both times I found myself clenching my jaws during some scenes. The entire episode was intense, but enough praise can’t be given to Stana Katic for her portrayal of Beckett. Even though it isn’t new, I was really struck by how smart and level headed (with the proper amount of urgency) Beckett was in throughout. Providing as much information about her whereabouts, leaving her blood for CSU, figuring out the assassin’s code for completing a mission … that’s badass. She hasn’t always been that level headed in the past (like shooting at the freezer door in Set Up/Countdown) and I LOVE the character progression. As you said, it’s directly related to being with Castle and it’s wonderful to see.

    I, too, was surprised to see Vulcan Simmons return, but I can’t think of anyone better! I’ve seen some complaints about his return not fitting continuity-wise, but I’d have to watch Knockdown again to know for sure. On the surface, though, it was a brilliant choice by Marlowe and Co.! The scene where he and Beckett meet again was intense. I can’t even think about the torture scenes except to say Katic had a moment much like Fillion did in Target/Hunt. She had a look of steel when she said, “…wait until you see what I do to you.” It was chilling!

    It’s no secret I have a fangirl crush on Rob Bowman. That man is amazingly talented and last night’s work didn’t disappoint!

    • I am so happy that someone else also freely admits to a fangirl crush on Rob Bowman! 😉

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Lindsay! I’m sure there were some plot holes in Simmons’s return, but I was honestly so caught up in the perfect surprise that they didn’t even cross my mind. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I can deal with plot inconsistencies (as long as they’re not major) if the story keeps me emotionally engaged. And that’s exactly what this episode did.

  4. I love reading your reviews and was anticipating this one almost as much as I anticipated the episode. And I appreciate your love for these characters, especially Beckett. Your nuanced understanding of Beckett is similar, I think, to Stana’s deep understanding and commitment to her. I’d love to see a dialogue between the two of you about this character, her growth, and what her life may hold in the future. Does Stana know about your reviews? I know Terri does. Wouldn’t it be great to have Stana as a guest blogger. Well, a girl can dream.

    Thanks for writing this Castle blog. I look forward to reading it every week.

    • I’m just sitting here with the biggest smile on my face after reading this comment. I cannot tell you how much these kinds words mean to me. To have my thoughts compared to the eloquent ones Stana Katic has shared with us about Beckett over the years is an compliment I don’t take lightly. I don’t know if she knows about my reviews, but it would be an honor if she did know about them. Having a dialogue with her about Beckett would be an absolute dream come true.

      Thank you for those kind words. This was the nicest thing I could imagine reading today, and I appreciate you taking the time to say such lovely things more than I can express.

      • You’re quite welcome Katie. Glad you feel appreciated. Maybe we and the rest of your followers can start tweeting Stana about hosting a Katie/Stana Beckett dialogue. It COULD happen!

  5. I love when I just nod along to your reviews on a Tuesday evening. Yes, yes and yes. I particularly like your take about Bracken. We no longer need him, it’s so very true. The character has served its purpose and drawing it to a close the next time we encounter him would be best. I hadn’t considered that, but you are absolutely right.

    So, I am apparently the only person in the Castle fandom who was not paying attention to the opening credits, so I didn’t see Jack Coleman’s name. However, given the theme of the episode I presumed we would connect back to Bracken’s storyline. We should know by now when you get the Amann, Bowman, Marlowe trifecta that something significant in our mythology is going to happen and as a bonus we are going to get a true 42 minute movie. Both occurred in spades and I was on the edge of my seat and riveted throughout the episode. The power of the storytelling because as you said, we never feared Beckett’s actual demise. It is why, the bait and switch for Lazarus is so deliciously exciting. I knew for certain the end game was Bracken pretty early on and I suspected the woman was an assassin. When they deliberately gave me the “Future Forward” check I was convinced we were in for a Bracken showdown. When Vulcan Simmons started to speak my jaw hit the floor. I never saw it coming and I nearly burst into applause alone in my living room. Genius! It was a piece of sheer perfection in storytelling, tying together the pieces of Castle lore and trumping the presumptions of the faithful these last 5 years. I appreciated the mood, lighting, scoring and atmosphere throughout.

    But truth be told, the joy of this episode was our characters. I loved that even with limited screen time Castle was prominent in the episode and for me he and Beckett have never felt more connected. I feel the need to break down the performances and echo your every sentiment about Penny Johnson Jerald and especially Esposito. His handling of Castle and his fighting against himself to believe they were going to get her out was so compelling. It was some of the best vulnerability we’ve seen from Javi. And how appropriate that it was in direct connection to Beckett. That bond they share is one of Javi’s few blind spots. He would walk through fire for Beckett and that quiet fear was such a nice contrast against Castle, especially watching the interrogation scene. It was also what made that desperate, helpless peril that Castle was in fresh from the way Fillion played out the episodes Target/Hunt.

    What can I say about Katic that you haven’t already said. For me, what I find so satisfying is that unlike many people when they’ve played a role for a long time Katic doesn’t have a trope of go-to emotions. She’s truly evolved the character in a way that is authentic and so interesting to watch as a woman. She shows the capacity for change and growth in a woman whose strength has gone from being fueled by loss and pain to being charged by love and hope. I thought what made the letter work so well was the blunt honesty without flourish. All emotional depth and truth without any grandeur. It reminded me of Castle and Beckett’s early exchange about saying goodnight vs. until tomorrow. Beckett is still a cop, but she has gained Castle’s sense of hope. Even from last year to this year when you look at her goodbye to Rick in Still. She holds out to the very last moment before giving in to the fear and vulnerability of the moment. In “Still” Beckett remains attached to the wall of self reliance that has served and protected her for so long. In last night’s episode she no longer needs that protection, because she has something to live for larger than herself and she cherishes it as much as she draws strength from it. I thought it was so profound how Katic drew from that history to shade her character throughout the episode. Even that throwaway line in the van while she’s kidnapped and she’s talking into the bug saying that this is ruining her dinner plans. Beckett of 2009 wouldn’t have dreamed of finding the humor of that moment. She wouldn’t have leaned into it, she would have ignored it.

    And oh that Nathan Fillion. “Well it’s Not Enough” places a very, very close second to “too soon”. His ability to tap into that base fear and skirt the edge of that darker Castle we caught a glimpse of in Target is done with such a deft hand that I am continually surprised by it. Authentic male vulnerability is hard to achieve in a fictional character. Fillion nails this nuance every frigging time. It astounds me in all the best possible ways. However, for as much as I loved (and rewatched “it’s not enough”) the quiet moment when Castle sits in his chair at Beckett’s desk starring at her empty chair with the weight of truth that he may not get her back this time was such a beautiful parallel of the moment Beckett does it, convinced she may have really lost Castle for good. I loved it because it was a nice piece of continuity, but I loved it mostly because it was the connective tissue to Beckett’s letter. It frames the true loss that is hanging in the balance – their partnership. There were lots of ways to show us Castle pondering the potential loss of Beckett. Doing so in this manner elevates the core of this relationship and love affair – that it is born and grounded in their partnership.

    Finally, that last moment when they are watching Bracken and Castle asks her to come to bed. Two things struck me about the power of that last shot. 1) It once more leaned into the strength and confidence of their love. Over the seasons we have watched key moments when Beckett actively chooses to withdraw from Castle rather than lean into him for strength whether it’s when she throws him out of her apartment in “Knockout”, pursues Bracken alone in “After the Storm” or even last year in “The Human Factor” when she doesn’t confide in him about the job in DC. When given the option, she chooses to lean into that love because the events that have unfolded have proven to her that strength is drawn from love and hope. 2) It’s a great moment because we watch her look back at the screen after Rick offers her his hand. She is starting to go down a road that her old self would and actively decides to take Rick’s hand. She chooses to be more than her mother’s death, she chooses to be driven by more than just fear. She chooses happiness.

    • I love when I nod along to your comments on a Wednesday morning! The way you broke down these performances was incredibly astute. I especially liked your note about Katic not having a predictable go-to emotion. You can see her respect for this character and for characters like Beckett in the landscape of TV dramas in the way she always makes sure Beckett is grounded in a strength that feels real but is also not afraid to show us when Beckett herself is afraid, in pain, or vulnerable. Beckett has become such a rich, complex character over the years, and Katic honors that by playing each complex facet with emotional honesty.

      And as for Fillion, you said it best when you said that genuine male vulnerability is so rare to see on TV. It’s often nonexistent or overdone, but Fillion has such a gift for believability in emotional situations. It’s something he does not get enough credit for (even within the Castle fandom itself sometimes), and I’m always happy to see you recognize his more dramatic moments because they’re so subtle that people often ignore them.

      Thank you also for your beautiful analysis of the scene where Castle looks at Beckett’s empty chair. Like you, I was struck by the beautiful way that moment called to mind their entire partnership. Their love story is first and foremost a story of partners in every sense of the word, and I loved that their partnership was referenced directly in Beckett’s letter and in a more subtle way in this moment.

  6. Beckett has always loved Castle, even when she wouldn’t admit it. Those layers and layers of love that kept growing over 4 years are now on full display. When I watch Seasons 1-4, I love to see how Beckett looked at Castle; as a partner and friend and deep down she wanted more, but her walls were preventing it. Those walls have crumbled and Kate loves Rick til the ends of the earth and now can speak those words. Stana portrays Beckett with such seriousness and depth and throws everything she has, both heart and sole into her performances. Frankly, I am awed by her. She has me believing that she really is Beckett. Katie, your reviews was great and I really enjoy them.

  7. This was so well written. You covered all of the unique and nusnced characteristics of all involved. I look forward to seeing more of these from you.

  8. Most things got covered here but I wanted to share a few additional thoughts. First, completely agreed that Stana Katic knocked this out of the park. I’m sure we all saw that she didn’t allow her stunt double to do any of the torture scenes. Pretty sure there is no way I would be committed enough to my work to film fairly brutal torture scenes like that. I think we can all agree she is way under respected in the Hollywood world for her acting skills and this was a prime example. Oh and the Russian!

    I loved the letter but I must say they almost felt like wedding vows to me (the end piece of course). Either it’s foreshadowing that she will get to say it at the wedding ooorrrr something is going to happen and the wedding will not happen as we all dream (smooth and without a hitch).

    Lastly, I love that this episode showed the major character growth in Beckett choosing love over the case. Pretty sure season 1-4 Beckett, maybe even season 5 Beckett wouldn’t have survived this in the same way this season’s Beckett did. Yes, she is still super smart (ketchup murder scene) and tough (not willing to give up information), but she finally had something to live for. It was a fantastic small scene of character growth with her pausing to write the letter, telling Castle at the end he saved her, and taking his hand.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! I’m especially happy that you pointed out the fact that Stana Katic didn’t use her stunt double for the torture scenes. That kind of commitment and the joy she gets from completely embracing this role are just two of the reasons why I respect her so much as an actress. I love when you can truly feel that no matter how much you love your favorite character, you will never love them as much as their actor. And that’s exactly the kind of vibe I have always gotten from Stana Katic.

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