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.