It’s weird for me to commend an episode of Castle for going back to the well with a big bad whose story seems unending after weeks of kvetching about the show’s inability to change even while introducing the ingredients for change — Rick and Kate’s wedded status and Rick’s private eye dalliance — but here we are.
In the first of a two parter, Castle welcomed back 3XK and Michael Mosley as Jerry Tyson. Unfamiliar with Tyson’s string of destruction and murder? Don’t worry, Castle’s producers deftly worked in flashbacks to get casual viewers up to speed and explain why Beckett was so unnerved, why Captain Gates was willing to let Rick officially work the case, and why Rick, Lanie, Javy, and Ryan were all so affected.
In typical Castle fashion, though, things took some time to unfold, with the episode starting with Rick and Kate briefly having a conversation about having a baby before Kate’s phone rang and she found herself working on another murder.
It was Lanie who first felt uneasy about things, though her suspicions seemed savant-esque when Kate confirmed her suspicions about the case echoing the death of Pam Hodges, a Tampa hooker who had been made to look like Lanie in 3XK’s previous web of torture and murder.
It’s important to note how effectively bone-chilling Annie Wersching is as Dr. Kelly Nieman, a plastic surgeon who seems to delight in assessing people’s cosmetic surgery needs when first meeting them. Nieman always seems as though she is straddling the line between psychopath and highly functioning professional and her team-up with Mosley comes off like a real world Joker/Harley Quinn pairing, especially as Mosley seems as though he’s having a lot of fun embodying Michael Boudreau, a man who says that he got plastic surgery to look like Jerry Tyson, who had been thought dead thanks to a gunshot and a fall off a bridge.
The effort to prove that Boudreau is really Tyson occupies the second half of this episode as Rick and Kate venture upstate to quiz Tyson’s mother before discovering a box of his belongings and a baby tooth that may be the key in exposing the ruse that is Michael Boudreau since 3XK’s files had gone missing last time around.
Unsurprisingly, a tense interrogation room stand-off between Rick and Tyson/Boudreau is interrupted by Gates with results that set Boudreau free, but as I said, this is a two-parter, so this whole exercise wasn’t merely about a clean getaway for Tyson and Nieman after another death — it was about torturing and punishing the 12th precinct and both Rick Castle and Kate Beckett.Something that is wonderfully illustrated by the scene at the episode’s end when Kate is kidnapped (and creepily taken away in a wheelchair after being drugged) and Rick gets a smirk from Nieman and a wink from Tyson/Boudreau as the elevator closes and Rick realizes that Kate is in danger.
If you’re a loyal Castle watcher, than you’re familiar with the idea of either Castle or Beckett being in harm’s way, ticking toward death as the other swoops in at the last minute to save them. And that will probably be the way that this latest story is resolved, but while there’s little mystery there, we genuinely can’t know right now if Castle and Beckett will actually thwart 3XK and Nieman, or if they will live to torture and tease another day. And that’s great.Even though this is merely a pit-stop in the middle of a season that has had some problems, and even though Castle is again treading on familiar ground by putting a main character in faux-peril, I do hope that 3XK and Nieman get to keep coming back, because their appearances have now proven themselves to be a shot in the arm.
It’s also nice to see Rick back in the department’s good graces after ultimately wasting our time with the detective arc that is, I imagine, done now that he’s gotten a foot back in the door. I would have loved to see Rick Castle P.I. become more, but the idea is clearly dead.