Castle Season 7 Premiere Review: Driven

Rick and Beckett’s relationship faces its biggest challenge in the season 7 premiere episode of Castle.

This Castle review contains spoilers.

Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) is a driven and uber capable detective with a code of honor that is above reproach, but while she aims to clear every case that comes across her desk, the murder of her mother has been the beating heart of her personality and some of Castle’s best episodes since the show’s inception.

Over the last few seasons, that mystery has slowly been brought into the light to reveal that Senator Bracken (Jack Coleman) — a fast moving politician — was behind the death of her mother and the wide ranging conspiracy that had kept the truth from Kate for years. In the penultimate episode of last season, though, Beckett brought Bracken down once and for all. There was justice, there were tears, and it was handled expertly, but it also created a large gap where this show’s heart used to be.

For a little while, during the sometimes silly season six finale, it seemed like Castle might spend its golden years with Kate and Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion) pursuing grim cases and mysteries with a tinge of lightness while wrestling with the challenge of making a marriage work both at work and at home. That fantasy faded into the breeze in the waning moments of the finale when Rick’s car was run off the road and Kate found a blazing wreck in a ditch.

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In that the show is called Castle and in that it is still a staple of ABC’s primetime lineup, we knew that the show wasn’t going to shock us all and turn into a grim tale about Kate’s pursuit of another villain who had taken someone away from her, but we weren’t quite prepared for the direction that they went down, either.

Rick was kidnapped and a new massive conspiracy was born to make it look as if he had been involved in his own disappearance and indifferent to the pain that would cause to Kate, his mother Martha (Susan Sullivan), and his daughter Alexis (Molly C. Quinn).

For more than two months, Kate dealt with the gnawing suspicion that she might be chasing someone that didn’t want to be found, but while others seemed to give up hope, she seemed to hang on. She (and we) know Rick better than to think that he would run away, but when Kate finds a campsite with all of Rick’s things (including his wedding tux) and a witness that says he saw Rick camping on the site, it’s nearly impossible for Kate to give him the benefit of the doubt anymore. When Rick is found floating in a bullet riddled boat after almost a week adrift at sea, Kate is cool to both Martha and Rick, who seems to think that he’s only been gone for hours.

The amnesia angle is an interesting, albeit tired, choice by the writers that will conceivably allow Rick and Beckett to team up to get to the bottom of this latest mystery. It’s also a great way to fill the void left by the end of the Bracken chase, but when we quickly discover that the witness who identified Rick was actually impersonating another man, any and all doubt about Rick’s story is washed away and the barrier between Kate and Rick topples over. And that’s a shame.

I’ve got a lot of respect for the way that the writers have handled the will they/won’t they of this relationship over the years — these are well-rounded characters and their dynamic has been somewhat unchanged since they became a couple, save for a little bit more flirting and intimacy. I don’t want the writers to find a reason to put space between Kate and Rick, but when they committed to this storyline and took Kate on this roller coaster ride, it also seemed like they were committing to a slow crawl back to normality for the couple. And by that I mean more than a few lines at the end of the episode about them not being able to “pick up” where they left off. A line that felt like lip service when it’s followed by a commercial for the next episode when we see Rick firing off a nerf gun and joking around again.

It would have been more interesting to slow things down and let Kate’s suspicions linger a little, but at the end of the day, this show relies heavily on the chemistry between these two characters. While Stana Katic did a great job carrying the torch alone for most of this episode, it simply felt like a different show — a darker and at times more cinematic show — but that probably wouldn’t be sustainable going forward.

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3.5 out of 5