Castle and Beckett are doing it.
There's no flirtation anymore. No wayward glances. No longing expressions of seemingly unrequited love. If there was any lingering doubt as to the long-term prospects of Castle and Beckett's long-awaited coupling at the end of last season's finale, "After the Storm" answered them in resounding fashion almost immediately. Castle and Beckett are doing it, and will continue to do it for the foreseeable future. And with enthusiasm, to boot.
"What does this do to the core dynamic of Castle?" you may be asking yourself. Now in its fifth season, the show has relied almost stubbornly on the romantic tension caused by Castle and Beckett's obvious attraction for one another, and related refusal to do anything about it. Now they've done something about it, which leaves the show suddenly in a rebuilding phase. No longer is Castle about a possible relationship between its two principal characters. It's about the fallout of that relationship coming to fruition.
Oh, and it's also still about a big, ridiculous conspiracy involving ex-military assassins, NYPD's top brass, Beckett's mother, and, now, a corrupt senator seemingly so powerful, he can just have anyone killed whenever he feels like it. But more on that later.
I'll give "After the Storm" this much: It made me okay with Castle and Beckett as an item—and no, I will never refer to them as Caskett, so don't even bother bringing it up. When you go back and look at other will they/won't they shows that petered out after eventually answering with "yes, they will," the reason they petered out is typically because the new dynamic just didsn't work. With Castle, the point could be argued that the old dynamic had hung around for far too long. So maybe that's why I was so totally okay with seeing a post-coital Beckett wander into Castle's bedroom the next morning with coffee and a thoroughly satisfied look in her eye.
Beckett's stiffness has always been the character's weak point. One could waste far too many words arguing whether that's a result of writing or Stana Katic's sometimes one-note acting. But when Castle and Beckett were less close, and more playfully snippy with one another, it was fine. Then, as they glacially moved closer and closer, that stiffness just wouldn't quite give way. Now, all of a sudden, Beckett seems fun, relaxed, and thoroughly at-ease with her place as Castle's special lady. Katic rarely has looked more in her element than she did in last night's premiere, which is good considering nearly the entire episode focused on her.
When the episode was about Castle and Beckett, it mostly held up its end of the bargain. Turning their first night's sexual congress into a wacky teen comedy sketch involving Beckett hilariously tip-toeing out of Castle's apartment—while his mother and daughter obliviously never looked in her direction—was maybe not the best start to things. But as the episode rolled along and Katic and Nathan Fillion were afforded more opportunities to explain themselves, their intents, and frankly just have some fun with one another, things just kept improving. By the end of the episode, I even gave a hearty chuckle to Katic's clandestine junk grab in the elevator. I am actually pretty into seeing these two in this new dynamic. It seems to have breathed some life into Beckett's character, and Castle seems no worse for the wear. Let's just dispense with the whole pretending-we're-not-boning thing, though. There's no need for it.
Less admirable, though probably unavoidable, was the handling of the big conspiracy. After so much focus on it in last season's finale, there was no question that this season would have to wrap some of that stuff up. And last night it did, albeit in as rushed and ham-fisted a way as possible.
It's been so long at this point that I often have to go back to old recaps to remember exactly why all the conspiracy stuff is happening. And even after re-reading all the old twists and turns from previous seasons, I don't think I would have foreseen an all-new villain in the form of a corrupt senator rearing his ugly head pretty much out of nowhere.
"After the Storm" couldn't have been in a bigger hurry to tie up all the loose ends from previous seasons. It dealt with the shadowy figure Castle had been talking to in order to protect Beckett by very quickly—and unceremoniously—killing him off. It did pretty much the same thing to Maddox, the badass killer who nearly sent Beckett flying off a roof last season. All of this previous backstory was blown through in order to introduce us to the new focus of Beckett's ire, all done in service of setting up Jack Coleman as the man who can apparently order secret murders whenever he feels like it, all just to cover up his former indiscretions involving taking dirty money from the mob. Considering most politicians can't even use the men's room without the story becoming a Law & Order episode, I maybe have a hard time buying into all of this.
For his part, Coleman made for a compelling villain. When Beckett tracked him down and began threatening him with potential exposure, his creepily affable response let us know that this guy isn't just some desperate criminal. He believes his own self-created narrative, and his murderous tendencies probably lean more toward sociopathic vacancy, rather than typical criminal desperation. While I found it a tad unsatisfying to see Beckett let him walk with little more than a pistol-whipping to remember her by, that was the corner the writers put themselves in by going in this direction. Any other outcome would have just been silly.
So now Beckett and Castle are an item, Beckett and Esposito will be back on the force once their suspensions are up, and everything seems to be getting back to normal. Presumably, the next few weeks will wander back into the comforting arms of procedural cop comedy, letting Castle and Beckett return to their reality-defying crime-solving operation while also enjoying each other's naughty bits. While I could give or take much of what happened in "After the Storm," it was at least successful at making me look forward to how this new coupling will evolve throughout the season. This relationship has started off on solid-enough footing. Let's see where things go from here.
– You can practically see the writers furrowing their brows, trying to make Esposito and Ryan into more dynamic characters, but it's not working. Ryan shouting into a telephone about how he needed that phone trace right now, dammit, just made me burst out laughing. For a scene of supposed tension-building, maybe that's not the reaction the show ought to try to inspire.
– Jack Coleman's casting all but assures that there will be more visits from our evil senator this season. He's a good actor, and it's nice to actually be able to put a face on this conspiracy nonsense. I'm just hoping he's not an overbearing presence throughout the season. The conspiracy episodes tend to be more effective with a fair amount of spacing between them. At the earliest, I don't want to see him again until late November.
– Nathan Fillion attempting to stand "naturally." That is all.
– My girlfriend didn't realize last night's premiere was happening, and now refused to watch the episode because "she's not ready" to see Castle and Beckett together. I didn't know how to respond to that last night, and I still don't now.
What'd you think of the episode?