You may be shocked to learn that at the end of the two-episode arc that kicked off Castle's sixth season, the show's titular character did not die. I know, I know! After the cliffhanger last week, which saw our intrepid hero infected with a deadly government-engineered toxin that gave him less than a day to live, surely everyone was waiting with bated breath to find out whether Nathan Fillion would make it past Episode 2. Okay, no, of course you weren't. There was zero chance of Castle the character dying before Castle the series, which made the ending of last week's episode maybe just a tad flat, all things considered.
At the very least, "Dreamworld" did go to the trouble of milking every possible ounce of tension out of what was essentially a foregone conclusion. The episode's greatest asset was a laser-like focus on the case and the consequences of not solving it in time, which meant that very little room to concentrate on personal relationships, long-distance living situations, or Alexis's new idiot boyfriend. Even if the case seemingly only had one conclusion, the writing in "Dreamworld" did a decent-enough job of keeping the audience guessing as to how we might end up there.
As you may recall from last week, the deadly toxin in question was stolen from a government lab in a ludicrously elaborate heist that involved at least one red herring, one dead marine, and one reference to a secret military base in the Middle East. During all of that, Castle became infected, which meant that this week it was up to Beckett and Cuddy—sorry, sorry, McCord—to track down who actually stole it, and to what end. Initially, all anyone had to go on was the dead marine's reference to Dreamworld, the ghost base in the Gulf that nobody seemed to know anything about. Investigating that lead did bring the team to a reporter, who'd had a story on the base killed by none other than the Secretary of Defense (the great Glenn Morshower). The SoD had his career made by a strike on a member of Al Qaeda's top leadership, a strike we learned was run out of the previously unacknowledged ghost base, and featured the on-the-ground efforts of our dead marine.
But the secretary wasn't so forthcoming about that other code word the marine uttered before his death, that of Valkyrie. This became problematic, as dead end after dead end started popping up. Meanwhile, poor, sickly Castle could really only watch from the sidelines as Beckett and McCord hit the pavement trying to drum up clues. The only antidote for the toxin was stolen along with the toxin itself, meaning the only hope Castle had was to survive long enough for the team to reacquire it. Every four hours, a doctor with the bedside manner of drywall would come in to give Castle a shot to stave off the effects of the virus, but otherwise he had little to do but wait and hope. Somewhat selfishly (but understandably so), Castle didn't even tell his family what was going on, even as a worried Martha called repeatedly, desperate to know what was happening. She even went to Esposito and Ryan (in their only appearance in the episode), pleading with them to share some information. But when they called Beckett, she gave them the cold shoulder in a way that I don't think I've ever seen her do before. Again, I completely get not wanting to panic anyone, but frankly I'm shocked that everyone involved didn't give Castle and Beckett a ration of crap at the end of the episode for not revealing what'd been going on. If anything, everyone seemed downright understanding.
I think that's where "Dreamworld" lost me a bit. The severity and intensity of the situation at hand definitely ranked on the top end of the scale when it comes to crazy things happening in the Castle universe, but nobody really seemed all that panicked, or frantic, on any level (besides Martha). Anyone from the government outside Beckett's division appeared pretty unfazed by the idea of a deadly neurotoxin possibly being out there and available to kill at a moment's notice. And even within the scope of the office, everybody, Castle included, was pretty calm and collected no matter how high the stakes seemed to rise. Beckett's a pro, we know this, so some stoicism is understandable when it comes to working a case. Only at the very end, with Castle fading in and out of consciousness and Beckett racing toward the believed location of the perpetrator, did some urgency appear to infect the case. For most of "Dreamworld," it just felt like business as usual with some occasional reminders that, oh, hey, Castle's totally dying by the way. Then it was like someone turned up the frenzy dial for the last ten minutes.
The case also had a pretty weak, and frankly insane, conclusion. Despite pursuing leads that ranged from Al Qaeda retribution to shadowy forces within our own government, it turned out that the bad guy was just that reporter all along. When the strike on the Al Qaeda operative's house occurred, a woman (codenamed Valkyrie—aha!) posing as a servant at the home was killed. She turned out to be a U.S. intelligence officer (who died because the SoD didn't want to miss his target window on the strike), and also the fiancee of the reporter. This case was all about revenge, meaning that this reporter (who, as was mentioned in a throwaway line, had some military training) managed to stage this multi-tiered heist, wrangle a chemical weapon for his own nefarious purposes, and set about trying to kill various people in the government he believed were responsible for his fiancee's death. Hell of a thing, all of that.
With all that wrapped up and the antidote secured, Castle survived, as expected. Beckett understandably wanted the secretary investigated for obstructing their investigation, but McCord gently reminded her that things are very different in D.C., and that she has to be able to let certain things go. This, unsurprisingly, rubbed Beckett the wrong way, perhaps sowing some seeds of doubt in her mind as to whether she really wants to stay in D.C.
Several of you mentioned in the comments last week that this D.C. arc is probably just a temporary thing, and that Beckett is probably destined to return to NYC and get back to murder investigatin' the old-fashioned way—this apparently falls in line with Lisa Edelstein's admission that she's only guest-starring for a few episodes. I had not realized this, because A.) I hadn't really been following any cast interviews about the show prior to the premiere, and B.) I thought it'd be silly for a show to pick up and move locations for several episodes, only to end up right back where it started. It would call into question the point of any of this, since it would seem to offer little to the greater scope of the series, outside of basic confirmation that Beckett is maybe better suited to proper police work, versus trying to navigate the various troubling nooks and crannies of our nation's capital. It would also seem to make little sense to pull Castle and Beckett apart for just a few episodes, since it's debatable what either character would actually learn over such a short period of time trying to maintain a long-distance relationship.
Truth be told, I still have no idea where any of this is going. All I know is that Castle's back in New York next week, and Beckett and McCord will be along for the ride in what looks like, on the surface, a pretty typical Castle-brand murder case. I'm guessing that by the end of Episode 3, we'll have a pretty solid idea of where things are headed, for better or for worse.
– Understand, I'm not saying I don't want Beckett back in New York with Castle. Everything about this "new job" storyline has been kind of needlessly messy and complicated in a way that doesn't really appear to benefit anyone involved. Shifting gears back to NYC would be fine by me, but it would also reaffirm my belief that pretty much everything that's happened in the last five or so episodes of Castle has basically been pointless dramatic busywork. Things were rolling along just fine last season before all this D.C. stuff popped up, and none of what it's added to the mix has made the show better or more interesting. Just more complicated, and in a way that's sucked a lot of the fun out of the proceedings.
– Knowing that Esposito and Ryan will be back in stronger form next week did put a little smile on my face. I never realized how much I'd miss them until they were relegated to brief check-ins. I'm still not really missing Captain Gates, though. She's probably back next week too, isn't she? Dammit.
– So have we established that Alexis's hippy man friend is now a recurring character? This is just a setup for Castle and Beckett to have to investigate his grisly murder down the road, right? Like, super grisly? Hostel-level grisly? Because then, and only then, am I okay with this. He's the worst.