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Well, that just happened. After two seasons of rarely reminding us that Senator Bracken (the man responsible for all the bad things, and also brilliantly played by Jack Coleman) is the big bad of the show and is the greatest threat that Castle and Beckett have ever faced, he got taken down all at once in one of the most intense episodes this show has ever seen. It was a roller coaster of ups, downs, more downs, a very big down (in which Beckett almost died), and then one final gigantic up at the end. So many things happened, so I suppose we should just jump in and talk about them.

First of all, I have to admit that I had a love/hate relationship with "Veritas" (don't worry, it was mostly love.) On the one hand, I'm ecstatic that the writers didn't wait until the last two minutes of the finale to tease a showdown with Bracken, or not even include him at all in the final two episodes. Seeing as he is the villain of the show, it's fitting that he got at least one episode focused on him this season. He deserved a lot more than the two seconds he got in "In the Belly of the Beast," certainly.

But on the other hand, this whole episode felt very abrupt, as if we're missing a few episodes between "Law and Boarder" and this week. I mean, that cool scene of Beckett spying on a dude being picked up in a car was like something out of the blue. Already the fact that we weren't being handed the usual opening of the victim being discovered was new and intriguing, but this opening was even more exciting in that it essentially told us that "Veritas" was not going to be the usual "case of the week." No, this episode was centered around Bracken and the case against him.

Because, as it turns out, Beckett and Castle had been investigating Bracken for more than a month. Apparently they'd identified a member of Bracken's organization (Jason Marks), and had been following him in hopes that he'd lead them further up the ladder. Evidently, this investigation had been going on under our nose, as Castle started the episode on a book tour, which meant that we were experiencing a sudden time jump. Now, I kind of guessed something like this might happen (what with the wedding being so close and yet nothing much had been done) but still I was shocked by how sudden this felt. Last week our heroes were having all-too-competitive scrabble matches and sexy strip poker nights. And suddenly this week Castle was on a book tour, the wedding was around the corner, and they've been investigating Bracken for six weeks.

Is it just me, or did this feel a little undeserved? Don't get me wrong, I'm happy that we had a Bracken episode. But wouldn't it have been a lot better if the investigation had taken place over a series of episodes? After all, that's how it's normally done. A lot of shows like Castle (White Collar, The Mentalist, The Blacklist, etc.) feature cases/season arcs that take up significant parts of several episodes, or at least a small part of each episode, usually the beginning and end. On Castle, however, this is usually taken up by whatever minor argument or issue Beckett and Castle have to work through in each episode. I don't know about you, but I think "Veritas" would have felt a lot more organic if a few minor B stories from the last several episodes had been a few minutes less (or thrown out entirely) to be replaced by scenes of Castle and Beckett going on stakeouts and tailing suspects to unravel Bracken's organization.

Anyway, it was still nice to know that Beckett and Castle haven't just been twiddling their thumbs while Bracken has been growing ever closer to the presidency. And they no doubt would have continued to slowly and methodically learn everything about Bracken's organization, if it weren't for the fact that Jason Marks turned up dead in an alley the next day.


Now, it was at this point that I figured Beckett might be framed for, or at least suspected in, Marks' murder. After all, they may have noticed a van following him the night he was murdered, and been able to trace the van back to Beckett. But as it turns out, neither the NYPD nor Bracken ever got wind that our heroes had been anywhere near Marks. Instead, Beckett got framed for an entirely different murder.

The night Marks was killed, he had been picked up in a car by none other than Vulcan Simmons (Jonathan Adams). You know, that guy who's really important to the world of Castle. The one who showed up in "In the Belly of the Beast" as the figurehead of that crazy organized/powerful drug operation. And before that was...ummm... The important thing is that Simmons was now Castle and Beckett's only connection to Bracken's dastardly dealings. And in the process of tracking down the car Simmon's used to pick Marks up in, she ended up paying him a visit.

Well, this was exciting. A showdown between Beckett and Simmons. One that would no doubt feature some sort of battle of wills, or just a plain old shoo- And he was dead. The next morning the NYPD found his body. He'd been shot with Beckett's gun, and a witness remembered seeing her the night before. Clearly, either someone was framing her or...she killed Simmons herself.

Yeah, the latter certainly wasn't the case. I don't know about you, but there was never doubt in my mind whether Beckett murdered a man in cold blood. And the writers didn't want us to think this either, considered Beckett told Castle she was innocent a few minutes later. Still, there was a strong case against her. Due to this, Internal Affairs were on the scene, with the intention of detaining Beckett while they went about investigating her involvement in Simmons' murder like the professional police officers they are.

But naturally Beckett wasn't going to sit this one out. So she hightailed it out of the precinct. After lying to IA for a bit, Castle went to go meet his fiancé at their special spot: the swing set where Castle proposed.

Now that Beckett was a fugitive, it was imperative that they find a way out of this sooner rather than later. Castle figured that Michael Smith (Geoff Pierson) had faked his own death way back at the beginning of Season 5. If they could find him, they might be able to acquire the leverage they needed against Bracken. After tracking down the doctor that faked Smith's death, they were contacted by the dead man himself.

After being a badass and calling Castle's burner phone (which he'd just gotten), Smith arranged a meeting. Not wanting to make it look clandestine in any way, he wore a trench coat and had them meet in a badly lit car park. According to Smith, Marks had actually been one of the good guys, in a manner of speaking. He'd promised Smith that he could expose Bracken's campaign finances as corrupt. Unfortunately, he was killed before this could happen. Which meant that his death was not a result of Beckett tailing him.

But while the whole Marks thing had fallen through, Smith had one glimmer of hope to give our heroes. Apparently one of Bracken's old associates had a made a very damning recording that could put the presidential candidate behind bars. While he wasn't sure it existed, if they found this recording it would solve all their problems. Anyway, after giving our heroes pretty much nothing to work with, other than the myth-like story of an all-powerful Bracken kryptonite, he vanished back into the shadows.




Back at their safe-house/seedy hotel room, Castle went out to get some things while Beckett almost dyed her hair blonde. I say almost, because suddenly she was jumped by Bracken and his goons. That's right, Beckett and Bracken finally got another scene together (this was only their third).



Not surprisingly, this interaction didn't end in a hug. Bracken left in a huff, leaving his two henchmen with orders to kill Beckett. Now, keep in mind these were presumably the same two hit-men who'd broken into Beckett's apartment, stole her gun without leaving a trace, and used that same gun to kill Simmons. These were presumably the best that money could buy. And yet...their plan was to get Beckett drunk and drugged up, before placing her gun IN HER HAND, so that they could force her to pull the trigger. What's more, they didn't even check carefully to make sure that she'd swallowed their sleepy pill before placing the weapon of their demise in her hands. Oh, and once she started shooting both of them they continued to make it really easy for her. One of them even hit her on the back of the head with an extremely ineffective bottle, as opposed to shooting her with the gun lying next to him.

Anyway, Beckett's take-down of the two assassins (while being drunk, keep in mind) was still bad-ass and entertaining. Even though there's no way the writers would ever kill of Beckett at this stage of the game (only in the series finale, and even then that's pushing it), the stakes were definitely raised in "Veritas." In fact, that was arguably the most danger she's ever been in, and that includes being almost blown to pieces by multiple bombs and a tiger.

While experiencing the post-murder haze that comes from killing two assassins while drunk, Beckett saw an old friend. That's right: former Captain Roy Montgomery (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) made an appearance this week! While it only consisted of a single flashback, it was nice to see the show's arguably most interesting character again. The flashback happened to be a memory that summoned itself to the forefront of Beckett's mind while in her haze. When Beckett first met the man who would later become her captain, as well as a father figure, she mentioned that she was looking into her mother's death. Montgomery had specifically asked if she'd found anything, such as recordings, among her mother's things. Now that Beckett know about the Bracken recording, it was clear that Montgomery 1. knew of its existence, and 2. believed that Beckett's mom had been in possession of it.




For the first time since Simmons' death, Beckett actually had a plan to put an end to her unpaid vacation. She was convinced that it was Montgomery who made the tape, and it was among her mother's stuff that she'd been keeping in her apartment. That meant that Castle's plan to leave the country had to be scrapped. Instead, they needed to return to the Big Apple, and search Joanna Beckett's belongings for the recording.

Instead of finding anything, though, they got caught. And as Internal Affairs marched Castle, Beckett, Ryan, and Esposito through the station, it looked like all was lost. Until Beckett noticed the little statue of the elephants on her desk. You know, the one she's always had there. Based on something her mom had written in her notebook, she suddenly realized the tape had to be in the statue. So in a last ditch attempt to fix everything, she ran to the statue and it fell to the floor, revealing the tape. True to the legend, the tape of Bracken admitting to murder was apparently so powerful that it led to his arrest a few hours later.



Now, is it just me, or was that all a bit too sudden? I mean, we only saw a few seconds of Bracken in this season before "Veritas." And we'd only seen him in two episodes before that. He was never seen or mentioned other than a handful of times. And yet, he's supposed to be this show's ultimate big bad (the first one, at least). He's supposed to be the biggest threat our heroes have ever faced, responsible for all the memorable crimes. But this was the first time he's gotten to speak in an episode since one third of the way through last season. And just as suddenly as he was built up(ish) to make a big comeback this season, he's been soundlessly defeated. One minute he's a seemingly unstoppable villain only inches from the oval office, and the next all his crimes are public and he's going to jail.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed "Vertias." It was exciting, had a number of blasts from the past, and put a much anticipated spotlight on Bracken. But this was apparently his last spotlight. He's done, defeated, old news. Is it just me, or did it feel like the writers hastily swept him under the rug so that nothing would interfere with the wedding next episode, which is evidently the true focus of this season. After all, what importance is a memorable showdown with Castle's villain, when compared to Castle and Beckett saying "I do?" To me, this kind of feels like the Bracken storyline was a pest that needed to be dealt with so that the finale would be free to deal with "only the good stuff."

This is why I have such a love/hate relationship with "Veritas." On the one hand, I love the fact that the show finally devoted an episode to the world's worst presidential candidate. But on the other hand, I hate the fact that in the same episode that we actually get to see more than two seconds of Bracken, he's soundly and completely defeated. I mean, this felt strange for a penultimate episode. Shouldn't they have at least dragged the Bracken thing over into the finale?
After watching "Veritas," I think I've figured out what's been happening for the past two seasons. Essentially, Castle has what I call a zero sum plot, except for a few key situations scattered throughout. What this means is that problems and conflicts that arise in a given episode are resolved within itself, and nothing carries over to the next. And in the case of Castle, this is pretty much spot on. I mean, Castle will torture someone in one episode, and at no point in any later episode will anyone ever talk about it.

However, there are a few times each season where this doesn't happen, this episode being one of them. I like to call these movie moments. Because that's what these episodes are: movies that have been plopped into a TV show. When they crop up, they carry with them stakes, special guest stars, intensity, and "additions" to the Castle world. Take the first three episodes of this season, for instance. In the actual span of a movie, the Attorney General's task force was built up, and then abruptly cast aside and completely forgotten. Those sets, characters, and plot elements quickly vanished into thin air, and we have yet to even hear about that place (or even D.C., for that matter). Essentially, Castle has replaced the season arcs of old with short, contained movies that give the illusion of making the show seem like it's doing things and going places.

Take this Bracken thing, for instance. We suddenly learned at the beginning of Season 5, without ever having met the guy before, that Senator Bracken is the man who had Beckett's mom, Montgomery, and a bunch of other people murdered. It seems like Beckett and Castle will be doing battle with him for a while, but in the next episode they find a snippet of evidence that they bluff with to create a "truce." This truth is cemented when Beckett saves Bracken's life a third of the way through the episode. After this, we don't even hear Bracken's name until more than a season later in "In the Belly of the Beast." Fast forward a significant number of episodes, and we still haven't heard Bracken's name until "Veritas," at the end of which he's suddenly no longer a threat.

There are a number of elements like this which are switched on briefly at random intervals, but are off at most times. Castle's father is a great example. He's arguably one of the most important characters on the show, and yet he's only appeared in three episodes and has never been mentioned elsewhere. Most of the time, he may as well not exist. But when he does appear, characters can't stop talking about him and he's the life of that episode.

Overall, "Veritas" was an enjoyable episode, but nevertheless a troubling foreshadowing of a disturbing trend. While I pretty much enjoyed every minute, this one episode still contained practically the entire Bracken story for this season. And everything is evidently over. The treatment of Bracken, especially compared to similar characters and events in previous seasons, indicates that Castle is moving away from built up, milti-episode stories and continuous world-building, and is instead becoming a show where nothing ever changes. There will be exciting, high-stakes events worthy of a finale. But they will happen very rarely, and there will be no build up to them. And once the next episode rolls around, it will be like they never happened.

Now, I could be wrong. In fact, I hope I'm wrong. For all I know, Bracken is far from gone. Best case scenario: he could hire 3XK from within prison to kill Beckett and Castle on their wedding day. That way this season's finale would consist of Castle and Beckett's two greatest enemies teaming up on what is supposed to be the most joyous day of their life. Now this is an episode that I would love. But then again, I doubt anything like that will happen. Chances are, there won't be nary a mention of Bracken, or 3XK for that matter. We'll probably see Castle's dad, and we should enjoy however many seconds he gets to show up in. Because they'll likely be brief. And after the credits roll, he'll seemingly cease to exist once again.

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Notes From the Bloody Fountain Pen:

1. What's the deal with Beckett storing her camera in a back-door case? Is it really so tiresome to carry the camera from the front to the back of the van? Did she really need to have a custom camera case built?

2. So...Bracken and the gang searched for that tape for years, and they got nothing. Beckett seemed to think that they couldn't have gotten to the stuff at her apartment, but they clearly could since they literally took her gun without her even realizing it was missing, or that people had broken into her place. So if they are capable of doing that, why didn't they find the journal, and then use the clue to find the elephants? Or better yet, why didn't they take everything of Joanna Beckett's that could hide a tape.

3. Even though Bracken is in jail, he could still come back, right? I mean, people run criminal enterprises from jail all the time on television He should be no different.

4. I don't know about you, but I really wanted Beckett to go through with dying her hair. She could have been a blonde for ten minutes.

5. Well, next week is the wedding. Are you excited? Do you think it'll actually happen? Or wil there be some cliffhanger at the end? Who knows, maybe a sniper will shoot Castle just as he's about to say "I do."

6. What did you think of "Veritas?" Did it ring true, or was it just a series of cover-ups. .
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