This week on Castle, the hunt is on for the antidote to Castle’s toxin. This leads Beckett and her new crack Washington team on a high-level wild goose chase involving redacted documents, government cover-ups and one very mad reporter.

Shocking no one at all, Castle lives through the ordeal, although it’s a close call. What is more of a mystery is just how long Beckett will stay with the DC gang beyond this two-part premiere. 

The seeds of her discontent have already been sown, as her new partner McCord tells her things in DC aren’t often black and white. With Beckett’s strong moral compass, how long will she really feel comfortable working in shades of grey beneath Washington’s halls of power?

Castle Interview: Lisa Edelstein on the “Beckett and McCord Show >>>

A High-Profile Whodunit

The premiere set up some interesting new storylines for Beckett and Castle as she adjusts into her new role and Castle tries to figure out how he fits into the equation. However, with a ticking clock on Castle’s survival, part two of the season opener doesn’t have much time to get into the emotional toll of Beckett’s new position on her relationships. 

Instead, it becomes all about finding out who has dosed Castle with a powerful toxin in order to save his life. Again, did anyone really think Castle was going to die? Anyone? Bueller? 

What made the Alexis Taken homage so powerful last season wasn’t that we really thought something might happen to Alexis (although it was a bigger possibility than Castle dying on a show titled Castle), but what it showed us about the characters. Those were two big, action-packed and emotional episodes. This episode, however, just feels off-the-mark emotionally for something so dramatic. 

Perhaps it’s because we’re not really ever worried for Castle, but the episode is much more of a standard mystery than other big event episodes have been. It feels like a normal case-of-the-week episode, with all the boilerplate red herrings and false starts, only on a much larger scale and without the emotional intimacy that usually makes these episodes work. 

Like the show’s conception of Washington DC itself, it feels bigger and flashier, but ultimately more cold and distant. Last week, I was interested to see where the show would go if the creative team committed to the DC location for a handful of episodes or more. After this week’s outing, I’m less excited about the prospect. 

A Case of Revenge

Much like the ABC sudsy show of the same name, it turns out this whole case is all about a little case of Revenge. Has Emily Thorne ever considered toxin to just get rid of the Graysons? Then she could just enjoy life in the Hamptons.  

After last week’s reveal, it turns out Castle doesn’t have very long to live with the toxin in his system. Maybe about 12 hours or more, which doesn’t give Beckett much time to figure things out. 

Their big clues are Valkyrie and Dreamworld, both military terms that lead them back to Secretary of Defense Reed. Suddenly, we’re in a Homeland-esque story about an Al Qaeda operative, complete with heavily redacted documents. Castle has dealt with big mysteries with even bigger stakes before, but this week’s story just doesn’t seem to connect for me. 

“You’re not getting out of our engagement that easily,” Beckett says in a nice little moment in an episode which moves a bit too fast for many little moments. The procedural stuff we’ve seen a million times before, and even though the episode deals with national security, it doesn’t feel like a story so compelling it should overshadow Beckett and Castle’s emotional moments. 

Which isn’t to say there aren’t some good moments, like Castle’s phone conversation with Martha and Alexis, or Martha reaching out to Ryan and Esposito. But by and large, these moments are overtaken by the nonstop momentum of the plot. 

After some good luck in having the one tech guy who knows the password to illegally listen to top secret audio files, they figure out Valkyrie was actually an American operative who was killed in a high-level bombing on Reed’s orders. The journalist trying to write the story on Dreamworld was actually her fiance, now out on a path of vengeance.

Castle makes a shrewd intuitive logic leap and realizes the journalist is after Reed’s wife as a little payback, sending Beckett on a last minute Hail Mary pass to find the antidote. In a nice character-establishing moment, McCord comes to back Beckett up, even though it seemed far from a sure thing. “It’s what partners do,” McCord tells Beckett.

At the very least, it seems Beckett has a steady partner in McCord, and certainly one much more comfortable with how the game in Washington is played. Beckett is shocked there will be no inquiry into Reed, but McCord knows that’s just how things go in DC. 

“In Washington, it’s rarely black or white,” she tells Kate. But Beckett likes her primary colors and there’s very little political hobnobbing back in the precinct in New York. 

Adding together Beckett’s strong quest for the truth and the strain long distance will put on her relationship with Castle, I don’t think it will be long until the show returns her back to share desk space with Ryan and Esposito. Until then, I hope the show doesn’t lose the characters just because the weekly mysteries can have higher stakes.  

Elsewhere Between Washington and New York…

— Ryan always thought he and Esposito would have kids together. Aww! Of course, he means they would have kids at the same time and co-coach a baseball team. 

— Martha knows Castle is in trouble right away when he’s too nice to her. A mother always knows.

— Beckett’s boss is surprisingly delightful for a character stuck delivering mostly exposition. The moment when he asks Castle to put him in a future book is really fun.

— While McCord and Beckett work well together, it’s once again really Castle and Beckett who solve the case. Maybe they should just let him tag along all the time! 

— Alexis’ hippie boyfriend is still around, and he almost definitely heals Mr. C with Reiki. Although he’s Castle’s worst nightmare, he is my new most-favorite. I hope he sticks around to facilitate this weird phase Alexis is going through and continues to drive Castle nuts.

What did you think? Did you love the episode or did it leave you feeling a little cold? Are you excited to see more of Washington or are you ready to have Beckett back in New York? Sound off in the comments!

Castle airs Mondays at 10pm on ABC.

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(Image courtesy of ABC) 

Morgan Glennon

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV