“Yeah, well, this sort of thing happens to me a lot.” ~ Richard Castle.
Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched the first episode of the new season, stop reading now. Okay, that said… wow! I didn’t know what to expect from season eight after learning that the show’s creators, Andrew Marlowe and his wife, Terri Edda Miller, had decided to leave after seven seasons, even after ABC renewed Castle. At first we didn’t know if Nathan and Stana, who portray Rick and Kate, would return, and then Nathan signed. Stana didn’t agree to come back until she met with the new showrunners, former Castle writers Terence Paul Winter and Alexi Hawley (who also worked as co-showrunner for The Following), and they assured her of the show’s continued character growth and cohesiveness. I’m so glad they both agreed to stay, and boy, was I thrilled with episode one of season eight.
All of the changes hinted at over the summer had me a bit worried before the show aired. Pretty early on during the hiatus, we learned that Gates had moved on to 1PP, leaving her position open at the 12th… and that Kate would take that job rather than running for the state senate. I’m so glad the writers went in that direction. One crisis averted. Of course, with Gates out, that meant Penny Johnson Jerald no longer would be part of the show (even though the door is open for her to return at some point should the story call for it). Enter two new characters, one of whom we met in episode one: Toks Olagundoye portrays Hayley Shipton, a stealth security specialist with a shady past who will reappear quite frequently. The other is Sunkrish Bala, a new tech expert who will also pop in from time to time. We’ll have to see what they add to the show.
Winter and Hawley claim Castle will be “less of a procedural and more character-driven” this year. They intend to focus on deepening Rick and Kate’s relationship, the true heart of the show, rather than on weird cases—as evidenced by Rick’s intense response to Hayley Shipton’s statement about his love for Kate. “You must really love her,” she says, and he comes back with, “Like a house on fire.” Oh, yeah. I adore this new approach and trust the powers-that-be to bring us back to that at the end of this adventure-packed, two-part introduction to season eight.
The season gets off to a heart-warming start in episode one with a delicious little scene between Rick and Kate at the loft on Kate’s first morning as captain. After that, we learn where Gates has gone, that Ryan and Jenny are expecting their second child, and that Rick has revamped his PI office and plans to revive his practice. With Kate taking over for Gates, he won’t be able to follow her around like he has in the past, although he will still accompany Ryan and Esposito to crime scenes from time to time. Alexis is now Rick’s partner in his PI business, even though he doesn’t know it at first, and quickly proves she can handle the job. I like this new development.
The beautiful bracelet Rick gives Kate as the show opens, with their word Always inscribed inside, comes back to haunt him when he finds it in a pool of her blood after she mysteriously disappears on her way to a meeting at 1PP. Then he learns that she did not, in fact, have a meeting, and that she lied about where she was going and with whom she spoke on the phone during a strange call she received during their little celebration.
After that, the chase was on. I was on the edge of my seat as Rick, Alexis, and the boys searched for Kate and found kickass Hayley Shipton instead. The woman quite effectively took down Rick, but then proved to be an asset with information to share. Turns out that William Bracken, the U.S. Senator and presidential hopeful Kate put away in season six for murdering her mother and many others, is behind her disappearance. Rick’s impromptu visit with the man at the prison seemed unlikely and far-fetched, but I bought it because the story moved so fast.
The boys, Rick, and Alexis keep moving, following clues, until Rick disappears as well. His captors want to know where Kate is, and he can’t help them because he has no idea. They torture him by putting huge black spiders on his face, then tying an entire plastic bag filled with the horrid creatures over his head… and I had to look away. Ewwww! I despise spiders, especially big ones, and that really grossed me out. From what I read, Nathan got the director to put them on his face first, so he’d know for sure they wouldn’t hurt him, and then did the scenes without flinching. I don’t know whether to be impressed or appalled by that little nugget of information. Just recalling how creepy the spiders looked inside the bag makes me shiver.
Rick managed to escape before his captors could kill him, only to be cornered again, then rescued by Kate, who shoots his attackers. He questions her, but she only begs him to trust her, tells him she loves him, kisses him, and then vanishes before help arrives. Ack! What the heck is going on? I have a theory after reading a couple of spoilers for next week, but I hesitate to post it because I don’t want to ruin anyone else’s viewing pleasure. One thing I will share is that while XY was told from Rick’s point of view, XX, next week’s episode, will be told from Kate’s vantage point. The writers did this not only for story purposes, but also for logistical reasons. (Stana was still shooting a movie overseas during the first week of Castle filming in July, so the powers-that-be had to work around her absence. This is how they chose to handle it.)
The fast-moving, heart-pounding storyline in these two episodes must have been driven partly by Hawley’s experience on The Following, because the edge-of-your-seat suspense, the tight editing, and even the driving score beneath the action kept me enthralled even though the show now has a different twist. The episode left us hanging, because this is only part one of this two-parter. Kate is still out there somewhere, chasing answers in an apparent effort to keep Rick safe. I can’t wait to find out why she’s put her new job on hold to do this. No, it’s not logical at all, and I can already hear Lee criticizing the new direction the show has taken, but IMHO, it makes for good TV… and I can’t wait for episode two!
What did you think about episode one of season eight?
What did I think of the season opener? Well, you know I’m not a fan of the never-ending saga of “Who Killed Beckett’s Mom.” I’d truly hoped the beating of dead horses might be a thing of the past, but noooooo.
At least we know Beckett’s kidnapping was only a pretend abduction. And Castle, bless his twisted little writer’s heart, is still the only human connected to the NYPD—the entire department—who can solve a case. I know when I was still working homicides the first thing I did before examining evidence was to ring up Lee Child or Lisa Gardner. After all, as mystery/thriller writers they’d know more about real-life investigations than a trained and experienced police detective, right?
Okay, I guess the secret is finally out, and I’m glad it is. We detectives have been holding this to ourselves for far too long. It’s time that you, the public, hear it from us. We never work a criminal case without first consulting a mystery writer. That’s right, each police investigator maintains a long speed dial list containing the names and numbers of numerous bestselling authors. So forget what you thought you knew about CSI, because the actual checklist for crime scene investigations goes something like this.
1. Call comes in. A murder.
2. Dispatch assigns call to Officer J. Smith.
3. Officer Smith calls Michael Connelly to ask what he should do next.
Of course, Lanie didn’t disappoint me. Her opening comments at the crime scene were, as always, dumb. And, the things she said—wounds were from a downward angle, maybe 45 degrees, which means they all were probably shot from up there (she pointed toward a balcony when she said, “up there”)—did nothing to help the story. Not to mention that she couldn’t know any of those details merely by looking at a fully-clothed dead body. Those are findings that would come only at autopsy. It was almost as if the actor’s contract included a clause mandating an appearance in the episode, so writers penned something really quick to give her moment of screen time. Didn’t matter that Lanie’s lines were basically unbelievable.
Esposito is our hero ’cause he’s so big and strong. So strong, in fact, that when he put his shoulder against a door the entire thing fell off its hinges. Dumb, dumb, and dumber. Try that in real life and he’d most likely find himself nursing a bruised shoulder while looking at a door that didn’t budge.
While Castle’s visit to the prison may have looked cool it couldn’t happen at an actual prison. Inmates must submit the names of people who might someday show up to visit. The list is typically a pre-determined number of ten people, or so. Prison officials then approve or deny the people on the list, a process that, of course, takes several days. Therefore, only the people named on the inmates approved visiting list would be allowed inside the prison to visit. Remember, there are scheduled days and times for inmate visits. Private citizens, including mystery writers, may not show up at will for an impromptu visit with a prisoner.
Anyway, the episode was just okay for me. I’ve not yet formed an opinion about the new character and how she’ll fit into the story. I am, however, thinking the PI thing might be the best route to take at this point. I can see that scenario as a brand new show that could work out nicely. In fact, that portion of last night’s episode was more like the Castle we used to know and appreciate. Although, that, I believe, is what felt odd to me—the attempt to blend Silly Castle with Dark Castle. I also found myself enjoying the parts of the show without…and I almost hate to say this, but will…without Beckett, the precinct, and, well, sans the whole NYPD.
You know, PI Castle with all his goofy toys and antics could also breathe some life into what’s become a weekly rehashing of same-old-same-old.
What about you? Was this a good start to season eight, or just more of the same old thing? Do you agree with Good Cop Melanie, or do you side with me?