Kidnapping and Spies and France, Oh My!

Today I’m here to talk about why “Castle’s” recent two-part episodes (5.15 “Target” & 5.16 “Hunt”) blew my freaking mind. But first – to preface:

I’m not a huge fan of crime procedurals. I watch many of them every week, but it’s not the intricate, clever and bloody crime solving that catches my eye—I’m mostly interested in the interpersonal relationships between the various characters. I admit that I mostly use shows like “Castle” and “Bones” as background noise while working on homework.

But these past two weeks of “Castle,” I could not stop watching. My eyes were fixated; my looming consumer behavior exam was entirely forgotten. Richard Castle’s relationship with his daughter, Alexis, has always been one of the most endearing parts of the show, and seeing it tried, tested, stretched to the brink of breaking made for insanely compelling television.

During the first hour Alexis is kidnapped with her friend, Kate Beckett, and the NYPD think the motive lies in Kate’s father – a well known Egyptian figure who is always under constant threat. Together, the two girls pool their resources and start assessing the situation – everything from how to behave with their kidnappers to the age and style of building.

Meanwhile, the NYPD and the FBI are busy tracking their kidnappers, from an abandoned van and new getaway vehicle to a deserted farmhouse upstate. As the cops close in, one thing becomes clear — these are not ordinary kidnappers. They’re beyond professional, miles ahead every step of the way. And there’s still no ransom, no word, no proof of life. The unflappable Richard Castle is decidedly flapped.

It’s been 48 hours since the girls were taken and still no word. Alexis figures out how to pick the lock on the door using bobby pins and lessons her father taught her 10 years ago. They make an escape plan — run until the path splits and then split up. Alexis finds an office and inside a cell phone. She tries to call 911. It doesn’t work. She uses Skype and calls her dad. It works. Richard answers. They talk briefly before Alexis hears noises. She drops the phone and runs.

Alexis bursts out a door. She’s on a roof. The cops tracked the phone call. It came from Paris. [Pan to Eiffel Tower.]

This is just the beginning.

….and then it begins all over again. The cops and the FBI have pushbacks and protocol they have to follow because of a lack of jurisdiction. The kidnappers finally call with a ransom, and the drop is made. The friend is returned, but Alexis isn’t. Kate sends Castle home and finds him missing a day later. His passport’s gone, and he’s in Paris to get his daughter back. He enlists the help of an unsavory contact who’s ready and willing to do anything to ensure Alexis’ return. He sets up another drop and Castle’s double-crossed. He’s about to be murdered by his daughter’s captors and from nowhere, shots ring out and everyone drops dead. A man with an American accent steps out from the trees and tells Castle to get in the car.

And now the puzzle pieces are finally fitting together. Alexis was the target, not her friend. The mysterious man is the reason. He’s Castle’s father, Alexis’ grandfather. He’s a spy. Together, they come up with a plan. Alexis and Castle run through Parisian streets, dodging gunshots and explosions, and safely make their way to the American Embassy.
“Castle” set up insanely high stakes for these two episodes. Kidnapping Castle’s still-teenage daughter was a risk in it of itself — the show isn’t going to kill off Alexis, so they face a huge challenge in creating a believable threat. Nathan Fillion positively shined here. He absolutely sold the pain, anguish, worry and torment that came with having your only daughter found missing.

The Parisian reveal was stellar, too. When most procedurals place one of their own developed characters in danger, it’s always within a reasonable geographic reach, and fully within the skills and capabilities of their resident crime solvers. France isn’t just out of the NYPD’s jurisdiction; it’s out of the FBI’s, too. There’s an entire ocean between the good guys and the innocent victim. When the second hour started, even I didn’t know how everything was going to end. Sure, Richard Castle’s well received novels made him a wealthy man, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the financial resources or connections of the Egyptian father.

While Castle’s super spy dad saving the day was a little bit of a deus ex machina, it came out of nowhere. Even after we learned that Alexis was the target, I still had no idea why — my best theory was that someone really didn’t like Nikki Heat and the rest of Castle’s novels. I had no idea they’d introduce Castle’s long-absent father, much less make him a spy. Suddenly a high-stakes kidnapping turns into a case of international espionage.

All of it – every last minute – was an exercise in how to make good television for February sweeps. Truly, personal connection plus insurmountable odds plus the inherent sexiness of worldwide spying creates two hours of incredibly captivating, emotionally gripping and heartstrings tugging television. Take note, “CSI.”


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