Picking up where the premiere left off, “Dreamworld,” sets the clock on Castle himself. Richard has only hours to live because of exposure to a secret military toxin (although he’s conveniently asymptomatic). Unfortunately, their main lead on an antidote keeled over from the same poison. Castle and Beckett handle the setback with startling professionalism, and of course it’s a treat to watch them work.
- Director: Tom Wright
- Writer: David Grae
- Cast: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Molly Quinn, Susan Sullivan, Lisa Edelstein
Episode Title: “Dreamworld”
Conveniently, more information about Bronson leads to an Al-Qaeda connection, which leads to a shady government official. The episode’s plot plays out like a set of LEGO instructions. Each piece of what’s revealed as a quixotic revenge quest fits neatly on top of one another that the construction is obvious. But the real point of the hour is to see how Castle handles his own mortality. The answer is with the same quips but a more set jawline. “Dreamworld” ends in a double race to the rescue. Beckett rushes to stop a former Black Ops turned journalist from poisoning the wife of Defense Secretary Reid. It’s payment for Reid covering up of his own love’s death in a US missile strike. She’s in a hurry because by that point Castle’s 10-12 hours are almost up. Even though the perp gets the drop on her, McCord has her back, and Castle gets to wake up in a hospital bed.
- Valkyrie Rising: All credit to the writers for not making Valkyrie some Bond super-spy ring or a lame piece of future tech. The show excels within a pulp setting, because of its familiar character dynamics, not the trappings of the procedural genre. Valkyrie turning out to be a U.S. intelligence asset, and more importantly, a fiance, was not only clever, but fitting to the series. The audio reveal of Valkyrie’s demise was also very well handled.
- A Very Stressed Engagement: Katic and Fillion carry the episode. Last week’s cliffhanger, now gets the space to simmer into a scene of two people desperately trying to keep it together for each other. It’s thankless, unshowy acting, and both of them nail it, especially Fillion. He carries the hour by carrying himself as if he’s been weighted down with a pallet of bricks.
- Martha, My Dear: “Dreamworld” integrates the Manhattan Castles into the overall plot through Susan Sullivan, and thank goodness for that. She finally gets to ruffle her feathers after Richard’s chaste phone call tips her that something isn’t right. Ryan and Esposito also continue to be good soldiers, with their one whacky parenting joke before providing whatever exposition is required.
- Shiny, Captain: Anyone else get a brief whiff of Malcolm Reynolds from Fillion’s delivery of, “Next time I’m dying to see you, let’s keep it metaphorical,” or was it just us? In any case. that and “I’d rather die than drink anymore of that sludge,” tie for line of the night.
- Partners: While Castle’s fate was never seriously in doubt, we give the show credit for not ending the episode on easy terms. Castle and Beckett are still trying to work out their new dynamic and pining for the old one. Thankfully, the show found a way to give our favorite partners something chewy to work through without betraying their essential commitment to each other.
- Office of the Attorney General: So that’s who Beckett is working for? They do understand the Attorney General isn’t, like, a real general? He doesn’t get hundreds of thousands of dollars of surveillance equipment. He gets interns from Georgetown.
- No ties to Al-Qaeda: It’s always great to see Afghan men portrayed with any kind of nuance on television. And even better, Al Qaeda wasn’t the blanket villain (it is not, as we often forget, a blanket organization) in what was clearly a spook’s ploy. Still, the whole, “no known ties to Al Qaeda” thing should’ve come up before Beckett tackled the guy, right?
- IED Explosion = Airstrike: Castle, whatever its faults when it comes to plot, tends to have good dialogue. We’re sorry, dashing Colombian-American intelligence agent, but that was not an example of it.
- The Vince Gilligan Rule: The VG Rule states that audiences tend to accept coincidence as long as it doesn’t solve the conflict for the protagonist, which is exactly the opposite of what happened here. Maybe the DC of Castle’s universe is some sort of Flan O’Brien-like nexus in which all characters are interconnected? There’s an unwieldy amount of ‘just happens’ here, from Al Qaeda relations who just happen to be in the right place at the right time multiple times. This is to reporters who also happen to be Special Ops veterans, to the technician who just happens to also have been a technician in Dreamworld’s theater of operations and can totally access his old database.
- This Crooked Town: Some of those storytelling crutches might be forgivable if we couldn’t smell the actual baddies a mile away. Did anyone assume that Secretary Reid wasn’t behind the ghost base, or that he wouldn’t ultimately be untouchable? Also, no one with eyes that blue works for a newspaper called the Washington Union. The problem of the DC insider game is actually a rich, challenging arena for Beckett. Once again, she and McCord need to just solve crimes and go out for beers together. But it was handled a little bluntly here tonight.
- “And You Were There, Too”: Unfortunately, Pi and his ‘healing reiki’ are still around, his nose miraculously unbloodied by Beckett. Hey writers, the next time you need someone to find hipster jargon that sounds less like your aunt plucked it out of a word jumble, we’re totally available.
“Dreamworld” sells the leather out of its spy-games concept, with the surprise of having the conflict be about people. Of course, it doesn’t make the specific plot beats or the overall concept of Beckett’s Washington job any more plausible. But an hour of watching Fillion stare manfully into the maw of death and solve problems using Times New Roman isn’t an hour ill spent.
What did you think of this week’s episode?