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Saying “This is heaven” to kick off an episode of Castle is never a good sign. Instead of a day in pajamas, “In The Belly Of The Beast” forces Beckett to spend a day undercover as a drug ring’s assassin.

The Players

  • Director: Rob Bowman
  • Writers: Andrew W. Marlowe & David Amann
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Molly Quinn, Susan Sullivan

Episode Title “In The Belly Of The Beast”

Gates calls Beckett, and on her day off no less, with a secret undercover op. She’s supposed to be impersonating a drug courier who speaks Russian, with plenty of plainclothes cops to back her up. Instead, she gets kidnapped and offered a permanent job with the organization as a contract killer. She and another enforcer go out to perform a ‘test’ job, in order for Beckett to meet the ring’s boss, a mystery figure called Lazarus. She stages the hit convincingly, and the un-victim gives Esposito, Ryan, and Castle their first heads-up Beckett’s still alive. They’ve been hitting dead-ends in the search for her, quite literally when the courier who was supposed to be recovering in the hospital kills her police guard and flees. Beckett is able to identify the name of where some of the laundered money is going while waiting to meet Lazarus. But he turns out to be Vulcan Simmons, former drug lord of Washington Heights, and he makes her. They torture Beckett for information, but she doesn’t reveal what she knows. After dragging her off into the woods to be killed, the original assassin shows up and saves her, saying that Lazarus owed her one. When the depository of the money turns out to be a political Super-PAC, funding the presidential run of the not-so-honorable Senator Bracken, the pieces fall into place for Castle and Beckett. Not that they can prove anything, yet.

The Good

  • Comic Sans Serif: Bless Castle for the sly self-awareness it sometimes shows. The wedding choice of the week was set up as ‘we need to choose a invitation font,’ such a trivial thing (although not to a writer) that it comes off as a little silly. This leads to a font/domestic bliss joke that made for some of the best romantic banter we’ve seen this year.
  • Times New Russian: Stana Katic is so easygoing that you never see Beckett chaffing for range or feeling underutilized when the episode is more Castle-centric. But give her a solo mission, preferably with guns and Russians, and she’ll anchor it like, well, an anchor. We could see the desperate strain and her mind working furiously as Beckett assessed her situation and improvised. But she never looses her cool. Having an actor so fit into her character’s skin is why the show can play spy or undercover adventures every now and again.

The So-So

  • Wingdings: Not that it’s his fault, but man was that narcotics cop useless. Now, for the plot to work the whole force has to be bamboozled, and Castle has to wrinkle his forehead looking grim. But the way the poor fellow explains the initial op to Beckett just smacks of setup, and the subsequent holes we learn about the police’s knowledge are painful. You could play a game every time you hear the words ‘untouchable,’ ‘untraceable,’ ‘invisible,’ or ‘protected.’ Again, the plot requires all this. It’s just not executed elegantly.
  • Arial Not So Bold: Maybe we’ve all been ruined by movies or we’re just terrible people, but the torture sequence seemed a little low budget. We’re not talking about production values: all you really need is a tub of ice water to make things unpleasant for a police mole. But in terms of intensity, we weren’t quite convinced. Simmons never seemed particularly bothered, and gave up too easily. The show took us right to the edge of truly dark, and then didn’t want to go there. It’s a shame, because the sets and the lighting and the actors all looked ready for it.

The Bad

  • Bracken Old Style: Castle and Beckett suspect deep political conspiracy machinations and can’t do anything about it, and the puppet master ‘Lazarus’ has strong ties to Beckett’s past. But at the end of the hour, there’s no way forward with this thread, which has the unfortunate effect of making the episode feel like exposition for the audience. It seems too tidy. We’re not unenthusiastic about going further down this road. But so far, season six has spent a lot of time reviving and recycling old arcs. We don’t want Castle to do this so much it eats its own tail.

Overall

As setups to larger plot threads go, “In The Belly Of The Beast” has plenty of both action and intrigue. We’re always for putting Beckett in a tight spot, because the woman improvises with Jedi-like reflexes. There’s niggling details aplenty and the overall whiff of contrivance, but it’s still a pleasure to watch.

Rating: 7/10

Castle airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

So is a wedding dress take-down of the sinister Senator in the cards? Let us know what you think will happen to Beckett and Bracken in the comments.