A mass murder and a mega mystery led to lots of changes in Castle Season 8 Episode 1 where we were introduced to new characters and saw old ones take on new roles.
I’ll be honest, I found the first ten minutes of “XY” difficult to get through. Yes, there were moments I enjoyed, but there were things I absolutely did not. I’ll take it point by point.
The opening murder scene had just the right mix of mystery and shock value without having to be gory. That’s an art few shows can pull off, and I appreciate how well they did it here. Daisy Betts played the perfect Black Widow assassin; gorgeous, innocent looking and deadly. That poor guy probably thought he was getting lucky. He was anything but.
Rick tried to calm Kate’s first-day-on-the-job jitters with a giant cupcake and a hidden surprise, and he’s lucky he didn’t set his shirt on fire! Kate’s nerves and Castle’s reassurances were adorable. The bracelet was beautiful but not half as much as the engraved sentiment. Castle was going to have to hang on to that word for all he was worth as events unfolded.
So why couldn’t Rick sit in Captain Beckett's office and get her coffee while helping her and the boys with cases? Would that really have been so much different from when he sat next to Detective Beckett’s desk and fetched her coffee? Is this really a good change for them? So far, I’m not convinced, but I’m willing to give it time.
The moment Kate got that phone call and claimed it was a telemarketer, I knew she was lying, and it made me crazy. Haven’t we seen this before? I hated that she was lying to Rick once again. I thought they had gotten past this. I thought they were “partners in crime and in life.” Beckett lying to Castle so blatantly felt horribly wrong and like a giant step backwards in their relationship. I hope there’s an explanation in part two that somehow makes this better, but I don’t have a good feeling about it.
Later on, Alexis pointed out that Castle was just a writer and didn’t have the training or skill set of Beckett. That hasn’t stopped him from being by her side for the past seven plus years! And don’t get me started on how much I enjoy Alexis lecturing her father. I don’t! The only upside here is that for once she was attempting to take Beckett’s side.
While there was some truth in what Alexis was saying, it still set my teeth on edge. Rick and Kate have worked as partners for several years now. Shouldn’t Beckett at least be able to trust him with information, even if he can’t be involved in the investigation? This felt like Kate shutting Castle out yet again, and I hated it.
Speaking of Alexis, I loved the relationship between Alexis and Castle when this series began. During the early seasons, these two had a unique and heartfelt bond I hadn’t seen anywhere else on TV, But the last few years have made it difficult to like Alexis. She can still be enjoyable when paired with other characters, but the way she acts with her father can be hard to take.
I get that having her work in the P.I. business is supposed to be a fun way to show she’s grown up while giving her a larger role in the show. As the episode progressed, I actually warmed to some of her scenes, especially her fear over her father disappearing again. But the first ten minutes were the equivalent of fingernails on a blackboard.
If they want me to view Alexis as an adult, perhaps she should act like one with her dad instead of coming across like an entitled brat. Yes, that may sound harsh, but how else do you describe a 20-something who decides to take over her father’s business behind his back? This was probably supposed to be humorous, but it came across as blatantly disrespectful. It was all a little too reminiscent of Alexis bringing home her boyfriend to live at the loft without ever asking her doting, incredibly tolerant dad first.
Castle: You set up shop in my office behind my back and it's my fault?
It would be one thing if Alexis had asked to help or jumped in when needed, but that didn’t happen. She went behind his back, forged his signature for intern credit at school, and never so much as mentioned that she was working cases out of his office despite the fact that they live together. That’s something an irresponsible teenager does, not a grown woman, and it bugged me to no end. Don’t even get me started on the fact that college courses are so easy for her that she can spend days working as a P.I., a job she, to my knowledge, has no license or training to be doing.
OK, Alexis rant over. I’m trying to get past it, really I am.
As for Castle’s P.I. office, I know that the new James Bond-like office is fun and super cool, but I loved the 1940s film-noir vibe of his office from last season. It was one of my favorite new sets, so I’m horribly disappointed that they changed it.
The mass murder scene was surprising and seeing the word “Always” engraved in Beckett’s blood soaked bracelet was a dramatic twist. It definitely got my attention away from everything else that had bothered me about the opening. To say the least, I was intrigued.
Then we get to Hayley Shipton. Yes, Hayley brings a different energy to the show, but I can’t say it’s a good vibe. Hayley serves and protects only herself. She believes that being a successful P.I. means lying, cheating and blatantly breaking the law to get things done, and she had no problem telling Rick he’s doing it all wrong. Thankfully, he’s enough of his own man that he didn’t listen to her opinions on what it takes to do the job.
Perhaps Hayley will grow on me. I usually love sarcasm, but I found her attitude depressing. However, she does seem to have a soft spot for Alexis. We’ll see how that is explored in episodes to come, but with only one hour into Castle Season 8, I’m not a fan of Hayley.
On the up side, she did help give us my favorite Castle quote of the night…
Hayley: You really love her don't you?
Castle: Like a house on fire.
Victoria Gates was promoted to Deputy Chief, a plot point which was dispensed with in the span of a sentence. Personally, I thought the character deserved a better send off, but at least this gives us the possibility of seeing Gates again in the future.
Other highlights included Ryan and Espo. Their Knife, Gun, Kevlar take on Rock, Paper, Scissors was awesome.
I completely felt for Ryan and his stress over having another child. It’s wonderful, but it's also a huge responsibility that I don’t think Esposito quite understands. These two are like brothers. They may bicker and argue, but they are an incredible team and continue to always have one another’s backs.
I also liked that no matter how bleak things appeared, Castle and Espo never doubted that Beckett could handle it. It was the flip side of Castle’s disappearance last year, where everyone quickly doubted Rick’s motives. No one was questioning that Beckett must have had a reason for seemingly going rogue.
The best scene was Castle visiting Bracken in prison. Jack Coleman is amazing in this role, and as much as I despise former-Senator Bracken, I can’t get enough of him onscreen. His reaction to seeing Castle on the other side of that glass was priceless, and I loved Castle and Bracken’s verbal sparring.
Castle: You're going to call off your dogs, right now.
Bracken: Or what? You going to write something mean about me?
Castle: I'm going to start a scholarship in your name and offer it to the children of the first inmate who shanks you in the prison laundry.
As much as Castle’s optimism is one of the things that has always drawn me to the character, I love it when we see hints of his dark side which comes out when he needs to protect someone he loves.
Bracken has a gift for making you doubt everything you think you know. Is he right? Is this Kate falling down the rabbit hole again, or is he simply playing off of Castle’s fears? I’m assuming we’ll see his interaction with Beckett next week, and I can’t wait.
When the second assassin pulled out the box of spiders, I scoffed. Big deal, spiders. A minute later I was squirming in my chair and visibly cringing. Respect the spiders.
Castle all but broke my heart when he asked Beckett, “Where have you been? Why haven’t you called?” and “Why are you shutting me out?” I can’t imagine what it is that’s happening that she can’t even give him a heads up. That she can’t give him even the smallest amount of information? That she can’t trust him.
The assassin opening fire at the precinct was one of the best action scenes of the series. LT got shot (he better be OK!). Castle protected his daughter, while Esposito and Ryan came up with a plan on the fly. Ryan was the distraction, while Espo took her down. Not only was it incredibly impressive, it made perfect sense given Esposito’s special forces background.
By the end, we found out that Rachel McCord and her team were dead, and I didn’t see that coming. There is a huge mystery to solve which is always fun and intriguing. This episode felt like a combination of Veritas and the Castle Season 7 premiere.
As much as there were moments I enjoyed in this season premiere, I can’t say I loved it, but I realize that we only have half the story here, which is why I’m not a fan of these two-part premieres. I like having a solid idea of what to expect from the new season with the opening installment, and this left me with lots of questions and few answers.
I enjoyed the P.I. arc from last season. It was a bit of a lark for Castle, Rick and Kate enjoyed some sexy fun with the role play and competition, and best of all, it only lasted three episodes because, for me, that was enough.
If Castle is going to play the role of P.I. all season, I’m concerned, because the magic of Castle happens when Castle, Beckett, Ryan and Esposito are working together to solve quirky crimes.
With any luck, our core foursome will be back together before long. I’m willing to give it a few episodes to get there. Fingers crossed it happens soon.
Check back in next week for my review of Castle Season 8 Episode 2 where we’ll see Beckett’s side of this story, and if you can’t wait until then, you can always watch Castle online right here at TV Fanatic.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.