Episode 16: Hunt
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
It's about time that Castle delivered a good episode. For the last five weeks, the show has delivered mediocre work that has really tested my patience. Hunt doesn't completely restore my trust in the writers but it at least proves that the show isn't out of fumes. Target's primary problem was that the stakes weren't properly established because Alex was revealed to be in no real danger. She might have been kidnapped with the other girl but the kidnappers had no real intention of hurting her. This hurt the sense of urgency that was necessary for it work. This flaw carried on over to Hunt but there was some course-correction. The first is that it didn't show Alexis' side of the story until near the end. She's in a cage being held by her captor. This allowed the show to create an air of mystery of what was happening to her that Target had largely failed at because we knew what was happening with Alexis. I'm not talking about the mystery of whose behind the kidnappings or why but simply what is happening with Alexis. The second way it course-corrects is that it has the other girl be freed after a successful ransom. Alexis isn't freed with here and the idea that she's useless and going to be killed as a consequence is brought up. I'm not going to buy that this show is going to kill Alexis but at least the idea that her life is in danger can actually exist. The third way it course-corrects is because the villain actually threatens to kill Alexis. Her life is actually put in danger by the bad guys. In other words-the show was at least going to act that Alexis was in actual danger of dying if she wasn't rescue. This added to the tension and made the episode more fun.
The part of Castle that really helped it break out of it's funk was it's change of scenery. It basically allows Castle to do a “Taken” episode. While not as lighthearted as I would like it to be, it managed to work pretty well. When the ransom is delivered, Alexis remains a captive. She wasn't released. The FBI don't really have any leads which causes Castle to take matters into his own hands. He decides that he's going to travel to Paris to get his daughter back. He goes by himself. The police in New York City remain pretty useless. They do figure out that Alexis was the intended target (duh) but they don't really do a lot more. This is fine because Castle is the protagonist of this show and it's his daughter that has been kidnapped. It's his mission to do anything to get her back that should drive the narrative, not the investigation back home. That's exactly what happens. Castle goes to Paris. His first action is contact someone he knew from the French government. He's able to use this contact to hire a spy to help him find Alexis. This spy is pretty good and they also get the help from a dead technology guy to figure out where Alexis was being kept. They get there too late but they're able to get a meeting with the kidnappers since they have the place bugged. Only they don't want Castle to come to the negotiation meeting. The spy goes by himself and he arranges a ransom delivery. Only this delivery is a drop as the spy turns on Castle. It's basically great stuff that works pretty well. It's tense, the direction is simply fabulous, and it's pretty entertaining.
After the spy turns on Castle, he's about to be executed when a stranger intervenes. This is a stranger that the police have got a sketch of because he left the farmhouse where that guy was found dead. This stranger turns out to be a good guy who had tortured the guy to try and find out where Alexis is. He had also gone to the guy's home to look for evidence. Now here's where marketing comes into play. The job of the marketing department is to get people to watch the next episode. They do this by advertising guest stars, plot points, and even misleading the audience about events. The CW is really good with the last one. The problem is that sometimes the marketing department can decide that the best way to increase hype is to spoil a major twist. The promos for this episode revealed that Castle meets his father and that he's likely a spy. Now it's already been hinted that Castle's dad is a spy in a previous episode so it made it pretty obvious who he was talking about. Even if you didn't remember that hint, you still knew Castle was going to meet his dad since there was a voice over stating “I am your father.” I imagine the twist where this good guy whose been looking for Alexis was intended as a big one but marketing ruined it. To the show's credit, it didn't take that long for it to be revealed but it was made predictable by the promotion. I can guarantee you that if the promos hadn't ruined it then it would have caught me off-guard.
Castle and his dad don't have a long time to reconcile as they have to rescue Alexis. There's a phone call where the villain makes his threat but the battle is basically set. It manages to basically go off without a hitch. Castle and Alexis are able to get out of there and head straight to the United States embassy where they'll be safe. His dad is able to get out there alive and gives Castle a sign that he's still alive by sending a copy of Casino Royale. Casino Royale not only being the book that inspired Castle to write but it was given to him by a stranger. A stranger he now realizes is his dad. It's a nice visual way to use the only real representation of their father-son bond to reveal he survived. Castle and Alexis go back home and they're all happy. Hunt had the happy ending that you could have predicted but it did accomplish something important. It introduced us to Castle's dad and set it up so that he could return one day. The only problem I have with the end is that we don't get to see Martha's reaction to Castle meeting his dad nor do we really get to process Alexis finding out about her grandfather. The ending also seems to suggest that they're going to get over this kidnapping ordeal rather easily while that wouldn't necessarily be true.
Hunt is a pretty good episode of Castle. It suffers some problems: marketing ruined the big twist, the episode had to set up the life-and-death stakes for Alexis, and we didn't get to see all of the characters react to the news about Castle's dad. It's such a big revelation that it's a bit mystifying why the writers couldn't fit in a scene or two where Martha and Alexis find out the truth. Considering how marginalized the police are this episode, a couple of scenes with them could have easily been cut. It certainly would have allowed for a tighter episode. On the other hand it was entertaining and a huge improvement over the last few episodes.