From the very first episode rife with flirtation and mystery, Castle has entertained and kept audiences on their toes around a slew of conspiracies. We may have initially tuned in because we love Nathan Fillion, and his costar Stana Katic charmed in the press and on screen, but things just got better with murder, mythology and Fillion’s sprinkling of nerdiness into his character. With season seven premiering this week, here’s a little refresher on the big mystery that has occupied them since the very beginning.
This is filled with spoilers.
In case you’ve forgotten, from the moment Detective Beckett and Richard Castle meet, tensions run high. Castle proves he can profile with the best of them and that his new obsession has a dark history: “Yeah, you had lots of options, better options, more socially acceptable options, and you still chose this. That tells me something happened. Not to you. No, you’re wounded, but you’re not that wounded. No, it was somebody you cared about. It was someone you loved. And you probably could have lived with that, but the person responsible was never caught. And that, Detective Beckett, is why you’re here.”
Viewers may not have found out the tragic backstory of the comically prickly Detective Beckett until much further into season one, but from that very first episode, it was clear that Richard Castle had stepped into the lives of characters much more complex than those that he wrote in his books. Eventually, it was revealed that her mother was killed and the case never solved – to put it simply. Of course, it comes out later that the story goes much deeper and includes mobsters, drug dealers, dirty cops and dirty politicians all mixed together.
via Castle Wikia
Unwittingly – and genuinely only wanting to help – Castle is the catalyst pulls her back into the case that is her Achilles Heel when he starts looking into the details and bringing his resources onto the chessboard. It all starts when he gets his hands on the file and invites a consulting physician, aptly dubbed Doctor Death, to look at the photos of her mother’s wounds. Doctor Death is the one who ultimately discovers that the stab wounds indicate Johanna Beckett was killed by a professional, not by random gang violence. She had been putting together an appeal for a jailed mobster who had been convicted of killing an embedded federal agent. The story he told was that he had been on the scene when the federal agent was killed, but that he wasn’t the one who pulled the trigger. At the time of the murder, mobsters were being kidnapped and held for ransom by a couple of vigilantes in New York City. We later learn that those were not actually vigilantes but dirty cops out to make a little extra cash.
Over the course of the first three seasons we meet, in order: the assassin who killed Johanna Beckett (“Sucker Punch,” season season two), two of the three dirty cops from the vigilante squad, Joe Pulgatti, the mobster serving a sentence he didn’t deserve (at least not for that murder), and a drug dealer named Vulcan Simmons who ran the drug trade in Washington Heights (“Knock Down,” season three). At the end of the season, we learn that the third cop has been hiding in plain sight the whole time – Kate Beckett’s mentor in Homicide, Captain Roy Montgomery (“Knock Out,” season three). As all of these puzzle pieces are revealed and slotted together, more are dangled in front of the increasingly desperate Detective Beckett. For instance, as the season closes we learn that Montgomery has a file of evidence that contains everything from the conspiracy that was covered up.
Season three ends with multiple bangs as Montgomery sacrifices himself to save Beckett’s life from a new assassin named Lockhart, who has ingratiated himself into the precinct by stalking Beckett, kidnapping and torturing Ryan and Esposito, and ultimately kills Montgomery. While Montgomery’s death is awful, the big shocker of the season finale continues as we learn that the mythical figure behind the whole conspiracy – a man they call “The Dragon” – not only sent Lockhart to tie up lose ends but another killer who has Beckett in his sites. During Montgomery’s funeral, she is shot in the chest mid-eulogy.
Now, some important side notes at this commercial break: a big theme of the show that we haven’t mentioned yet is that Rick Castle is, OF COURSE, falling head over heels in love with Kate Beckett. Viewers of TV can observe this set up happening from the very first episode and follow the witty banter and pigtail pulling from the moment they sit in that interrogation room together. If you’re into the romantic comedy aspect of the show, it’s very fun. If you’d really rather just get on with the mystery, we commend you. The love story becomes more and more important over the course of the show, and many of the milestones, including their first kiss (it’s a diversion to get them inside to save Ryan and Esposito from Lockhart), take place during these mythology episodes. It’s important at this particular point in the recap because Beckett being shot is the moment that makes Castle say “I love you” as she’s bleeding out on the grass.
Then the screen cuts to black, and we’re into the summer, and Castle fans everywhere did moan and tear their hair in frustration. Can you blame them?
Season four returns with “Rise” and we’re back exactly where we left off. Kate is saved on the operating table, and when she comes to she claims she remembers nothing after the shot was fired. Castle is distraught but agrees to give her space thinking that she will call in a few days. Did we mention she has a boyfriend at this point? A boyfriend who is not Rick Castle? She does. Three months later, she returns to work, and we learn that she hasn’t spoken to Castle since he came to see her in the hospital. She has some explaining to do that include admitting the boyfriend is gone, saying she still doesn’t remember anything (which we later learn is a lie), and that she’s worried she’ll never be able to have the kind of relationship that she wants to have without catching the guy who killed her mom. The precinct has replaced Captain Montgomery with Captain Victoria Gates who made a name for herself in Internal Affairs, and Castle has been kicked to the curb in Beckett’s absence.
Beckett’s first order of business is to continue working on her mom’s case and her own shooting, despite being told by Captain Gates that the case is closed due to lack of evidence. She seems to be hitting more dead ends until Castle gets a phone call from a mystery man who reminds us so much of X-Files Deep Throat that their meetings in parking garages don’t even surprise us. He’s an old friend of Montgomery’s and all he will tell Castle is that he has struck a deal with the person behind this entire conspiracy. It was a deal Montgomery also had: so long as Kate Beckett does not pursue the case, she will live. If she digs into it, she will die. The mystery man tells Castle to get her under control or he cannot protect her. The only other clue is that the man picks up the phone and calls a congressional office, implying that the person behind the mystery is very highly placed indeed.
While Castle succeeds in convincing Beckett to back off the case for now, it comes back to haunt them as more seemingly disconnected pieces begin to show up involving the man who shot Beckett. Season four concludes with “Always,” as Beckett is set back on the trail of the elusive shooter who we now know is named Cole Maddox, an ex-military turned killer for hire. As Beckett runs full speed right back into the case, Castle comes clean about his communications from the mysterious friend of Montgomery’s, the existence of the case file, and the deal that’s been struck to keep Beckett alive. She is, understandably, pissed. It is not only a moment of truth about the case she’s devoted her life to solving, but a moment of truth for the two of them as well, as Castle pleads with her to not pursue the case that will get her killed because he loves her. She throws him out, and hauls off to the precinct to pursue Maddox regardless of risk.
Maddox has surfaced again as he has been set the task of cleaning house on the loose ends. He’s had files and a laptop stolen from Captain Montgomery’s home, and is searching them for the identity of the mystery friend who has the incriminating files. Beckett and Esposito arrive at his apartment, see the files, and are discovered by Maddox, who knocks Esposito out and lures Beckett to the roof where they tussle and he throws her over the edge, leaving her hanging from her fingertips and yelling for Castle to save her.
Castle is not the one who comes to her rescue. Ryan is the one who pulls her to safety just as she’s losing her grip. He’s told Captain Gates parts of the situation – not all of it – and brought the full force of the precinct with him. Beckett and Esposito are put on administrative leave and told to surrender their weapons and badges. Hanging from a rooftop does things to a girl, and Beckett resigns, walking out of the precinct, still reeling from her own gut reaction on the rooftop. The season ends, because lets face it, this is still a dramedy at heart, with Beckett showing up at Castle’s door – soaking wet from the rain, which we thought was a nice touch – and telling him that he’s all she wants. Not the case, not her mother’s killer – just him. Everything fades to black with them making out against his door.
If season three ended with fans screaming over Beckett’s shooting, season four ended with even louder yells of triumph, glee, and anger that more wasn’t shown. Meanwhile, Maddox has located the elusive friend who he calls “Mr. Smith” and tells him that Mr. Smith will give him the files and then Maddox will put Kate Beckett in the ground once and for all.
“After the Storm” starts the morning after (who doesn’t want to see ridiculously attractive people half naked basking in postcoital glory?) but quickly redirects to Ryan’s concerns over the papers they recovered from Maddox’s apartment. Kate and Rick hunt Mr. Smith’s identity down and arrive at his posh apartment just in time to call an ambulance for the tortured unconscious lawyer whose name is actually Michael Smith. A copy of the file of evidence burns in the fire place at his feet. Figuring out that there was another hard copy of the file that exists, they hunt down an empty building in Manhattan that is undergoing renovations but has a floor safe that presumably holds the file.
Maddox interrupts their search, ties them up and puts them in a closet, planning to destroy the file then come back for them. Esposito finds them while Maddox is breaking into the safe, but they really only arrive in time to see the safe door open and everything explodes because of a booby trap. Maddox is dead. The file is in tatters. Captain Gates arrives and is furious.
As the only badge and gun-carrying detective among them, Ryan bags all the bits of burned paper and gets them to Beckett. They start a seemingly endless puzzle to try to identify the evidence that has been destroyed. The only thing they are able to piece together in this episode is a money order connected to Senator William Bracken. With his identity revealed, all the pieces start to fall into place. At the time of the mobster kidnappings, Bracken was the District Attorney in Manhattan. He blackmailed the cops to make some extra money to finance his next election. This snowballed into a corrupt career completely built on an empire of dirty money from the drug trade and the silencing of many people including Detective Beckett’s mother. Beckett knows that Bracken is virtually untouchable, but confronts him anyways, telling him that the deal he had with Montgomery is now the deal he has with her. If he touches her or anyone she cares about, the file will go public.
Stay with us, there are only a few more steps left to the conspiracy now!
As Beckett presumably continues to work at piecing the evidence from the folder together, life in the precinct continues and she rejoins the police force. Bracken returns in “Recoil” as the potential victim of an assassination attempt on the eve of an important environmental speech that will be the cornerstone of his bid to run for President of the United States. As Beckett’s precinct uncovers the plot, she is tasked with protecting him. By throwing him out of the way, she saves his life and puts him in her debt as the assassination planned out by a fellow kingmaker is nearly completed.
In case you were keeping score, Kate Beckett now has one point in her favor.
Bracken evens the scales again when Beckett is called in to impersonate a Narcotics informant. The higher ups claim Elena Markov is a drug mule for a large scale supplier named Lazarus in New York and have Beckett step in to meet the client when their mule tries to take her own life. The big reveals the season six episode “In the Belly of the Beast” supply are that Vulcan Simmons from way back in season 3 still has a thriving drug trade, that trade is directly funding Senator Bracken’s presidential war chest, and they have an elaborate facility outside the city where Beckett is taken. Also, Elena Markov is a vicious contract killer on Bracken’s payroll – not a drug mule. In the end, Markov saves Beckett’s life and says “Lazarus” owed her indicating that Lazarus’s identity is actually Bracken.
Last season was nearly wrapped up when Beckett’s vengeance finally carried out as she is framed for Vulcan Simmon’s murder, learns that Michael Smith is still alive and searching for an audio recording of Bracken admitting to murder, has another confrontation with Bracken and his henchmen who nearly succeed in killing her, and ultimately finds the audio recording herself. Captain Montgomery had it and gave it to her mother the day before she was killed. The most damning piece of evidence against Senator Bracken was right on Kate Beckett’s desk the entire series and no one knew. In the second to last episode, “Veritas” she arrests Senator Bracken during an interview, charging him with fraud, conspiracy and the murder of Johanna Beckett.
Now, if you made it all the way through that recap of the central mystery of Castle, allow us to remind you of something important: “Veritas” was not the season finale. Of course it wasn’t. Season finales are never neat resolutions with bows on them. Here are some details we left out: At the beginning of season six, Beckett and Castle get engaged. They’ve been dating since the day they hooked up at the end of season four. Castle is the only child of a larger than life Broadway dame who had a one night stand many moons ago and got pregnant with him. Over the course of the show, his paternity has been a mystery but we have now met his father – an older CIA operative with a reputation similar to the Winter Soldier.
Season six ended with Castle and Beckett’s wedding day upended as Castle’s car is discovered only 20 minutes before the ceremony, on fire and in a ditch. He is no where to be seen. Now you’re ready to start season seven wondering if Nathan Fillion lived or died. We are obviously hoping Captain Tightpants will rise from the dead.
Season seven of Castle premieres tonight, September 29 at 10pm on ABC.