Wow. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. Season three of Castle ended with a riveting, heart-wrenching finale, quite a few cliffhangers, and the necessity of an excruciating three-month wait until season four. But the time has come, and “Rise,” the first episode of a new season, is, to quote Oscar Wilde, “the perfect pleasure: it is exquisite, and it leaves one unsatisfied.”
The episode begins just where “Knockout” left off, with Kate being rushed off to the hospital as the sniper who shot her disappears. Not that there was any way the show would’ve killed off the main character, but feel free to sigh in relief anyway: Beckett survives. That’s not to say she recovers; that’s not going to happen until she brings closure to her mother’s case and sorts things out with Castle, and it looks like it’ll take the entire season to do that. “Rise” is just the beginning, the perfect appetizer that leaves one hungry for more.
It’s in this episode that we get to see the characters at their most vulnerable. They’ve changed from the people they used to be, and they reveal their depth, their pain, and their fears as they never have before. The first few seasons were funny and lighthearted; here the story becomes darker, deeper, as the ties between characters become stronger, and yet more vulnerable. Kate and Castle love each other, yet keep secrets from each other; they care for each other, yet distance themselves to protect themselves. This season seems to be the one that will truly test their limits and reveal who they are as people.
That, of course, gives the actors the opportunity for some stunning performances. We all know Nathan Fillion’s a brilliant actor, and it’s in this season of Castle that he truly gets to show it. There’s much more of the “Knockout” Castle in this episode, more of the serious man than the lighthearted boy. He can’t charm and joke his way out of everything anymore. He feels and he hurts and he cares more than ever, and thanks to Fillion’s wrenching performance, it’s impossible not to feel his anger when Kate doesn’t call or his pain as he watches her suffer. The emotion is so inescapable that it makes you angry at the world.
Kate Beckett is also changed. Her strength and independence are not gone, but her capacity to hide her pain behind a mask is. She’s stubborn as ever, but also a complete mess: she’s tired and hurt, she breaks down, loses her temper, and truly shows her fragility. Stana Katic pulls off portraying Beckett’s vulnerability, both physical and emotional, so spectacularly that watching her is a little sickening; it’s almost like watching a wound bleed because no one, not even Castle, can make it stop.
Of course, no episode is perfect, and there are a few things that could be better about this one. There’s little of the usual humor, and the murder mystery in this episode is so bland that it might as well not be there. Nevertheless, the important things are there and the necessary questions are dealt with; this episode leaves great things to hope for from the rest of the season.