Who is Richard Castle? What secrets could he be hiding? Those are the questions raised in the Monday, Sept. 29 “Castle” season 7 premiere, “Driven,” as Beckett tries to figure out what happened to her fiancé on their wedding day. However, not everything is as it seems, and things are very much uncertain by the end of it.
The “Castle” premiere either introduces a new chapter to something from their past or an entirely new mythology, and honestly, by the end of it, that’s still not clear. Overall, it’s a pretty good premiere and seems to do quite a good job setting up what’s sure to be a long arc this season, but it does seem to be something that can only properly be judged once we see the bigger picture. Also, as much as the possibility that Castle left Beckett the day of their wedding is raised, no one ever seems to mention the fact that that would mean he also checked out on his mother and daughter for two months. It’s only when it becomes obvious that Castle had to have been set up that some seem to step back from questioning Castle, even though not everything fits.
“Driven” picks up where the season 6 finale left off, and once the fire is put out, they realize Castle isn’t in the car and there are tracks showing two people (likely) dragged him away from the crash. They trace Castle’s phone to a junk yard, where they’re just in time to watch the SUV being crushed, and Beckett gets rough with the man doing it, both at the yard and then in interrogation. “After that, there’s nine more,” she informs him when he protests that she’s going to break his finger as she attempts to get answers.
Briefly, they consider the possibility that it’s someone from their past seeking revenge, and then they get their first real clue: Vincent Cardano was the one who had the SUV destroyed. Vinnie insists that he and Castle made their peace, and he didn’t know the SUV was involved in Castle’s abduction. A client called him about the SUV that morning and dropped off the money in a dumpster. Camera footage shows that Castle dropped off the money, and it turns out the cash is the money that Castle had taken out for their honeymoon.
Beckett puts herself in the tough position of talking to the family and asking about Castle’s recent behavior, if he was keeping something from her – and if he had any misgivings about the wedding. Martha assures her he didn’t, and when Alexis asks if she thinks he’d just walk away, Beckett admits she doesn’t, but she also doesn’t know what’s going on. Questions are raised about a secret side of Castle no one knew about, and time passes, until it’s two months later, Beckett is still trying to find him, and suddenly, he shows up, drifting in a dinghy. There are three bullet holes in the boat, but Castle wasn’t shot, at least not upon first look. Beckett has Lanie look at him for clues, and she discovers that a bullet grazed him across the ribs at least a few weeks ago. Plus, his blood work shows the antibodies for Dengue fever, meaning he was exposed to the virus in the past two months.
While Ryan is firmly on Castle’s side and thinks he used the boat to escape his kidnappers, Esposito plays devil’s advocate and reminds them that he faked his own kidnapping according to that camera footage of the cash drop. They track down the owner of the dinghy, only to find out he sold it to someone else, and they find that person, Henry Jenkins, after talking to the ship’s captain who found Castle and getting an estimate of how long he was in the dinghy and a best guess of where he had been. Henry says that he never heard of Castle, but he does identify him as a man who had been camping out on the beach, and when Beckett and Esposito check out the tent, Castle’s stuff is inside – including his wedding tuxedo.
That’s when Castle wakes up, and Beckett wants answers. However, after joking a bit, he reveals that he doesn’t remember what happened after the crash and thinks that’s why he’s in the hospital. The big question becomes whether he suffered some sort of trauma and is blocking it out or he’s lying. Castle insists on seeing where he had supposedly been camped out, and Beckett does bring him there, but she doesn’t just let it go. “I believed in you,” she tells him. “I convinced myself that the evidence didn’t matter, that everything that seemed so obvious couldn’t possibly be true.”
She just wants the truth, and according to him, it’s that he couldn’t possibly have camped there because of his irrational fear of tsunamis left over from research of catastrophic storms for the trashed, terrible “Tropical Storm” book. Then when she brings him to talk to Henry, and the Henry at the mobile home is not the Henry they spoke to earlier. The other one was a fake, and someone had hacked the DMV after Castle had been found and switched the photos. It was all a set up, but there still isn’t an explanation for Castle on video making the money drop and they still don’t know who’s responsible, other than it’s likely someone with unlimited resources.
All that’s left to do in “Driven” is officially welcome Castle at home, and after a toast with Alexis and Martha, Castle and Beckett take a moment in the bedroom where she admits that she did lose hope at times. She got it back by staring at his photo on the murder board and refusing to let anyone touch his chair. He knows they can’t just pick up where they left off, but he promises they’ll get there.
“Castle” season 7 airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC. What did you think of the premiere “Driven”?