Both Once Upon a Time and Castle left off with stunning cliffhangers last year. Unsurprisingly, their season premieres picked up right where the last scene left off and kept the story going, moving seamlessly into new chapters.
All right, needless to say, SPOILER ALERT below.
Season 4, Episode 1 (A Tale of Two Sisters)
Elsa has arrived from Arendelle via a magical urn that was held captive by Rumplestiltskin. Regina has been deprived of her “happy ending” with Robin Hood by the reappearance of Marian. Both are parallel characters who want to shut out the world.
The characters from the Frozen universe have been written into the existing story as though they have always belonged there. Seeing Elsa, Anna, and their parents open the episode did not make me blink in the slightest. Kristoff and Sven were just as I had imagined them to be. That said, had I not seen Frozen, I might not have appreciated the characters quite the same way. The writers made sure to give subtle explanations as to who the characters were: the King and Queen of Arendelle very obviously wrote a note to “them”, revealed in the next scene to be Elsa and Anna whose parents were lost in a storm at sea. The two were obviously sisters, Anna was getting married, and Elsa was the Queen. Their next few scenes revealed that Anna’s groom was named Kristoff, he had a particularly odd friend named Sven (revealed to be a reindeer, but you would have to have seen the film to know that ahead of time), there was a menacing Prince Hans and his brothers who threatened the kingdom, and for some reason Anna had trolls for future in-laws. I admit, one could think that somehow Kristoff was a troll who had found himself on the fortunate end of a spell. That part wasn’t explained very well. Otherwise, the Arendelle storyline fit perfectly into the narrative. We are eventually going to learn how Elsa ended up in an urn in Rumpelstiltskin’s cupboard.
Elsa is still looking for her sister, who ran off on a quest to the Enchanted Forest in the past. In the modern world, however, Elsa is entirely out of her element. Terrified, she turns things to ice at every turn. To throw Emma and Hook off of her trail, she creates a snowmonster to be her protector – which works very well until the monster gets in Regina’s way. Fire is always a very handy weapon!
Meanwhile, speaking of being frozen from the world, we return to the world of our favourite Storybrooke characters immediately after the return of Marian. Understandably, Regina leaves the diner in humiliation. While Robin Hood is completely over Marian (or as much as one can be over the loss of a spouse) and in love with Regina, he feels duty-bound to honour his marriage vows.
It can be hard to remember when watching a show that is drawn out over weeks and months that often, very little time passes during an episode. In the real world, Regina would likely spend days wallowing at home with whisky and ice cream. Instead, she remembers that she does not take humiliation lightly and looks for ways to fix her problem.
However, she realises that she has no idea how to rid herself of Marian that does not involve being a monster. All of her strategies are those of a villain, and she does not want to be a villain anymore. In her heart, which isn’t frozen, she cares too much for Robin, Roland, Marian, and Henry to consider outright killing her rival. Going back in time isn’t really an option for her after all. In the end, she would rather save her loved ones from the snowmonster than let it crush Marian. Rather, she wants to go after the author of the book itself.
“Going after the writer of the book” is exactly what this show has been doing for the past three years. It has explored heroes and villains, tearing down archetypes and making them realistic and human. It has examined good and evil and how they are made; how a character can slide from one to the other and back again.
Regina is the type of character who would have a hard road to travel even in a non-fantasy setting: abusive childhood, forced marriage, adolescent trauma, bloodlust revenge, addiction (to magic in this case), and loss of loved ones. She has gone from seeing herself as the victim to seeing herself as the monster who needs to redeem herself constantly, but always the villain.
Understandably, she wants out of the cycle. Unfortunately, for that, she will need to reach out to others, not push them away.
Season 7, Episode 1 (Driven)
As this year did not see the name of the show change to Beckett, I don’t think anyone was surprised to discover that Castle was not in the burning car wreck, nor was he inside it when it was crushed at the junkyard. That was a given. He had been kidnapped, that much was certain last year.
To cover the time between the aborted wedding in the spring and the start of this season in the late summer/early fall, Castle simply went missing for over two months. The investigation into his disappearance begins immediately, but upon discovering, through security camera footage, that Castle was indeed alive and apparently well, the urgency was called off. To all those but his nearest and dearest, it was decided that he had simply run off.
I took issue with this portrayal. Seeing Castle in the footage made Beckett (as well as Ryan and Esposito) furious! Now, I can believe that being a homicide cop can make one jaded about human nature, but I cannot believe that the first theory that you would have would be “he’s in on it, how dare he do that to us!” No, I think anyone would have the reaction of “Oh my God, he’s alive!” Cue the joyful and relieved exuberance. Yes, as time went on, Beckett would get angrier, but not to start.
Surely, after all of the cases that they have worked together, she and her two closest colleagues would come up with many plausible (if remote) theories as to what had happened. Perhaps Castle was drugged? Working under duress? Both? Carted away to a remote holding cell after appearing in the footage? Yes, he appeared as cool as a cucumber, but that could have been because he had been assured that he would be returned to the Hamptons promptly. Frankly, I am disappointed in the writers for not giving these characters enough credit. We viewers have some understanding of human nature – and most of us are not jaded cops, either.
Nonetheless, Castle is found, but he cannot remember anything after the crash. Beckett (along with Martha and Alexis) believes him, but she cannot wholly trust him anymore. She needs her evidence, and so far, it is still lacking. She cannot bury her doubt that Castle is simply pretending and decided to run away to go camping.
The lack of Castle for the majority of this episode is just as noticeable to the viewers as it is for Beckett. We miss his banter, his theories, his easygoing nature, and his charming calm. Without him, the show is dark and Beckett alternates between being an empty shell and an explosive volcano. Ryan and Esposito are shorter with each other as well. This is not the show that viewers have come to love for six years. We want Castle to come back as much as Beckett does by the time the first commercial break hits.
Castle’s return ushers in a new dynamic, since Castle is still his usual self. We are relieved that he is back, but we want answers to what happened to him as much as Beckett does.
Only then can we have our show back!