Credit: Karen Neal/ABC Photo: Castle Looks to Detective Ryan for Answers in Season 4, Episode 1: "Rise"

One word: Whoa.
Actually, four words: So worth the wait.

Castle’s Season 4 premiere “Rise” is riveting! Dramatic! Bloody! All the things we love about Castle — and all before the opening credits! That being said, a significant portion of our recap is dedicated to those first, nail-biting minutes.

Beckett Survives, Josh Goes Haywire

Producers did not lie when they said this eppy would pick up moments after the Season 3 finale left off. It all begins with flashes of Beckett, bleeding on a stretcher, Lanie, the medical examiner, running alongside. Lanie tries to keep up with the doctors who are wheeling her friend away, but eventually accepts defeat and stops in the hospital hallway, teary-eyed.

Seconds later, she’s greeted by a visibly distraught Castle, who grabs Lanie’s shoulders as all they can do is watch the surgeons disappear with their friend into the O.R.

Needless to say, things in the operating room are intense! A gaggle of concerned docs hand Beckett over to the head surgeon, who just so happens to be someone we’d rather never see again: her boyfriend, Josh. Josh knows by Beckett’s shallow breathing that it’s surgery go-time, but nobody wants to let the distressed surgeon operate on his dying girlfriend. Still, there’s no time to waste and Josh busts out the scalpels anyway, though it’s not long until he’s forced to step aside.

Meanwhile, tensions in the waiting room are equally strained. Ryan and Esposito catch up with Castle and Lanie, bearing some very bad news: Beckett’s sniper got away without a trace. Luckily, they do have one clue — the modified sniper rifle he (or she) left behind. Then, three more guests show up: Martha, Alexis and shockingly, one very demanding Mr. Beckett.

Mr. Beckett isn’t the only pissed off guy at this powwow. After surrendering his scalpel, Josh barges in on the troupe in the hallway. “A sniper at a funeral?” he yells. Castle tries to respond, insisting he tried to keep Beckett safe, but Josh lunges at Castle, pushing him with a kind of passion we’ve never seen and telling Castle everything is his fault.

Is it horrible we kinda see where he’s coming from? Frankly, though, everybody’s on emotional overdrive right now (Alexis even angrily lunges at Josh to defend her dad!), and getting physical clearly isn’t going to help anything. It’s Mr. Beckett who interjects and yells at everyone to quit acting like children. But it’s too late; the guilt has already set in for Castle, who wearily admits two important things to his mother: Beckett’s shooting is his fault, and he finally told Beckett he loved her.

Back in surgery, Beckett’s vitals are all over the place. She goes into cardiac arrest and gets the paddles, only to flatline. After a commercial break, the doctors approach the miserable group in the waiting room to deliver an update. Good news: Beckett survived her surgery. Bad news: They still need to keep an eye on her.

Mr. Beckett stays, but the doctor tells everybody else to go home. Home? Yeah, right! Castle, Ryan and Esposito head to the precinct to do some more investigating on Beckett’s case. Sadly, the sniper’s rifle came back with unmatched fingerprints, but they did trace the gun to a dead U.S. Navy Seal. Castle’s still confused how the sniper got away in a “sea of cops,” but Ryan reveals the funeral groundskeepers were suspiciously M.I.A. right after the shot. This sniper clearly knew what he was doing and tapped other people to help execute his plan.

Credit: Karen Neal/ABC Photo: Josh Reports on Kate's Condition in Season 4, Episode 1, "Rise"

Monty’s Files

The big question at the end of last season was who Captain Montgomery mailed his secret files to. Cut to an older man opening a mailbox, pulling out a bundle of files, presumably from Monty. Once we get a glimpse of the man’s face, we’re shocked to learn it’s not Castle.

Mystery man takes the files back to his desk, which of course are all about Beckett’s mother’s murder. He reaches for his cell phone, but pulls out another from his desk instead and asks to be connected to the congressional offices. Then, we catch a glimpse of a photo we didn’t expect to see in the files: Rick Castle.

Meanwhile, Castle is working diligently at the precinct when he gets a call from someone else — Kate Beckett. Yes, she’s alive! And talking! Castle goes to meet her with an exorbitant bouquet of fresh flowers. Sadly, Beckett is not alone and Castle’s greeted not only by his recovering partner, but also her partner, surgeon Josh. Fabulous. But we can say one good thing about Josh: He can take a hint. He gets up almost immediately, leaving the detectives alone.

Beckett is still visibly recovering — she’s hardly got that glow we know and love — but we, like Castle, are just happy she’s breathing. On her own. But now that he knows she’s alive, there’s something else he also needs to know: what she remembers about the shooting (and more specifically, if she remembers his “I love you”). When he asks, our hearts sink: Kate tells Castle she doesn’t remember anything, and hurries him out saying she needs a little time and she’ll call him. Let the waiting game begin!

Credit: Karen Neal/ABC Photo: Kate Looks Stressed in Season 4, Episode 1: "Rise"

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Fast-forward three months from the shooting. Beckett — not surprisingly — returns to the 12th precinct to a round of applause. Did we also mention she’s back a week early? Her first order of business is, of course, the sniper case, which unfortch is looking pretty bleak. Ryan and Esposito are curious as to why Castle didn’t clue her in on the case, and Beckett mentions nonchalantly that they haven’t talked since the hospital. Not once. Guess when Beckett said “a little time,” she actually meant a lot.

Ryan and Esposito are pretty shocked the duo haven’t conversed, but they have even more gasp-worthy news for Beckett: The new captain kicked Castle out of the precinct. OMG.

There’s not much on the sniper front, but there are few things Beckett needs to know. Ryan, Esposito, and Castle started looking into who Montgomery and the others involved in her mother’s murder might have been doing business with by searching for their old bank records. Well, that was the initial plan, anyway, until they realized the bank they were looking for had been shut down. Speaking of, the boys also inform Beckett the new captain shut down Beckett’s case. Say what? Castle’s gone and the case is closed? We don’t like this new boss one bit!

And from Beckett’s first meeting with Victoria “Iron" Gates, it’s obvious Beckett doesn’t care for her either. Beckett greets Gates with a “ma’am” only to be corrected to call her “sir.” Iron Gates barely looks up from her files to greet Beckett, but upon realizing who she is, seems excited to meet the youngest women in the NYPD to make detective — the one who beat her by six weeks. Jealous, much? Gates welcomes her back, but tells her she’ll have to re-qualify for her gun. Clearly, there’s no regulation-bending ‘round here no more!

But Beckett isn’t intimidated, and she tells Gates she’s angry she shut down her case. Gates, seeing where this is going, tells Beckett “it will be a cold day in hell” when a cop in her precinct investigates their own case. Well, friends, we have a feeling hell is about to freeze over.

Next, Ryan and Esposito leave Beckett at the precinct to investigate the murder of a hot NYC socialite. As they try to piece the story of the murdered celebutante together — her musician boyfriend is the main suspect — it becomes very clear everybody misses Castle, if only for his comic relief. We’re pretty sure he woulda had some pretty good quips about this case.

Credit: Karen Neal/ABC Photo: Beckett Returns to Her Desk in Season 4, Episode 1: "Rise"

Castle and Beckett Open Up

He isn’t at the precinct, but Rick Castle is still doin’ his thing. While signing books for enamored fans, Castle looks up to find Beckett. Finally, she’s come around — but Castle isn’t quite so ready to forgive her for the three months of no contact. Castle, very sarcastically, asks if Josh was there to help Beckett through the rough stuff. Um, not so much. She tells him they broke up and starts to walk away.

Castle follows Beckett to a playground across the street, where he asks about the breakup. Beckett responds, “I really, really liked him. But that wasn’t enough.” What was that? Beckett opening up? Oh yes, and it continues! Beckett also confesses that she needs to get over her mother’s murder in order to have a real satisfying relationship. Castle’s response? Then that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Beckett Freezes Up

Before we know it, the heart-to-heart is over. Beckett and Castle start to talk about looking for the money trail, and Castle tells her it’s a no-go since all the old bank files were destroyed in a warehouse fire. Beckett — never one to take things at face value — suggests that maybe it wasn’t faulty wiring that burned the warehouse down, but rather a very deliberate act to get rid of the records. But before they can investigate, they’ve gotta get Castle back at the precinct, which apparently only requires a quick call to the mayor — and one very pissed off and embarrassed new boss.

Soon, Castle and Beckett discover the warehouse burnt down only three weeks after Johanna Beckett’s murder. Coincidence? Doubtful. Before Beckett can make a move on her own case, there’s a lead on the dead socialite’s case — and Victoria “Iron" Gates makes it very clear Beckett will be on board.

The crew find the socialite’s boyfriend at band practice in some rundown east side garage. It’s Beckett’s first time back out in the field post-shooting and all seems to be going well, that is until the singer draws a gun on her. And then it happens: Beckett freezes. Stops dead cold. Luckily, Ryan and Esposito tackle the shaggy-haired musician to the ground and make their arrest.

Later, Castle brings up Beckett’s gun-shy moment, but she insists it won’t happen again and jets off to talk to the fire marshal who dealt with the warehouse fire. Ryan and Esposito are left to interrogate the musician boyfriend, who is adamant he didn’t kill his girlfriend, even though his prints are all over the murder weapon. Case closed? Victoria “Iron" Gates thinks so, and quickly realizes Beckett and Castle aren’t around to celebrate. Ryan and Esposito try to cover for their pals, but we’re pretty sure Gates knows what they're up to.

Credit: Karen Neal/ABC Photo: Ryan and Esposito Are Up to Something in Season 4, Episode 1: "Rise"

A Breakthrough?

Meanwhile, Beckett and Castle are questioning fire marshal Holstead, who insists the files are legit. Still, Beckett feels something fishy about this guy and accuses him of falsifying the report. He keeps denying, which clearly pushes her buttons, until eventually she flies off the handle. Castle’s not entirely convinced Holstead is guilty, but Beckett explains if this fire were an accident, she'd have nothing left to go on — and no chance to solve the murder.

And just when we’ve all but given up hope, Castle gets a phone call from someone — the man with the files — claiming to be a friend of Montgomery’s. He tells him Beckett will be safe as long as she stays away from the case. Castle knows Beckett better than to tell her about the phone call, which will just send her reeling and right back into the line of fire, so instead he cautions her to slow down. Beckett doesn’t agree, but she’s clearly become obsessed and she knows it.

And it’s not just Beckett’s safety people are worried about. Castle’s daughter Alexis finally admits she’s upset he’s putting himself in a dangerous place for Beckett. But when Castle tells Alexis that Beckett makes him really happy, she can’t help but support him.

A Case Revisited

Then, it’s back to the socialite case. Ryan and Esposito realize the boyfriend isn’t the killer. In fact, both the socialite and her boy were slipped drugs by the real killer — the boyfriend's band-mate and the socialite's jealous side-lover — who was hiding right inside her apartment the whole time. The crew go to find their new suspect, who ends up pointing a gun at Beckett. Once again she is face-to-face with her fear — we guess that’ll happen in this line of work — but this time raises her gun and arrests the guy, no prob. Maybe she is getting better after all?

Or maybe not. In the final scene, we learn Beckett is still seeing a psychiatrist. She tells him she doesn’t know how to start recovering from everything, and he says to start with what she remembers of the shooting. That’s when Beckett makes her big reveal: She remembers everything. Yup. Everything. We know what that means!