Grading the Season Finales: Castle

Title Always (Episode 4.23)

Written By Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller

Major Characters Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), Detective Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever), Detective Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas), Alexis Castle (Molly Quinn), Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald)

What Happens? When a murder investigation leads the detectives to the man who shot Beckett in last season’s finale, she is tempted to once again go down the proverbial rabbit hole and lose herself in the conspiracy surrounding the fatal stabbing of her mother. In order to keep her from risking her life, Castle is forced to reveal to Beckett that he has been withholding leads from her as part of a deal for her life that he made with a mysterious Mr. Smith: If Beckett doesn’t investigate her mother’s death, she stays alive. After his pleas for rational thought and honest confessions of love appear to fall on deaf ears, Castle decides to walk away from Beckett once and for all.

Beckett and Esposito go rogue to try to take down the killer on their own, which ends with Beckett hanging off of a rooftop ledge and Ryan coming to her rescue – after he alerted Captain Gates to what she and Esposito were doing. Though Ryan saved their lives, Beckett and Esposito are suspended, but Beckett takes it one step further. She resigns, turning in her badge as she realizes that she has more to live for than simply avenging her mother’s death; that she wants more than the life she had been living up until that moment. This revelation sends her to Castle’s loft, where she tells him that she is ready to move on from her all-consuming quest for justice and become a whole person – with him. As the two of them kiss and prepare embark on the next chapter in their story, we learn that Beckett’s life is in grave danger as her shooter has found Mr. Smith, taking away Beckett’s greatest source of protection and vowing to kill her once and for all.

The Game-Changing Moment Standing in Castle’s loft, drenched from the thunderstorm raging outside, Beckett reveals to Castle that her shooter (and best lead in her mother’s case) got away and she didn’t care. In that moment, four seasons of character growth for Kate Beckett come to fruition. She’s no longer a woman defined by a trauma from her past; she is a woman choosing to be defined by her life rather than her mother’s death. It took four seasons to get to this point, but Beckett is finally ready to love and to let herself be loved by Castle without needing her mother’s murder to be solved first. When Castle asks her what she wants, she simply replies, “You,” and with that, a new chapter in their story (and the show’s story) begins.

Finale MVP While last season’s Finale MVP was clearly Stana Katic, this episode belonged to Nathan Fillion. Castle lives and dies for most of its audience by the charm and believability of its title character, and Fillion sold me on every one of Castle’s emotions in this episode. He’s an incredible dramatic actor because he never looks like he’s acting; he makes every emotion feel real. Case in point: The moment Castle finally lays all of his cards on the table in terms of how much he loves Beckett:

What makes this moment work is the fact that he is actively trying not to cry. It makes this feel so much more painful and intimate. In an episode filled with emotional payoffs, this scene touched me more than any of the others because it felt so raw and honest, and that was all because of Fillion’s performance.

Most Memorable Line Richard Castle: “Four years, I’ve been right here! Four years, just waiting for you to just open your eyes to see that I’m right here… and that I’m more than a partner. Every morning I — I bring you a cup of coffee just so I can see a smile on your face, because I think you are the most remarkable, maddening, challenging, frustrating person I’ve ever met. And I love you, Kate.”

What Didn’t Work The actual cliffhanger itself didn’t feel as exciting as last season’s; it actually felt unnecessary beyond the point of just needing a life-or-death cliffhanger because it’s a finale. Last season presented an immediate threat to Beckett’s life, so to repeat that again in a more removed fashion didn’t strike the right emotional chord with me. I would have rather they put that scene right after her rooftop fight and left the actual ending to Castle and Beckett, with the two of them going hand-in-hand to his bedroom (because, let’s face it, that’s where most of the viewers’ minds still were anyway).

What Worked Andrew Marlowe did a great job of creating a finale that completely changed the nature of his show. He crafted an episode that was less about the big twists and thrills and more about emotional payoff, and it worked on so many levels. The best example of this is the penultimate sequence of the episode, where Alexis’s valedictorian address is delivered over a montage of the changes that are about to take place in the lives of all of the characters we have come to love: Esposito and Ryan’s relationship falling apart, Castle trying to show his pride for Alexis while crumbling inside at the thought of Beckett chasing a lead that will surely kill her, and Beckett packing up to start a new life.

With the simple beauty of Andrew Belle’s “In My Veins’ in the background, we see Beckett come to the swing set where she told Castle in the season premiere that she would never be able to love someone until she solved her mother’s murder. It’s clear how far she has come from that moment, and it so beautifully leads into what comes next: the culmination of four seasons of waiting for Castle and Beckett to get together. The best moments in that scene are the emotional ones: Castle kissing Beckett’s scar from her shooting before she moves his hand over it, Beckett’s smile when the kissing finally slows down, the awestruck – almost disbelieving – way Castle looks at her, and the way they softly hold hands as she leads him with a shy smile to his room. After a four-year journey with these characters, this scene felt earned and right, which is all fans could have asked for from this pairing.

The Burning Questions to Keep Us Guessing All Summer Do fans get to see the morning after for our crime-fighting heroes/lovers, or will there be a dreaded time jump? And what’s going to happen with our favorite procedural bromance, Ryan and Esposito?

Finale Grade A. It did exactly what it needed to do: Bring Castle and Beckett to a place that is emotionally satisfying for the audience while feeling organic to the characters, and it completely shook up the foundation of the show in the process. Is it time for Season 5 yet?

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12 thoughts on “Grading the Season Finales: Castle

  1. I really loved this episode and I’m excited to see what is ahead for Castle and Beckett and the rest of the precinct family.

    I could not agree any more with everything you said about the perfection that was Castle and Beckett finally getting together. Everything felt so real and natural for them. I love that Beckett was mad when she found out that Castle had been keeping her from the case. I love that Castle finds her remarkable and frustrating at the same time, because that perfectly fits their relationship. I love that Castle brought her coffee just to see her smile. I love the beautifully intimate scar kiss and all the emotion in that scene.

    In addition to the satisfying Castle and Beckett episode, this was a fantastic episode for Esposito and Ryan. We got to see their opposing approaches to life and their relationships with others. Them calling each other by their first names nearly broke me, since we hear it so rarely. Esposito is so much like Beckett in the way he handles problems, he just wants to run at them headfirst, regardless of the consequences. He needs to be doing something active because that’s how he heals and he understood that Beckett needed it to heal (or at least she thought she did). Ryan echoed Castle’s feelings that they were in over the heads and they needed to take a step back. He wants to protect everyone he loves and it hurts him when he can’t. Ryan absolutely did the right thing, if he hadn’t Beckett would be dead, but I can understand how they saw it as a betrayal. Now he’s all alone at the precinct, and I really hope they fix that early on in season 5, because I need the whole family together again!

    • I really love season finales that change the entire makeup of the show in a way that feels believable and realistic for the characters, and this one did exactly that. I think I’m even more eager for Season 5 to get here than I was for Season 4, which is saying something! Andrew Marlowe has given a lot of interviews in the last couple of days (which I highly recommend reading because he’s really insightful in his comments) where he states that Season 5 will be a return to a more “fun” atmosphere with more banter and playfulness between Castle and Beckett. I loved that aspect of their relationship in Seasons 1 and 2 especially, and I’m eager to see exactly what it’s going to look like now that they’re together.

      Your thoughts on Ryan and Esposito are my thoughts. I love how this whole season really set up the fact that these two men see life very differently. I was always amused by the way they would chose sides in various Castle/Beckett debates (like the ghosts and the zombies), but it’s clear now that the writers were using those small moments to foreshadow what happened in this episode. Ryan is very much like Castle – wanting to protect the people that he loves even if it costs him his relationship with them. And Esposito is so much like Beckett, especially in the fact that he ends this episode by turning his back on Ryan and shutting him out, which is what Beckett used to do when she felt betrayed. I’m so eager to see how they fix these relationships next season because, like you, I love their family dynamic so much.

  2. It was perfect. I loved the way it played out in the end. My concerns from earlier this season vanished in light of how they kept the characters in character and yet allowed them to make those final realizations that allowed them to come together in what was a totally organic, natural way. Castle realized that Kate was worth having just a little more patience with within the last couple of episodes, but the big realization came for Beckett in the finale, with her coming to understand that revenge and even justice isn’t worth it if you never tell the people that you love how you feel.

    I loved Alexis’s valedictorian speech and how that played out in the real lives of the characters we love. I’m so worried about Ryan and Esposito! I love their little bromance (ok in my head I might ship it as more than bromance just a little) and I hope they can work it out, although it did feel authentic. I’m on Ryan’s side, even though I totally understand why Esposito feels betrayed. Especially since if Ryan hadn’t told Gates and brought backup, it’s likely that Beckett and Esposito would be dead. Can’t wait to see how that plays out next season. I also can’t wait to see how Castle and Beckett handle their new relationship, and how Castle deals with not having Alexis around as much. It’s shaping up to be an amazing 5th season of Castle! 🙂

    • Once again, you and I are completely on the same wavelength. You know as well as anyone that I was worried about this finale, and I’m so happy that my worries were for nothing (though I was definitely much less worried after “Undead Again”). There was already something new and beautiful between them at the beginning of the episode (in the movie date scene and the hand-holding at the precinct), and even that felt natural after their talk about Beckett’s “wall” coming down in the previous episode.

      I loved the way Beckett came to her realization that, like her father said in last season’s finale, “her life is worth more than her mother’s death.” Before, her entire life was her mother’s death, but in this episode, Castle finally laid all of his cards on the table and let her see that her life could be so much more than that, but he also made a point of saying that she was the only one who could choose what she would do with her life; she had to save herself. It took her almost dying alone – without Castle for the first time – to see that she would rather be happy and let herself be loved than continue to hold on to a past that brings her nothing but pain. So when she chooses Castle it feels like a huge moment not just for them as a couple but for her as a character. This whole season has been about her working towards letting herself be loved and feel worthy of happiness regardless of finding her mother’s killer, and she finally gets there in the end, with Castle ready to love her like he’s been waiting to for so long.

      I cannot wait to see what happens with all of these characters next season. Andrew Marlowe did a great job of creating a finale that raised just enough questions while giving just enough answers to keep me eagerly anticipating what’s to come this fall.

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