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?