Title Probable Cause
Two-Sentence Summary When Castle becomes the suspect in the murder of a young woman, it’s up to Beckett, Ryan, Esposito, and Captain Gates to prove his innocence. Things only get worse for Castle when the man framing him is revealed to be Jerry Tyson, also know an the “Triple Killer” or “3XK.”
Favorite Line “I know him, Lanie. He is an immature, egotistical, self-centered jackass sometimes. But he’s not this.” (Beckett)
My Thoughts There are plenty of good episodes of Castle, even more than a few great ones. But very rarely is there an edge-of-your-seat, marveling-at-the-acting, tear-jerking, nail-biting kind of episode. This was one of them.
Castle is growing up. In getting his two main characters together, creator (and “Probable Cause” writer) Andrew Marlowe allowed for a maturity and depth of storytelling that wasn’t possible before. The stakes are higher now because they’re not just unspoken, symbolic, subtext-laden stakes; they’re real stakes in a real relationship. Both Castle and Beckett know without question what they have to lose now when the threat is losing each other, and that heightened the intensity in this episode to a level that was almost unbearable at times (and I mean that as a compliment).
This new avenue of storytelling has also allowed for some great comedic performances this season from Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, but “Probable Cause” showed that it also opens the door for a new depth to their dramatic performances as well. We’ve known from previous episodes that these two actors are masterful at creating moments of incredible emotional poignancy for a procedural (and an often-comedic procedural at that), but the stories they told with just their eyes in this episode were nothing short of brilliant. They both found a balance between restraint and vulnerability that stands up against any of their best dramatic performances on Castle to date.
Not only did this episode feature some of the best acting we’ve seen on Castle, it also featured some of the strongest writing. Marlowe brought his A-game to this one. I had a feeling 3XK would be involved somehow as soon as I heard they were doing an episode where Castle is accused of murdering a young woman. But instead of being frustrated that I saw the mid-episode twist coming, I was actually happy and relieved. Jerry Tyson is a character we already know, and we’re already aware that he’s capable of doing what needed to be done to frame Castle. Unlike a lot of twists on a lot of TV shows, this one made total sense in terms of the plot, the continuity from past seasons, and the motivation of the character. Tyson had already singled out Castle after their first encounter in Season 3. Beckett has her mom’s case; Castle has 3XK. We knew he would be coming back at some point, and it was good to see him return in a way that felt right for the story and the characters.
The writing, the direction, and the score all contributed to the wonderfully suspenseful ride that was this episode. That final scene on the bridge made me jump, and then the resolution to the episode was like an exclamation point. Katic did a phenomenal job of showing how deadly Beckett can be when Castle’s life is threatened, but what stood out to me was the fact that Castle didn’t hesitate to kill when Beckett’s life was in danger. That was a huge moment for his character, and I loved the way Fillion played that entire scene—from the steel in his eyes as he shot Tyson to the dark look on his face at the very end, showing that even if Tyson is dead he’ll always be haunting him.
My favorite thing about the writing in this episode is that the angst that inevitably came felt justified by the gravity of the situation. It wasn’t about Beckett’s insecurities or Castle’s possible infidelity; those were complete nonfactors in this episode, which was refreshing. Instead, we saw a couple with faith in one another, standing strong together against outside factors threatening to tear their relationship apart. I loved that Beckett’s faith in him never wavered; I was incredibly worried that she would suddenly forget how much he loves her and how faithful he’s been to her even before their official relationship began in order to manufacture drama.
Beckett’s faith in Castle was the driving force behind my favorite scene in the episode: her conversation with Lanie. What we take away from this scene isn’t that Beckett is devastated because she has evidence of infidelity on Castle’s part; it’s that she’s devastated because she knows he’s innocent but can’t prove it. Katic and Tamala Jones were both incredible in that scene, but special credit has to go to Katic for her complete vulnerability. There was so much pain in her entire presence; you can feel Beckett’s helplessness and her anger that she’s not a good enough detective to prove what she knows in her heart to be true. Like Beckett says in the episode, she knows Castle; she knows his flaws, but she also knows who he is at his core more surely than she’s ever known it before. The depth of Beckett’s trust in and love for Castle has never been more poignantly displayed.
I also loved that the entire team believes in Castle’s innocence. It’s never a question to them—not even to Gates. I adore the family this show has created out of the core group of detectives and Castle, and this episode was all about that family, those bonds. When Esposito said to Beckett that he loves Castle too, I believed it because I’ve seen that relationship grow with almost as much detail as I’ve seen the relationship between Castle and Beckett grow. I was especially impressed with the way Castle and Beckett’s relationship came out in this episode. It wasn’t played for laughs or for unnecessary drama; it made sense for the characters and what they were going through.
Beyond the main plot, the details Marlowe and his actors sprinkled throughout this episode were extraordinary. Castle is a show that likes to reference past moments and draw parallels between scenes, but those parallels reached a new level of resonance in “Probable Cause.” Sure, there were the cute ones, like the acknowledgement that handcuffs play a regular role in Castle and Beckett’s private life. But then there was the callback to the place where Beckett first put Castle in handcuffs, which carried a surprising amount of depth for both the audience and the characters themselves. The library callback was both a believable plot point and a nice nod to the audience to remind them of how far these two have come (from Beckett’s complete lack of trust in Castle at that point in their relationship to her total faith in him now).
The scene in the library itself harkened back to Beckett’s reaction when Castle first faced 3XK in Season 3, with her rushing to him and being thankful he was okay. This time, though, the scene is much more vulnerable (as it should be). The way Beckett grabs Castle’s shirt while he’s holding her, the way his eyes close with relief, the way she touches his face with tears in her eyes at the idea that he’s safe with her in that moment—these little touches all added to the intimacy of the scene, showcasing the natural chemistry between Fillion and Katic in a way that fit the context and overall tone of the episode.
This entire episode seemed to me to be a reference to Beckett’s line to Castle in Season 3 about breaking him out of jail. This parallel wasn’t just something fun for the audience to find, it influenced every scene in “Probable Cause.” In the world of Castle, true love means getting someone out of prison, and that’s exactly what Beckett does. There has never been more solid proof of the depth of Kate Beckett’s love for Richard Castle than these 42(ish) minutes of television.
“Probable Cause” was a kind of episode that could only have worked at this point in the show’s run. It needed the history, the character development, and the depth that comes from time being spent with these characters as writers, actors, and an audience. This season is really proving to be a renaissance for this show, and this episode was another shining example of that renewed energy leading to some fantastic television.