Title The Wild Rover
Two-Sentence Summary When a baker with connections to the Staten Island mob is found dead, Ryan returns to the undercover life he left behind in order to become a homicide detective. While he works to bring down the mob from the inside and protect a former love, his struggle to start a family with his wife, Jenny, is brought to the forefront.
Favorite Line “Don’t let the looks fool you, boys. You don’t want to mess with her either.” (Ryan, about Beckett)
My Thoughts It took this episode to prove something to me once and for all: My name is Katie, and I am a Kevin Ryan fangirl. I always thought I was more of an “Esposito girl” (because, let’s be honest, you’re usually one or the other), but my taste in Castle episodes says otherwise. Earlier this season, I found myself surprisingly disinterested in the Esposito-centric “Under the Influence,” but I have to admit; both Ryan-centric episodes in the series so far (this one and Season Four’s “Kick the Ballistics”) have been among my favorites in their respective seasons. I’m not sure if it’s the way he’s written or the way Seamus Dever plays him (or, more likely, a combination of those two factors), but Ryan makes a really solid centerpiece for an episode.
I think so much of what makes Ryan appealing to me and to many in the audience is his courage of conviction. If there’s been one consistent thing about this character from the beginning, it’s his desire to do the right thing. Ryan does the right thing even when it’s not the popular choice; he does the right thing even when it could cost him friendships he’s spent years building (see last season’s finale for the perfect example of that). That profoundly moral center was at the heart of this episode on so many levels. Ryan wanted to do the right thing for Jenny in giving her a baby. He wanted to do the right thing for Siobhan in protecting her. And he wanted to do the right thing for the victim by getting justice by going undercover once more, no matter the danger it would put him in. What I loved most about the plot of this episode was that it made sense for what we already know about Ryan.
We know that Ryan trusts authority figures more than any other character on this show, and that makes even more sense after learning that he was undercover for such a long time. If he didn’t follow orders and trust the people he was working for, he would have been in even greater danger than he already was. We know that Ryan always tries to be an upstanding cop, and now we know that some of that probably comes from his guilt over leaving Siobhan the way he did. We know that Ryan is probably the most loyal character on this show, and that made his relationship with Siobhan even more realistically painful. As I’m writing this, I’m starting to realize just how well-developed Kevin Ryan is as a character. Bravo, Castle writers (and Dever) for creating a secondary character on a procedural as rich and nuanced as Ryan has become.
I do think that so much of this episode’s success at building a strong and believable backstory came from Dever’s performance. Throughout the course of the show, Ryan has been a steadfast champion of doing things by-the-book, but he’s never come across as preachy or condescending. So much of that has to do with the earnest way Dever plays him. In this episode especially, you could see the internal struggle Ryan faced between doing the right thing as a husband and doing the right thing as a detective. Dever made you feel the stakes for his character without overacting, which isn’t an easy task. There was a certain gravitas he carried with him in his undercover scenes that had me holding my breath because I understood how much pressure Ryan was under to succeed.
I think the place where this episode succeeded while “Under the Influence” really struggled was in connecting Ryan’s journey with the rest of his precinct family. This time, we got to see how learning these new things about a character affected the people he loves. I loved Esposito’s concern in both the taxi and the diner, and I was especially impressed with the Jenny/Beckett scene.
My favorite scene in the episode was the one I felt most successfully combined Ryan’s story with his relationship to his 12th precinct family. At the climax of the episode, I loved seeing each character show up to prove they had Ryan’s back. The way each one of them entered the scene was perfect for their characters, with Esposito coming in to protect his partner first (and the mention of his special forces work) and Beckett being introduced as much tougher than anyone would guess given her elegant looks. And then there was Castle’s reaction, which was quite possibly one of my favorite comedic moments of this entire season because it was just so true to his character.
Speaking of true-to-character moments, I loved the scene between Siobhan and Ryan at the end of the episode. The two actors had fantastic chemistry, and I never doubted that Ryan loved her. When it comes to the people he cares about, we know Ryan could never be a liar. But I also never believed he would leave Jenny for Siobhan; he may have loved her once, but Jenny is his life now, and I liked that Siobhan respected that.
And as for Ryan’s relationship with Jenny, I can honestly say that their marriage is one of the most genuinely sweet relationships I’ve ever seen on television. I know so much of that comes from casting Dever’s wife Juliana as Jenny, and I’m so happy they chose to do so. Because that last scene between them was pure joy. I’m so happy Ryan is going to be a dad. I really can’t think of a TV character that isn’t a dad already who is more apt to be a great parent. Ryan represents the best of the best in a world that’s often populated with the worst of the worst.
Besides Ryan’s character development, another thing I really enjoyed about “The Wild Rover” was the handling of Castle and Beckett’s relationship. I like the return of the small but intimate moments between them at home to open and close the episode. They harkened back to Castle’s moments with his family that used to open and close episodes in earlier seasons, and they showed just how integrated Beckett is into his life now.
I loved that Beckett wasn’t going to give up on getting Castle to open up to her, but I also love how she went about showing that determination. It felt realistic rather than overly- dramatic. She made jokes instead of prying or being too serious about it, but we knew (and Castle knew) that she wasn’t backing down until Castle let her in. This was such a great way to expand on what Meredith told Beckett about Castle’s walls earlier this season without making the “walls” story arc an angst-fest. It should have been noted all along that Beckett isn’t Meredith; she’s not like any of the women Castle’s been with before. This is Kate Beckett, a woman whom Castle himself called extraordinary specifically because of her refusal to back down from a wall put up in front of her. Beckett is determined to find out the things that matter to Castle and to make those things matter to her, too.
I was impressed with the way this episode handled Castle opening up to Beckett. My heart broke when Castle showed his fear that Beckett wouldn’t like who he was under the mask of confidence he shows the world. He thinks all he has to offer is his charm. Because no one ever told him otherwise. No one has ever made him feel like he’s worth the effort to get to know and love Richard Alexander Rogers, not Rick Castle.
And then he found Beckett. He found a woman who’s smart and strong and so much more than she appears. But he’s more afraid to show his insecurities than ever—because if she doesn’t like what she sees, he has more to lose than ever before. But what he doesn’t understand is that Beckett loves him the way he loves her—for every part of who he is, even the parts he’s afraid will disappoint her. Beckett wants him to know she loves him (okay, she may say like, but we all know she’s working her way up to “the Big L”) not because he’s Rick Castle, famous writer, but because he’s her Rick Castle—silly and sweet, brave and big-hearted. He doesn’t need to work for applause with her; all he needs to do is be himself and be open with her.
Castle and Ryan have more in common than just a playful sense of superstition and a common side in the “skeptics vs. believers” debates in the precinct. They’re both men driven to do the right thing, to try to live up to their own sense of what a good man is. Fillion was so heartbreakingly beautiful in showing Castle’s insecurity and regret over being applauded for a paper he never wrote so many years before. It’s clear this has haunted him for decades, and I love that he chose to share that with Beckett, to let her in to see what drives him and pushes him to be better the way she’s shown him what does that for her. This new attempt to open up Castle’s character is creating a new sense of equality in their relationship that I really admire.
As I end this review and look towards next week’s big 100th episode, I’ll leave you with another look at the end of this episode because who doesn’t need a little happiness (and finally some well-lit kissing!) on a Tuesday afternoon: