Tomorrow, Castle hits the milestone 100-episode mark. I’m proud to say I’ve never missed an episode, from the quirky-yet-charming pilot to this week’s exploration of Ryan’s past. I can count on one hand the number of shows I’ve stuck with from Episode 1 to Episode 100 (actually, I can count them on two fingers: Castle and Alias). Sure, there have been some bumps along the way (Gina…Josh…The “secrets” that took over the last half of Season Four…), but, ultimately, this 100-episode (and counting!) journey has been one of the most fun rides I’ve ever been on in my years as a fangirl.
Castle has given me a love story to root for—a love story that proved to me that a strong but flawed woman can find happiness with someone who truly respects her. Castle has given me one of my favorite fictional characters ever in Kate Beckett—a woman who proves with each episode that she can succeed in a man’s world without ever having to give up her femininity, a woman who’s her own hero as well as a hero in the world at large. Castle has given me a fandom that I’m proud to be a part of, a fandom whose support is largely responsible for the creation of this website.
One hundred hours is a long time to spend with anyone, and I’m thankful that Andrew Marlowe created a show that’s made those 100 hours—these last 4+ years—thoroughly enjoyable for myself and for so many others.
Before I begin a Castle-induced emotional tailspin, let’s get to the point of this post. Out of all 99 episodes of Castle that have aired so far, which are the best of the best? Read on to discover my Top 10!
10. Knockdown (3.13)
Yes, this episode will always be known as the “first kiss” episode, but it’s so much more than that, too. “Knockdown” features some truly great moments from Ryan and Esposito, the first time Castle and Beckett acknowledge his role as her “partner,” and the first “Always” of the series—which was also the most meaningful considering what it told both Beckett and the audience about how committed the usually-cavalier Richard Castle was to this woman.
Favorite Scene: “Thank you—for having my back in there…”
9. Kill Shot (4.09)
This episode was one of the most emotionally intense hours Castle has ever had, and that’s due to the fearlessly raw way Stana Katic brought Beckett’s PTSD to life. In this episode, we see Beckett fall apart, but we also see her begin to climb out from under the weight of a decade of pain. This episode began Beckett’s journey towards becoming her best self, and by the end of it I was in tears because of how inspired I was by this woman’s struggle to embrace her own damaged self and to strive to be more than who she was—not for Castle but for herself.
Favorite Scene: “…Make it a strength.”
8. Tick, Tick, Tick…/Boom! (2.17/2.18)
There’s no way I could possibly separate the two halves of this two-part episode, because together they make one heck of an action movie. These episodes introduced us to one of my favorite guest stars in Dana Delany as FBI agent Jordan Shaw, and it found the perfect balance between comedy, suspense, and just enough flirtatious romance to advance the Castle/Beckett relationship in both fun ways (Castle’s sleepover) and serious ones (Castle telling Beckett she has a home with him).
Favorite Scene: “Witness refuses to cooperate.”
7. Target/Hunt (5.15/5.16)
I don’t know if any Castle episode will ever feature better acting than this phenomenal two-parter. Fillion was nothing short of brilliant (and heartbreaking) in every scene, and his gift for subtle, believable emotion was perfectly matched by James Brolin as Castle’s father. The storytelling in this pair of episodes was perfectly paced, and it gave Castle’s character new depth that came from a painfully believable place.
Favorite Scene: “Did she die in there?”
6. Secret’s Safe With Me (5.03)
This episode remains in the standard for balancing Castle and Beckett’s new romantic relationship with the other facets of the show, especially Castle’s relationship with Alexis. (Seriously, the scene where he drops her off at college puts tears in my eyes every time.) The combination of playfulness, warmth, and sexual tension in their interactions proved that getting this couple together made the show even better than it was before. Plus, this episode gave me one of my favorite Castle quotes: “Even on the worst days, there’s a possibility for joy.”
Favorite Scene: “I so wish I could kiss you right now.”
5. A Chill Goes Through Her Veins (1.05)
Every time I watch this episode, I’m amazed by how many of my favorite moments from Season One are in it: Castle and Alexis playing laser tag; Beckett’s first visit to the loft; “If we’re married, I want a divorce”…In addition to these fun moments, the case in this episode is one of the saddest and most interesting the show has ever had. And it led to the first moment of Beckett really opening up to Castle about her past, a moment that still gives me the best kind of goose bumps almost 100 episodes later.
Favorite Scene: “Until tomorrow is more…hopeful.”
4. Flowers For Your Grave (1.01)
It’s amazing when a pilot is able to the get the tone of a show exactly right from the get-go, and that’s exactly what Castle’s pilot was able to do. The seamless blending of interesting cases with quick-witted humor was there from the start—as was Fillion’s irresistible charm and his crackling chemistry with Katic. The scene where Beckett walks away from Castle as “Stop and Stare” plays in the background is still my favorite start to any TV love story.
Favorite Scene: “You have no idea…”
3. When the Bough Breaks (2.05)
The case in this episode, featuring the aftermath of babies switched at birth, is still my favorite case in Castle history because it had such a strong emotional undercurrent and such great performances from the guest actors involved. The sparks between Fillion and Katic were also never better than they were throughout this episode. And who else felt their heart skip a beat at the revelation of Heat Wave’s dedication when they first watched this episode?
Favorite Scene: “You are extraordinary.”
2. Always (4.23)
Everything about this episode worked—the character development, the acting, the writing, and the romance. This was the episode that changed everything, and it did so in a way that felt natural to these characters and the journey we’d been on with them for four seasons. Before “Target” happened, this was Fillion’s finest hour, and Katic was also brilliant in her depiction of Beckett finally choosing happiness for herself and growing immensely as a character in the process. And then there’s the ending—a love scene filled with more passion, tenderness (the scar touching!), and genuine adoration than even most of us in the fandom thought was possible.
Favorite Scene: “I’m right here!”
1. Sucker Punch (2.13)
This was the episode that made Castle my favorite TV show. I can still remember watching it on the tiny TV I have in the corner of my kitchen and falling head-over-heels in the love with both the show and Richard Castle as a character when he showed up at the end of this episode, bringing Beckett every kind of food imaginable in order to make up for the death of the man who killed her mother. This episode is Castle at its best and most dynamic, shifting from comedy (“I own a boat!”) to drama abruptly, the way life often does. The revelation of the connection between the case-of-the-week and Beckett’s mother blindsided the audience in the best possible way. And the revelation that Beckett actually likes having Castle around may have been even more shocking to the audience. But it was a shock (and a scene) that moved both characters and their relationship forward in an organic, beautiful way that still makes me tear up every time I watch it.
Favorite Scene: “I’ve gotten used to you pulling my pigtails.”
So tell me, fellow Castle fanatics, what do you think of my choices? What are your favorite episodes from the first 99 adventures with the crew from the 12th precinct and a certain ruggedly handsome novelist?