Title The Lives of Others
Two-Sentence Summary After Castle injures his knee during a ski trip with Beckett, he’s confined to his loft while the rest of the 12th precinct crew investigates the murder of an IRS agent. However, Castle’s boredom is soon abated with the help of a pair of binoculars and a possible murder across the street, which may or may not have the makings of the best birthday ever for the mystery novelist.
Castle: How many murders do you think we’ve solved since we met?
Beckett: I don’t know…Maybe a hundred or so?
Castle: A hundred? Here’s to a hundred more.
My Thoughts When looking at my list of favorite Castle episodes, it became clear to me that my tastes tend to favor the more dramatic fare this show offers up from time to time. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t also love Castle when it’s being fun and funny. I simply like a little substance with my silliness, and that’s the reason I completely adored “The Lives of Others.” It was the perfect way to celebrate 100 episodes of Castle by celebrating what this show does better than any other: effortlessly weaving a web of mystery, comedy, and romance with the help of sharp writing and great performances.
As some of you know, I’m a big fan of Castle’s “genre episodes” (“Heroes and Villains,” “Undead Again,” “The Final Frontier,” etc.), so, of course, I was already predisposed to love this little Alfred Hitchcock tribute. Throughout the episode, I found myself smiling at the nods to Rear Window (especially Stana Katic in that stunning Grace-Kelly-esque dress). Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller did a fantastic job writing an episode that was a beautiful homage to a classic mystery story while twisting it in a way that was uniquely Castle in its quirky setup and romantic payoff.
Like most of the 99 episodes that came before it, “The Lives of Others” benefitted heavily from Nathan Fillion’s charisma. Ultimately, this episode was a love letter to Richard Castle, and it worked because it reminded us over and over again of why this character is deserving of not one but 100 love letters. Fillion got to show so many facets of Castle’s personality in this episode: his adorable-yet-annoying childishness (whining about when Beckett was going to bring him dinner); his playful sense of fun (The whole bit with the toy helicopter was some hilarious work from Fillion.); and his determination to find the true story behind everything (I loved that his inability to give up on this murder harkened back to his inability to give up on the murder in the pilot.).
One of the things I love most about Castle is the way these characters have grown over 100 episodes while still retaining a true sense of who they were in the pilot. It’s only because we—and the characters—know Castle so well that we’re able to appreciate the twist in this episode for the true joy that it was. Castle is the kind of man who would love nothing more than a murder to solve for his birthday. (In fact, he specifically told Beckett that on Valentine’s Day, which I thought was a cute little thing to bring back.) And Beckett is the kind of woman who understands him enough to get him exactly what he wants. I love when you can feel the sense of history between two characters, and never have I felt that as strongly as I felt it between Castle and Beckett in this episode.
One of my favorite lines in the episode was when Castle told Beckett that no one had ever done anything like that for him before. I think that said so much about their relationship. Castle is the stereotypical “man who has everything,” but Beckett got him the kind of thoughtful, heartfelt gift only she could give and only he would appreciate. Castle was always the “big gesture” guy, but Beckett knew it was her turn to do something big for him. So she went past the style and got to the substance of who Castle is and what brought them together in the first place—and that’s his imagination, creativity, and passion for stories (and murder, too, if you want to get to the real source of what brought them together). For as much as we tend to think of Castle as Beckett’s first foray into real, lasting love, I think it’s important to note that Beckett is also Castle’s first foray into a kind of relationship where he’s loved for exactly who he is, where he’s with a woman who knows him to be so much more than the persona he projects to the world—and who isn’t afraid to show him that she understands him on such an intimate level.
There were so many little details in this episode that spoke to the strength of Castle and Beckett’s relationship. I’ve really felt that the last handful of episodes have done a much better job than the handful before of making this relationship feel believable and real, but this episode blew even the best of those out of the water. Throughout the episode, you never forgot that these two characters are in a fun, sexy, and very stable relationship. Their interactions were laced with small but significant moments of intimacy that made the relationship feel more tangible and honest than perhaps ever before.
Beyond anything else, Castle and Beckett’s interactions in this episode just made me feel good. From the way she used their typical skeptic/believer dichotomy to give him the best birthday ever to his adorable (and completely in-character) admission that she was the only birthday present he wanted to unwrap, these two characters showed just how far they’ve come together and how bright their future looks if they keep being written like this.
Ultimately, this episode wasn’t written to move the plot forward by leaps and bounds, turn the story in a new direction, or do any other “big” thing shows often use their 100th episode to achieve. It was meant to simply be an hour that made the audience smile, and that’s exactly what it did. We got to see Alexis play detective with her dad (and we were reminded of what a great team Fillion and Molly Quinn are). We got to see Martha call Beckett “Katherine” (a nice nod to their growing familiarity since she’s always called her son “Richard”). We got to see Ryan and Esposito pretend to be Charlie’s Angels. We got to see a cute little cameo from Marlowe and Miller (another nod to Hitchcock and his famous cameos, perhaps?). And we got to see Castle and Beckett, having fun together and solving murders (both real and fake), which is exactly how I’d hoped their relationship would end up after I watched the pilot all those years ago.
“The Lives of Others” gave us Castle’s best birthday yet, and it also gave us one of the best Castle episodes yet. If the show continues to operate with this much charm, heart, and character continuity, then, like Castle said, “Here’s to a hundred more.”