Title Watershed (5.24)
Written By Andrew Marlowe
What Happens? As the team at the 12th precinct investigates the murder of a Harvard student and computer hacker posing as a prostitute in a seedy motel, they uncover ties between the victim and a political dynasty which was behind the cover-up of a young woman’s death years before. The case also proves to be possibly Beckett’s last homicide as a member of the NYPD, as she takes an interview in Washington for a job with the attorney general—without telling Castle. Although she’s encouraged by Captain Gates, Beckett struggles with the decision after Castle finds the boarding pass for her trip in her coat pocket and gets angry over the fact the she shut him out of such an important decision. While Castle discusses their relationship and its challenges with his mother, Beckett is counseled by Lanie and her father. Both Beckett and Castle seem to be questioning where their relationship is headed, but both are too scared to broach the topic with the other.
After Beckett is officially offered the position, she begins to feel the weight of leaving her home at the precinct bearing down on her. Both Ryan and Esposito can tell that something is wrong, but neither can figure out what it is. Instead, Ryan lets Esposito in on a little secret of his own—he’s going to be a father. Fatherhood also proves to be a challenge for Castle, as he deals with his fear of letting Alexis go on a summer trip to the rainforest by avoiding the situation—until he can’t any longer and simply has to realize that despite his fears and worries, he loves his daughter and wants to do right by her. That same emotion goes into his meeting with Beckett on the swings where they once talked about Beckett’s emotional walls and where Beckett decided to let those walls come down with Castle. Castle tells Beckett that he understands she’s always going to have walls and won’t always let him in easily, but he isn’t going to give her an ultimatum. Whatever she chooses, he wants to be with her—and he proves this on one knee with a ring and question left unanswered until Season Six begins in the fall.
Game-Changing Moment Yes, Beckett being offered the job with the attorney general was a major moment, but it wasn’t the episode’s true game-changer. No, that title belongs to seven little words said by Richard Castle on the swing set that has come to mean so much to these two characters are their relationship:
Katherine Houghton Beckett, will you marry me?
No matter what Beckett answers and no matter what she decides, those seven words have forever changed their relationship and the direction of the show, which we all know has always been first and foremost a love story (with some murder thrown in for good fun). I know some people hated this twist and others loved it (my own feelings are quite complicated), but there’s no denying that this proposal was one of the most shocking moments in Castle’s five-year history. Whether you thought it was romantic or ridiculous, I bet you had a reaction—and that’s what a good finale cliffhanger should do. This was a moment that people will be talking about all summer, from the most passionate fans to the most casual observers. And that’s what season finales are all about.
Finale M.V.P. Stana Katic had to carry much of the episode’s emotional weight, and I thought she did it beautifully (but how else does she ever do anything other than beautifully?). Beckett was going through an intense internal war in this episode, and Katic did a spectacular job of subtly showing the strain this decision was taking on her. From the looks she gave Castle during their theory building to the stiffness in her body language with Ryan and Esposito, Katic superbly showed all of the things left unsaid—and we know a lot of things were left unsaid in this episode. She was especially wonderful in Beckett’s final interrogation room scene. I held my breath when she started talking about how that room was her home, as if I was afraid to break the spell she was casting with the unshed tears in her determined eyes. For most of this season, Katic has been able to play a lighter side to Beckett, but she proved once again that no other actor could bring out the cautious, damaged, broken side of Beckett like she can.
Most Memorable Line “We both deserve more…So whatever happens—whatever you decide—Katherine Houghton Beckett, will you marry me?” (Castle)
What Didn’t Work I never expected that a Castle episode ending in a proposal would leave me so conflicted. My biggest issues with this episode are issues I’ve had with the latter half of this season as a whole (and are issues I had with episodes near the end of last season as well). I actually wasn’t upset with the decision to have Beckett hide her interview from Castle. Yes, it was frustrating to me as a fan of their relationship, but it was almost painfully true to her character. The thing that upset me as a fan of the Castle/Beckett relationship was the way Beckett seemed so unsure of Castle’s commitment to her. If there’s one thing I’ve never doubted as a viewer, it’s the fact that Castle loves and is 100% committed to his relationship with Beckett. The man has almost died for her more times than we can count at this point—if that’s not a sign of how serious their relationship is, then I don’t know what is. The problems between them in this episode that didn’t stem from her interview felt contrived—like we had to be told over and over again about their fears and insecurities because we can’t actually see them. It has never made sense for me when Beckett questions Castle’s commitment to her, so the fact that this was the whole crux of their angst in this episode left me disappointed in the writing. Just because Meredith hinted at some of Castle’s baggage and we had one episode of him acting completely out-of-character in “The Squab and the Quail,” I still don’t believe that Castle was ever keeping one foot out of their relationship.
I’m definitely not as upset by the proposal as many in the fandom seem to be today, but that doesn’t mean I thought it was perfect either. One of my problems with it is a problem I have with these characters that I suppose is just part of who they are at this point: They never talk like adults until one of their lives is in danger (and sometimes not even then). So in a sense, the proposal coming out of nowhere after a huge fight was perfectly in-character for these two, but that doesn’t mean it was the most fulfilling way to end what was a great season. I would have loved for the proposal to come after a real discussion about the issues they both brought up in this episode, but I suppose I just have to come to the realization that this will never be their way. I can only hope this grand gesture from Castle prompts them to have an open and honest talk about everything—and that we get to see it all in the Season Six premiere.
In the end, I think my biggest problem with the proposal was in the direction. I understand wanting to create an element of surprise, but I think a lot of the emotion of the moment was sacrificed for the sake of shock value. I understand Castle and Beckett were both unsure and nervous for different reasons, but the fact that Castle never looked at her until he actually proposed just felt strange to me. It also bothered me that two actors as incredible at showing emotion and chemistry as Katic and Nathan Fillion were obviously directed to hold back on their facial expressions and reactions in this scene. Instead of the warm, articulate, and emotional proposal I’d always imagined for these two characters, we got something that felt cold and strangely impersonal. Yes, I understand that Castle was trying to show Beckett how serious he was about her and about them, but I just thought that when a proposal happened for these characters it would feel so much happier.
That’s what left me so conflicted about the ending. As a fan of a TV relationship, you wait years for a proposal, and you want to be left with a feeling of complete happiness when it finally happens (like my downright giddy crying after Ben proposed to Leslie on Parks and Recreation). But with this proposal, I almost feel like we were robbed of that happiness and excitement for the sake of a big twist. I expected something more from the writers who so carefully executed all the big moments in this relationship—from the first meeting and the first time holding hands to “I just want you” and the beauty that was “Still.” I’ll reserve my judgment until I see how this all plays out in Season Six, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. Heck, even Ryan and Jenny got a more emotionally satisfying proposal!
What Worked Now here’s where my emotional conflict kicks in. For everything that bothered me about this finale, there were other things I absolutely loved about it—even in the proposal scene. First of all, I loved Kate Beckett throughout this episode. I’ll say it again: Katic’s work in that final interrogation scene was powerful, nuanced, and heartbreaking. In those scenes, she simply is Kate Beckett, and I truly felt the character’s sense of loss upon having to leave the room where she discovered who she was meant to be—the room that made her who she is today, the room where she finally found a home after being so lonely and lost for so many years.
Speaking of Beckett, I thought this episode did a good job reminding us that she’s still a flawed character—because her flaws are what made me love her in the first place. Being in a relationship isn’t like getting a personality transplant; Beckett is always going to be guarded and scared to let people in—even Castle. She doesn’t tell anyone about the job offer at first, so it’s not just Castle she’s leaving out; she’s just not one to be open with anyone about something that means a lot to her. She’s still not used to sharing her life with someone else, and that’s okay. Kate Beckett is damaged, and some damage never goes away—no matter how great a relationship is. She’s never going to be a perfect character who always does the right thing and becomes an open book with the man she loves, and that’s okay. In fact, it’s great. We all have issues; we all have flaws. The trick is to find someone who loves you even with those flaws, who sees you and understands you and accepts you for who you are—even the parts of you that are broken.
That brings me to the best thing about this episode—Castle’s rationale behind the proposal. While it may not have been as romantic or as hopeful as I wanted it to be, there was no denying that it came from a place of real, adult love. I was happy to hear Castle tell Beckett that she shuts him out, that he’s had to work so hard just to get a glimpse of the real Kate. Because that made his proposal mean so much more. He knows she’s flawed; he knows there are parts of her that are never going to change. But he still wants to be with her forever. He knows they both deserve more than a relationship without a clear direction. It’s not just about what he wants; it’s about what they both deserve because theirs has always been a partnership and he’s always wanted her to have the love she deserves. This is him giving her that chance at the happiness she deserves, the happiness they both deserve.
And he’s willing to make her happy as her husband no matter what she decides with her job. I love that it wasn’t an ultimatum; it was Castle’s way of saying that he wants to stand with her wherever she chooses to make her stand. It was a gesture perhaps bigger than it needed to be (or should have been), but that’s Rick Castle in a nutshell. He’s a fan of the grand gesture, and this is perhaps the grandest of them all. He’s not proposing to keep her from taking the job; he’s proposing out of an almost painful need for her to know how much he loves her and is committed to her. It was probably the wrong time for a proposal, but it wasn’t as rushed as some might want to say it was. Think about it: Castle had a ring already, and I don’t think he just bought it that day. They’ve also known each other for five years, and they’ve both been in love with each other in some capacity for the majority of those five years. They know each other better than anyone else, even though they don’t always talk about the big things when they should. And they’ve been promising each other “Always” for years now—a commitment in some ways more sacred to them than any marriage vow could ever be. While I don’t think a proposal was the right way to handle this situation, there’s no denying that—should they sit down an talk like grownups about their insecurities and issues—these two are ready for that next step. Just not in the Season Six premiere.
Final Grade B – . This episode had its frustrating moments, but it also had strong moments. Beckett’s last interrogation was a truly standout moment for me a viewer and a fan of this character. Ryan telling Esposito about Jenny’s pregnancy was a gorgeous moment of happiness for these two characters. And any episode featuring Beckett and her dad having a talk warms my heart in a special way. Did I have problems with the timing and direction of the proposal scene? Yes. However, it still made me cry because it made me think of how much this couple has gone through together to get to the point where Castle can stand in front of her, tell her accepts her flaws for what they are, and still say he wants to be with her forever. I think I ended up crying more because of what I wanted that scene to mean (and what I think it means) more than the actual emotional content presented onscreen, but I still can’t deny that when the tears dried I wanted to jump to September as soon as possible—which not every finale makes me want to do. This may not have been “Always,” but it still found a way to move me, surprise me, and make me think.