I had a professor in college who once said of The Great Gatsby, “You can talk about this book for one class or the rest of your life. And since I won’t be teaching you for the rest of your lives, let’s just make this one hell of a class.”
That’s how I feel about the ending of “Sucker Punch,” the midseason stunner from the second season of Castle, the episode which took me from loving the show to full-blown obsession.
There are so many emotional beats in these final five minutes. It begins with the quiet support between Beckett and Castle and with the reminder that this man gave up no small amount of money for her to have a chance to catch the man who killed her mother. “Sucker Punch” was the episode that convinced me in no uncertain terms that Rick Castle was already hopelessly in love with Kate Beckett, even if he didn’t want to admit that to himself yet. Then, the scene escalates into one of the greatest twists Castle has ever pulled off; one of the most tension-filled standoffs in the show’s history; and one of the first moments to really show us just how great Stana Katic could be when she’s allowed to let Beckett’s raw emotions burst through her normally stoic façade.
And through it all, there’s Castle. Nathan Fillion is so good in this episode because he’s so subtly affecting. In many places throughout this episode, like the beats after Beckett shoots Coonan, he’s a supporting figure rather than the emotional center of the episode. But what’s so great about Fillion is how he makes the term “supporting actor” really mean something. When Castle puts his hand on Beckett’s shoulder, it’s such a powerful moment of comfort, and it’s done without him saying any dialogue.
That’s all well and good, but the tears didn’t really start for me when I first watched this episode until the very last scene. There’s something so warm and gentle about Castle and Beckett’s interactions here; you can feel that something has changed between them, shifting their relationship into something deeper, something more.
I can remember the moment I first watched Castle pull out every kind of food imaginable in an effort to make Beckett happy. I was so surprised by the simple intimacy and sweetness of this small but thoughtful act that I started to cry. For all of Castle’s talk about big gestures, it was this very realistic and very unpretentious moment of affection that made me fall in love with this character. Yes, I adore “smartass Castle” and “articulate Castle” and “charming Castle,” but more than anything, I love genuine Castle—and that’s how Fillion played this scene. No bravado, no humor—just a man trying to do what’s right for the woman he’s grown to love, even if it means sacrificing the ability to spend every day following her around.
But Beckett doesn’t want that sacrifice. Instead, she tells Castle what she wants with the most open and honest confession of feelings we’d get from either one of them for a long time. Katic’s soft smile in this scene is a true thing of beauty because it’s something we had never seen on Beckett’s face until this point. And when she tells Castle he makes her job more fun, it still feels like one of the biggest moments in their relationship. There have been plenty of more dramatic speeches, professions of love, and even a marriage proposal, but Beckett saying she’s gotten used to Castle pulling her pigtails and Castle promising to keep her secret safe is still my favorite dialogue they’ve ever exchanged. It’s so meaningful but so simple—it’s not trying too hard to be emotionally resonant, and that’s what makes it even more beautiful.