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.
Absolutely ditto on all fronts. This scene and the final beats of the S3 finale (who doesn’t cry at a cop/soldiers funeral) are the only scenes in this show that have made me cry. Granted, I have scenes that I like more for different reasons, but this was really the start of the “Caskett” story and what makes that relationship so raw and real. Both characters were open and completely honest about how they felt without any fear of the consequences, which has plagued this couple since this moment. Hopefully we can get more scenes like this, minus the dramatics, in the upcoming season where these characters can just have real heart-to-heart moments as these are the ones that really tug on viewers’ heartstrings and are the only kind of scenes that can make me cry when watching television.
I’d love more scenes like this, too. I’m always a fan of smaller, more intimate moments between characters than flashier moments of drama. This scene worked because it was so personal and tailored so perfectly to who these characters are and what they are to each other. It didn’t have to be overly dramatic to resonate on an emotional level; it just had to be honest.
“Negative ghost rider” – Anytime I can get a Top Gun throw away I am a happy camper. However in all seriousness, this episode was when I knew we had a show and I was taking the Marlowe ride to the end, wherever that was going to take us. Like some folks, I tuned in because it looked like a modern day take on Moonlighting – a show I adored. I thought the writing was strong and that Katic and Fillion made a great pair (although truth be told I was less sold on her acting chops than his). This episode for me was the show’s ‘watershed’ moment. It pivoted in a way that finally started to fill in the center of the framework Marlowe had constructed. It went from a light-hearted, procedural to a show about something more. This wasn’t only a first step into a central storyline for the show, it was pouring the foundation of the relationship that gave us Caskett. The last minute and a half of this episode establishes underneath all of the sexual tension, the missed opportunities, the jealousy and banter two people who have not only grown to care, but genuinely respect one another. For as good as Katic is, watch Fillion after he pulls out the food. He conveys an utter sense of bewilderment over all that has transpired and for the first time feels the gravity and takes hold of the responsibility for what he has put in motion. He apologizes at the top of season 2 to gain back Beckett’s trust, but I don’t believe it is until this apology that he truly means it as opposed to it being a means to an end. The vulnerability he displays is like you said, honest. It comes through for both characters in a way that lets us know this is where their relationship began in earnest.
Oh and another thing, can I just say that part of what makes this sequence work for me is something that gets mentioned pretty often when it comes to Castle, and that is the use of music. Duncan’s scoring is always a treat, but the music editor’s choice of Pearl Jam’s The End is one of the single best selections they’ve made in the five seasons the show has been on. It’s a great episode, terrific finish and wonderful launch into a show with more complexity than initially meets the eye.
“This episode for me was the show’s ‘watershed’ moment.” – I could not agree more. This is when the “Caskett” relationship found its voice because, as you said, this scene is about respect. For most of the series up to this point, it was about banter and the occasional emotionally honest line from Castle (usually involving the word “extraordinary”). But this scene isn’t about banter; it’s about a man and woman who respect each other enough to be honest with each other and vulnerable with each other. There’s trust in this scene that hadn’t existed before—or at least hadn’t been as explicitly present between them. This is the scene that provided the foundation that led to both of them being able to promise the other “Always” and mean it.
I don’t think I’ve seen this episode since the first time I watched this show so it was nice to look back, knowing everything that is to come for them.
This show does drama so well and it draws such good performances out of Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic, I love the openness between them in that final scene. Beckett looks content and confident in the knowledge that they’ll find her mom’s killers and she recognizes that a lot of that is because of Castle. I really want more of these completely open moments in the next season, especially after the finale.
Yes please to more of these moments! I think I was hoping for more of these in Season Five than we ended up getting, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Season Six will give us even more emotionally open and honest moments between them because—in my opinion—that’s when these two characters (and actors) are at their best.
I totally agree with you guys about this being the real start of Castle and Beckett’s relationship. This is the episode where I began to realize that the love story was really the heart of the show, and the evolution of it from this episode on is amazing. And yes, we definitely need more scenes like this next season! I’m hoping 6 will be the season where Castle and Beckett stop with the subtext and have more actual conversations!!
This is definitely the moment when I realized this show was different from any other procedural on TV because it’s really more of a love story than any other kind of story.
“I’m hoping 6 will be the season where Castle and Beckett stop with the subtext and have more actual conversations!!” – Me too! They did such a good job with that earlier in Season 5. I don’t know where it went as the season went on.
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