Two-Sentence Summary After accepting Castle’s marriage proposal and beginning her new life in Washington, Beckett faces the challenges of learning the ropes of a new job, adjusting to a new partner, and living without her fiancé. Her new life gets even more complicated when Castle begins poking his nose in one of her new cases, a robbery that turns out to be much more than it originally appeared and could have deadly consequences for Castle.
Favorite Line “Kate, I’m not proposing to you to keep you here or because I’m afraid I’m gonna lose you. I’m proposing because I can’t imagine my life without you. If that means when things get difficult we have to figure them out, then I’m willing to figure them out—assuming you’re willing to figure them out with me.” (Castle)
My Thoughts If there’s one lesson Castle has taught me over the years it’s that confidence is incredibly attractive. As much as Castle and Beckett have proved that time and again over five (and now six) seasons, the show as a whole also operates with an air of confidence—in its actors, its characters, and the story it wants to tell. “Valkyrie” was a season premiere that could be described as many things: entertaining, emotional, suspenseful, funny, warm, dramatic, and even frustrating (a cliffhanger already?!). However, I think the best word to describe it is confident. The relationship between Castle and Beckett, the pacing of the episode, and the cliffhanger of an ending all felt as if they were coming from a place of confidence—both within the show’s universe and within the very real universe of the network TV business.
I loved that show picked up right where last season’s finale left off because it allowed the frustration some audience members (myself included) felt about Castle’s proposal to be addressed right away. The way the somber tone of the proposal melted into the excitement, humor, and warmth of their reactions to it speaks to the show’s ability to shift tones naturally and realistically. There was something so sweet about Nathan Fillion’s delivery of Castle’s confession that his proposal was the most serious thing he’s ever done. Castle has grown from a man “incapable of taking anything seriously” (Beckett’s description of him in the pilot) to this man, who is so serious about his commitment to Beckett that he’s in untested waters, even for a man who’s been married twice before. The character growth shown in that one line is incredible and felt so rewarding for those of us who’ve watched Castle develop and become a better man by being in the presence of a woman who takes so many things seriously.
The fact that the writers could turn the strange tone of the proposal into a moment of comedy proves that they understand both their characters and their audience. They knew what kind of reactions we all had to that proposal, and it was nice to see them echoed in Beckett’s reaction. It was also nice to see what could have been a cheesy or dramatic moment kept perfectly in-character with Beckett’s inability to answer right away and the banter that followed. It’s nice when a proposal scene is kept from being generic by adding little touches of unique character continuity, and one of the best things about this couple has always been their quick banter.
Fillion and Stana Katic were simply wonderful in that proposal scene. I loved the brief moment when we could feel Beckett’s fear that taking the job would make Castle take back the proposal, but what I loved even more was how quickly that fear was put to rest. Castle’s speech about the reason he proposed was filled with such genuine respect and adoration for Beckett, whose dedication to her work is what drew him to her in the first place. It wasn’t an overbearingly sweet moment; it was honest and reflected the very mature belief that marriage takes work but is ultimately worth the effort when you’re working with the right person. And that sense of genuine commitment was all Beckett needed to see to tell Castle that she wanted to marry him—all of him. By using both his real name and his pen name, Beckett showed that she knows and loves every part of him. You can’t separate Richard Edgar Castle from Richard Alexander Rogers, and Beckett loves both of those sides of him—the side he shares with the world and the side he shares with only those he loves the most. Both of their smiles when she accepts say so much—she’s so sure of this love and of their future, and he’s so happy that he’s able to give her that assurance.
That sense of certainty permeated their interactions throughout the rest of the episode. After the two-month time jump, we saw a couple who might be frustrated with their separation are confident in their relationship. It’s a side to them we’ve never really seen before. Last season was all about the honeymoon stage and the exploration of the ups and downs of a new relationship. This episode presented something different, a kind of mature stability that comes from knowing that both people in the relationship are fully committed to spending their lives together. It’s a good look on both of these characters because it’s something completely new for them both. Beckett has never been engaged; Castle has never been this serious about a relationship. They’re jumping in together, just like Beckett always wanted.
Castle and Beckett’s confidence in their relationship was shown to us more than it was told to us, and that speaks to the confidence the writers have in their actors. Fillion and Katic were playful, honest, sweet, and downright sexy throughout the episode. They allowed us to feel their longing in a subtle way, and showed us their joy in reuniting without any subtlety at all (and I mean that as the highest compliment). My favorite moment in the whole episode was when Castle woke up to find Beckett working at the breakfast table and playfully kissed her neck. It felt so normal and natural—so full of the easy warmth that has grown with this relationship. It’s those little moments that show off Fillion and Katic’s chemistry so well, a chemistry that has deepened and matured to reflect the way Castle and Beckett’s relationship has deepened.
Perhaps my favorite thing about Castle is the way this show allows its characters to grow but not completely change. That was shown beautifully in “Valkyrie” in the shot of Beckett’s necklace, which now holds both her mother’s ring and her engagement ring from Castle. Castle is a show that is surprisingly good at continuity, and this little nod to just how far Beckett has come was gorgeous, and it was so effective because it didn’t need dialogue. Beckett’s necklace with both rings is a symbol of the decision she made back in Season Four to honor her mother’s memory while not letting her death consume her anymore; it’s a symbol of the balance she’s found between honoring her mother and living a life her mother would have been proud of. It’s a symbol of the love she lost and the love she found, and she wears it right over her heart. She also wears it right over her scar—the scar that will also always be associated with both her mother and Castle as well as her journey towards accepting love even after being “damaged.” To anyone who thinks that Castle is pure fluff, I present this incredible moment of subtle symbolism as Exhibit A that you are dead wrong.
For as much as I could talk about Castle and Beckett forever (the coffee, the hand-holding, the wine, the “babe”…), there were a lot of other things that happened in this episode, too. I missed Ryan and Esposito but loved the little bits of them we got. I thought Lisa Edelstein is a fantastic addition to the cast as Beckett’s new partner (more girl power on this show always makes me happy). I thought Alexis’s new boyfriend was hilarious (even though I’m kind of feeling like Alexis is losing some of her unique qualities and drifting into more “cliché collegiate daughter” territory). And I thought the episode’s pacing was great, as it moved from romance to comedy to suspense with fluidity.
It all comes back to confidence. The storytelling in this episode felt confident and sure of its ability to entertain. It never felt like it was trying too hard, and it made the most of its actors’ skills. The banter felt fresh but still classically “Caskett.” The sense of longing for the days of solving crimes together was felt from Castle, Beckett, and the audience in a believable way (which means we know the D.C. story arc isn’t long for this show). And the way Beckett kept digging into the case (and the way Castle kept getting in trouble for investigating on his own) harkened all the way back to the pilot.
Even the cliffhanger ending felt like it came from a place of creative confidence. Castle doesn’t do random cliffhangers; it has stuck to a pretty exclusive formula of one two-parter per season and one cliffhanger in the season finale. Now, though, the formula has changed. Next week’s episode is going to pick up where this one breathlessly left off, with Beckett racing for the antidote needed to save Castle’s life. Ending this episode on a cliffhanger was a great way to get new viewers who tuned in for the premiere to come back next week. It also showed long-time viewers that this show can still surprise us. It was a great way to get people to keep talking about Castle in a week when it could have gotten lost in the shuffle of so many season premieres.
It was a smart move. It was a confident move. And it was a move that has me excited not only for next week but for the rest of the season as well.