Title Dressed to Kill
Two-Sentence Summary The death of a famous magazine editor’s assistant brings Beckett back into the world of high fashion after her brief period of time spent working as a model. A wedding dress modeling session and a discussion of venues and dates causes Beckett to come to terms with the fact that her mother won’t be present for her wedding day.
Beckett: Do you know what else I wish she could have experienced? You.
Beckett: She would have loved you.
My Thoughts Sometimes life gives you moments of reflection, moments to stop and think about how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come. “Dressed to Kill” gave Kate Beckett one of those moments—a moment to literally look in the mirror and see who she has become in the last six years—and, in doing so, it gave us as fans a chance to reflect on this character’s journey and the way it has changed from a story of loss to a story of love.
To be honest, I thought the majority of this episode was standard, midseason Castle fare. It featured a great guest star (Frances Fisher, whose presence gave me a case of some serious Titanic nostalgia), a pop-culture inspired plot (in this case, The Devil Wears Prada), and a series of elaborate twists and turns before cycling back to name a character introduced near the beginning as the murderer (who I totally called as the killer as soon as I saw him—not to brag or anything).
I didn’t feel much emotional attachment to anyone related to the case, which was strange considering how much time the episode spent trying to get me to feel invested in the relationship between Beckett and Matilda. I understand that Beckett modeled for her for a brief time, but I had difficulty believing Matilda would care enough about her to give her a wedding dress and make “daughter” comments about her. I wish we could have seen those wedding dress scenes with Martha instead, because that’s a relationship between Beckett and a mother figure that I actually care about. I know the show wanted to make the most of Fisher’s appearance, but her scenes with Beckett felt forced to me rather than familial.
I suppose my larger problem with Beckett and Matilda’s scenes might boil down to one basic fact: I really don’t like the wedding dress, and I like it even less when I think of it as Kate Beckett’s wedding dress. It actually took away some of the emotional power of seeing Beckett in a wedding dress for the first time—that’s how much I don’t like it. Part of my problem with it is that it was kind of forced on Beckett; she didn’t get to choose her wedding dress, which seems wrong to me. My other issue is that it just doesn’t feel at all like something Kate Beckett would wear.
I have been feverishly following Beckett’s fashion choices for quite some time, and what I’ve always loved about her style is that it’s so simple and so effortlessly elegant. I always expected her wedding dress to be a simple white or cream sheath—not that mess of tulle and print. The bodice might have worked without the tulle, but it still would have felt too opulent for the no-nonsense woman we know Beckett to be. I never thought there would be a dress Stana Katic couldn’t pull off, but I think they actually found one. My only hope is that the dress is a big red herring, and Beckett ultimately wears something more suited to her character.
Let this be a lesson to all future TV creators and costume designers: If you give audiences a character with as a well-defined a sense of style as Kate Beckett, don’t be surprised if they don’t like it when the most important garment the character will ever wear doesn’t fit that style at all. It’s not just dialogue and actions that can be out-of-character; clothes can be, too.
I suppose I should stop playing “fashion police” and actually get to what the wedding dress represented for Beckett—because it was so much more than just a dress for both her and the audience. Perhaps that’s why I bristled at Matilda giving Beckett the dress; in an episode that focused on mothers (with Martha being ever-present in the wedding planning and Johanna being gone) the gesture seemed to overstep some boundaries. I wanted Beckett to politely send the dress back and do something like alter her mother’s wedding dress, invite Martha to go dress shopping, or even go by herself (or with Lanie) to pick out her own dress. But there’s still time for something like that to happen.
I may have disliked the actual dress, but I loved the scene when Beckett first tried it on like I’ve loved few individual moments so far this season. It was a truly inspired piece of nonverbal acting from Stana Katic. Go back and watch the scene again after hearing her tell Castle that she expected to see her mother behind her; you can see the exact moment when it registers on her face that her mother isn’t going to be a physical presence in her wedding planning. The way the happiness and hope in her eyes fades so quickly is a testament to the depth with which Katic understands this character. Yes, Beckett is truly happy, but it would be doing the character and her arc throughout these six seasons a disservice to pretend that everything is okay for Beckett. She sees how hands-on Martha is with the wedding planning, and she appreciates it. But it’s not the same. It’s not her mom going to check out venues or looking through bridal magazines with her, and it’s not okay. It doesn’t have to be okay. It shouldn’t be okay.
The way this season has developed in terms of the wedding plans has felt like a bit of a whirlwind, and I think this moment was the first one where Beckett was able to stop for a second and really process what was happening. Katic played that scene with just the right amount of guilt, as if Beckett were questioning whether or not she should have this happiness with her mother dead and Senator Bracken still not brought to justice. For so many years, Kate Beckett was a woman who always prioritized her mother’s memory over her own life. She put her grief above her own happiness. Loving Castle helped set her free from that mindset, helped her choose her future over her past. But standing there in that wedding dress, her future finally laid out in front of her, she found herself pulled back into old habits of fear and doubt and closing herself off to Castle in favor of living in her grief. And, as Castle said, that’s a perfectly human reaction. In fact, it’s a reaction Beckett needed to have. Love isn’t a cure-all for the trauma in your past; finding happiness with Castle doesn’t mean Beckett is completely healed of her grief, and she shouldn’t be. But she is healing, and that’s why it was so important for her to open up to Castle at the episode’s conclusion.
Beckett is a woman with many scars, symbols of wounds that are healing but will never fully go away. I thought it was a brilliant decision to have Katic put her hand over the spot on Beckett’s chest where her scar is while standing in the wedding dress. She got that scar the day Castle told her he loved her for the first time, and she got it because she wouldn’t stop looking into her mother’s case. Her scar shows that she survived unspeakable trauma and was given a second chance to live and love. It symbolizes a hole in her heart that will never be fully healed but isn’t open and bleeding anymore. The subconscious touching of that scar—also the place where her mother’s ring usually resides on its chain—was way to show the audience that Beckett has come a long way from being who she was (a woman defined by trauma and grief), but that woman will always be a part of who she is. She is a woman who lost her mother, she is a trauma survivor, and she is allowed to have a moment of very human anxiety—it would be wrong for this character to not be given such a moment.
In the end, though, Beckett was able to acknowledge her past, grieve her mother, and still choose happiness for herself. She was allowed to feel sad about the things she’s doing without her mother and still feel hopeful about her future. That healthy balance she achieved at the end of the episode represented Kate Beckett’s entire character arc in microcosm. Castle’s steadfast love and support have allowed her to grow into the kind of woman who can mention her mother with a smile because she’s thinking of how much her mother would have loved him. And she would have. Johanna Beckett seemed to be a woman who fought for the true story to be told, and she shares that trait with Castle. But more than anything else, Johanna would have loved Castle because of how much he loves Beckett. And Beckett can see that.
Just as I was floored by Katic’s nuance in the wedding dress scene, I was in awe of Nathan Fillion’s reaction to Beckett telling Castle that her mother would have loved him. His little, private smile showed how much this meant to Castle to hear. He’s watched Beckett grow from a woman driven by grief to a woman who is now able to balance her loss with her capacity to love, and Fillion has always made me believe that Castle is honored to share that journey with Beckett and to help her along it. Love is understanding that you can’t change a person, but you can help them become their best self. The end of this episode saw Beckett at her best—remembering her mother fondly while bravely stepping into the future with Castle. And if the end of this episode is any indication of that future, it will be one filled with warmth and contentment, a concept Beckett used to be afraid to embrace but has now finally allowed herself to feel with her fiancé.
“Dressed to Kill” was a beautiful way to rectify Beckett’s tragic past with her happy present. Beckett’s emotional growth was the focus of the show for such a huge chunk of time, but in the last couple of seasons it hasn’t really needed as much time in the spotlight. However, this episode was an excellent reminder that Beckett has grown but hasn’t abandoned who she was. She’s still a woman shaped by loss, but she isn’t defined by it anymore. She’s defined now by her ability to choose love and happiness for herself after everything she has been through. And if that’s not a reason to celebrate this spring (or whenever they choose to get married), then I don’t know what is.
That was a terrific review! And I agree The dress needs to go. Totally out of character as is a big venue for their wedding. I feel like it’s not in keeping with Becketts understated ideals. I still hold out hope for a more intimate wedding at the Hamptons house or on the beach.
Thank you for leaving such a nice comment! And I agree—both the dress and the venue seemed more grand than I was expecting for these characters and their very grounded love story. I love your idea of a wedding in the Hamptons, and I’d love that kind of simple, intimate wedding for them.
Always love hearing your thoughts, especially about Kate’s character development. I LOVE what you said about Beckett standing in front of the mirror, looking at the person that she has become over the past 6 years. Her little lie to Castle was something Beckett of a few seasons ago would have done, but coming clean to him in the end? That’s who Beckett is now, and that’s the kind of relationship they have now. I kind of feel like Castle’s phone call to her served as a bit of a metaphor for their relationship. He’s the one who brought her out of the darkness of her past, who’s made her the happiest she’s ever been. It was really poetic that, even in the midst of a sad moment thinking about her mom, seeing his name on her phone still brought a smile to her face.
I also loved that as much as he wants to be married to Kate (as evidenced by his conversation with Martha) he was still willing to wait if that’s what Kate needed. I feel like if last season was about them getting comfortable in a relationship, this is the season where they’ve actually gotten good at being in one. The honesty (on both their parts) in the last scene showed just how strong their relationship has become.
And I totally agree about the dress! Stana Katic is gorgeous, but even she couldn’t pull that dress off. Though I have a feeling that that won’t be THE dress. I can totally see something going wrong the day of the wedding (3XK perhaps?) and their plans completely changing. I’m not rooting for it, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Thank you so much for the comment, Becca! I love what you said about last season being the testing ground for their relationship and this season being the first time we get to see them really comfortable and at ease with every facet of their relationship. It’s what’s made this season even better than the last one, in my opinion. I love watching them as a successful, stable couple happily planning their future together with openness and honesty. They’ve earned this as characters, and we’ve certainly earned it as fans. 😉
“She’s still a woman shaped by loss, but she isn’t defined by it anymore.” — drop mike. Really in a review that had many wonderfully poignant points, this totally sums it up perfectly. I love this observation and it perfectly captures why the episode was worth watching.
There are a handful of moments that I think Stana Katic has nailed over the last 6 years. Her collapse of emotion as the pain of her mother’s murder and reality of her momentary grasp of her killer slipping away when Coonan dies caves in on her, the moment she is on the plane reading Royce’s letter, the frozen sadness of missing her moment with Castle at the end of season 2 and realizing Roy is involved in her mom’s murder. Katic standing in the mirror was one of those moments, if not my favorite of them all. It was all of Kate Beckett in full display. It was absolutely exquisite when she realizes her mom is missing from the moment and even better when she realizes that on the day she marries Castle she will stand in front of a mirror alone, without her by her side. It’s not just the planning, but the quintessential moment a mother and daughter share right before a bride walks down the aisle, a milestone that won’t happen for Kate – and it knocks the wind out of her, literally, as we see when she can barely muster a whisper to talk to Castle. It is a brilliantly emotional moment that gave me a lifetime of hopes and missed moments. For me that was the money moment that made the very ordinary episode special.
I completely agree with you that the episode was lazy in its story/murder mystery. I do however have a slightly different take on the dress and Matilda. I didn’t think they were trying to create a mother/daughter situation for them. I felt like Matilda was merely there to highlight the absence of her mother and the fact that when she walked away from modeling was in a period that surrounded her mother’s death. I agree that Kate’s style is very distinct and that the dress was completely outside the bounds of reason for what anyone might imagine for Kate. I do however believe it was deliberate. But more on that in a minute. Remember just because Matilda gifted the dress doesn’t mean that Kate is going to wear it. It was merely a gesture, a kindness that causes Kate to realize what is important about her impending wedding to Castle – that she has found her home with him. I think it’s that gift that prompts her to go talk to Castle.
Which brings me to the deliberate gaudiness of the dress. It, like the venue speak to a grand fairy tale wedding. We have watched Rick and Kate get caught up in the fantastical aspects of getting married. The bells and whistles in their random conversations about honeymoons, vows, locations and that’s exactly the point. It’s been about the wedding – not the marriage. While the arc is obviously for Kate this episode as you so beautifully broke down. I think the show did a nice job of paralleling Rick alongside her with regards to the fact that they both come to the same conclusion. Their wedding isn’t about the day, it’s about the start of their lives together, it’s about the marriage – which is why the 50/50 divorce rate joke is funny to Kate. Rick’s other wives were weddings, theirs is going to be a marriage. We see Rick come to this conclusion with his mother standing in the venue. Old Castle would have bought his way/waited to have the perfect wedding space. Not now, not with all they have been through. Because it’s not about the dress or the venue, it’s about them. That is why it is such a wonderful gesture for him to offer Kate more time, because it comes on the heals of him clearly telling his mother that waiting wasn’t anything he was interested in doing. This is no longer a self absorbed Rick Castle. And as you said, Fillion has done such a great job of consistently giving us the earnest deference Castle has for Joanna Beckett’s memory. That closing scene gives us so much, a Beckett who has found her center around the real pain of not having her mother during this happy moment of her life and not letting it prevent her from still enjoying it. A couple who understands that the wedding isn’t what they value, it’s the life they are building together. And in Castle, a validation about a woman who he reveres because she is the person who most defines the woman he loves. Kate giving him that insight is a found treasure and everything on Fillion’s face gives us that. So yes, the episode was filler, but man the bookends were worth the time.
Once again, I am left speechless at the articulate and insightful nature of every part of this comment. I say this a lot, but thank you so much for choosing to share your thoughts over here every week. 😀
I completely agree with your assessment of the episode as a statement on the marriage being more important to the two of them than the wedding. That’s why I’m pretty sure the wedding is going to be a much more simple affair (for any number of reasons) than it’s seemed so far. These two characters have been committing to each other since the day they said their first “Always,” and that unconditional commitment is something both of them cherish because they’ve never had that before. Their wedding isn’t about the venue, the dress, or the honeymoon—it’s about reaffirming that commitment in front of the people they love most. The meaning is more important to both of them than the presentation—style matters less than substance (which shows just how far Rick Castle has come)—and that was a great conclusion to see them reach at the end of this episode.
Wow, that review was intense and very deep . All long term Castle fans could really identify with your thoughts. Kate really loved that gown so that is all that matters. Stana Katic continues to wow and amaze in her superior acting talents.
Thanks for the comment!
wonderful review and I must say you hit the nail on the head in all aspects. The performances were stellar all round. And yes…the dress has to go.!!
Thank you for the nice comment! It was an incredibly well-acted episode, and I love episodes that let this cast use the full range of their talents like this one did.
I think it was an interesting gem that she turned down the magazine cover in January 1999, which means it was probably right after her mom’s murder. I do wish Castle would have awknowledged this unless we are to assume that they already discussed it off camera, which is what I’m going to choose to believe. They seem so committed to each other this season I think they’ve shared a lot more than we the audience get to see in 42 minutes every week, which is how a real relationship is – always revealing little pieces of yoursrlf.
The end scene may have been one of my favorites all time, a huge surprise to me. I love the character growth from both of them with Beckett openly sharing why she turned down the spring and Castle telling her it was ok and offerring her more time if she needed (despite thwee fact we know he would rather not wait a second more). And the line about her wishing her mom could have experience Castle was a major lump in the throat moment for myself. Fantastic work.
Great review, hit the nail on the head (the dress is so not Kate Beckett it makes me nauseous but I have high hopes a different dress will appear for the actual ceremony)
Thank you for the very thoughtful comment! And I can’t believe I missed that she turned down the cover in January 1999—I need to stop Tweeting and start paying better attention to the details! 😉 That is a very significant detail, and I love that it tied into the affect her mother’s death had on her life in a very subtle way during an episode that was about the ways her grief is still affecting her. Thanks for bringing it up!
Awwww! This time I’m not with you!
First of all I liked the episode, even if I caught the murderer at first sight as you did.
Let’s start with my thoughts.
The dress. I don’t like it, but it’s a matter of tastes. As a symbol it’s very interesting. It’s a two parts dress, an icy sexy top and a white, somewhat warm, gown. It’s like Kate, a firm strong sad woman and an happy bride-to be. It’s a symbol of a connection of her lives, her experience as a model and her future. That’s why I find this dress a great trigger for her thoughts about her mother. I don’t know if I will like her in that dress at the wedding, but I am sure I liked the moment, her smile and her sadness that showed up in that moment. a moment she shared with herself AND with Rick (and this is the most important part).
Mother. Martha can’t and (hopefully) won’t be a mother for Kate. The entire Castle serie is about Kate not having a mother and she won’t ever find a substitute. Lanie is a girlfriend, Espo is a brother, Rick is her other half, but no mothers around. I could appreciate Kate looking for wedding stuff with Alexis, that would be a nice “evolution”. Matilda wasn’t such a belieavable character, but her actions were built to drive Kate to the connection I mentioned above.
Anyway, that was a great review as usual. Thank you
(Disclaimer: all comments about the dress style are from my GF, I don’t know what an icy colour is…)
Thank you for leaving such a thoughtful comment! I like when people disagree with my take on parts of episodes because I’m always game for seeing a new side of things, especially when they’re presented the way you presented your thoughts about the dress. It is an interesting symbol of the different parts that make up Beckett if you want to look at it that way. I’m just still trying to get past my own personal distaste for it. 😉
I think your comments about Beckett always being a woman without a mother are true, and I would never imagine she could find a substitute for Johanna—nor do I think she would ever want to. But I do think Beckett’s relationship with Martha is a way for her to have a relationship that borders on maternal without it ever taking the place of Johanna. Martha won’t ever be a mother for her, but she is a strong female presence in her life, which is something I don’t think she’s had since her mother passed. And I like to think Beckett cherishes that, even if it’s never made explicit. Martha never tries to be her mother, and I think that’s what makes that relationship work so well for Beckett.
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