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.