Title Smells Like Teen Spirit
Two-Sentence Summary When the mysterious death of a prep school student is linked to a girl with supposed telekinetic powers, Castle and Beckett uncover a web of high-school bullying, high-stakes burglary, and murder. Meanwhile, Castle and Beckett reminisce about their high school experiences as they struggle to find a first-dance song for their wedding.
Favorite Line “Everything I’ve ever done, every choice I’ve ever made, every terrible and wonderful thing that has ever happened to me—it’s all led me to right here, this moment with you.” (Castle)
My Thoughts Castle always knows how to wrap up an episode. Sometimes it’s with a great moment between Castle and his daughter or his mother (or both). Sometimes it’s with a cliffhanger that leaves you breathless. Sometimes it’s with a scene that reinforces the familial feeling within the 12th precinct. And sometimes it’s with a beautiful new step in the journey Castle and Beckett have been on since their first final scene together in the show’s pilot episode.
What I’m trying to say is Castle knows how to end things on a high note. And the ending to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” may have been the highest note the show has hit in a season that is consistently nailing both the biggest and smallest moments on Castle and Beckett’s road to their wedding day. It was another bold, confident move in a season that has been defined by its confidence, and it was one of my favorite Castle/Beckett closing scenes since the Season-Four finale that inspired it.
But before we talk about those perfect final minutes of the episode, let’s talk about the rest of the episode that came before it. I found myself initially intrigued by the case and all of its Carrie references (with bonus X-Men references to make my nerdy heart happy). Any case that lends itself to outrageous Castle theories (and Beckett eye-rolls) is going to be a fun case for me to watch. However, I do think it became unnecessarily convoluted once the burglary plot began to unfold. I started doing eye-rolls of my own once German bonds became an important part of the plot.
The best part of the case was the fact that it took Castle back to his old high school. That allowed for plenty of humor (see Beckett’s reaction to Castle getting in trouble with his old principal), but it also allowed for yet another layer of the “Castle onion” to get peeled back. Remember when the show tried to make us believe that it would be hard for Beckett to see the things that make Castle who he is? Now, it’s just something that happens little by little in every episode. We’ve learned so much about Beckett’s past that Castle’s is now finally starting to see its own time in the spotlight, and it’s happening so naturally that it never feels like heaps of exposition. It’s just two engaged people sharing stories about who they were before they knew each other—and finding out along the way that they really are made for each other.
Castle didn’t go to his prom because he did something rash without thinking about the consequences. He didn’t choose not to go to his prom, but his cavalier behavior kept him from going. And Beckett made the active choice to avoid her prom, ultimately regretting it later. Both of them reached the same conclusion—not attending their senior proms—but the reasons behind how they got there speak so much to who these two are as characters.
The reasons Castle and Beckett missed their proms really beautifully reflected the reasons they missed a lot of time together. At the beginning of their working relationship, Beckett wasn’t sure if she could take Castle seriously. And then when she was ready to take a chance with him at the end of Season Two, he reconnected with Gina, unknowingly keeping himself from a relationship with Beckett by his own impulsive choice to get back together with his ex. And Beckett herself actively chose to walk away from happiness on so many occasions until she decided she was going to regret it so much more than she regrets not going to her prom.
That’s why Castle and Beckett’s toast to the things they missed and those they didn’t resonated so strongly with me. Because they both missed out on important things, but ultimately, they didn’t miss out on the most important experience in their lives—falling in love with each other. And it’s especially moving because it was Beckett who toasted to the things they didn’t miss. This is a woman who struggled for so long with accepting happiness for herself and moving on from grief and regret that were suffocating in their intensity. And now she has finally reached a place where she can say she didn’t miss out on this chance to be happy. And for a character who missed out on a decade of happiness to be able to smile at the man she loves and say she didn’t miss this opportunity to love and be loved is such a genuine sign of character growth.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit” also continued the trend of making sure the audience doesn’t miss out on any step in Castle and Beckett’s wedding planning. I love that Castle is doing such a great job of weaving little bits of wedding talk into each episode because it adds a nice dose of joyful realism to the show. It feels like the writers know how long the fans have waited for these characters to get married, and they want to make sure the fans don’t miss any important detail. As one of those aforementioned fans, that makes my emotional investment feel appreciated by the people running the show. It’s also another blow to the idea of the “Moonlighting Curse.” Castle not only stayed exciting and fresh after getting its characters together, it’s stayed engaging, surprising, and fun while bringing up even the most mundane details of wedding planning. Because no detail is actually mundane when it’s for a wedding that has been fought for, when it’s celebrating happiness that has been earned.
The end of this episode was all about celebrating the journey these two characters have been on together. It began with Castle asking Beckett to go to the dance with him. Her hand in his symbolized all the ways this relationship has allowed them to grow from people who missed out on things to people who choose to seize happiness together.
And then the music started.
“In My Veins” is a special song for Castle fans. Some songs are played on a show without anyone taking notice, and then other songs go on to become legendary moments in a show’s history. “In My Veins” is a perfect example of the latter. It was the song playing when Beckett decided to choose love and happiness with Castle over self-destructive vengeance. It was the song that led into the most important moment in the show’s history—Beckett showing up at Castle’s door and saying four little words that changed everything: “I just want you.”
And now it’s the song that will be playing right after Castle and Beckett each say the two little words that will once again take their relationship to new heights: “I do.” To choose “In My Veins” as Castle and Beckett’s wedding song was such a beautiful gesture of continuity and thoughtfulness. A wedding song should mean something to the couple; it should cause them and those present for their first dance to reflect on their journey together. For a television wedding, having the song hold special meaning for the audience as well just makes the whole thing even more special. It’s a sign that the creators and writers want to really honor the fans as this wedding draws closer, and that’s something that makes me feel proud to call myself a fan of this show.
With their song playing in the background, Castle beautifully summed up their journey together by stating what they both know to be true: All of the mistakes they’ve made and all of the good moments have led them to the place they are at now—a place of love and contentment and happiness—so they shouldn’t have any regrets. We as fans have watched so many of those mistakes and wonderful things play out over the course of six seasons, and we know that Castle’s words are true. They needed everything to happen as it did for these characters to grow into characters who could believably be committed to each other and happy with one another forever. That quote was a reminder of Castle’s mission statement: This show is, first and foremost, a love story.
As a love story, this episode ended the only way it could: With two couples whose stories mirrored each other. When Jordan walked up to Lucas and hugged him, it reminded me a lot of Beckett showing up at Castle’s door at the end of “Always.” Both women felt alone, but extreme circumstances caused them to finally accept that they each had someone who truly cared about them and wanted to keep them from getting hurt. Beckett and Castle were looking at a version of their story playing out in front of their own eyes, and I think that’s why Jordan and Lucas’s story produced such a strong emotional reaction for me.
Finishing strong has always been a hallmark of Castle episodes, and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” continued that tradition. The ending of this episode took me by surprise, but, ultimately, there was no other way it could have ended than with two people dancing to the song that has always been theirs.
Everything is dark.
It’s more than you can take,
but you catch a glimpse of sunlight
shining, shining down on your face…