Title The Way of the Ninja
Two-Sentence Summary The murder of a Japanese ballet dancer has Castle even more excited about a case than usual because it puts him face-to-masked-face with not one but two ninjas. The case also brings Castle, Ryan, and Esposito to a Japanese hostess club frequented by men bored with their marriages, and that (plus a meeting with an old friend) prompts Beckett to worry that she and Castle might becoming a boring married couple, which Castle vows to make sure will never happen.
Castle: The killer can’t be a ballet dancer—because it would be such a huge letdown.
Beckett: Of course. We can’t let facts get in the way of a good story.
My Thoughts Could Castle and Beckett ever become a boring couple? That question was at the heart of “The Way of the Ninja,” and it was also a question that was asked in the real world of fandom and TV journalism far before Castle and Beckett even began a romantic relationship in Castle’s Season Four finale. Castle’s successful handling of its central couple’s transition from “will they/won’t they” to a stable romantic relationship has been singled out by many for poking serious holes in—if not outright debunking—the infamous Moonlighting Curse (which was based on the concept that relationships are inherently boring to watch). And how did they do it? Chemistry.
When you have great chemistry, a relationship isn’t boring. It’s true for Castle and Beckett as characters and for Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic as actors. “The Way of the Ninja” had a plot that I might actually classify as boring—or at least it didn’t cover any new territory for this show. But what made it work were the people involved. As Beckett once told Castle, the bubble doesn’t always have to burst, especially not if you’re in it with the right person. That’s been true for their relationship and true for the show as a whole. With Fillion and Katic holding the reins of these characters they know so well, even the most familiar filler plots become something fun.
The case in this episode combined elements that have been Castle staples since the beginning. A case that allows Castle to develop elaborate theories? Check. A case that unveils a strange, hidden club or other kind of kinky establishment? Check. A case that features a family member with a vendetta that makes Beckett think about her mother’s murder? Check.
In general terms, we were walking on familiar ground in “The Way of the Ninja,” but that didn’t mean the details of the episode weren’t thoroughly entertaining. After a very tense and dramatic previous episode, it was nice to just have some fun watching Castle last night. The tonal whiplash between those two episodes could have been extreme, but the one-week hiatus worked in this episode’s favor in that regard. Also, there were still some connections to the last episode in Beckett stating that killing the man responsible for a family member’s death isn’t the right path to choose. Katic never fails to bring her A-game in moments like that, and it left me hoping that this season is building to Beckett taking down Bracken once and for all.
Even after six seasons, it still makes me smile every time Beckett and Castle banter about one of his theories, as they did multiple times about the involvement of ninjas in this murder. I think it’s because those scenes are perhaps the best examples of the ways this relationship has grown while showing that these characters are still the same on a fundamental level as they were in the show’s pilot. Castle is always going to be upset when Beckett ruins his stories with her logic, and Beckett is always going to be annoyed when Castle’s theories contradict her facts. But what used to be a frustrated kind of annoyance has warmed to an affectionate kind over the years. I love that Beckett now smiles as she rolls her eyes at him. He’s still pulling her pigtails (or, in the case of this episode, her beautiful high ponytail), but now she’s not shy about liking it.
I also have to give Fillion credit for never making Castle’s excitement over a strange case feel monotonous. Every time he reacts to a crazy twist or a theory being (possibly) proven right, I still laugh like I did during Season One. Castle has never lost his sense of playful enthusiasm, and that’s all because of Fillion. As each step in the case moved closer to proving the involvement of ninjas, I found myself watching almost exclusively for Castle’s reactions because they were so entertaining.
Another facet of Castle that I never get tired of watching is the relationship between Ryan, Esposito, and Castle. There’s something endlessly amusing about the comedic chemistry between Fillion, Jon Huertas, and Seamus Dever. Those three characters interacting—especially in a situation like the hostess club—always manages to be funny without feeling forced, just by highlighting the differences between their personalities. I especially loved Ryan and Esposito being concerned about Castle going into the private room with one of the girls; you could see their brotherly instincts kick into high gear at the idea of Beckett’s fiancé walking away with some strange woman. And I’m pretty sure nothing else I see on television this week will make me laugh like watching Kevin Ryan sing karaoke.
The scene in the hostess club was a fun reminder that Castle is still a wealthy writer who has a smooth way with women. But I am so glad there was no obnoxious jealousy subplot involving Beckett getting mad about Castle and the girl from the club. In fact, the only damage from that trip to the club was done to Castle’s checking account. (Did anyone else crack up at him asking Gates if the NYPD would reimburse him?) What would have once been cause for an episode’s worth of angst was instead treated like the nothing that it really was.
Beckett is confident in her relationship with Castle, but I love that she’s not completely confident in what married life will be like. She’s never done this before, and she knows Castle has danced this dance twice with not the best results. In fact, Castle used to imply—if not state outright—that married life didn’t suit him, so to see Beckett fearing that he would get bored with their marriage (and that she might as well) that was very realistic.
But, as Castle is so fond of reminding Beckett, she’s not the same as his ex-wives, and he’s not the same man he was when he married them. They’ve known each other for six years, and their time together has been anything but boring. However, I liked that it wasn’t just something Castle waved off as a needless concern. He saw how much it was bothering Beckett, and he did what he does best—he used his words to comfort her, to reassure her, and to make her feel secure in their future.
I liked that Castle and Beckett’s conversation about marriage brought up a very real point about relationships: They take work and dedication to succeed. In promising to keep their relationship from getting boring, Castle and Beckett were promising to always work at their relationship, promising not to become complacent in their marriage. Marriage isn’t just about love and romance and chemistry; it’s also about a decision and a commitment to work together to make a relationship the best it can be.
Just as a TV show doesn’t have to stop being interesting when two characters get together, a couple doesn’t have to stop being interesting when they get married. Instead, there are new avenues to explore and new stories to tell together. And we all know that both Castle and Beckett love a good story.
The commentary on Castle as a show was strong in this episode, and that made it even more fun to watch. Happiness and stability aren’t synonymous with boring, and I love that Castle has been proving this for years now.