I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who’ve read and commented on my Castle posts this season. It’s been a fun ride, and I can’t wait to discuss Season Seven with all of you in the fall!
Title For Better or Worse (6.23)
Written By Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller
What Happens? Three days before their wedding, a wrench gets thrown into Castle and Beckett’s plans when it’s revealed that Beckett is actually a married woman—and not married to Castle. I turns out that a drunken visit to a Vegas wedding chapel when she was at Stanford ended in a marriage that she thought wasn’t legally binding to Rogan O’Leary, a con artist and criminal.
As Castle stays behind to continue with wedding preparations, Beckett heads to a small town in New York to get Rogan to sign the divorce papers. He won’t do it until she helps him break into his ex-girlfriend’s car to help him get his belongings back after their breakup. After Beckett fulfills her part of the deal, she goes back to O’Leary’s place, only to watch him get kidnapped. After Beckett relays the story to Castle, he agrees to join her to wrap up this problem as soon as possible.
It’s not only the kidnapping of O’Leary that throws a wrench into Castle and Beckett’s wedding plans. Ryan’s tuxedo doesn’t fit, their rooftop venue was destroyed in a fire, and Beckett’s dress was ruined when a pipe burst in her apartment building. Beckett worries that these are all signs that this wedding isn’t meant to happen, but Castle reassures her that all great love stories face obstacles. In order to get the fairytale ending, you have to keep pushing through the bad times.
As Castle and Beckett investigate O’Leary’s disappearance, they come into contact with a biker gang, a stripper, and a reverend who are all connected to Beckett’s newly-discovered husband. It turns out that O’Leary has photos of the stripper with the reverend but also with a mafia hit man who has been on the run from law enforcement for years. The hit man is behind the kidnapping, and he seems intent on wiping out O’Leary as well as Castle and Beckett, until they run into the biker gang again. After learning of the reward on the hit man and knowing they have strength in numbers, the gang removes the hit man from the situation, leaving O’Leary free to sign the divorce papers, which leaves Beckett free to marry Castle.
Despite all of complications, Martha and Alexis move the ceremony to their Hamptons house, and Lanie gets Beckett an even better dress to wear: her mother’s. But as Castle drives to the house after getting their paperwork filed, he’s followed by a dangerous-looking SUV. After he fails to show up when he was supposed to, Beckett gets a call and races to an unknown location in her wedding dress. After she gets out of her car, she sees Castle’s car, which has gone over a cliff and has burst into flames.
Game-Changing Moment For much of this season, it seemed Castle was leading up to a wedding that wasn’t exactly like the one that was planned but was still a happy and hopeful occasion. And while I had some doubts about whether or not the wedding would actually happen in this episode (I thought the lack of huge promotion and the lack of snippets of the wedding ceremony itself in promos was a bad sign), I certainly did not expect such a dramatic way to end the season. It doesn’t get much more game-changing than appearing to kill of your show’s title character. And while we know that won’t be the case, this is going to impact the show in a huge way—no matter who was in that SUV. (My guess: 3XK or someone connected to him.) It added another obstacle to Castle and Beckett’s love story, it prolonged the lead-up to the wedding (presumably so there would be viewers tuning in for the wedding this week and then tuning in again when it actually happens—I’m guessing around the midpoint of next season), and it gave us a moment that we’ll be talking about all summer. Whether or not that talk will be all positive is a different story, but if the job of that plot twist was to shake things up after a season of happy wedding planning, then its mission was accomplished.
Finale M.V.P. Susan Sullivan wasn’t in the episode for long, but she made the most of every second of her time onscreen. I loved that Martha’s more grounded self came out in this episode (as it does in most Castle finales, now that I think about it). I liked that she was included in the little meeting after Beckett’s marriage was discovered, and I loved the moment of parental concern when she asked if Beckett’s father knew. It was a nice way to tie in the fact that Martha and Jim Beckett did bond over their children at one point, and one parent would be concerned about the other’s reaction in that kind of situation. But she never judged Beckett for it either, which was very in-character for who we know Martha to be. It was also a pleasure to see Martha get to lend a helping hand in moving the ceremony, too, since her floral arrangements were rejected not too long ago. But where Martha—and Sullivan—really got a chance to shine was in her moment with Beckett when she gave her the earrings. Sullivan brings such class and understated power to Castle, and she brings something lovely out of Stana Katic whenever they get to share moments like this one. Martha is not a woman known for her softness, but when she shows it, it always feels genuine because of Sullivan’s talent. I found myself moved to tears when she told Beckett that those family heirlooms had been waiting for her. Sullivan has such a gift for making a moment resonate without making the emotion feel forced, and that was what was so special about this scene. Martha’s joy that her son had finally found a woman of substance—a woman worthy of his love—was palpable without being overblown. And in such a beautifully subtle way, Sullivan conveyed to the audience that she understood the importance of this moment not just for Martha but for Beckett. Martha can never replace Johanna Beckett, but no woman should be left without a mother figure on her wedding day. Martha’s gift was about being there for Beckett in whatever small way she could, and Sullivan played all of those layers in this small moment to absolute perfection.
Most Memorable Line “You can’t give up. That’s the deal. We want the happy ending, we can’t give up.” (Castle)
What Didn’t Work My biggest criticism with “For Better or Worse” is that it felt lazy. It could have been so much better than it was—even with the episode still ending with Castle in peril and the wedding not happening. Instead of shaking things up in a creative way, it used two tropes to put roadblocks up for Castle and Beckett’s wedding: the “already married to someone else” trope and the “car crash on the way to a big event” trope.
I’ll admit; I didn’t mind the plot about Beckett being married as much as I thought I was going to after seeing spoilers about it. It provided some fun moments of comedy, but I still ultimately found it unnecessary. I know Beckett went through her “wild child” phase after her mother’s death (which is completely in-character), but for her not to think a Vegas marriage is legally binding just makes her look stupid when we know she’s anything but (especially because Rogan knew they were married the whole time). Also, how would this marriage not have showed up at all during any of the various background checks she would have had to undergo for the NYPD and the FBI? I can usually ignore logic problems, but when an entire episode is based around something that should have been noticed a long time ago, I get frustrated.
I think my ultimate problem with the Rogan story was that I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about him, and I didn’t like the fact that I had to watch Beckett jump through hoops (including breaking into a car) for a character I didn’t care about in a season finale. I know the plot of this episode was supposed to be lighter than past finales, but this actually could have been a midseason episode’s plot if it wasn’t for the pressing wedding, which I think we all knew around the 45-minute mark of the episode wasn’t going to happen (because a wedding six years in the making deserves more than 15 minutes). Coming off the emotional high of “Veritas,” I think I forgot to temper my expectations, and that did me a disservice.
Where I think I helped myself, though, was in my belief that this episode was probably not going to end with the wedding. I had a bad feeling about it from the moment we saw the brief clip of Castle driving to the ceremony in the promo—nothing good ever happens after a shot of someone smiling behind the wheel of a car. But just because I knew something was going to keep the wedding from airing in this finale, that doesn’t mean I’m okay with it. It felt like a ratings stunt to advertise the episode, especially on Twitter, as the big “Caskett” wedding, only to pull the rug out from under the fandom in the final moments. There was just something about that final image of Beckett running to the burning car in her wedding dress that was just too much. It made me feel emotionally manipulated.
Last night, I felt cheated. Thankfully, that anger has somewhat subsided. It is frustrating to think that Castle and Beckett’s whole arc this season was about preparing for a wedding that didn’t happen, but I know it will still happen someday. It’s just very disappointing that a show that was so intent on (and successful at) tearing down the “Moonlighting Curse” felt like it had to manufacture drama to prolong this couple’s journey into marriage—both on the small scale (with Rogan) and on a large scale (with this cliffhanger). Happily married couples can still have drama. Heck, Castle could have been attacked after the wedding. But to have Beckett face such emotional damage again after just finding peace in “Veritas” was overkill. I’ve been spoiled lately with favorite characters of mine finally getting their chances to be happy, so I should have known happiness wasn’t going to last long for Beckett. But the fact that what could have been the happiest day of her life became another day marked by tragedy left me with a bad taste in my mouth, especially because it didn’t have to be done in such a melodramatic way.
What Worked It’s amazing how a good cast can make up for lazy writing choices. There were two specific scenes in this finale where I thought, All of this muddling through clichés was worth it to get this moment. One was the aforementioned scene between Beckett and Martha, which was everything I’d ever wanted in a wedding day interaction between them. The other was the beautiful scene between Beckett and Castle on the bench when they talked about fighting for their happy ending. Stana Katic did a great job of making Beckett’s panic over all of the wedding details falling apart feel realistic. She didn’t collapse, but you could see the stress wearing on her. That’s a different kind of emotional reaction than any we’ve ever seen from her before because it’s a kind of everyday emotional breakdown that isn’t often shown on television because it’s not particularly glamorous. But in Katic’s capable hands, I could feel Beckett’s disappointment in such a real way.
And then there was Fillion in that scene. The man can deliver grand, romantic speeches in such a way that I always believe him. I think it’s because the dialogue never feels too hokey. This was all about the work that has to be put in to get the happy ending, which is a bit of romantic realism that isn’t touched on enough in the media. True love takes work to find and maintain, and I love that Castle was the one to tell Beckett this because it shows how willing he is to put in the work this time—not that anyone could doubt that. His little pep talk was a summary of their relationship: They’ve had to earn their happiness, and they have to keep working in order to keep that love story alive. A marriage doesn’t run on love alone; it takes work. That speech had a maturity I really loved, even if I do look back on it now wondering why they can’t just have their happy ending.
I think that so many of my emotions over this ending came from just how good Katic was in those final moments. Even though I found myself more frustrated than sad by the turn of events, I couldn’t remain wholly unmoved in the face of Katic’s performance. She played Beckett’s grief with just enough control to convey the disbelief running through those last seconds. You could almost hear her whispering “Not again,” and that’s when you know an actor is talented—when they can convey lines of dialogue with just their expression.
The real fun of this finale was found in its details. I loved the way Ryan and Esposito kept passing Beckett’s case files back and forth as they talked to her about her honeymoon. I loved the dark humor to be found in the way Beckett’s dress (which we all know I didn’t love) met its end. I loved how much I laughed when Beckett kept repeating that she was going be sick (with perfectly subtle changes in delivery) after finding out about her marriage. I loved the little moment of romance we were given between Lanie and Esposito. I loved the continued importance placed on Lanie’s role in Beckett’s life. And I loved the wardrobe choices—from seeing Fillion in that tuxedo with the undone bow tie at the beginning to Lanie’s beautiful bridesmaid dress and Beckett’s stunning new gown. (Why did she not wear her mother’s dress all along? And kudos to those of you who called that happening!)
Questions to Discuss All Summer Who was driving that SUV and what do they want with Castle? Where is Castle, and what physical/mental state is he in? When will this wedding actually happen?
Finale Grade C+. This was an average episode of Castle with one heck of a divisive ending. While I appreciated the performances throughout, I can’t shake the fact that this episode relied too heavily on common TV clichés for both its main plot and the emotional resonance of its cliffhanger. I’m hopeful that this ending can rise above the feeling of contrived drama it carries with it right now to open up great avenues for storytelling next season. But until I see where it’s going, I just feel frustrated that what is usually such a creative show felt the need to rely on tropes to throw a wrench into a relationship that has already been tested more than enough—and in more original ways.