Title The Time of Our Lives
Two-Sentence Summary While investigating a case involving an ancient Incan artifact, Castle is knocked unconscious and imagines a life where he and Beckett never met. That experience prompts him to not want to waste any more time, leading to a long-awaited sunset wedding in the Hamptons.
Beckett: The moment that I met you, my life became extraordinary. You taught me to be my best self, to look forward to tomorrow’s adventures. And when I was vulnerable, you were strong. I love you, Richard Castle, and I want to live my life in the warmth of your smile and the strength of your embrace. I promise you I will love you. I will be your friend and your partner in crime and in life. Always.
Castle: The moment we met, my life became extraordinary. You taught me more about myself than I knew there was to learn. You are the joy in my heart. You are the last person I want to see every night before I close my eyes. I love you, Katherine Beckett, and the mystery of you is the one I want to spend the rest of my life exploring. I promise to love you, to be your friend and your partner in crime and life—’til death do us part and for the time of our lives.
My Thoughts It’s hard for an event that’s been as highly-anticipated as Castle and Beckett’s wedding to live up to the hype, but somehow “The Time of Our Lives” succeeded. And I think it was because it was—like the best weddings—about the marriage and not about the ceremony, about the couple and not about all the other shiny things that can wind up taking center stage at a wedding. This was an episode about the fundamentals of a good marriage, wrapped up in a fun, alternate-universe story. And it was told in the way only Terri Miller can tell a love story.
From the start, it was clear that “The Time of Our Lives” was going to focus on the theme of Castle and Beckett bringing out the best in each other. The scene between them in the loft was filled with the kind of easy chemistry that Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have perfected over the years. They do such a good job of showing the way Castle and Beckett light up in each other’s presence. Their teasing about being bad for each other was adorable, and it reminded me of just how great it’s been to watch their banter develop over the years—from annoyance to intimacy.
That teasing, though, ended up hitting a little too close to home for Castle, just as I’m sure seeing Will’s wedding invitation hit a little too close to home for Beckett. (How awesome was that callback to Season One, by the way?) They’ve both been through so much in the last few months, and it makes sense for both of them to be working through the scars from that. And it was really poignant to see Castle—the one who’s always been so sure of his place by Beckett’s side and the one who said they can’t ever give up—wondering if Beckett would be better off without him, wondering if he was good for her. Castle’s disappearance has made him feel lost and confused about so much, and it was heartbreaking to think that his ability to be what Beckett needs and wants is something that his disappearance has caused him to doubt. His guilt over not being able to give Beckett the wedding she dreamed of broke my heart because he didn’t purposely hurt her. But that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t carry around immense amounts of guilt, which the alternate universe helped him work through.
The entire alternate universe/”What if?” storyline balanced humor and emotional depth in the way Miller has perfected as a Castle writer. It was hilarious to see Ryan and Esposito interact with Castle for the first time all over again. It was great to see Martha at her most theatrical (and to see Ryan clearly loving it). And it was fun to see that Beckett would always be attracted to Castle, no matter the universe. That’s the best part of alternate universe stories—they’re a way to show that if people are meant to be together, they find a way. It’s why I was so excited to see Beckett show up to have Castle’s back in the factory; their partnership was taking roots even in this world where they’d never met and everything had changed.
It was amazing to see the ripple effects of Castle and Beckett not meeting all those years ago; everything truly had changed—and not for the better. Castle hadn’t grown; he’d regressed. Without Beckett, he was still a playboy, getting arrested for doing ridiculous things, and writing without inspiration. He was miserable, and he’d pushed Alexis away by being the worst version of himself. That change broke my heart the most, but it also led to one of my favorite moments in the alternate universe. Watching Castle give Alexis advice again was like watching two people come home after being away for too long.
The precinct was also vastly different without Castle and Beckett’s partnership. Lanie was pregnant (a nice nod to the fact that the original pilot script called for the M.E. to be pregnant), but Esposito was clearly not the father. Ryan and Jenny didn’t get married or even date for very long. (Seamus Dever’s delivery of those lines about remembering Jenny was flawlessly bittersweet.) And Beckett may have been captain, but she clearly wasn’t happy.
This alternate universe was such a great way to prove to Castle—and to remind the audience—that he has been just as good for Beckett as she has been for him. Without Castle to pull her pigtails, Beckett had no one to help make her hard job more fun. And without his support, she was still wearing her mother’s ring, which meant she was still carrying the pain of that unsolved murder around with her every day. The moment she pulled out the ring, I felt the tears starting. To think that this Kate Beckett was living without the peace and closure the real Beckett had found was incredibly sad. And her showing Castle the ring was a really lovely reference to one of my favorite scenes between them in Season One’s “A Chill Goes Through Her Veins.”
Castle and Beckett both suffered without their partnership: He never found inspiration to write anything good without her; she never solved her mother’s case without him. She inspires him; he supports her. They could live without each other; this alternate universe wasn’t some unrealistic portrait of love as something you literally cannot function or live without. But they weren’t their best selves without each other. It reminds me of a quote by Franklin P. Jones that I read a long time ago: “Love isn’t what makes the world go ’round. It’s what makes the ride worthwhile.” Life went on without Castle and Beckett meeting, but it was a life that was decidedly less happy and hopeful than the life they’d built together over the last six years.
That was the biggest thing I took away from the alternate universe: Good love stories spread happiness. Think of how many people were affected by Castle and Beckett not falling in love. The happiness Castle and Beckett found together has been contagious, helping their friends and family to be their best selves, too. And that’s what great weddings (and great wedding episodes of TV shows) celebrate: the way one couple’s love can bring joy and inspiration to others.
The alternate universe was also a fun way to address some important parts of the Castle/Beckett love story before the wedding. Whether it was the nice reminder of Castle knowing Beckett’s coffee order or Castle commenting on Beckett’s “adorable” short hair, there were plenty of little references and callbacks to make longtime viewers smile. And we finally were given the moment I’d been waiting for since Season One: Beckett telling Castle about their real first meeting, when she stood in line at one of his book signings. I always had a suspicion that this confession would happen in their wedding episode, but I had no idea it would be like this. Castle’s face as she told him this secret was beautiful; Fillion did such a great job of showing how much he treasured finding out this new piece of information about her, and I am convinced this moment was what was on his mind when he talked about her being a mystery in his vows. There are still things about her he has yet to learn, and I think he loves that about her. I’m also still looking forward to the day the real Beckett tells him just how important his books were to her after her mother died.
While Beckett telling Castle about their first meeting was a way to give fans something we’d always wanted to see, Castle himself used this alternate universe to do something he’d wanted to do years before. Castle taking a bullet for Beckett was such a painfully perfect parallel to her shooting in Season Three’s “Knockout” that it left me speechless. In Castle’s alternate universe, he finally got to do what he’d tried and failed to do back then: save her. He was too late to push her out of the way on that day in the past, but in his alternate universe, he wasn’t too late. The reversal of their positions, with Beckett over him, begging him to stay with her, was gorgeously executed, with Castle echoing his confession of love from all those years before. To think that his guilt over not being able to save her back then weighed on him so heavily that it became part of the alternate universe his mind created was so sad but so believable. And it was just another reminder that no one on Earth could love Kate Beckett more than Richard Castle.
That alternate universe served its purpose masterfully; it reminded Castle of just how good he and Beckett are for each other: “I’m better off with her, and she’s better off with me.” That line was the most realistically, honestly romantic line I’d heard in a long time. It’s such a simple but profound way to describe the best kinds of love; we’re better off with that person than we are alone. That’s all I think we can ever hope to find in a marriage; someone we’re simply better with than we are without. That kind of honesty is a hallmark of Miller’s writing, and it was one of my favorite lines in an episode full of instant classics.
Knowing that you’re better off with someone and they are with you doesn’t mean things are always going to be perfect, though, and that’s what Castle acknowledged when he asked Beckett to marry him again in front of the murder board (which I might have loved even more than him proposing in front of the swing set). It was incredibly emotional to see him admit that he doesn’t know how she can handle everything that’s happened since they were last supposed to get married. But it was beautiful to see them decide to hope for the future and actually get married this time. Sometimes bad things happen, and if there’s one thing these characters know, it’s that you can’t stop living because of it. You can’t beat yourself up to the point that you refuse to grab happiness with both hands; that’s what Castle helped Beckett discover when it came to her mother’s case. And that’s what he discovered himself now. You have to keep living and you have to keep loving, and that’s what this wedding was all about, what this relationship has always been all about—living and loving together even when things are difficult.
While I would have loved for Esposito, Ryan, and Lanie to be at the wedding, I liked that this was literally as intimate as possible for these two characters who really did fall in love in the quiet moments amid the chaos of their lives. And while I could have done without the very fake sunset background, I loved the other aesthetics of the scene: Beckett’s outfit was gorgeous and so true to her style (and were those Martha’s earrings from the finale?), Castle looked almost unbearably handsome (I love a man in a tux with no tie), and it made me happy to see them get married at his Hamptons house. This place, where Beckett once felt the ghosts of the women he’d loved before, is now the place where his commitment to her and her alone was made as official as it could possibly be. This place, where Castle once ran away to forget about and move on from his feelings about Beckett, is now the place where he stood watching her walk towards him, ready to become his wife.
That moment of Beckett walking down the aisle as Castle looked at her was stunning. I love that this relationship began with her walking away from him in the pilot episode, and it all led to her walking down the aisle towards him, with him wearing the same awestruck expression on his face as he did six years ago. The expression on Fillion’s face as Castle watched Jim Beckett walk his daughter down the aisle made me cry, and Beckett’s answering smile made me cry even harder. Those two looks were the physical embodiment of Castle saying that they’re better off with each other.
I knew that a show with a writer as one of its protagonists and some of the most romantic lines I’ve ever head on television would have killer wedding vows. And I am happy to report that I was right. Both of them starting their vows with “extraordinary” was a perfect touch. That word has come to mean so much to both of them, and it was beautiful to see them acknowledge that their lives are more extraordinary now that they’ve found each other than they were before the day they met.
As Beckett said her vows, all I could think was how well Miller understands this character. When Beckett told Castle that he taught her to be her best self, I lost it—we’re talking embarrassing levels of crying. That’s what I’ve always admired more than anything when I look at this relationship: It taught me at a critical time in my life that the best love is the kind of love that makes us want to be our best selves. And for Beckett, that best self involved finally letting herself be vulnerable when she had to be strong for so long when it came to her mother’s death. It was lovely to see her acknowledge that Castle’s strength helped her when she was vulnerable, because accepting that he could be there for her and she could let her guard down with him was one of the most important ways Beckett grew as a character over the past six seasons. I also loved that Beckett specifically said that Castle taught to her to look forward to tomorrow. That first “Until tomorrow,” moment holds a special spot in my heart because it was all about Castle teaching her how to hope after she lived so much of her life not wanting to let herself hope anymore.
Castle’s vows also spoke to a deep understanding of this character and how he’s developed over the years. Loving Beckett helped Castle to shed his cavalier, playboy armor and discover the best he could be—a man of conviction, strength, courage, and warmth. Castle was a man who made a living creating and solving mysteries, and I will always love that Beckett is his favorite mystery; she’s the mystery he wants to spend the rest of his life solving. Her layers and complexities have never intimidated him; they’ve simply made him appreciate the little things she shows him about who she is every day, the clues she gives him towards this great mystery he first talked about with reverence in Season Three’s “To Love and Die in L.A.” (“You were a mystery I was never gonna solve…”)
In both of their vows, Castle and Beckett promised to be partners in crime and in life, which was a very cute callback to an old season’s (I can’t remember which one) tagline. It was also a great reminder that this relationship has always been and will always be a partnership, as all good marriages are. And I loved that Beckett was the one to promise him “Always.” You couldn’t have Castle wedding vows without an “Always.” Having Beckett say that allowed Castle to promise “for the time of our lives,” which is quite possibly the most in-character and sweetest way to end wedding vows I could have imagined (and was apparently also part of Miller and Andrew Marlowe’s wedding vows). It speaks to the sense of joy Castle brings to Beckett’s life, the same sense of joy that made her hard job more fun all the way back in Season Two. It also speaks to the sense of hope and optimism Castle has always brought to his relationship with Beckett. And the little conspiratorial smile Fillion had as he delivered that line melted my heart.
Both Fillion and Katic were perfect as their characters finally said those vows. Katic’s teary eyes made mine even tearier, if that was possible. And the way Fillion delivered his lines with such soft, tender conviction reminded me that no one can deliver a romantic speech like this man. And his grin when he emphasized “partners in crime” was only matched in cuteness by Katic’s answering smile.
The wedding ended in the only way it really could—with Castle and Beckett dancing to “In My Veins.” That song has come to mean so much to Castle fans, so it was nice to see it reappear to end what was such a rewarding episode for longtime viewers. And was there anything more beautiful than Beckett telling Castle that it was perfect? Castle spent so much time worrying that he’d kept her from having the wedding she really wanted, but it turned out the only thing she really wanted was that moment—to be in her new husband’s arms as their song played in the background. That final shot of Castle’s face after she said those lines was wonderful; you could tell he was thinking the same thing.
“It’s perfect.” There couldn’t have been better closing lines for this episode. We finally got the perfect wedding for Castle and Beckett. And as a fan, I could not be happier.