This week’s Castle post is brought to you by one of my favorite fellow Kate Beckett fans, Heather!
Title Hong Kong Hustle
Two Sentence Summary At the news of a friend’s promotion, Beckett questions whether she is doing enough to have the life and position she wants at work. A murder that brings the very talented Hong Kong Chief Inspector Zhang together with the NYPD furthers those feelings of failure, until Beckett realizes that her balance now might not look like she’d once imagined it would.
Favorite Line “You cannot leave behind what is always at your side” (Castle)
My Thoughts There are some characters who I just love a little more than all others and feel incredibly protective over. Kate Beckett is one of those characters. She has proven herself to be strong (both physically and mentally), she’s incredibly good at her job, and I honestly can’t think of a character who has looked better in love than she does. She’s also extremely driven and competitive and is therefore prone to moments of doubts and insecurity that make me want to wrap her up in a hug and tell her how amazing I find her.
The case in this episode wasn’t bad. It was a little overly complicated again, and I’m not sure the human trafficking element was entirely necessary. However, this episode was really all about Kate Beckett and who she thinks she should be and what that means for her future. This episode was the perfect example of the way a procedural (which is inherently plot-based) can pull off a character-driven episode if that character has a strong enough foundation.
Beckett is used to being the best. There is no doubt in her mind that she’s a good detective, and that point has been reinforced to her throughout her entire career. She’s also someone who had a plan for her life, as we saw in “The Time of Our Lives”. Her professional goal has been to make captain, but it was a goal that was placed purely in the future as something that would happen eventually without her taking active steps toward it. She never had to doubt that she would one day earn the title because she knew she was skilled and of her value to the NYPD. But even with that knowledge, Beckett isn’t free from comparisons and the insecurities they bring with them.
When one of her peers makes captain, Beckett can’t help but wonder why it isn’t her and how she managed to get so far off track from this goal. She’s happy for her friend and recognizes his skill at the job, but it ignites this little flame inside her that makes her question if she really is as good as she’s always thought and been led to believe. That flame is further fueled when she meets Chief Inspector Zhang, who, on the surface, truly does have it all. She looks like she’s achieved every one of Beckett’s dreams—both professionally and personally.
Of course, as people who have been exposed to any type of fiction, we know that this mythical goal of “having it all” and excelling in every aspect of your life to equal degrees doesn’t exist. We can’t maintain balance in our lives at all times; some things will inevitably take priority and our focus at different points in our lives. Sometimes it will be our job, sometimes it will be family, and sometimes it will be our hobbies or passions. It doesn’t make us failures; it just makes us human. So we knew that at some point, the perfect image of Zhang would be shattered and a flaw or vulnerability would be exposed. It was no surprise that her life wasn’t the idealized success that Beckett had built up in her head. She has succeeded to an extraordinary degree in her professional life, but it has been at the expense of her personal one. It cost her her marriage and a close relationship with her children. She’s chosen her priorities, and, though she regrets the fact that she isn’t the mother she should be, it’s not enough to stop her from continuing on her current path.
Zhang never had a revelation about the importance of family, and she didn’t suddenly rush home to her children and vow to do better. And I’m glad. That wouldn’t have been realistic for her. Her career and accomplishments come first, for better or worse. It may not have been happy or even entirely comfortable to watch, but it was authentic and consistent. It was also never demonized, which I appreciated. It was accepted as a facet of the character—accepting her means accepting all sides of her, and Beckett was happy to do so.
Beckett, on the other hand, realized that her own priorities may not be the same as they used to be. She ended the episode on a little more of an uncertain note, knowing that she wants something different and bigger and planning for that future, but not knowing what that future looks like or how she will get there. What she does know is that she wants Castle by her side through it all.
Beckett was never Zhang. She was only defined by her work as it related to her unresolved feelings about her mother’s murder. Her dedication to pursuing justice and being the best detective she could be had more to do with wanting others to have what she didn’t for so long, rather than a desire for accolades or recognition. Those have been side effects of her internal motivation rather than the cause for her motivation. This case and her interactions with Zhang made her think about what she wants now at this stage of her life. It’s a different life than the one she imagined with her plans of being a police captain, so she’s considering that her goals may need to change and that’s alright.
No matter what happens and what Beckett decides to do, she’s determined not to lose what is most important to her, and right now, that’s her life with Castle. He pointed out that she could never leave him behind so long as he’s right there with her (in his most quotable, authorly way), and it managed to sum up the heart of their partnership. As a result, the line delighted me nearly as much as it did Beckett.
Finally, one of the things I love most about Beckett’s character and the writing on this show in general, is that the insecurities that Zhang brought out in Beckett didn’t result in Beckett acting in anything less than a professional manner toward Zhang. We didn’t even get the impression that it was merely her own professional attitude holding her back. Yes, Beckett was jealous that Zhang was so accomplished in every way, but it was a jealousy that stems from awe and admiration rather than resentment over her own perceived deficits. This show wasn’t trying to pit these two strong and determined women against each other; both were able to succeed professionally, achieve justice for Graham (and asylum for his girlfriend), and part on genuinely friendly terms. By teaming up and allowing Zhang to expose her true self to Beckett, rather than the facade she showed the rest of the world, these women were able to come together and truly be a team. I don’t see any reason why we would ever see this partnership again, but if we did, I don’t think I’d mind.