The fourth season of Castle concluded this week with “Always,” and while this season was sometimes uneven and frustrated a lot of fans, for me, the incredible ending more than made up for it. That is how you write a season finale. That is how you give loyal fans what they want while remaining true to your show and your characters. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves . . .
You know things are serious right off the bat because we start with an almost literal cliffhanger: Beckett’s hanging off the edge of a roof, yelling for Castle. And then we cut to three days earlier, to a cozy domestic scene in which Alexis searches for inspiration for her valedictory address. Just as her father advises her that “the most worthwhile things in life are often the most difficult,” his phone rings – Beckett. “Wow. That really is a smartphone.” Heh. When he arrives at the crime scene with coffee, he and Beckett are cute and jokey, clearly riding the high of the things they said in “Undead Again.” When conversation turns to the fact that Castle will spend the night after Alexis’s graduation alone in his apartment marathoning John Woo movies (The Killer and Hard-Boiled, and yes, both are now in my Netflix queue for summer viewing), he cautiously invites Beckett to join him – and seems delighted but honestly surprised when she replies “Actually, I’d love to.” Aww. Surely nothing will happen now to disrupt that adorable plan.
Anyway, so yes, there’s a crime scene: The victim is Orlando Costas, a former gang member who cleaned up his act by going into the military, but is now dead in an alley, carrying lock-picking tools and shot by two different guns. His girlfriend Marisol confirms that he (and her car) vanished during the night, and tells the detectives that Costas had been out of work for months, but claims there’s no way he would have returned to his life of crime. When they find Marisol’s car, it contains blood, a gun (but not either of the two used to shoot Costas), and a GPS that shows his last destination was Captain Montgomery’s house. Well then. Montgomery’s widow confirms that she shot him in the shoulder when she found him breaking in, but he got away with files and Montgomery’s computer. Interestingly, her kids weren’t home, and she wasn’t supposed to be – it was like he knew.
Back at the precinct, everyone’s worried because the four of them are the only ones who know about the connection between Montgomery and Johanna Beckett’s murder. Beckett asks Castle to tell her something reassuring, and he rambles a bit about how many break-ins there are in the city and how many cases Montgomery worked on, but she’s not buying it: “I wake up sometimes and I think to myself, how the hell am I still alive? It’s like I’m just waiting for that other shoe to drop.” Castle, of course, knows exactly why she’s still alive, so we fade out on him at home, looking angstily at his murder board (and that’s the end of day one, I believe) and fade back in on Beckett looking at the murder board at the precinct. That was a very nicely executed transition. Castle appears with coffee and sits with her, saying “You’re not in this alone. I’m here.” She says “I know” and takes his hand, and doesn’t let go until Ryan and Esposito come in, and it’s all very adorable, but by now we’re the ones waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The boys bring with them a quick diversion in the form of a suspect – Vincente Delgado – unrelated to Johanna Beckett, but DNA evidence soon shows that Delgado didn’t shoot Costas – but whoever shot Kate Beckett did. Castle, Ryan, and Esposito are all worried about Beckett, who of course doesn’t want to tell Gates what’s going on because she doesn’t want to be removed from the case. Castle thinks maybe she should be off the case, but of course can’t explain why, and Esposito convinces Ryan – at least for now – that Beckett would keep investigating no matter what, so it’s safer to have her officially involved so they can have her back. That night, the mystery man calls Castle to reiterate the stakes: Make Beckett drop the case or they’ll kill her. “I can’t control the situation if you can’t control her.” And this, of course, is where this deal was always going to break down – no one, not even Castle, can control Beckett, and really, 99% of the time – when her life isn’t actually at stake – that’s a lot of why he loves her.
Beckett, meanwhile, offers Delgado a deal to get him to talk about his recent contact with Costas. It turns out that Costas had called asking for a loan, saying he had “something big” coming up, but had then called again the day of the murder asking for help because someone was trying to kill him. Delgado set a meeting place, but Costas was dead by the time he got there – which proves that the actual killers were tapping Costas’s phone. Esposito theorizes that someone Costas knew through the military hired him for the break-in, and throughout this part of the investigation, Castle keeps trying to get everyone to stop while Esposito encourages them to continue. Some aggressive interrogation from Beckett – who has to be pulled back by Castle – makes Marisol finally point them to a church where Costas met with his employer, and they find the man on security camera footage. Beckett doesn’t want to make his picture public, because they don’t know who they can trust, but Esposito recognizes that the man is holding a keychain from a car rental place. (The issue of finding the man’s identity was a bit funny on a meta level, because the actor, Tahmoh Penikett, was instantly recognizable to many fans from Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse.)
Castle, desperate, finally goes to Beckett’s apartment to tell her everything: She has to stop, because he made a deal for her life, because he loves her, and he knows that she knows. This scene was incredibly well-written and well-acted, and I’m tempted to just transcribe the whole thing for you, but I’ll try to restrain myself. The best part:
Beckett: “Listen to you? Why should I listen to you? How am I even supposed to trust anything that you say?”
Castle: “How are you – Because of everything we’ve been through together. Four years, I’ve been right here. Four years, just waiting for you to open your eyes to see that I’m right here. And I’m more than a partner. Every morning I bring you a cup of coffee just so I can see a smile on your face because I think you are the most remarkable, maddening, challenging, frustrating person I have ever met. And I love you, Kate, and if that means ANYTHING to you, if you care about me at all, just don’t do this.”
They’re both crying – so was I, by then – but she’s too fixated on her need for justice, or is it vengeance, to really absorb what he’s saying: “Let them come. They sent Coonan, and he is dead. They sent Lockwood, and he is dead. And I am still here, Castle, and I am ready.” When Castle finally gives in, gives up, it’s heartbreaking, and feels very real. “Well, I guess there’s just nothing I can say, is there? Okay, um, yeah. You’re right, Kate. It’s your life. You can throw it away if you want, but I’m not going to stick around and watch you, so this is over. I’m done.”
And then Castle goes home to his daughter, and assures her that everything is fine, and focuses on her problems (currently the graduation speech), and I love that they put these scenes in this sequence. He’s an adult, with responsibilities, and while Beckett certainly matters a lot to him, she isn’t the only thing that matters, and that’s important. (Tangentially, I think this is one of the reasons for the widespread Alexis hate I see among Castle fans – fans get invested in the idea of their favored couple only “really” loving each other, and that’s simply not an option here.) Again, they’re adults: He recognizes that he can’t actually control whether she throws her life away, and recognizes that he can’t put his own life entirely on hold, either. At least Castle’s current heartbreak makes him finally able to help Alexis with her speech:
Castle: “Everything you know, everything you will know, is what’s true for you.”
Alexis: “I know everything’s changing, everything’s going to be different. I’m so scared.”
Castle: “Of what?”
Alexis: “Moving on.”
Castle: “Write about that. That feels true.”
Not quite ready to move on: Beckett, who pays a tearful visit to her mother’s grave. Inscribed on Johanna Beckett’s headstone: “Vincit omnia veritas.” Now – sorry – I’m going to get into the Latin a little bit; if you aren’t into this sort of thing, just know that the basic accepted meaning here is “Truth conquers all” and skip down to the next paragraph. Still with me? Okay. A few things here. First, I’ve seen some people translate this as “Truth conquers all things,” which is technically correct, but this is a standard phrase, and “Truth conquers all” is the standard rendering. The use of this motto interestingly evokes the better-known “Love conquers all” – Castle has chosen love – and life – over truth – and death, and with the headstone we have an almost literal illustration of the way Beckett’s mother’s death keeps her from doing the same. But what did Castle just say to Alexis? “Everything you know, everything you will know, is what’s true for you.” Right now, the truth that Beckett cares about is the identity of her mother’s murderer, but will her personal truth change before the pursuit of it kills her? And to really go down the rabbit hole here, we need to discuss the word “vincit.” As I said, this is a common phrase, used to mean “Truth conquers all,” and for all I know, that’s the only translation the writers were aware of. But “vincit” is actually a conjugation of two different verbs: vinco and vincio – and it’s the third person singular present indicative active for both, so grammatically, they’re interchangeable. Vinco means conquer, as discussed, but vincio means bind or encircle, or, rhetorically, link together. So truth is conquering, yes, but it’s also what will inevitably bind Castle and Beckett together.
Back to the show! Sorry. Okay. They eventually figure out that the suspect is using the name Cole Maddox and use the rental car’s GPS to track him to a residency hotel on the Lower East Side. Beckett and Esposito want to go after him immediately, but Ryan, the sensible, practical one here, wants to do it right, with a full team and backup. Beckett refuses, because she doesn’t know who to trust, and scoffs at his concerns: “Unprepared? I’ve been preparing for this for the past thirteen years.” When he fails to stop Esposito, either, Ryan calls Castle – who sees “12th Precinct Calling” on his phone and ignores the call. Beckett and Esposito find Montgomery’s files in Maddox’s hotel room, but they’re ambushed by Maddox himself. Beckett follows him to the roof, where they fight, and he leaves her dangling off the edge, both literally and figuratively:
Beckett: “Just tell me who’s behind this.”
Maddox: “You’re wasting your time, detective. You have no idea what you’re up against.”
Beckett: “Neither do you.”
Maddox: “Actually, we know exactly who we’re up against.”
That was . . . not very enlightening, but I guess if the bad guy is going to inexplicably leave her dangling off a roof, it’s better that he doesn’t spill all his secrets, too. Beckett is terrified, of course, and yells for Castle. She thinks she hears him replying, but it’s actually Ryan (followed by Gates and a whole team) who saves her at the last moment. This is reminiscent of the boys showing up to save Castle in “Headhunters,” and seriously, thank God for Ryan and his rule following and worrying and waistcoats. Gates suspends Esposito and Beckett for withholding evidence and lying to superior officer – but Beckett responds by flat-out resigning.
And then, in a scene that’s more emotionally cohesive than it sounds, we’re at Alexis’s graduation speech:
“There is a universal truth we all have to face, whether we want to or not. Everything eventually ends. Much as I’ve looked forward to this day, I’ve always disliked endings. Last day of summer, the final chapter of a great book, parting ways with a close friend. But endings are inevitable. Leaves fall, we close the book. You say goodbye. Today is one of those days for us. Today we say goodbye to everything that was familiar. Everything that was comfortable. We’re moving on. But just because we’re leaving, and that hurts, there are some people who are such a part of us that they’ll be with us no matter what. They are our solid ground. Our North Star. And the small clear voices in our hearts that will be with us, always.”
As she speaks, we cut back and forth between her father and grandmother watching her and scenes of the team: Beckett packs her things. As Esposito leaves, Ryan ventures a broken-sounding “Javi. I had to,” but gets no response; all alone now, he throws something in frustration. Beckett goes back to that park, to that swing, and sits in the rain. Alexis finishes speaking and smiles at her clapping father.
Back at the loft, Castle tells Alexis (over the phone) that he’s fine home alone, but he’s clearly not – he ignores a call from Beckett and then deletes her from his digital murder board. Seeing the file with her name on it, with her picture as its icon, going into the computer’s Trash folder was a surprisingly heartbreaking moment. But then, of course, there’s a knock at the door, and it’s her. Castle’s still mad: “Beckett, what do you want?” But her response? “You.” Aww. She kisses him, and apologizes, but he needs to know what happened. “He got away, and I didn’t care. I almost died, and all I could think about was you. I just want you.” That’s her new truth, at least for now, and that’s enough reassurance for him, at least for now. (Will her resignation stick? Doubtful, though “Castle & Beckett, Private Investigators” is far from the least appealing idea I’ve ever entertained.) And while I generally feel no need to give point-by-point recaps of make-out scenes, it’s worth mentioning that this one was extremely well choreographed and remained very true to the characters while incorporating some surprisingly specific moments fans have long called for – everything from Castle literally shutting the front door by pushing Beckett up against it to him kissing her scar. But my favorite moment was when they stopped and smiled at each other, because yes, this was really happening. Beckett bites her lip, takes his hand, and leads him to bed – and yes, if you weren’t quite sure whether you should believe: showrunner Andrew Marlowe has confirmed in several places that they weren’t about to be interrupted by an emergency call or anything.
I realize that most fans’ brains started short-circuiting around then, and that’s understandable, but believe it or not, there was another scene! And it was kind of important! So, if you missed it: Maddox was in Mr. “Smith”‘s study, and we know the name is fake because they helpfully showed a picture that had his face circled and the name “Smith” written literally in quotation marks. But anyway. Mr. “Smith” is Castle’s mystery friend, and he’s none too pleased with Maddox, claiming that they had a deal. But Maddox disagrees:
“No, what you had was blackmail. Now, you’re gonna tell me where all that information is, and after you do, I’m gonna put Kate Beckett in the ground, once and for all.”
Oh. That’s not good.
So . . . what did everyone think? I was extremely impressed with this finale – it covered a huge amount of ground and made lots of plot progress, but it all felt extremely faithful to everything the show has set up before. I know a lot of fans had complaints about this season. Did the finale make up for that, at all? Is everyone still too fixated on the kissing to even discuss the rest of it? (Did anyone not like the kissing, for that matter?) Tell me all your thoughts and feelings in the comments!
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)