‘Tis the season for holiday specials, time-honoured Christmas shows, and a plethora of holiday-themed episodes of our favourite shows. As we prepare to celebrate the holidays with our own family and friends, it is always special to share in some early celebrations with our TV families too. While Monday’s episode of Castle was not exactly a true Christmas episode, it certainly was one that heightened the anticipation for the holiday season and gave the series a fantastic ending to what has been a memorable 2014. With its holiday-themed storyline, its sense of family and relationships as the focus for both the case and the personal storytelling, (not to mention that massive cliffhanger leading into the long holiday hiatus!) Monday’s episode brilliantly closed the door on one of the most remarkable years on Castle while setting the stage for a fresh new year of storytelling just around the corner.
Helmed by the dream team of writers Dara Resnik Creasey and Chad Gomez Creasey, along with the brilliant direction of longtime Castle guru, Bill Roe, Monday’s aptly-titled “Bad Santa” found Castle and Beckett preparing for their first Christmas as a married couple, already planning their family celebrations as well as looking forward to their holiday party at the precinct with their extended family of friends. But when their latest murder case brought Castle back together with an old mob boss friend from his past, events were set in motion that would threaten their very partnership and see them ringing in the new year outside of their usual realm.
The episode itself was really quite remarkable, finding a perfect balance between an interesting and unique case, multiple personal storylines, and some true holiday-inspired fun. In many ways, it was one of those classic and quintessential Castle episodes, yet instead of mistletoe hanging over the happy couple, there was instead a foreboding cloud waiting in the wings. One would not have seen it coming, something that made the shocking ending even more stunning and appropriately heartbreaking, yet there were some clever signs along the way that should have had alarm bells ringing for us all.
With Castle’s personal ties to mob boss Dino Scarpella, he alone was able to penetrate the usually high walls of the organized crime family in order to investigate his and Beckett’s latest case outside of the realm of their usual police work. Attempting to keep his promise to find their victim’s true killer after Scarpella’s second-in-command was set up to take the fall, Castle had no choice but to strike out on his own and navigate the seedy world of the mob in order to solve their case and see that true justice was served. Despite this twist that would have Castle and Beckett investigating much of the case separately, the Castle team did well to not keep them apart for very long throughout the episode, always checking in and reuniting to not only go over their work but also keep the couple on screen together as much as possible. It was a clever way of balancing a necessary plot twist that would lead to Castle’s upcoming punishment with maintaining the tried-and-true chemistry between stars Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic so as not to lose the interest of the viewers and to allow the picture to be painted quite clearly as to how great a team these two truly are, making the shocking ending even more impactful.
The very full episode also found time to explore a bit of two very vital relationships on the show and how these couples were handling the holiday season together. First, Castle and Beckett prepared for their first Christmas together as a married couple, planning their family celebration with a fumbling Beckett attempting to fall into line with a very odd and very challenging Castle-family tradition. While the storyline had very little focus through most of the episode, it did bookend the episode nicely and display how easily Beckett has become a part of this eccentric family despite her much more grounded approach. The second relationship that was explored was that of Lanie and Esposito, something that has been touched on a few times already this season. Having found their way back together because of the hardships that their friends had gone through earlier in the season, Lanie and Esposito recently seemed happier than ever. But when they were forced to jump the gun and pretend to be engaged while Lanie’s parents were in town for a stopover on their way to their own Christmas vacation, the two were pushed into confronting the reality of what they each truly wanted from their relationship. In the end, despite looking more like a couple in love than they have for most of the series, the two realized that they would never be like Castle and Beckett and that they both deserved that type of love rather than the much more friendly and flirty type of love that they had come to see they shared with one another. While it seemed to be the end of the road for the couple, their breakup was so amicable and filled with an odd sense of joy that one could not help but smile and applaud them for maturely coming to the realization that as much as they loved each other, they just were not right for one another.
Of course, the highlight of the episode was the shocking and brilliantly heartbreaking conclusion, revealing a game-changing twist that will surely start the new year with Castle and Beckett facing their greatest challenge yet; no longer working together as partners in crime-solving. It was a moment that perhaps could have been predicted based on Beckett’s ominous warning to Castle early on in the episode to not allow himself to get caught working undercover with the mob, fearing that Captain Gates would have his head for doing such a thing. After all, a member of her NYPD team working with organized crime to clear one of their own of a slam-dunk murder charge would surely spell doom for Mr. Castle. Even still, one could not predict how severe and devastating that potential punishment would be.
In the closing minutes of the episode, as the rest of the team prepared for their holiday celebration at the precinct, Captain Gates pulled Castle aside to let him know that their murderer had been shot and killed on his way to central booking by a known mob assailant. Due to the nature of the investigation, Castle’s work with the mob to solve this case had been discovered and not even his friendship with the Mayor could prevent the inevitable this time; Castle was no longer permitted to work with Beckett and the NYPD. The sheer devastation of this painful blow was written all over Castle’s face, with Fillion doing a superb job of letting his facial expressions say much more than any words could express. But with a gleeful Beckett by his side, speaking words that were meant to bring him great joy yet unknowingly and quietly caused him so much pain, he quickly hid his heartbreak and tried to push forward, perhaps not wanting to ruin the celebration or perhaps not being able to bring himself to reveal the devastating news to his wife just yet. After all, this seemed to be his last moments with his partner, his final celebration with his friends, and perhaps the last time he would ever be able to share in being a part of the team that was so thrilled to be a part of. So despite his immense pain and suffering, Castle swallowed his sorrow and hid the truth, if only for now. In the closing seconds of the episode, as he ushered his blushing bride away to enjoy this time with their friends, we saw Castle’s heartbroken and lonely farewell to the place that had become the centerpiece for his life over the past few years. It was where he had found his true self, where he became a part of something greater than himself, and where he fell in love. It was where his life changed for the better and now it was time to quietly walk away and leave that all behind, something that rather brilliantly mirrored the way that Beckett said goodbye to her apartment last week, though in Castle’s case, it was without that sense of hope and joy that with that door closing, a new door would open and a new home would be waiting on the other side.
While it should be clear that Castle and Beckett will overcome this obstacle and find a way to have their partnership reinstated, as it would be an entirely different show going forward if that were not the case, there is a true sense of uncertainty within this dramatic new twist. After all, the very foundation of Castle and Beckett’s relationship is their working partnership. It is what allowed fate to bring them into one another’s life, it is what brought them together over the years, it is what kept them together despite so many hardships along the way, and it is so much a part of who they are as individuals and as a couple. It will certainly be a challenge for them to face this new situation and to be forced to spend time apart. One would expect that Beckett herself may go to great lengths to fight to bring her partner back to the precinct, unless Castle himself pleads for her not to risk her own career over this. And while it will be resolved and will likely be resolved early on in the new year, it certainly opens the door to a dramatic and intense start to 2015. If we have learned anything from the past, it is that the Castle team always does well to twist things down a new path, at least for a while, all without ever losing a sense of the greater purpose of the story.
Thus, we can trust that this is simply something that Castle and Beckett need to go through and that they will come out of this better for having endured it. Perhaps it will make them appreciate their partnership more and perhaps it will serve to teach them that while they are both remarkable individuals, they are truly extraordinary together.
What did you think of Monday’s midseason finale of Castle? Were you shocked by the ending? Do you think Castle will tell Beckett the truth after the holidays or try to protect her for as long as he can? How will this twist affect the first few episodes of the new year? Were you glad to see Lanie and Esposito come to terms about their relationship or are you sad that they are no longer a couple? Share your thoughts with us below!
Castle returns with new episodes in January on Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC and CTV.
Thanks for sharing in our Castle coverage in 2014. From our family to yours, have a safe and happy holiday season and be sure to join us back here for new episode reviews through 2015!