Castle: The End Is Just The Beginning

ABC/Richard Cartwright
ABC/Richard Cartwright

With the show’s future still uncertain up until this past Friday’s renewal announcement, the Castle team had a remarkable challenge on their hands when approaching Monday’s season finale; not only did they have to wrap up the season while presenting fresh new storylines to explore if they were to return in the fall, but they also had to give the audience a sense of closure should this prove to be the end of the series after all. This is no easy task for any show and very few have done well to wrap up a series this late into a season, but the Castle team proved once again that they were up to the challenge, presenting the audience with a satisfying possible conclusion to the story while also allowing for it to be a stepping stone into a new chapter in the lives of their characters. In the midst of it all, they also tackled one of the greatest mysteries of the series as a whole and pushed Castle and Beckett into a new realm as individuals and as a couple. As such, Monday’s season finale was the perfect ending and yet the perfect new beginning as well.

Penned by the extraordinary writing team of series creator Andrew W. Marlowe and longtime Castle writer and executive producer Terri Edda Miller, and directed by the always incredible Paul Holahan, Monday’s “Hollander’s Woods” found Castle facing the ghosts of his past when a case hit a little too close to home for the mystery writer, while Beckett found herself facing a potential new future in the most surprising of ways. It was an hour that took the viewers into the core of who Castle and Beckett are individually and as a couple, exploring their roots as well as their future together, and taking us on a journey into discovery just as they began to discover more about one another as well. Above it all, it was an exploration into how far these two characters have come in their relationship over the seven seasons of the series, eventually building towards what served as both a remarkable way to say goodbye to them and a perfect way to thrust them into the next phase of their journey together.

While much of the episode was executed in wonderfully dramatic and cinematic style, from the eerie flashbacks of Castle’s past to Beckett’s stirring battle through her supposed performance review, it never lost its focus on the heart and soul of the story, something the Castle team has always done well to keep front and center. It was a beautifully written episode that was delivered perfectly from everyone in the cast, most notably leads Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion, and every artistic and technical element served to heighten all of that to a level we have come to expect from a season finale on Castle. And while the uncertain fate of the series may have made it necessary not to have a shocking cliffhanger ending, something this reviewer certainly missed, the episode served its greater purpose and was not diminished in any way by this.

The question surrounding Castle’s origin story and what drove him to become a mystery writer has long been one of the greatest mysteries of the series and Monday’s episode presented that story in a way that was not only perfectly in line with his character but also provided a great amount of emotion and depth to the episode. His experience with death at such a young age back in Hollander’s Woods was something he wrestled with his entire life, never knowing if it was a product of his imagination or something that truly happened. And the fascination that came from never knowing what had motivated this masked killer to do what he did was what prompted his drive to find the story in everything and everyone, something that ultimately shaped his entire life from there on out. It was an extremely intriguing origin story, one that Fillion portrayed brilliantly as Castle struggled with their latest case that opened the door to finally finding this masked killer and proving that what he experienced was never a figment of his imagination.

Just as Castle stood by Beckett’s side to help her find her mother’s killer, so too did Beckett stand by Castle as he fought to discover the truth and finally put his childhood nightmare to rest for good. It was beautiful to see their roles reversed in this way, with Beckett weighing her concerns for him with her need to support him no matter what and even showing that moment of doubt that he was perhaps seeing what he wanted to see, just as he had experienced that doubt in her as well in the past when solving her mother’s murder had overtaken her. In fact, the episode felt very much in line with last season’s “Veritas”, giving Castle the closure he needed to move on from his past and escape his own ghosts, just as Beckett did in that episode when she finally brought Bracken to justice and was able to honour her mother’s memory. It was this level of unconditional love, belief, trust, and commitment to one another that was the perfect display of the depths of the great love story that has been told over the past seven seasons. Castle and Beckett are whole with one another as they give each other strength in their weakest moments, confidence when they doubt themselves, and protection when they need it most. That is the truest display of love and commitment possible, far beyond any physical displays of affection, and that is what has always made their story feel so much more like a classic love story than anything else on television.

Meanwhile, Castle was not the only one facing the demons of his past while taking stock of his future, as Beckett herself faced a surprising and critical juncture in her professional life, one that would certainly impact her personal life as well. Halfway through the hour, Beckett took a break from the case to attend what was seemingly an early performance review from her superiors and, perhaps, linked to her recently taking her captain’s exam. While neither Gates nor Castle could help her determine what to expect from this impromptu review of her work, nothing could have prepared Beckett for what she was about to face. Guest star Lance Reddick turned in a powerful performance as one of Beckett’s superiors, grilling the detective and raking her over the coals for anything and everything she had done in past that could be called into question as she broke rules, veered away from protocol, and used her resources as a detective to investigate personal matters that were well out of her own jurisdiction. It was an absolutely heartbreaking scene at first with even Beckett’s relationship with Castle being called into question as something that seemed to have interfered with her work and sullied her reputation as a respectable detective.

ABC/Richard Cartwright
ABC/Richard Cartwright

But just as Beckett seemed to be resigned to accept the moral and ethical pounding she had received, the stoic and strong woman fans have loved and respected for seven seasons rose from the ashes and took control, turning this scene into a brilliant display of her sense of pride, self-worth, empowerment, courage, and depth of heart. Katic has always portrayed Kate Beckett as one of the strongest and most admirable female characters in recent history and if there was ever a scene that captured it all, this would be the one. With every ounce of her strength and conviction, Beckett faced her naysayers and stood her ground, giving them one of the most stirring speeches ever written on Castle – and there have been many to choose from, including a number of exceptional ones in this episode alone. It was a riveting and powerful moment, one that was also perfectly poignant as it displayed exactly who Beckett has become and how confident, proud, and at peace she is both in regards to herself and also in regards to her husband, someone she defended as strongly as she did herself in her speech.

As it turned out, her naysayers were nothing of the sort. Rather, they were hoping she would fight back with such a powerful and passionate response, proving to them that they were correct in their assessment of her ability to defend herself and her actions. Being that she passed their test with flying colours, they revealed to her that they wanted her to run for the senate, seeing her as the perfect candidate that the people of their city could depend on and someone who could make a difference without being corrupted by the political system. While Beckett herself seemed unsure whether or not she would embark on that path, Castle showed his support to his wife, and the two shared a beautiful moment together on their infamous swings at the park.

In the end, Castle finally exorcised the demons of his past by catching the masked killer he had encountered some thirty years ago in Hollander’s Woods, putting an end to the nightmare while also forcing him to question whether his life would have been entirely different had he not experienced what he did. It was rather meaningful to hear Beckett reaffirm for him that they found each other not because of the ghosts of their past but rather because of who they always were and always would be; two people searching to bring justice to the world. With the theme of fate being such an underlying element of this story from the very beginning, and Castle typically being the one trying to convince Beckett that they were meant to be, it was rather interesting to see Beckett being the one to convince him of that very same thing, truly showing us how much they have grown and how much they have influenced each other over the years.

As the episode concluded, the entire Castle family, including the writing team who provided a fantastic cameo in the final few minutes of the episode, gathered to witness Castle accepting his Poe’s Pen Career Achievement Award for his writing, perhaps the greatest possible way to bring the story full circle had this truly been the end of the series. After all, as Castle himself said in his own very stirring and emotional speech, “Kate, seven years ago, I thought I would never write again. And then you walked through the door and my whole world changed. You were right, you said I had no idea, but now I do. This is because of you. Because of us. Always.”

While the Castle family concluded the episode with a bittersweet toast and one last call from the precinct interrupting their moment of togetherness, something that would have provided a wonderful and satisfying ending to the series had this been the end of the line, we now happily know that their story will continue for at least one more season. And even though there was no true cliffhanger ending, there are, of course, still many questions to ponder over the summer hiatus — mainly whether or not Beckett will pursue this opportunity for a career in politics and what that would mean for Castle and the rest of the team at The 12th. With plenty of fresh storylines to delve into for Season 8, a few mysteries that may not be completely solved yet, and Castle and Beckett stronger together than ever before, we are left with a great deal of promise for what may come when the series returns again in September.

See you in the fall!

What did you think of Monday’s season finale? What were your favourite lines, scenes, or moments? Would you be interested to see Beckett make a move into politics? Were you surprised by the story from Castle’s past? If this had been the series finale, would you have been happy with how it ended? What are you most looking forward to seeing in season eight? Share your thoughts with us in our comment section below!

QUOTE-WORTHY LINE:
Kate Beckett:  “I said you’re wrong. In every case you have referenced, I have not only successfully brought the killer to justice but I did so with the utmost respect for the law and for the department I represent. And regarding my relationship with Mr. Castle, he has proven to be a brilliant partner and he’s always had my back. And as for his fictional representation of me, I’m proud to have been his inspiration and I am proud to be his wife. You asked how do I expect to lead? By continuing to fight for what’s right, not for what’s easy. My job is to protect the citizens of New York and I will do it by doing my job better than anyone else and getting results. I don’t cross the line, I put myself on it. And if you have any other questions, then you can ask the families of the victims that I have served.”

Castle returns in September for its eighth season on CTV and ABC.

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