“What we are telling is a great love story,” Andrew Marlowe thus defines his creation Castle. And what a love story it is, with Kate and Rick, the so want-to-be lovers still growing and developing through three seasons, well into the fourth season of their narrative. In “To Live and Die in LA,” late season three, Rick, a man now deeply in love with Kate, tells her that he believed from their first meeting that “she was a mystery he was never going to solve.”
But their first encounter was a different story with Rick’s self-centered, play-boy attitude as to why he wanted to shadow Kate. Rick rather smugly replies: “I’m here for the story.” According to him there is “always a story, a chain of events that makes everything make sense.” It is amazing how one’s concept of sense and the story changes as one matures. At a later time, after a discussion with Alexis, Rick asks Kate: “How do you know when you are in love?”
Not having to think too hard about the question, Kate answers: “All the songs make sense.” Then in his latest novel Heat Rises, Rick acknowledges his indebtedness to Kate Beckett “who taught him how to make sense of the songs.” Did she read the acknowledgements and remember Rick’s question and her answer?
Towards the end of season one, Kate’s former boyfriend Will reminds Kate that it was Rick Castle’s earlier novels and his Derrick Storm hero that helped pull her through her grief after her mother’s murder; not willing to give in too much or give too much credit to this audacious author, she hides this fact from Rick, who in his cheeky way, I imagine, suspects from the first that she is a super fan who did, indeed, wait hours in line for his autograph…which she did, so drawn to this man and his stories even in the anonymous past, over ten years ago.
Now, as Rick’s character grows and becomes steadfast, he is willing to risk everything for Kate’s safety, for the story is no longer his fiction; it’s no longer about the books; the true story is his need to be near her, to love her and to protect her. Rick’s story is about Kate, commitment, sacrifice and their love.
In an early episode, Rick, the writer-dad, expounds on his pride in daughter Alexis’ first word: denouement, a writer’s term for the outcome of a complex situation or a series of events, a resolution. Now in dangerous times and happy ones, attempting to dictate the outcome of the events, Rick is always there for Kate. However, throughout their partnership, she calls to him. “Is he coming?” He undoubtedly is, as he runs to her, so unable to stop himself. Ironically, Kate desires someone to be there for her, not always seeing clearly the faithful, courageous man who always comes to her call.
Coming full circle in their narrative, in “Head Case,” 4×3, Kate and Rick muse together over the great love stories throughout history with Kate concluding: “That’s what the great love stories are about, right, (lovers) beating the odds.”
When Rick answers, “I hope they make it,” it sure sounded like Rick said, “I hope we make it.”
“Me, too,” Kate responds.
Their minds and hearts, however, didn’t always meet this completely. Revisiting the show’s first three seasons on into the fourth, provides an opportunity to trace their journey, two themes or threads, and the incredible writing and acting tour de force embodied in a rare television show. The journey to self-knowledge, trust and love propels the story, and lighting up the screen, is the dynamic between two ostensibly different, sometimes confused would be lovers, Rick and Kate, as they struggle to define themselves and each other.
They and we begin with the central, theme of their story. Who are you? With these first three words, from episode one, the hauntingly, beautiful detective seizes the Castle stage and with scorching intensity surveys their first crime scene, a Rick copy- cat scenario, and never gives in; she is “extraordinary.” We are fascinated by her integrity, her tenacity and her beauty and so, too, is Rick, play-boy, man about town. Spending their time together, the two unlikely partners seek to answer this existential question about themselves and each other. Who are you?
Often with preconceived notions, both seem to think they know the answers or can solve the riddle of their “partner.” Kate teases on one occasion, “So many layers to the Beckett onion; however will you peel them off?” The fun, frustration and passion lie in the unraveling.
Frequently Kate says, “You don’t know who I am,” words echoing throughout all of the Castle seasons. From the beginning Kate shuts Rick down when she feels that he is getting too close to the real Kate: “Don’t think you know me,” she defends in the first episode. And in one of the final scenes between them, in “Knockout,” the season three finale, Kate still rails and cries out to Rick: You think you know me, but you don’t.”
From the beginning, Rick also wants to know the story behind Kate’s career choice. He theorizes in the first episode: “Something happened. You are wounded…not that wounded…you lost someone you loved.” Then Kate’s achingly, lovely face changes from mildly amused with this playboy, to seared and stripped, exposed. Reading her face, her pain, Rick retreats, revealing one of his finest qualities: kindness.
Shoring up his playboy image, however, Rick later asks Kate to join him for a “debriefing” dinner date at the end of their first case together, but Kate is sure she knows who he is, Rick’s type, or so she judges: “What, and become one of your conquests,” she responds. “Or I could become one of yours,” he replies. Forced to endure him, Kate treats him like a child, like a “nine year old on a sugar rush.” Although childish and pampered, he is generous; and honor defines him. A nurturing father, Rick is present for Alexis, for fun, in crisis and for decisions, and Kate begins to see the loving father in his soul-searching and in their discussions on raising a teenager. This is a rare man she discovers.
In their dance of discovery, Rick, like Kate reveals a compassionate and sincere nature, and this revelation disrupts Kate’s preconceptions or fears of Rick. Making witty, self-effacing remarks, charmingly side -swiping a conversation, reluctant to expose his serious side, Rick is invested in maintaining his shallow, bad boy image, but he, too, is hiding and he, too, is being exposed.
Slowly the seemingly shallow man realizes the harsh truths of Kate’s cop world. Real heart break and death are not as easy to handle as they are in his novels, and the cop’s burden is a harsh reality. What will you tell Alexis, Kate frequently challenges Rick, and his clear response is always: “the truth.” Indeed, truth is the essence of this man, this story teller.
Changing to be a better man for his daughter and for Kate, Rick does, however, still believe in magic. “I don’t want ordinary,” he confides to his mother. Kate recognizes his magical qualities, pointing out his innocence. She won’t admit it, but she enjoys his amusing stories and his witty repartee.
Rick loves life and enjoys fantasy. With a child-like joy in life, he plays laser tag and fences with his daughter, rocks out with his guitar, carves pumpkins, throws costume parties, or dons the trappings of the mad scientist. He sees the magic in life, in family, in fate, in the universe, in love, in the heart, in Santa and in hope. And he wants to share the magic, especially with Kate, for “the heart wants what the heart wants.”
Rick’s belief and their differences are never more poignant then in this exchange between them when they part company for the day.
“Until tomorrow,” Rick remarks.
“You can’t just say good night?” Kate returns.
“I am a writer; until tomorrow is more hopeful.”
“I’m a cop. Good night.”
When allowing Rick back, in seasons two and three, Kate does say to him: “I’ll see you tomorrow.” Rick kindles a sense of hope in an often despairing Kate.
Well-grounded, truly, Kate believes in real and always, and she isn’t too sure about Rick, given his two failed marriages and many empty conquests. She is a “one and done kind of girl” when dealing with marriage. But along the way, Rick learns the word “always” which becomes a code word for their unspoken love and commitment to each other, and they use “always” guardedly and tenderly.
Gradually they begin to love and to trust each other, but sometimes fate has a way of coming between two lovers, Each season separates them because of rejection, shyness and hesitation or a bullet, separations so heart-wrenching for them and us, so heart breaking that it hurts to witness their poor timing and pain. And so it goes sometimes…the star-crossed love story.
Rick and Kate’s love story begins with two existential questions which wend their way through out four Castle seasons: Who are you? Why are you here? Two of the most powerful scenes in Castle and in all of television hold the answers. After three years of struggling to find the words to complete the story, it is the symmetry of those first words, colliding with their resounding echoes and responses in the final scene of season three, words crushing and uplifting us simultaneously, gripping us with heart stopping intimacy which provide an answer.
“Who are you? Why are you here? It’s a lover’s quest. At last Rick and Kate solve the mystery, each in his own way. Kate’s answer comes with her last loving look at Rick, the man who will stand with her, before their world changes and she is shot, and her trust and recognition of him while in his arms, fallen and bleeding. For Rick, the story, and the answers to the two questions are written in his last spoken words: “I love you…Kate.”
Which scene is more powerful and with which one do I end, I can only second guess, for both scenes are so intensely enthralling. But in “Rise,” (4×01) with Rick seated close to Kate, and the echoes of “Knockout” still in mind, I think of the last time Rick tried to tell Kate to walk away, that she wasn’t fine. Now with his emotions, his hope, his love playing across his face, along with the fear that she will not listen to him, Rick must convince Kate to walk away from her mother’s murder, to “give it time,” to save herself from those who would rob her of her life.
Thus Rick’s eyes, soul revealed, search her face; his voice, hushed and sometimes breaking, tells of his passion and love, of his desperation to make her understand. The most hopeful of all heroes, Rick, radiates his love and tenderness for the fragile Kate. And then Kate says, “If I don’t do this I don’t know who I am.” But this time, understanding it is his heart speaking, Kate listens to Rick, a testament to her love and trust in this man.
With his answer, Rick gives Kate an incredibly loving gift :
“You are who you always were. You are the one who honors the victims. You’re the one who can bring Sonya’s family peace.”
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