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Always in one (run-on) sentence: Castle and Beckett ….. *faint*
Sorry folks I can't play this like a normal episode review because this was just not a normal episode. It was so much more than that. In fact, I don't know how a review can even do it justice. Even so I will endeavor to try.
Before I get into the really epic bits, I wanted to call attention to the little moments that would have been huge in any other episode, yet here were afterthoughts. Think about it. We had Castle ask Beckett on a date. We had her accept said invitation with a grin. We had hand holding in the precinct. We had brilliant lines about smart phones and requested reassurances. We had emotionally charged interrogations - “Dead! In a gutter! At nineteen!” All those things would have been the highlights in other circumstances. Instead in this brilliant episode they were reduced to secondary thoughts. That speaks to the incredible ride of "Always". Even the sidebars were top class.
Now onto the meat of the story. In an episode that was all about Castle and Beckett, somehow, some way Ryan and Esposito still managed to shine. It reminded me of "Knockdown", the way they both struggled with the implications of the case. Except this time there was no making up, there was no middle ground. We saw two friends – partners – pitted against each other and it was heartbreaking. Ryan's doubt early on was a sign that things would reach a tipping point, one that would force him to choose. The ever-loyal Esposito was always going to follow Beckett down the rabbit hole no matter where she led him. But Ryan has always marched to a slightly different beat, more apt to side with Castle's line of thinking.
We may not have noticed it at the time, but this conflict has been set up from the beginning. Even "Undead Again" hinted at it with Beckett and Esposito on one side and Castle and Ryan on the other. It's been the theme of many an episode but only now did it have very big, very real implications. The most heartbreaking part however, was that Ryan didn't have Castle to fall back on in this case. He was left on an island and he made the tough choice on his own. It was the right choice and it showed a level of growth in the character – he was his own man, making the grown up decision. He paid for that decision though. And the last we saw of him, he was alone. Seamus Dever deserves so much recognition for his work in this episode.
A warning. This review is about to devolve into gushing. So be prepared.
The scene. THE Scene. My heart is racing just thinking about it. Castle laid all the cards on the table. He came clean about his secret. And perfection ensued.
I'm dead serious. That scene was perfect. P-E-R-F-E-C-T. And I'm not just talking about the incredible acting of Nathan Fillion, who did more than knock this one out of the park. That ball is still orbiting the earth because he hit is so perfectly (another warning – I am about to overuse that word, deal with it). The hitch in his voice, the way he had to clear his throat, it took my breath away. The tears in his eyes brought tears to mine. It was heartbreaking. It was raw. It was perfection. Episode writer Terri Miller teed him up with epic material and he did not waste his swing. A bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes, bases loaded, Grand Slam.
And I'm not just talking about the marvelous Stana Katic, the master of the subtle facial expression. I didn't truly appreciate her performance until my second watch through (the first of many), but the way her face moves from excitement to confusion to devastation before hardening back into a mask of defiance – it was genius. The way her voice waivers when she delivers the line “by lying to me?” - it was incredible. The way her jaw clenches and her lip trembles when he walks away - was perfect.
Yes, the writing and the acting were brilliant, but it was the the little things that really blew me away. The lighting. The music. The staging. The way their movements were so carefully choreographed. Castle stepped between Beckett and her make-shift murder board before he urged her to stop. The physical representation of his words, he put himself between her and the case. Then Beckett turned and walked to stand in front of the painting of the woman in the purple coat – which, if you haven't taken a close look at it, shows a woman on a bridge with planes falling out of the sky behind her, in a chaotic war zone. Again, imagery to show the internal turmoil.
Perfection. If you haven't watched that scene again, I urge you to do so. Pay attention to the little things. P-E-R-F-E-C-T
And really, the perfection just continued.
When Beckett was hanging from the ledge and she kept saying Castle's name, even after it was Ryan who came to her rescue, she kept asking for Castle. It was a turning point. This near-death experience was a conscious one for her. It forced her to recognize what was important to her. And when she turned in her badge, it sealed the deal.
Which brings me to the swings and the speech. What a stunning mix of video and audio. The message of Alexis' wonderfully genuine and understated valedictorian speech about moving on (credit to Molly Quinn for having the chops to deliver it so beautifully), played over the image of Beckett alone on the swings clearly making a decision to move on, but not from Castle - from her mother's murder. Tired of perfect yet? Because I'm not.
And then. And then! After all that perfection. They hit us with more.
Here I really have to call attention to the brilliance of Robert Duncan, Castle's music composer. There is a lot I could say about the kiss and everything before and after it. I could gush about the way she answers his question. Or the brilliance of having him pull away at first. Or the absolute necessity of the “I'm sorry.” I could squee over how incredibly hot it is that they literally shut the front door with the kiss. I could swoon over the beauty of her putting his hand on her scar. I could faint at the image of the light glowing between their lips. Or the way her fingers are shaking when she takes his hand.
But I won't. Instead I urge you to go to pull up that scene – the whole scene. And just listen to it. Don't watch just listen. Only then will you truly understand what I mean when I say that Robert Duncan's score for this episode was, say it with me now, perfect. P-E-R-F-E-C-T.
Now where do we go from here? Who knows. But they've set up so much to be answered in season 5. The dragon is still after Beckett, and how cruel that is considering her decision to move on. She may be leaving her mother's case behind, but it won't let her go easily. Beckett has quite the force, how will they bring her back into the fold? Ryan is on the outs with his partners, the team is broken up. How will they resolve that conflict. Alexis is off to college. How will Castle handle that? And of course, the shipper's biggest question: Will it be Castle or Beckett who make the pancakes in the premiere?
I know I can't wait. Can you?