With these last two episodes, seven years and eight seasons of Castle unceremoniously come to an end. Since the ending was a saving throw and not a planned ending – and certainly not a farewell season overall – the last two episodes really do not do the series justice.
Or do they?
Both episodes are nods to what the series has always been. They each embody one of the two veins of the show: Hell to Pay is the whimsical comedy; Crossfire is the romantic drama. The writers manage to cap off the story well without dragging things out…almost.
Hell to Pay is a nod to the supernatural and is a classic is-it-real-or-not episode that does not take itself too seriously. Nearly all of the characters are part of the investigation and for one rare moment, everyone is working together – including Hayley and Alexis. The plot is silly – Castle is convinced that the latest victim was killed to facilitate the rise of the Antichrist, and his theories are backed up by, of all things, a cultish shrine bricked into the walls of his private-investigator’s office. While nearly the whole cast is at least someone intrigued by his theories, Beckett is unusually callous and flippant. Poor Castle is terrified that he is “marked for death” and she intentionally spooks him for her own giggles – repeatedly! This is jerkish behaviour at the best of times, not at all respectful or loving, but it is compounded by the fact that Castle and Beckett have an extraordinary relationship history. They have been in many horrible situations together and their lives have been in danger many times. Beckett may not believe in the occult, but she knows what it is like to be in mortal danger.
Her rudeness stood out for me in what was otherwise a fun episode that really ended the “fun” element of the series, sort of like having a party to celebrate the end of the semester the weekend before final exams and everyone disperses. There were shenanigans, camaraderie, and one last good mystery. All in all, it was fun, with only some awkwardness thrown in. Cheers! Pass the nachos.
Crossfire, on the other hand, was the anticipated final exams: necessary, dramatic, intense, and soon over, with nothing left but to pack up to go home.
All the right notes were struck: Castle and Beckett’s relationship was at the forefront, they were a team united against a common enemy (even when they spent half the episode apart), they defended their love for each other, and everything else faded into the background. Ryan and Esposito were heroes, although they were earliest assisted by Vikram and Hayley; Lanie made an appearance; Martha and Alexis got to have one last kitchen conversation with Castle. But the focus was all on Castle and Beckett, as it should have been.
Since the writers were intending for this to be the end of the partnership even if they show had not been cancelled, the episode worked well as a summary of Castle and Beckett’s relationship and the show itself. It was actually a very well-written episode that served its purpose well, except for the last scene.
Honestly, viewers did not need a will-they-make-it-or-not fake-out knowing that the series was ending. It only served as a cliffhanger hook that was immediately negated by the epilogue scene. Yes, one could argue that killing them both would have been a good ending – indeed, it might have been. But the comedic nature of the show precluded that being the ending – tragedies end in death, comedies end in marriage. Dramedys tend to follow the latter pattern.
So I was entirely satisfied with the epilogue, in which we see them happily married with three small children. This is what many fans had wanted to see, but I am glad that they only tacked it on like a cherry. At its core, Castle was a police procedural show that would not have lent itself well to a pregnant Beckett, let alone either she or Castle (more likely Castle) staying home with an infant while the other solved the crime of the week. Thankfully, the show did not devolve into constant pregnancy and baby jokes. The time-skip at the end, while over too quickly, allowed for us to get a glimpse of a happier future with cute kids without having to watch them have said kids.
It is fairly easy to fill in the blanks – after their near-death experience and after finally realising how seriously deep in over their heads they were, Castle and Beckett decided to tone everything down and embrace domesticity while they still could. Castle returned his focus to his writing so that he could be home more. Beckett embraced the administrative side of her work, or perhaps changed career-paths altogether. After all, if Castle’s books still stayed successful, she might not have had to keep her job at all. They had one child, then a set of twins – makes sense, considering their ages. Whatever other adventures they had, we didn’t need to see them. We can imagine.
The show remained a police procedural to the end, thankfully.
My one issue is that they ought to have extended the epilogue to include the secondary characters – perhaps a barbecue in the Hamptons – rather than including the “cliffhanger” scene. From reading other reviews, a lot of other viewers agree.
But overall, it was a good ending. They passed the exams. Castle is over and still fun to watch in syndication. Eight seasons of great stories, comedy, romance, and reminding us of the kind of people we want our police to be.
Pass the champagne!
And then, more beer and nachos.