It is a tenet of television that a show featuring sexual tension between two lead characters should never consummate their relationship lest the show lose what made it great in the first place.
It certainly was true in Moonlighting, and some would say, with Bones or X-Files. Be it a sitcom or drama, if the show is running out of steam, a quick fix is to pair up the leads.
And while there have been successful shows with happily involved leads, such as Hart to Hart, I haven’t watched one that’s made the transition from tension to happily involved without losing a beat.
I was wary and skeptical when the fifth season started last fall. The romantic consummation Castle and Beckett at the end of Season 4 seemed contrived and somewhat one-sided, as much was made of Beckett’s obsession with her mother’s killer and how it kept them apart and very little was made of Castle keeping this huge secret from Beckett for “her own good.” It all seemed very unequal but, then, the episodes surrounding the conspiracy at the heart of Kate’s mother’s murder have always seemed a bit illogical.
I should have loved their kiss at in the finale. Instead, it drove me nuts.
But the opening of the fifth season put my skepticism to bed (quite literally) neatly. Rick and Kate talked it out the morning after and determined that this wasn’t a fluke and that they were both ready to get serious.
Relationship clearly established, tone set for the season, Castle and Beckett went back to what they do best, bantering while solving mysteries.
True, the banter was more sexually-laced, and the show worked in the stages of the relationship with their mysteries, but after viewing many episodes from the previous season, this has always been the case as the relationship grew organically. Maybe that’s why when the switch was finally flipped to dating, it felt like the same fun show.
Viewers saw Castle’s family and Beckett’s colleagues react when they found out. They went on their first weekend getaway, took their first steps toward living together, faced the eventual public acknowledgement of the relationship and, at season’s end, there was a proposal of marriage.
What didn’t happen?
Series creator Andrew Marlowe didn’t reset back to a “will-they, won’t-they” scenario or bring in a lost love or work complications that kept them apart. Marlowe let Castle and Beckett be in a sexual relationship that progressed remarkably similarly to the way their professional relationship did: interested but wary, to steady ground, and finally, to full trust.
The highlight of the season was Castle’s 100th episode, a twist on Rear Window which turned into a love letter from Kate to Rick, as she created the perfect birthday present for him that was also a very public acknowledgment of how much she loves him.
Castle is never going to be a favorite of those viewers who value terrific mysteries and plot twists in their police procedurals. Though there are some standout episodes—murder at a comic con, the steampunk killer, shows centering on zombies—this is a show where the appeal rests on the chemistry and growing love between Castle and Beckett.
Credit obviously goes to Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic for their on-screen chemistry and show creator Andrew Marlowe for handling it all with a deft touch. And viewers have responded with overwhelming support, as the show’s Nielson ratings have gone from #40 overall to #19 this past season.
So where do they go next?
The marriage proposal at the end of Season 5 ended on a cliffhanger, as Kate hasn’t answered Rick’s question yet. But given that this is a show that remembers Beckett responded to Castle proposition in the pilot with “you have no idea” and had Castle say “you were right, I had no idea,” when they finally woke up the morning after in Season 5, it’s obvious there is a plan for what happens next.
I’m looking forward to seeing them navigate engagement, perhaps separate jobs, and maybe even explore the idea of family down the line.
More, I’m looking forward to these elements not being boring, but being integrated into the show as well as the romance, and hoping that Castle has many more seasons ahead to prove that yes, there is life after relationships begin.
Nick and Nora have to be somewhere, raising a glass to Rick and Kate.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.