Castle Season 3 Finale: Kate Beckett’s Heart

Stana Katic as Detective Kate Beckett in Castle Season 3 finale
Stana Katic as Detective Kate Beckett in Castle Season 3 finale
Did Andrew Marlowe, the creator of the TV show Castle, misname the show?

Think back three short years ago. Castle appears as a midseason series with only ten episodes written and produced. From the first sequence, we learn most of what makes this show so charming: the juxtaposition of glamour shots of author Richard Castle (actor Nathan Fillion) at a swanky book launch party and crime scene shots of Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). Two worlds destined to intertwine.

Note: If you don't want intertwined SPOILERS, read no further, until you watch the finale for yourself.

For all the witty allure and fun, light banter between the two leads, there is only so much crime-of-the-week storytelling viewers can take before the tales begin to blur. A series succeeds based on its underlying backbone, a far-reaching story arc that can tie multiple episodes together. The X-Files had Mulder’s search for his abducted sister. Adrian Monk constantly searched for the man who murdered his wife. Ditto for CSI: Miami’s Horatio Caine.

Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle
Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle/ Bestselling man-child?
Richard Castle is basically a man-child, a kid in a grown up body. While he has emotional baggage, it’s not the stuff that makes good, compelling drama. Since this is a cop show, there has to be a character that can’t move past The One Case that’s stymied everyone else. There always has to be a detective that will shoulder the burden for that one special case and forge ahead, finding clues here and there,and  never giving up. Kate Beckett is that cop. She has that case. It just so happens to involve the murder of her mother.

Early on, in the pilot episode, Castle tries to put Beckett in a nice little box. Using his writerly imagination, he postulates why she became a cop and, then, detective. In one of the best scenes of the entire series to date, the camera lingers on Beckett’s face, her façade of toughness visibly eroding before our eyes. With that one scene, you get additional information that echoes throughout the series: Castle often goes too far, and Beckett hides more than she reveals. He is intrigued by what lays hidden behind her steely cop face, and, over three seasons, more and more of her backstory is uncovered.

Season 3 demonstrates how to move a story forward without reaching the end and resolving the very dramatic tension that propels the show each week. In the episode “Knockdown,” Beckett and Castle are interviewing the former detective who investigated the murder of Beckett’s mother, when a sniper’s bullet kills him on the spot. The subsequent investigation uncovers the presence of a mystery man behind everything, including the hiring of professional hit man Hal Lockwood (Max Martini). As Lockwood goes to prison, Beckett swears to him that she’ll visit the prison every week until he names the man who put out the hit on her mother. The events of this episode not only show how ragged, determined, and blinded Beckett can be when it comes to the subject of her mother, but it also gave us The Kiss. (link and scroll to watch or re-watch in action.)

Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle kisses Stana Katic as Kate Beckett
Castle and Beckett and The Kiss of Season 3
Granted, it was designed to be a distraction for the bad guys, but Rick and Kate lingered for just a moment, their eyes meeting. For a light-hearted police procedural, the acting is, at times, superb. After three years of will-they or won’t-they suspense, they finally took a step. And, yet, what marks the writing of Castle is how many times Rick and Kate can make a move forward, only to have them take two steps back…and make it believable.  “Knockdown” ends with the plausible event: Beckett’s boyfriend arrives to comfort her. Thus, Castle and Beckett are apart again.

Stana Katic as Detective Kate Beckett and Max Martini as hitman Hal Lockwood
Detective Kate Beckett versus hitman Hal Lockwood
Interestingly, the title of the season finale is “Knockout,” an obvious move to link the two episodes. On one of Beckett’s visits, Lockwood offs a convict (one of the two former detectives who investigated the murder of Mrs. Beckett) before having a confrontation with Kate. She smiles grimly when referring to Lockwood’s mysterious employer: “He can’t hide from me.” Lockwood merely returns her stare: “You can’t hide from him.” During an arraignment hearing, Lockwood escapes with some trained hit men dressed to look like NYPD cops. A manhunt ensues and, during the squad room scenes, Castle postulates that there has to be a third cop involved in the cover-up. Thus, not only do the police search for Lockwood, they also sift through years-old information searching for the identity of the third cop.

In the three seasons this show has aired, there have been some genuinely great moments. “Knockout” had more than its fair share. Jim Beckett, Kate’s father, talks to Castle to urge him to help Kate back down. Captain Montgomery (Ruben Santiago-Hudson in perhaps his best episode ever) and Castle have a scene together where we learn how the captain and Beckett first met. Naturally, Castle and Beckett have a fight when he asks her to back down. The good thing is that they get to address the elephant in the room: their romantic feelings for each other. And, like every other episode, it’s left unresolved. Why else would we tune in each week? Finally, there is the first of two scenes between Montgomery and Beckett. With exquisite somberness, the captain admonishes Kate not to let this case consume her. “We owe the dead justice,” he says, “but we don’t owe them our lives.” Life is a series of battles where there are no victories. “I will stand with you, detective,” the captain says.

In following leads, Detectives Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) discover the truth about the third cop right after we viewers have: it’s Captain Montgomery. In what is perhaps the most excruciating scene between Ryan and Esposito to date, Ryan, in shocked disbelief, speaks the words that the captain has to be dirty. Esposito decks him and the two fight. The anguish in their faces and voices is palpable, real even, and brings home the obvious fact that these two characters are as essential in Castle as Rick and Kate. If there was an Emmy Award for Best Co-Star Team, Huertas and Dever should be nominated annually. As they stand in an alley, backlit so that only their dark profiles are seen, they faced the unspeakable truth, and realize they must warn Beckett.

Stana Katic as Detective Kate Beckett in Castle Season 3 Finale
Bad News Keeps Coming for Beckett in Castle’s Season 3 finale
She is already at an airport hanger, brought there by Montgomery’s phone call. She gets a text message from Ryan and confronts the captain with it. In an episode already dripping with heart-wrenching scenes, this one hits it out of the park. As Beckett implores Montgomery to reconsider—even going as far as saying (begging?) “I forgive you!”—he just looks at her with all the paternal grace he can muster, and tells her “This is my spot.” Castle drags/carries a screaming, moaning, inconsolable Beckett away to safety. Montgomery, dirty cop that he is (or was), goes down and takes out all the bad guys with him, including Lockwood.

The funeral scene, complete with eulogy by Beckett is touching, but the moment is ripped away as a sniper’s bullet (again?) hits Kate. Castle, hovering over her, pleads for her to stay with him. In a moment of desperate clarity, he utters the words we all know he feels: “I love you.” She smiles, a tear running down her cheek, and closes her eyes.

Going into the episode, I knew that one of the team was not going to make it. After hearing that Montgomery was going to retire, I pretty much pegged him as the victim. I did not, however, see the turn of events that put him in the middle of the giant conspiracy surrounding the murder of Beckett’s mother. I can’t imagine that Andrew Marlowe, the show’s creator, had the captain as a bad guy from the start. But it works, and it doesn’t come off as some gimmicky, out-of-character thing like what happened to Clarice Starling at the end of Thomas Harris’s novel, Hannibal (when she willingly went off with Hannibal Lector).

In a show with humble beginnings and a funny premise, Castle is marked more by the episodes of intense drama than the humorous, crime-of-the-week variety. In fact, while watching last night’s show, I realized something: the humorous show, Castle, does drama well in the same manner that the serious show, The X-Files, did humor. From a midseason replacement series, Castle has grown and matured fast, both in the writing and the acting. For a program that is more about the characters than the plots, it is the interaction of the cast that gels this show into something greater than the sum of its parts. Yet, for all the charm and wit and charisma of Castle, the brotherly comradeship between Ryan and Esposito, and the dynamic between father and daughter and son and mother, the emotional core of Castle is Kate Beckett. It is her story that underpins the entire series.

And it is her story that might have just ended with this cliffhanger of a finale.

Scott D. Parker is a professional wordsmith who writes about books, music, and history on his own blog, and is a contributor to Do Some Damage.


  1. Stephen Zielinski

    Great write up! This was definetly one of the best episodes yet.

  2. Randy Johnson

    Is Be ckett dead or not? Of course she’s not. I vote she was wearing a jacket under her uniform, Castle didn’t know that(hence his I love you), and she will be “dead” next season to smoke out the assassin.

    We’ll see.

  3. Clare 2e

    I considered that, too, Randy. However, they did show blood on her hand. Still, Castle was pretty casual on the whole wound-compression thing. He wasn’t yelling for an ambulance like a crazy person, just spilling his guts, so it could be a head-fake, and he decided to tell her when he knew she couldn’t run away or do anything about it.

  4. David Cranmer

    Superb write up, Scott. I didn’t watch the episode but your thorough take was the next best thing.

  5. loveamystery

    Scott, I agree that your article was superb. I just disagree with one point.

    “Going into the episode, I knew that one of the team was not going to
    make it. After hearing that Montgomery was going to retire, I pretty
    much pegged him as the victim.”

    Last week Captain’s wife said he had promised to retire. Then, Ryan made the comment to Castle etal about not being sad because that the Captain is always threatening to retire. I am not convinced he is dead, but think he may be laying low to help catch the bigger fish who is behind the cover up and a much bigger story. Same goes for Beckett.

  6. ScottDParker

    Zsaz1029 – I think each season has improved on the last. It’s fun to return to the DVDs of Seasons 1 or 2 and see where the show was a few long months ago. I’ll be looking forward to rewatching Season 3 later this fall. Thanks for reading.

    Randy – She’s not dead, of this I know. Chances are, it’ll be a vest under the uniform or, a la Teddy Roosevelt, her badge took the brunt of the force. The “she’s ‘dead’ whilst hunting the real killer’ thing has been done more than once, including my other fav, CSI: Miami.

    Clare2e – Interesting take. Whereas Rick’s mom told him not to waste another minute without Kate, I wonder who (if anyone) Beckett talked to in order to arrive at the same conclusion?

    David – You mean, you didn’t watch the *yet*, right? You do watch Castle, right? I know you love (right?) Firefly (who doesn’t?), but cannot remember if you watch Castle, too.

  7. BJ

    OK — so, is Beckett dead or not? Will the show come back next season??? I can’t imagine them ending this show………..

  8. Clare 2e

    She’s not dead- she’s coming back, BJ. The creator has already said so in inerviews today. And we’ll all be waiting to see how he gets Beckett out of this, right?

  9. Elyse Dinh-McCrillis

    Castle creator Andrew Marlowe answers questions about the finale [url=]here[/url].
    He doesn’t say much, though. And I think he’s wrong about fans enjoying the frustration. If I get too frustrated, I tune out.

  10. Andrea K Hosth

    Same here, Pop Culture Nerd. At some point I stop caring if something is drawn out too long. Especially if there’s continued bait-and-switching.

    However, Marlowe said: “…TV audiences is that they love to be frustrated and then fulfilled.”

    So long as the fulfilment starts occurring roughly halfway through next season, I can live with a bit more frustration. If by the end of next season they’re not a couple trying to work out how to stick together (Castle has a lot of failed marriages behind him after all) then I think many will drift away.

  11. Steve Weddle

    Kate Beckett could break Richard Castle in half.
    So it’s pretty damned unbelievable that he carries her out of the hanger so that they can allow the captain to be killed.

    You really think Beckett wouldn’t throat-punch Castle to join in the fight? She’s not a weak character and they totally played her like one in the end. Look, I don’t mind that the local police department is investigating the prison murder. You’d figure the corrections department and the Feds would probably be working this, but if it helps the plot along to have the local department work it, fine.

    But then when they have Beckett turn into a complete wuss for five minutes, I gotta call ‘baloney’ on it. And then right after the final gunshot she manages to break free of the suddenly super-strong Castle? Heck, I’m not even sure Jayne could hold Beckett down like that, much less Mal, er, Castle.

    Just seems to be a problem when you have to totally go against someone’s character in order to make the plot work.

    And when the “protective detail” is guarding her in her apartment because they’re a professional hitman after her? Um, why the hell is she walking around in front her her windows that whole time talking to Castle? Dude, they could send a sniper after her and take her out right there.

    But of course, they won’t. It would make sense for that to happen, but it wouldn’t work with their plot.
    And if we learned one thing from this episode, we learn that moving the plot along is going to win out every time against what makes sense.

  12. Clare 2e

    Okay- I admit, I did notice the crossing in front of the windows, and the carrying her out WAS weak. He should’ve had to tranq her like a rhino, or she should’ve been forced to hit him–in this case, striking his face to break her hysteria : )

  13. Joanna V

    Totally agree on Castle carrying her out without getting decked – I thought the same thing while watching it. As for the jurisdictional and procedural issues like the prison murder investigation – yeah, things like this have come up a number of times and the show is usually fun enough to watch that I choose to wilfully ignore them, even if I know they aren’t being accurate!

    Also loved the fight scene with Ryan and Esposito in the alley – one of the reasons I watch this show is that these two actors are so good together – usually it’s just them being funny but showing how well they could play serious was great.

  14. Persia Walker

    Ummm… Did Montgomery kill Lockwood? I’m not so sure about that. Maybe I need to go to Hulu and watch it again.

  15. Clare 2e

    Persia- I confess to having doubts about that myself. I also wondered about Castle just dropping his guard duty and letting Beckett run into the hangar where they’d just heard gunfire seconds before. How did he/they know the coast was clear?

    But I still loved. I acknowledge the logical flaws, I do, but seeing the fizzled emotionless finales I watched before this, I was thrilled at something that meant something. Otherwise, just make it anothe crime-of-the-week episode and leave it there.

  16. Sarah

    I think one of the reasons that Castle COULD carry Beckett out of the hanger, is a) she trusts him. If it had been anyone else, she would have shot them. No questions asked. Castle, though, she trusts. b) Beckett was in shock. No matter how strong someone is, if they’re in shock there’s no way they are going to be able to fight back.

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