The end came with a shower of gunshots, a touch of flirting, and a heartwarming tag. And now #CastleMondays are no more. Eight seasons of the romantic procedural were capped with an ending that betrayed the uncertainty around a season 9 renewal. But at least fans can rest easy knowing that — though their final chapter was rushed — Richard Castle and Kate Beckett are still each other’s “always.”
The couple slew their biggest dragon together before they brunched off into the sunset. The finale picked up a thread dropped by this season’s “Dead Again” episode, when LokSat operative Caleb Brown bequeathed Beckett his burner phone. He’d told her where she needed to be and when she needed to be there to intercept a regular instructional call. It’s daytime, and the park is busy. “Thinking what I’m thinking?” Beckett asks. Castle is. This whole operation could easily be a trap.
The call is short and garbled, but Vikram in a nearby tech van is still able to get a trace. The location is a red herring, but there was still valuable information in the content of the call. Caleb’s next errand was to bring a flash drive of account numbers to a drop location, where LokSat’s personal accountant would pick it up. Still working rogue, Castle and Beckett set up a sting with their small but plucky army: Vikram for communications and tech and Hayley for sniper skills and accompanying A+ sniper fashion. Why all these brilliant people believed that the money man for a crime syndicate operating with the blessing of half the CIA would be picking up his own packages is unclear, but they did. Beckett gets a few precious seconds of warning only because a still ignorant Esposito calls with some relevant details from a different case.
At the top of the episode, a blankly cheerful assassin sings along to the relentlessly optimistic Brady Bunch hit, “Sunshine Day.” He keeps the radio running after he stops the car. He hums along while empties a handle of gasoline into its interior and then on the person in the trunk. “Don’t you just love this song?” he asks his victim, and then lights that sucker up.
The corpse was burned well past recognition to the detriment of Ryan’s gag reflex, but the boys were able to ID him from the serial number of the high-end, indestructible briefcase that was keeping him company in the trunk. It’s Caleb Brown, whose presence at that very sting Vikram had confirmed over encrypted email. As Beckett processes what that news means, two SUVs roll into the parking lot. Men with automatic weapons pour out and open fire. Beckett and Castle’s hand guns are no match for the amount of firepower coming their way. Death seems inevitable until a food truck careens into view. Someone throws open the back and Castle and Beckett jump in. The driver is Mason Wood, the head of the Greatest Detective Agency, which Castle won entrance into during his trip to Los Angeles. He’s also a friend of Castle’s super-spy stepmother Rita, who requested that he come to town to “babysit.” Castle is ready to whip up a batch of kimchi in their Korean BBQ getaway car, but Beckett’s instinct is to defensively train her gun on Mason, and eight seasons of this show have taught me that Kate Beckett’s instincts are never wrong.
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Mason doesn’t want to know what Castle and Beckett are involved in or what sleeping bear they’ve been poking. He lets them have at his stash of untraceable weapons and gets on his way. Castle and Beckett both have business to take care of and they have no choice in that moment but to split up. Beckett will go back and collect Vikram. Castle will round up his family. They’ll meet back at the panic room at Castle’s office.
NEXT: You’re gonna need a right-hand man
Back at the precinct, Rysposito are working the Caleb Brown case, none the wiser of how their friends were just under attack. Espo shows Ryan a message that Caleb had scratched into the briefcase: “RTHDMN.” Vikram decodes the abbreviation and invites the detectives into the inner circle out of frustration. Caleb’s killer was the “right hand man” of “the big bad wolf,” or, the monster their boss has been fighting without soliciting their help. Beckett is furious that Vikram expanded the target on their backs to include her friends. Rysposito are ready to get to work. (“We’re not going to let you go to war without your two best soldiers.”)
“A feisty merlot, an elegant spread, delightful company. If I wasn’t scared out of my mind, this would be a lovely afternoon.” How fitting that one of our last moments with Martha involves her bringing a picnic to a lockdown. She, Alexis, and Hayley are all safe in the panic room with Castle, and they’ve just heard that Beckett is not on her way like she was supposed to be. With the briefcase carving and the specs on the killer’s car that Ryan was able to glean from tire tracks, the trail is far from cold. She’s just as safe at the station as she would be at Martha’s panic room happy hour, she promises. But there’s work to be done.
Finally, a hit. Traffic cameras find the ostentatious car the suspect was driving and the boys are able to track him to the suburban row house he must call home. A live feed indicates that he’s still there, and Rysposito head out to investigate (after much protest from Beckett, who vowed to her husband she’d stay behind).
At the same time, Castle gets weary of twiddling his thumbs. Against his mother and daughter’s wishes, he leaves the office to go be with Beckett at the station. Hayley leaps into bodyguard mode, but he’d prefer it if she used that to protect his family instead. It takes Castle less than a minute to break the first rule of being the target of a stealthy, all-powerful criminal syndicate: He hails a cab. The driver flips on the radio after he gets his passenger’s desired destination. The Brady kids start singing about the summer sun calling their names. “Don’t you just love this song?”
The fake break-up and real separation of early season 8 won’t be remembered as one of Castle’s best eras, but everything Beckett feared then about LokSat exploiting her relationship is coming to pass. The strategy is to divide the couple and use their weaknesses to destroy them. For Castle, it’s his family. For Kate, it’s her duty to her fellow soldiers. For both of them, it’s each other.
Castle ends up in the clutches of their automobile firebug, a remorseless sociopath who calls himself Mr. Flynn. (“Trust me, my name is the least consequential thing for you to know right now.” “It’s an embarrassing name, isn’t it?”) He hooks Castle up with an IV full of truth serum and forces him to chat about life and love while they wait for it to take full effect. He too wants to know what the secret is to Castle’s devotion to Beckett. (“I became a better man.”) It’s like a family’s Thanksgiving relationship status interrogation, but with restraints. Flynn asks if he would trade in Beckett for a return to his carefree, playboy life (“She’s the reason you are on this table.”), but Castle can barely remember that guy he used to be, let alone want to erase their history. And the reaffirming of his commitment to Beckett just makes the next part more painful.
LokSat, a.k.a. Mason Wood tag-teams in for what he probably calls the fun part. Castle weeps as the serum forces him to tell Mason that Martha, Alexis, Hayley, Ryan, and Esposito are all aware of LokSat too. (“There is no shame in losing, Mr. Castle, only in the hubris that made you think this could end any other way.”) Mason leaves to complete the next phase of his plan. Flynn delights in telling Castle he’s signed his loved ones’ death warrants, then hooks up another bag of chemicals and tells him it’ll all be over soon.
NEXT: Wood you ever suspect?
After Beckett watches helplessly as the driver’s house is revealed to be another decoy, she gets a call from the couple’s self-appointed babysitter. Mason tells her that he found out something about their enemy against his will and knows a guy who’s in deep with corrupt cells of the CIA. He claims he’s just giving Beckett a heads up before he interviews him, but she pressures him into letting her come along. For a criminal mastermind, that story he’s peddling is Swiss cheese — the lacy kind, with lots of holes. Why would Mason call Beckett and not his buddy Castle? If this weird friend is such a conspiracist, why would he want to talk? To an ex-lawyer, no less?
And I don’t understand why anyone ever considered doing this show without Stana Katic, because I could tell that Beckett had his number by the way she held herself as she spoke to him in his car. Mason asks her why she’s doing this, probably because he can’t fathom anyone fighting as hard as he does but not in the name of greed or power. “You and Mr. Castle have quite a bond,” Mason says. “Yeah, well, I’m crazy for him. He’s the love of my life,” she says. Then Mason asks if she would ever walk away from this with him. “I took an oath,” she explains. “People that I care about were murdered. And they deserve justice.” “Must be hard carrying that weight,” Mason fake-empathizes. “I don’t carry it alone,” Beckett says. In other words: “You’re about to be dealing with two of us, bitch.”
Vikram, Ryan, and Esposito didn’t notice Beckett sneak out, but they have no choice but to keep pushing through their work. A cell phone tower signal leads them to a CIA/LokSat stronghold, whose lobby Rysposito and their team take by force. They make it to the interrogation room just in time to save Castle from lethal injection. They’re trapped in the room when a firefight with LokSat’s security team breaks out. Castle shoves the truth serum IV into Flynn’s arm and forces him to give up the location where Mason is taking Beckett. It’s that very building, he admits. A kill room and an incinerator is directly underneath them, if Castle can manage to get there. Castle notices a wet wall on one side of the room, breaks through it, and starts to climb down. By the time he gets to the basement, Mason has his plastic gun trained on Beckett, the electromagnet booby trap in his ceiling making up for her brilliance. Unable to deal with both of them at the same time, Mason is disarmed by Beckett. She and Castle run to each other and embrace in relief.
At seven o’clock the next morning, families are reunited, drinks are about to be had at some dive that caters to anyone coming off the night shift, and the news is reporting the shoot-out that happened overnight in Manhattan. Beckett and Castle beg off of the celebration to go home, and it’s fishy from the second they walk into separate rooms. Castle regards a burner on their stove and wanders aloud why Flynn would burn a body in a car when his office has a human-sized incinerator. Caleb Brown is alive. He steps into the room and shoots Castle in the chest. Beckett runs in from their bedroom and returns fire. Caleb falls dead, but Beckett’s been hit too. She slumps to the ground, and she and Castle crawl towards each other, wordlessly. They hold hands as the camera pans away.
But LokSat was Mason Wood. Just a guy who didn’t like when people got in his way, not some demon conjured specifically to torment Beckett and Castle. Castle’s earlier run-in with Mason’s public persona didn’t even have anything to do with the LokSat case. That’s how irrelevant he is. So though it looked like this case would be Caskett’s last, LokSat didn’t deserve that distinction. Maybe a neighbor heard gunshots and called the cops. Maybe Hayley followed them home, just to be sure. But someone got help. Seven years later, Castle and Beckett are maybe still working cases, or maybe not. But they are happy, and so are their Caskett babies. The series ends on an echo of their wedding vows: “Always.” “Always.”
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