In order to understand what just happened in the Castle series finale, one needs to have a little history about the show. For millions of people the Castle series finale marks the end of an era. This is a show that for six seasons straight maintained a steady growth in viewers and stayed over ten million live viewers. Its total viewership averaged between twelve and fourteen million if you include “live + 7” DVR numbers. This quote from Buzzfeed explains the surprise that many had about the show:
Castle is an interesting case, then, of a veteran show that has become a hit by not eroding, and even growing a little, especially when compared with the wreckage around it.
Those six seasons were with creator Andrew Marlowe at the helm. The end of season six season had an infamous ending, one that saw Marlowe step down as showrunner and ushered in a change in the show’s direction. One that slowly tried to shift the show away from being what Marlowe described as, “a love story wrapped in a procedural.” The new focus was to refocus the show on writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) instead of being about Castle and detective/captain Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). Cheatsheet asked a question that was on everyone’s mind:
All that success makes one wonder why ABC is messing with a formula that seems to be working.
That’s a question some viewers would start asking themselves in season seven and most began asking in season eight after Marlowe – along with his wife and creative partner writer Terri Edda Miller – had completely left the show. If you go by the DVR numbers the show lost about four million viewers over those two seasons, and for the second half of season eight dropped under ten million in live + 7. It’s likely always going to be a question, because in terms of how the show was doing in the ratings the change made no sense.
Nevertheless, until last Thursday, all signs pointed to the show being renewed – with the plan being to get rid of the character of Beckett and continue the show with just Castle. Katic was fired. However, someone at ABC clearly had some doubts about this being a good idea because they insisted on filming an alternative ending – a “button” that would wrap up the series. That button is the last forty seconds or so that viewers saw. That last forty seconds is really all you needed to see of the Castle series finale. In fact, if by chance you haven’t seen it, I would suggest you don’t bother. Seriously…just don’t. Whomever made the decision about filming that alternative ending deserves a raise and a promotion immediately. My only problem with the ending is that it didn’t render all of season eight into being just a novel that Castle wrote.
This isn’t to say there aren’t some strong moments in the finale that emphasize some of the show’s history that viewers have loved over the years. Furthermore, every actor on there gives solid performances – as much as could be mustered from the material. The material though makes very little sense. Since the “LokSat” story arc – created by the Castle season eight showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter – hasn’t made sense from the beginning this isn’t a total surprise. It doesn’t keep it from being disappointing and at times infuriating.
What’s Right in the Castle Series Finale
As mentioned, there are some scenes within the finale, which is titled “Crossfire,” that, taken on their own are enjoyable. They are:
- During the first stakeout – the one in the park there’s fun banter with Castle & Beckett.
- The crime scene with detectives Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas), Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever), and M.E. Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones). Ryan gives voice to how awful of a crime scene this is. Being burned alive is, as he grimly puts it, “A hell of a way to go.”
- Castle and Beckett banter while waiting for LokSat in the first trap. (Because, you know, there were so many of them.)
- Beckett facing Ryan and Esposito after Vikram (Sunkrish Bala) tells them about LokSat/They tell her to stay in the precinct. Beckett’s boys always have her back!
- There’s a nice exchange near the end between Beckett and Lanie.
- Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan) – period. Her drinking Merlot in the P.I. office’s hidden room is perfection.
- Who is going to reject Castle telling someone all the reasons he loves Beckett – regardless of the circumstances he’s under while telling them? No one. Ditto for Beckett calling Castle the love of her life, and basically for every loving Caskett moment that occurs.
- Kate Beckett. Maybe it’s because they were going to kill her off, but we very much get the Kate Beckett that was in place before season eight. This is Marlowe’s Beckett, sharp, aware, concerned about justice but also the safety of others. Watching Katic in her scenes you have to wonder who was crazy enough to think the show could survive without her.
- The last forty seconds.
What’s Wrong in the Castle Season Finale
The things that are wrong with Castle, “Crossfire” are things that have been wrong all season. Take the opening murder. Just…why? Classic Castle episodes were big on quirky murder scenes, not gruesome murders. Burning someone alive? For what? Like for what purpose was that? None. It’s a pure shock value plot-point, which makes it beyond even Criminal Minds where at least horrible murders lead to some valuable case insight during the story. This murder, like, so many other killings this season are just because they can. The quirky music, the joy Mr. Flynn (Jed Rees) has in setting the car on fire, we get it. This is a sick man who enjoys death and destruction. Making sure that the audience knows the person is being burned alive is, for lack of a better term, overkill.
This kind of thing is one of the same problems that Fox’s The Following had…oh, wait, that explains a lot. Hawley worked on The Following and was the co-showrunner for its third season. This what Variety had to say when that show canceled after its third season:
Barring another wildly improbable twist of the real-life variety, “The Following” aired its last episode Monday, having been canceled by Fox. And the two-hour finale only drove home how the program squandered its assets, with the end coming two years and many dozens (if not hundreds) of killings too late.
Initially promising with the casting of Kevin Bacon and James Purefoy, “The Following” overstayed its welcome, a victim of lazy writing and a decidedly grim streak that treated human life cavalierly even by the standards of primetime crime shows. That included borrowing repeatedly from movies (from “Psycho” to “The Fugitive”), while the life expectancy of FBI agents who weren’t series regulars was shorter than the red-shirted crewmen on “Star Trek.”
Change the show title, the network, the length of the finale, and the names of the actors and you have a review for the Castle series finale and the problems with Castle season 8.
In terms of the body count, this season of Castle had more extras being killed in gun battles and people being attacked by enemies with machine guns than the previous seven combined. The first trap in the parking lot spends a minute and twenty seconds with massive gun fire. Complete with Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye) “security specialist” acting as a sniper and taking guys out from above.
Later in the NYPD attacks inside a supposed CIA building – I wish I were kidding, but I’m not. This then leads to yet another gun fight shootout that is just endless. It has visual breaks that cuts away from the shooting but when Castle actually leaves that scene the shooting is still going on – so we’re talking about over four minutes that that these guys have been shooting at each other – with at least another minute and thirty seconds of actual shooting. If I want to feel like I’m in a warzone I’ll go spend some time with my brother’s friends and watch them play Call of Duty. Gun fights have never been the point of watching Castle. Besides, at least the darn plot of the video game makes some sense.
I do want to reiterate these problems aren’t about the actors. Huertas does a great bad*ss, get out of my way or else persona in that CIA lobby – but it’s a ridiculous circumstance. Seamus as the serious detective and the voice of reason carries that weight well. Fillion acts the hell out of his scenes when he’s listing the reasons he loves Beckett, and crying in despair as he gives up his friends and family’s names to be killed. It all comes off as emotionally genuine – but the reason it’s happening at all is because he’s being given a truth serum! Yes, it’s yet another plot point that’s right up there with the partial amnesia/missing time story and “The Greatest Detective Society” – aka “The G.D.S.”
There is no such thing as a truth serum – at least not in the way it’s used here. It’s never guaranteed to work, and the reactions make one silly and uncoordinated – like being drunk. One of them is actually a date-rape drug. In other words, if one were going with the idea of something remotely in existence Castle having it all together to be wrestling Mr. Flynn into that contraption, smashing in walls and shimmying down cables is absurd. In the past when Castle has gone off on sci-fi flights of fancy they have used points of real science to explain things – like the invisibility suit in season seven’s “Clear and Present Danger” doesn’t exist, but the science behind the idea and examples of it being possible actually do. (Then there’s the fact that with all the bullets flying he doesn’t get shot while pacing about.)
As for who LokSat turns out to be, that story isn’t even convoluted – because saying that the plot is overly complex and twisted implies there’s an actual thread of logic that can be manipulated in the first place. Remember, LokSat is the guy that’s supposed to have been Senator Bracken’s partner, only worse. Someone who’s capable of having entire FBI units wiped out, pay an endless amount of mercenaries to fight his battles, and have connections in every part of the U.S. government.
The first guy labeled as LokSat is Castle’s buddy Mason Wood (Gerald McRaney) – the head of The G.D.S., who once upon a time knew Rita (Ann Cusack) because he was “a lawyer with the state department” – or so he says. He ends up luring Beckett to go meet a CIA contact, but even though Beckett actually figures out he’s LokSat, he’s installed some kind of super magnet in the furnace room of this CIA building so it takes Beckett’s gun, but his is made of plastic. Oh, and this furnace is the one that Castle’s body was supposed to be thrown in after being killed with a lethal injection by Mr. Flynn – the same Flynn who burned the original victim alive in the car. Castle arrives just in time to distract Mason enough for Beckett to do some of her classic bad*ss moves and physically take him down.
Now, we were told that the victim in the car was Caleb Brown (Kristoffer Polaha) – a New York City public defender who was once one of the good guys. Only despite the DNA match Caleb turns out not to be dead and we have no idea who was burned alive in the car – but who cares, this version of Castle isn’t interested in actual justice for murder victims – just shootouts. He shows up at the Castle loft just as Castle is wondering why Caleb had to be burned in a car. Caleb shoots Castle, Beckett kills Caleb, but not before he shoots Beckett.
LokSat was a frigging New York public defender? He’s “the big bad”? What the @#$% is that? The Castle season 8 show runners spent the entire season trying to dismantle the seasons before it and impose their own vision on the series. All they’ve done is shown they can’t plot a logical story arc.
- This season Castle always has to have at least one sexually objectifying and disrespectful shot or comment about a woman in every episode. In the finale it’s the comment about the “handsy guy.”
- The character of Richard Castle is all over the map in this. He’s more interested in how Beckett’s using her camera than the fact that Caleb is supposed to meet up with LokSat? Then he decides that he has to go to the precinct and help Beckett – after escaping a group of mercenaries trying to kill them both? his Mother Martha and daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn) act as the voice of reason here, which he of course ignores. Then he goes out…and hails a cab? Because no one would have been watching the P.I. office, right. Later on Castle then turns into the guy figuring everything out and becomes “Mr. Action Hero” by breaking in walls and climbing down cables.
- How did Hayley and Vikram get out of that yard filled with guys using machine guns?
The Wrap Up
If there had been a Castle season 9, the last image would have been Castle and Beckett crawling towards each other on the floor as they’re bleeding out so that they can hold hands. This was Hawley’s big cliff-hanger. Since Katic had been fired and Fillion was coming back there wasn’t much of a surprise there. Thank goodness ABC realized that for the sake of the fans and the story that had been told for most of the series, the best thing to do was to cancel Castle and use that alternate ending.
In the Castle season five episode “Time Will Tell” it was predicted that Castle and Beckett would get married and have three kids. This ending fulfills that promise and ends the series with what fans were originally promised – a love story about a writer and his muse.
Personally, I’m mentally just tacking this ending onto the Castle season seven finale and calling that the end of the series because except for this button the work of Hawley and Winter is like a cancerous growth that’s attached to the prior seasons of Castle.
Not only did Hawley bring over to Castle every bad thing that The Following had been cited for over its three seasons, but he and Winter set out to try to make Kate Beckett into a neurotic woman who suffers and ultimately dies because of her willingness to stand up for herself and others. I say they tried, but ultimately they failed because one season of bad writing can’t eclipse the many seasons of writing that were good. It didn’t take long for most viewers to see through the attempt because with such an established history the actions in the first half of the seasons never fit in with the prior seven.
This is why the news of her firing caused such an uproar. It wasn’t enough for Hawley and Winter to attempt to shift the show’s focus to Castle – which in several interviews at start of season seven both Marlowe and the seasons seven showrunner David Amann admitted they were trying to do. Here’s one example – it’s a 2014 interview with TVLine:
Marlowe: We’re not looking to significantly alter the trajectory of their relationship or pull the rug out from under the audience. We’re looking to open up some really interesting aspects of storytelling for the Castle character, who hasn’t been as deeply explored as Beckett over the past six years – and we’re really excited by that opportunity.
What was occurring in season seven does bring up that question from CheatSheet that I mentioned near the top of this article. Why was ABC messing with success? It’s obvious that there had to be someone at ABC who had an agenda to change the successful formula about Castle and Beckett into one that was just about Castle. That directive was in place for season seven, which is before Hawley and Winter took over. In hindsight it looks as though the end of season six may have been Marlowe trying to comply with this new direction – one that wasn’t his own.
Of course, once Marlowe was gone and Hawley and Winter took over, things went miles beyond where season seven had gone. They came in and set out to do exactly what Marlowe and Amman didn’t want to: alter the trajectory of the Caskett relationship and pull the rug out from under the audience. What they didn’t expect was the audience to pull the rug out from under them! Still, what Hawley & Winter brought to the Castle season eight story and the way they executed their story arcs is totally on them – just as having so many fans calling for the show’s cancellation reflects on their work.
However, fans couldn’t have saved the show’s core story if someone at ABC hadn’t insisted on filming that forty-four second button that gave viewers their happily ever after. Whomever you are, there are a whole bunch of Castle fans thanking you for saving, “Caskett.” After watching the bulk of the Castle series finale, the thought of a Castle season nine – especially with these showrunners – is horrific.
Castle is a show with a talented cast. They, the crew, and the artisans behind the scenes, have a large body of work to be proud of. I know that all the fans are grateful for all that these people have put into Castle over the years and we hope to be seeing everyone’s names on new projects very soon. Some of the long-time Castle writers have already moved on to other shows. With that thought, I really can say thank God for the ending of the episode – and of the series. Now the world of Castle reruns and DVDs are safe to enjoy – at least through season seven. Like I said before – I’m stealing that Castle 8 x 22 button and adding it to, “Hollander’s Woods.”
ABC’s Castle was a good show for many years. However, the only truly redeeming part of the Castle Series Finale are the last forty seconds because the rest of the finale is plagued with the things that have been wrong all season.