Castle Season 5 Finale Review: Will You... Give Us a Break?

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Castle S05E24: "Watershed"

When ABC sent out the screener for this week's Castle season finale, it left out the final scene. Essentially admitting that it didn't trust reviewers wouldn't go out of their way to spoil the "big surprise" at the end of the episode, we were required to watch alongside everyone else to find out the big twist ending of "Watershed." If this were a case where Andrew Marlowe and his writers had concocted an out-of-left-field conclusion to their barely built-up relationship drama of the past few episodes—a surprise Senator Bracken appearance, or some major character unexpectedly biting it—I might have understood. But it wasn't anything like that. Instead of some grand, shocking conclusion to an uneven, but generally entertaining season of Castle, Marlowe and crew decided to go for the easiest, yet messiest possible ending one could conceive.

But before we get to where "Watershed" ended up, let's talk about how it got there. Last week's episode concluded with Beckett receiving an offer from the federal investigator who alternately interfered with and helped the murder investigation of the hour. He believed Beckett displayed an extraordinary talent in wrapping up the case, and wanted her to be part of his team. At the outset of "Watershed," Beckett arrived in D.C. for an interview with the boss of this federal task force, played by former Homicide: Life on the Street star Kyle Secor (looking a good bit more gaunt than usual). Beckett seemed out of sorts, unsure of why she was even there, until Secor was good enough to tell her: It was because she knows she's an incredibly gifted investigator, and that she's destined for bigger things than the NYPD homicide unit. Hearing someone say it to her so bluntly had a galvanizing effect on Beckett, and with that, the interview began in earnest.

The best part of this whole job interview thing? Beckett apparently did it by getting on a butt-early flight, jaunting down to D.C. and then flying back to the city before her shift officially began. By the time the team showed up to investigate this week's case, in which a young girl's body was found in the rooftop water tank of a flop hotel, Beckett was huffing and puffing as she ran in to catch up on what'd been going on. Castle immediately noticed that something was a bit off about her, but he doesn't press right away. After all, there was a murder to solve.

The girl had been holed up in the hotel for the last ten days, and according to her various neighbors, she had been using the room as a place to "do some business." Yes, the prostitutin' kind of business. Her registered name, "Crystal Skye," should have been our first clue that not all was as it seemed, but the second clue—namely the fact that the victim was actually a Harvard graduate with a computer science degree who'd told her parents she was taking a trip to Europe—essentially guaranteed that this girl was not just some random hooker killed by a John.

The team initially tried to suss out how such a good girl might have gone so very wrong. Beckett even made the hilarious assertion that maybe the girl just needed a "change." Right. You studied computer science in the Ivy League, you ostensibly have a pretty solid life, and so you decide that to shift things around a bit, you're gonna become a hooker in New York City. Maybe we're all being a little too nice to Beckett when we talk about how brilliant her investigative instincts are...

Regardless, no, she wasn't a hooker. Her creepy Peeping Tom neighbor admitted he'd been spying on her through a hole in the wall, and that the hooker thing was a ruse. She was putting on the pornographic equivalent of a Pure Moods CD to trick her neighbors into thinking she was just some call girl, while actually spending all night every night on her laptop. What was she working on? Thanks to the aid of the NYPD's super helpful computer expert character (who, if I'm not mistaken, just started showing up regularly in the last few episodes), we learned that she'd been digging through the various files of a big-time law firm. Why? After a little more investigating, we found out that her friend, a former intern at the firm, had died in one of those tragic car accidents that are never actually accidents. In fact, this accident may have been a cover-up for a murder, performed at the behest of yet another crazy political heavyweight—because this show doesn't have enough of those, right?

Once the show got through its investigative paces, "Watershed" more or less abandonned wrapping up the plot in any particularly neat or satisfying fashion in favor of focusing squarely on Beckett's Big Decision. It was obviously nagging at Beckett mind throughout the episode, though the unfortunate side-effect was a morose, generally snippy Stana Katic that wasn't really much fun to watch. Once Castle actually learned of the interview (by discovering a boarding pass stub that'd fallen out of Beckett's jacket), Nathan Fillion wasn't much fun for the rest of the hour either.

When mommy and daddy fight on Castle, the whole show suffers. I'm not talking about the biting back-and-forth of the show's early seasons, when the characters had to pretend not to like each other (that stuff was fun, usually), but the kind of world-ending relationship drama that has been infecting more and more of this season. When Castle and Beckett are allowed to just kind of enjoy each other, this coupling has worked exceptionally well. I really didn't know what to expect when things kicked off last fall, but I will be the first to admit that the romance between Castle's main characters has generally been a good thing. The sexual tension of the previous four seasons was paid off in a mostly charming, likable way throughout this run. The constant questioning of the relationship by Beckett (and occasionally others) has periodically veered into obnoxious territory, but it's never been oppressive enough to wreck the duo's chemistry. "Watershed" came dangerously close to doing precisely that.

I might have been more willing to roll with the episode's punches if the job offer thing wasn't so wildly out of the blue (and totally uninteresting). It was a hastily established potential pitfall in last week's episode, and dedicating an entire finale to it felt like a lousy cop-out. As much as I've complained about some of the silly conspiratorial nonsense inherent to Beckett's backstory, the last two seasons had legitimately intense, completely crazy finales that managed to both provide ample service to the super fans, and at least make for solidly exciting episodes of television. "Watershed" was the antithesis of exciting. The mystery offered intrigue, but clearly only existed as a way for Beckett to show off her preternatural investigative powers "one last time" before making her big choice. The rest of the time, Beckett acted weird, which made everyone else act weird, until Beckett and Castle were super fighting and getting advice from various family members who we've barely seen at all over the last 24 episodes. Martha, Alexis, and Beckett's dad all made welcome appearances (especially Martha, who might as well have not even existed this season), but their advice boiled down to the kinds of obvious platitudes fans were most likely screaming at the TV screen on their own.

Which brings us to that conclusion. After having consulted their respective parents, Castle and Beckett agreed to meet at that old swing set. Beckett seemed to have made the decision to take the job, but hadn't said that directly to anyone yet. Castle, apart from looking severely pissed, was a wild card. So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when he pulled out a ring, dropped to one knee, and proposed right then and there, telling Beckett that no matter what she chose, he wanted to be a part of it.

All right, let's clear one thing up right now: I am not against Castle and Beckett getting married. That's a sweet idea, and one that feels like it would naturally come to fruition after a couple of seasons of actually being together. But after one season of dating? After all that hemming and hawing about whether their relationship could truly work? And seemingly purely born out of this awkward, not-terribly-interesting job offer plot? Give me a break.

In truth, the whole end of this season felt like one big, hokey play at the heartstrings of Castle's super fans; the people who make absurdly tawdry Castle and Beckett fan art and spend all their time each day re-posting Castle GIFs on Tumblr. It simultaneously came out of nowhere, and also felt like the cheapest, easiest way to end the season on a cliffhanger, without having to wrap up any of those other lingering storylines the show mostly abandoned toward the end of the season. It wasn't anticlimactic because of how unsurprising it was—I was actually a little surprised—but because of how barely built-up any of this was throughout the season.

What does any of this mean for Season 6? Well, let's assume she accepts the proposal, or at least eventually does toward the end of next season's premiere, because it would be super dark and weird if she didn't. This means she either stays with the NYPD for at least one more season, or she goes to D.C. and she and Castle become federal crime solving buddies. I'm not betting on that last one, because Marlowe would have to come up with an even flimsier excuse for why Castle is allowed to tag along on federal investigations. In either event, it seems likely that the next season will build toward some kind of big wedding episode, either for sweeps, or the finale.

Whatever the case, "Watershed" did little to stoke my particular interest in how next season will play out. Season 5 turned out to be a wildly up-and-down ride, fraught with as many moments of sharp, charming comedy as stilted, hamfisted emotional turmoil. "Watershed" concluded with far more of the latter than the former, and it left a sour taste that I sincerely hope next season's premiere manages to wash away satisfactorily. I won't be getting my hopes up.


NOTES

– The music that played over the opening helicopter shots of Washington D.C. was so ludicrously grim and serious that I half expected it to kick into the "Imperial March" at any second.

– Really glad we finally got around to having Alexis actually mention that she was kidnapped by terrorists earlier this season. That said, Castle's justification for dawdling on paying for her upcoming class trip to Costa Rica was pretty weak, and could've easily been dumped entirely if they'd, you know, actually talked about this at some point previously.

– "I think our plot just thickened." —Castle, clearly not making a joke about his murder boner.

– When, exactly, did Esposito decide to start dressing up for work? What happened to his "streetwise cop" get-up? Why is he wearing a tie, all of a sudden? Is it to impress the hot computer girl?

– Speaking of which, is hot computer tech girl now a recurring character? She seems lovely and very smart, but man did they introduce her out of nowhere.

– I like seeing Kyle Secor get work. I especially liked how his character could jump from pleasant affability to deathly seriousness at the drop of a hat. If the show is going to move to D.C. next season (which I still think it won't), then I'm totally fine with him taking over as the boss character. I think I've had my fill of Penny Johnson Jerald, anyway. She's a great actress, but that character has long overstayed its welcome.

– I'm legit curious to see if any of you had wildly differing feelings about the direction of this season's end from mine. Lots of people watch Castle for different reasons, but I think most of us can agree that the show is at its best when the characters and actors are loose and having fun. The end of this season has been anything but fun to me, and I've found that to be more disappointing than anything else. I guess we'll all see what happens when Season 6 rolls around. Thanks for sticking with us for Season 5, and I hope you enjoyed reading and commenting along.

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