Castle Finale: The Romance Score Card

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Raise your hand if you watch Castle?
All of us.
Good.

I gotta vent. If you haven't watched the finale, there are spoilers below, and you need to not read further. (But hurry up and watch it and come back.)
And warning, some of this is not appropriate for all eyes. If you're super young, you might wanna skip this one. I'm about to talk about sexy times.
First let me say, I loved the episode. I watched it twice, watched the ending three times.

But I got issues with the show. It's all goes back to writing romance. I've written eight romance novels, and there are a few must-haves for me every time. I'm about to bore you with them in regard to Castle.

1. Castle is not a man. OR rarely is a man.
Real life and fiction are two different worlds. In the fiction world, the man needs to be alpha. I tried to find a good definition or link for you, but came up with nothing except some info on mating rituals of lions. The alpha male is confident, cocky, smart, has some degree of arrogance. He's a protector, and beneath it all, he is old-fashioned. Think Rhett Butler, Cary Grant in Charade, Whats His Name in Sweet Home Alabama, Ryan Reynolds in Proposal. Granted, there's always a chink in their armor, in their arrogant act, but they are not metro-sensitive men.

When Castle first started, Richard Castle was a national celebrity. He was arrogant, obnoxious. A bit too much. But the fun of that was we got to see it peeled back, and we began to see the real him. But now that arrogance is completely gone. Castle is a funny character, and that's vital. But too often the funny steps into buffoonery. Too often he's this wimpy guy who's lovable, and the fun nerd side has completely taken over. There is no rock star in him anymore. And that's a problem.We need that nerd side, but you can't be full time nerd man and be alpha. The alpha must dominate. The balance is off.

Because now Beckett is the man in the relationship.
I'm okay with the female being tough. I think every female I've ever written has been kinda tough. They don't carry Marlboro's rolled in their sleeve or have a big chain running from their pocket to their wallet. But they are not “let me talk about my feelings and cry a lot” girls/ladies. (Of course they also do not wear mullets like Beckett, season one.) But they are independent, make their own destiny, go for the strong/smart boys. Beckett absolutely needs to be a super-strong lady. But because she is so tough, we need to see more strength from Castle. He's the girl in this duo, and it's not working. Javier…now that's an alpha male. He never leaves that role except when it's right. (Like the wedding with Lainey after they split.)

In the finale, Castle has two alpha male moments. One is when he raises his voice to Beckett for the first time (maybe) ever, telling her that he's more than a partner and she needs to back off the case or she'll die. He's ticked. That's a man. Specifically, that's a romantic lead. (In real life, if your fellow is yelling at you a bunch, you should probably consult a professional…)  But Beckett is choosing death here (again), and he FINALLY mans up and gets in her face instead of being whiny. This moment works SO well because there's fire and passion. We don't ever get to see that with them.
The second time is in the very end when Castle finally takes charge of The Kiss, but I'll spare you the description.

If you're writing a love scene, you gotta slow it down, even if things are moving at a fast speed physically. There are few things better in writing (or theater or movies) than the pause.
When Castle said he loved her, he just raced through that. If it's a big statement, you gotta put a pause in there.  Just rushing through that was not alpha. It was junior high girly. That needed some volume too. It needs to be set apart. Give it time to reverberate.

Kate's epiphany was too quick. Granted, she hasn't said “I love you,” and I like that. I hope it's a future complication.

When Kate comes back at the end for the big smack down, she just attacks him. Hey, girl, carpe smoochage. But Beckett just stands there and…does nothing.
To me, the alpha thing to do here is to take control of the situation. I would've had Castle put his hands on her (he wasn't touching her), and pull her away. They needed that eye to eye moment, where we know what they're thinking, but they're just now mentally transferring that. Throw in some Grey's Anatomy indy music we'll be searching for on iTunes the next day. Then he should've kissed her. Be the man here.

This “Kate awkwardly throws self at Castle while he stands there not sure what to do with his hands” happens twice in a row. The best part there was when she apologized repeatedly. Nice moment. It finally got real and high stakes. She's not an apologizer. Though I didn't buy that she would give it all up (the case) for him just like that.

The build-up. There wasn't any. We've heard them talk to others a bit this year about being into each other, but that's not a build-up. It's conversation.
In this last episode the camera shots were really working to show you their glances. Where was this all year?

The hand holding moment–that was good, but we should've seen that sooner.

I don't like that they skipped all the bases at the end and went straight to home plate.
And it showed her bullet wound, but did he run his hand over it? The lighting was SO weird, so maybe he did. But he should've. That would've been sweet and some great symbolism.

Where was I? Oh, yes, skipping to home base.
We got cheated out of a lot of bases there. It didn't feel authentic. Yeah, there's been a four year build-up, but you gotta put in those “almost” moments in your book, movie, Emmy winning TV show, whatever. You begin to give your readers/your couple what they want, then interrupt it. An accidental (or was it?) touch. A kiss that's interrupted. A series of flirty moments. An angry, tense conversation that sparks. Remember the episode where they have to kiss in an ally to throw off a crook? THAT was build up. You take the reader/couple ALMOST there, then pull the rug out from under them. So they're making out–fine. Then the ex knocks on the door. Or something explodes. We needed a handful of these moments. Kudos to the “we can't control this, wildfire” ending. I'm not disagreeing with that in itself–we just needed a build-up. A many-times-frustrated build-up.

Kate would've gone to Castle's daughter's graduation.

There was a weird editing glitch in the final love scene. Castle is here one second, then there the next.

Still.
I loved the episode. I thought it was some great writing plot-wise. The dialogue could've been stronger and more believable, but the plot worked well.
The overlapping of Alexis's speech with things that happened in the past to things happening in the head of Beckett and Castle to what was coming…that was some freaking writing brilliance.
And I haven't stopped thinking about the episode, so that's a sign it really worked. Or a sign that I'm avoiding the stack of essays I'm supposed to grade.

I worry about the show's future though. In a fictional romance, it's not the Happily Ever After we enjoy the most, but the chase. The flirty, fun, swoony journey getting there. That's why the HEA comes at the very end. I can't think of any shows that have made it too long after their kept-apart-duo were no longer kept apart.

So to review, if you write romance, here are some quick tips:
1. Alpha male, even in YA. Don't emasculate your hero.
2.Breadcrumbs dropped to get to the romantic payoff.
3. Lots of road blocks in the way. Frustrate the couple, frustrate your readers.
4. Dialogue that sizzles, either with flirtation, with a significance that bonds, or with frustration/healthy anger.
5. Make significant moments set apart. Don't rush them, even if it's a frenzied scene. Behold the well-timed pause.
6. Make good use of sensory details.
7. Don't give your heroine a mullet.

I think that about sums it up.
It will be interesting to see where they the show now.
As for me, I'm through talking about romance. I have to return to the real world and grade a million essays.
And there's nothing sexy about that.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 17 comments
Marybeth - May 9, 2012

Yeah … freaking brilliant! Definitely said everything I was thinking. I loved that it happened, but I just didn’t feel the *yeah baby* like I did when Meridith and McDreamy started making out in the elevator or OMG the STARE during the mock prom … I mean where was the sexual tension?!?!

Great Post! Well placed relevance in terms of writing. 🙂

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Kelly - May 9, 2012

I have sort of a love/hate relationship with the ending. I feel so conflicted!! Thanks for explaining why, lol.

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Krista Phillips - May 9, 2012

LOVE THIS, Jenny! You hit the nail on the head, to throw in a cliche:-)

LOVE Castle, but I’m super afraid that next season is it’s last. There is only so much you can drag on a romance and still keep things interesting. I’m kinda happy, though, that they didn’t drag it on TOO long, because in a year or two, if it was still this “maybe” thing, it would have gotten boring… and the romance would have been like, “FINALLY…” instead of the moment we’ve been waiting for.

That said, the whole issue of her being more “alpha” could be a plot point for next year too. He tries to be the man and she’s like, “what? no, we do it my way, hunnnay” and he’s like, ‘Oh no we don’t, missy…”

Anywho, they should totally hire you as a writer for the show… I’d watch it for at LEAST another 10 seasons if they did!!! 🙂

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Ashley - May 9, 2012

I totally agree. I’ve been waiting on Castle to be more of a rock star again. He needs his swagger back.

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Erin McFarland - May 9, 2012

“Carpe Smoochage” and “Don’t give your heroine a mullet.” lol
So true…once that romantic tension is gone, it’s just cruising until the ride comes to a stop.

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Melanie - May 9, 2012

We DVR the shows we like all week and watch them all in a couple of nights, so just before Castle, Fairly Legal did it RIGHT, and that’s the one that stayed with me…Castle seemed like a letdown! It didn’t help that they showed too much in the previews. No element of surprise!

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Jenny B Jones - May 9, 2012

Thanks for the thumbs up on the post. This morning when I woke up I almost went straight to the computer to take it down. I was worried it was a little too pervy. ha.

I love the show and hope it has many years. I just don’t see how that’s possible though.

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Renee C. - May 9, 2012

I love the show and I’m one of those people who wanted them to get together from Season 1 LOL but yeah I kind of had a beef with the finale too. For one thing I kind of wanted her to say I love you. I mean I know if I TRULY loved someone and I was just hanging on the edge of certain death but cheated it (again!) I would definitely be making sure to say I love you. So does she truly love him or is she still battling other stuff? I guess some things will be resolved when it comes back for another season. In TV I guess they can’t tell you everything to make sure you come back for the next season.

xoxo~ Renee

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Ashley Clark - May 9, 2012

My favorite line in this blog was: “I’m about to talk about sexy times.”

Jenny, thank you so much for writing this! It’s very helpful to see these components outlined so clearly.

My guess is something will happen next season to break them back up, or force them to pretend to be apart. Maybe it will have to do with Beckett’s job.

And as for kept-apart-duos, what about Shawn and Juliet? The argument there would probably be that the show’s actually about Shawn and Gus. Speaking of which, I rewatched the mummy episode last night, and THAT is some quality television.

Great post, Jen!

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Erin - May 9, 2012

Totally agree with you that Castle needs a shot of alpha. Ilona Andrews did a great post on this one time – broke down all the different types of males in romance writing.

I gotta tell you, though, I’m one of the ones that only has SO much patience for the chase. If it goes on too long, I’m outta there. That’s why I quite watching CSI, Bones, and NCIS. It just went on too stinking long. My only worry is that they’ll dream up some artificial and awkward way to break them up at the start of next season. Four years is long enough in the real world to either decide two people are meant for each other or need to cut bait. I’m so happy they did finally get together (talk about euphemism…).

And, Jen? He did put his hand on her bullet wound – and rested his forehead there (you DID warn little bits to not read this, right?).

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Erin - May 9, 2012

Phooey. *quit* watching…

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Jenny B Jones - May 9, 2012

Erin, I think that’s exactly what will happen–they’ll find a way to break them up/keep them apart next year. And I saw them zoom in on the bullet scar, but the lighting was so funky, I couldn’t see what he did with it other than stare at it. I don’t watch Bones, but just hearing how they handled that was a total mess. To skip time like that and skip over the very thing the viewers want to see and have been waiting for. Weird.

Ashley, I think you’re right–Psych is about the bromance more than the romance. I don’t see Shawn and Jules relationship a big component in the story. In fact, Gus needs a lady finally! ha.

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Emily - May 10, 2012

Castle is definately my favorite show right now, (at least as far as ones that are currently playing on TV) and I really enjoyed the season finale. Personally, I was very surprised that they didn’t leave us hanging, especially with the revelations: Beckett finding out that Castle has been keeping secrets from her, and realizing that he knows that she heard him. In an average Castle episode (especially in this last season) they would’ve dragged that on for at least 3 episodes, probably more. I agree with you- they rushed that part way too much, it just didn’t fit the pattern. In my opinion, they should’ve at least saved some of the secrets for a later episode- could’ve made an interesting conflict.
Just my opinion, though. 🙂

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Leah - May 11, 2012

Love, love, love Castle! My whole family does, and though we live here, there and everywhere over the globe we always Skype or call on Tuesday to say…”Did you see Castle?! What did you think?” 🙂 I had mixed feelings about the finale too…it seemed to go really fast, maybe stuffing too much in one episode, and not lingering enough on each point? Not sure, but it seemed that there was: the guy dying at the beginning, then we leave him and focus on Kate’s shooter, then really quick fight with him, then focus on Kate and Castle for a few seconds, one second for the cliff hanger to draw us back for next season and roll credits. Nothing felt really resolved.
I think Castle did lose a little of his swagger/alpha the last few episodes, but I don’t worry that he has lost it for good. I just think the last few episodes they are showing that this whole back and forth with Kate has really left him worn out emotionally! He is tired of the emotional roller coaster, and he was pretty much ready to give up on her right before she showed up to attack him, so I think it was kind of nice to see that emotional side of him. I kind of liked that he was almost in tears when he asked her to drop the case. He usually pretends to be kind of shallow and sarcastic, but that part showed his feelings run deep.
I will be watching next season for sure, and I hope they will bring on more episodes with the secondary characters taking more of an active roll, kind of like the episode that had Espasido as the focus (last season?) or maybe Ryan will save the day since he is the only cop left on the team. 🙂 I am glad they didn’t just get them together and end the show. TV, movies, and books are ALWAYS doing that, but that isn’t when real relationships end…that is just the beginning! Here’s to many more seasons of Castle…I hope!

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Barbara Hartzler - May 11, 2012

I second the No Mullet Clause. Definitely a must. 🙂

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Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect - May 18, 2012

Ohhhhh, I love this insight into Castle! And oh my YES, I agree about Castle needing to get his rock star back. (I also had to laugh when I read your comment that Javier is a real alpha man. Um, yes.) And I can’t agree more about the freaking brilliance of the graduation speech scene. That was just so lovely.

However…I disagree a bit on the build-up. I think the show HAS shown some build-up over the past several episodes, with the camera lingering more on their shared glances and whatnot. Of course I would have loved more of that, though, so I don’t totally disagree. (Do you watch NCIS? Because good grief, THAT is a show that skips over so much implied romantic interaction. It is WEIRD, I tell you! Anyway. Rabbit trail.)

Finally, I love that you watched the ending three times. I’m anxiously waiting for my husband to catch up on the last few episodes of the season so I can watch the finale again with him! 🙂

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Katharine - January 27, 2013

AWSOME post Jenny! My parents, my sisters, and I all love to watch Castle. As we have been watching Season 5, it’s fun to see the growing love and strong relationships between Kate and Castle. I hope that there will be more seasons of Castle and eventually, they will GET HITCHED! 🙂 😉

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