Castle Finale: The Romance Score Card
Raise your hand if you watch Castle?
All of us.
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.
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.