This review contains spoilers.
6.10 The Good, The Bad, And The Baby
Let’s be clear about this: I loathe the baby-turns-tough-woman-into-marshmallow-ready-to-spawn trope. According to television, any woman, regardless of her attitudes about reproduction or degree of life-incomptaibility-with-infants, when placed in the same space as a baby, will automatically but begrudgingly bond with said baby and re-evaluate her position on said reproduction.
There are a few clear problems with this trope.
One, it happens almost exclusively to women on these shows and is based on the misogynistic belief that biology is destiny: all women are mothers or mothers-in-waiting. When we accept this premise, we are also buying into the idea that women who absolutely do not want to be mothers are less than women.
But don’t worry, because that never happens. Regardless of everything else we know about the female character in question, the moment a baby is placed in her vicinity, we know she will undergo a complete transformation of personality and life-goals. No matter how hard-boiled the woman is, she will ultimately melt and is able to bond with the baby. Again, problematic because it insists that anyone can bond with a baby. Any family holiday involving a baby in real-life disproves this: there’s always at least one person who, when pressed to take the baby, will inadvertently send the baby and themselves into hysterics. As Castle suggests in this week’s episodes, perhaps that’s because babies “can smell fear.”
Which may just be reality’s way of saying that we’re not all cut out to be parents. It’s not a personality flaw, and it’s a realization that might save more children from neglect or abuse: if we stopped insisting that having a child is part of some prix fixe menu of adult life, perhaps fewer people who deep down don’t want children will stop having them.
So you can imagine how thrilled I’ve been looking at the trailers for The Good, the Bad, and the Baby.
This week, Castle and Beckett were investigating the murder of a man who enters a church, hands the priest an infant, and then collapses. He’s dead and no one knows who the baby belongs to, so RHD Castle (“ruggedly handsome dad”) swoops in to care for little Cosmo and tries to win his fiancé over to the possibility of children.
Castle, of course, has plenty of experience in this area, having raised Alexis alone (despite having two wives during this period, one of whom was the biological mother). He is the “baby whisperer” who instructs everyone on how to properly hold the baby and who, in a move that tells us a lot about Alexis’ childhood, ducks out to pick up a few things to care for the baby and returns with enough swag to properly outfit a nursery.
At first, everything is going well. The baby seems happy, Castle is overjoyed. But Becket is… reticent–much as we might suspect a commitment-phobic, only-child, NYPD detective might be. She refuses to hold the child initially, leaving Castle to wonder (worry) that she might not like babies at all. At first, she fudges the truth but initially admits that she has doubts: “Yes, okay, fine. I’ve never really been a baby person. Some people see babies, and they want to hold them and nibble their toes. But I’ve never been one of those people.” Castle, clearly disturbed, suggests that she probably hates rainbows as well, making it clear that this is a potential problem in their relationship. When she tries to suggest she’s sure she’ll feel differently when it’s one of their own, Castle is doubtful. “Will you?” he says first accusingly and then repeats anxiously.
Castle decides to take their relationship for a baby dry-run by offering to take care of Cosmo overnight with Beckett, huskily delivering the line that made ovaries the world over twitch: “What do you say, Beckett? Wanna have a baby?” We know it’s only a matter a time before Beckett turns broody. And I’m sure there will be a spike in Fillion’s fan mail answering that question.
It was just about this point that I wanted to throw something at the telly. And then something wonderful happened. The cliché was avoided at the last minute. Partly, anyway.
The next scene, of course, would be her slow breakdown into really bonding with the baby after she somehow magically becomes the one who is able to quiet the baby that night. Instead, what we get is one of the funnier moments this series as Castle’s baby-whispering skills abandon him, and they suddenly have an upset tot on their hands. Rather than this becoming Beckett’s mommy moment, the two of them quickly deal with the issue with a physical equivalent of their problem-solving banter: short shots of wit fired back and forth between them are replaced with quick teamwork as they change the baby out of soiled clothes and into new nappies and jammies
The message seems clear enough: the job of caring for eventual Caskett babies will not Beckett’s: this is going to be a team effort—a concern obviously on Castle’s mind:
“When I first volunteered to take Cosmo, I thought I was doing it for his benefit. But I realized I was doing it more for mine. When Alexis was little, Meredith wasn’t really around so I did it all on my own. And when you said you weren’t a baby person…”
So in case we were too dense to get it, Beckett clears things up for us: “When the time comes, there’s no way I’m going to let you take care of our baby on your own.” It’s a sweet moment, and the look of happiness and relief on Fillion’s face is really touching.
Okay, so it’s not the usual problem or the usual resolution, and for that I’m grateful.
However, that said, I have to wonder why the assumption here is that they will have children (other than what the “time-traveller” said a few episodes ago). Castle has already raised a child—extremely successfully–and Beckett has never really expressed any active interest in having a child. Is Castle’s nest really so empty that he is going to feel the need to pressure Beckett on this issue? Is this where we’re headed?
Let’s hope not, at least not in the near future. There’s already a ridiculous number of babies on American television right now, and the Caskett relationship hasn’t lost any steam, so the baby trope seems unnecessary here. Still, I would have said the same thing about Bones, but the addition of their baby has added some really fertile narrative ground. Perhaps the same would be true of Castle.
But I’m not in a rush to see it. Castle and Beckett are just finding their feet. Let’s hope the writers let them continue to develop in their relationship. After all, the two of them are so dynamic, it would be a shame if they were forced into having the fixed menu—and worse yet if we were forced to watch.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Disciple, here.
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