This review contains spoilers.
7.6 The Time Of Our Lives
So it’s the wedding episode we’ve all been waiting for.
Or is it?
I guess if you’ve been consciously deprived of food, then a Big Mac must be welcome indeed. But that hardly makes it fine cuisine or worth the wait. So it is with the Caskett wedding in The Time Of Our Lives, which, unfortunately, is anything but.
And the fact that it’s tacked on to the end of a heavy-handed episode doesn’t help. The Time Of Our Lives begins with the revelation that Castle has been having trouble sleeping. Something has been bothering him. This degenerates into a conversation of where Beckett and Castle each speculate on where they would be in their professional lives had they not met and fallen in love with each other, with Kate joking “I guess we’d be better off if we’d never met.”
Which, of course, becomes the theme of the episode. In the first possibly legitimate case of the supernatural on the show, Castle quickly finds himself living in an alternate reality where he and Beckett met, as they did in our world, briefly and forgettably, at a book signing many years ago but have otherwise been living very different separate existences in the six years we’ve actually been watching them dance slowly towards each other in our narrative. It’s It’s A Wonderful Life, as Rick suggests at one point, though a pointless one, since neither Castle or Beckett really seem to need convincing that they are better off together than apart.
And in fact, that, aside from its unseasonable appearance, is really at the core of what’s wrong with this Wonderful Life storyline. It just doesn’t make much sense in the context either of the larger Caskett relationship or even what they’ve been through in the last few weeks.
After all, we know Rick and Kate have been clear with both themselves and each other that they are better off since having met each other, and almost ridiculously blissful since they fell in love. Kate has never really expressed an interest in rising much higher in the ranks of the NYPD, and certainly none in becoming a trapped-at-her-desk Captain. And the wedding was put off not because Castle had doubts (as this week’s episode repeatedly suggests) but largely to give Beckett space to deal with her feelings about Rick’s still unexplained hiatus—the look on his face at the time made it more than clear that he would have preferred sealing the deal ASAP.
Instead, it’s almost as though the writers haven’t been watching the same show we have. When Castle asks Beckett if she’s considering going to Sorensen’s wedding, she responds bitterly that “I’m not really ready for someone else’s perfect day.” This line doesn’t really make much sense since the only thing standing between the two of them and their own perfect day is the will to carry through—much of that will, again, being Kate’s resistance, not Rick’s. His mind doesn’t need to be changed.
Which makes the last scene in the alternate world make even less sense. When Castle is kidnapped in order to force him to reveal the secret of the talisman, Beckett shows up just in time to stop the villains from hurting him. Unfortunately, the bad guys momentarily get the drop on her and Rick jumps in front of her, taking the deadly bullet himself. As he lies dying, Beckett asks him, “Mr. Castle, you saved my life. Why?” He tells her that it’s because he loves her, and this serves as the key to unlocking the power of the talisman, sending him back to our world.
It’s written as though this is some great make-or-break moment, some huge revelation, and that that’s what gives it the power it has to change worlds. Except that we’ve had this moment before, when Kate was shot at Capt. Montgomery’s funeral a couple of years ago—the real revelatory moment when Rick professes his love and (as we later learn) Kate finally hears what he’s been trying to tell her for so long. It’s hard to tell if writer Terri Edda Miller (also responsible for the disastrous missed wedding last year) is trying to somehow reference and rewrite that pivotal scene or simply forgotten it ever happened, but either way, it fails badly.
When Rick does return to our world, he has a second supposed breakthrough: that it’s the fact that they missed their wedding day that has made it difficult for him to sleep of late (really? losing your memory and nearly your fiancé, and knowing she’s now hesitant to marry you has left you sleepless? How is this surprising?). “How do we get past this?” he asks her, and then immediately throws out the answer: we get married now, as soon as possible.
If the whole reason that they put the kibosh on the wedding was to give Beckett time to get comfortable with the idea and it was Beckett who had the whole cross-dimensional come-to-Jesus experience, then this resolution might make some sense—albeit trite and not particularly emotionally fulfilling sense. But to give Castle this experience and have him return from it ready to pressure Beckett (who also inexplicably is suddenly okay with getting married) into following through on the nuptials not only lacks logic, it kinda makes him out to be someone other than the hero we’ve come to love. Rick may have his faults, but he’s been consistent in putting her needs ahead of his own for much of their time together. So his actions make little sense either in terms of this episode or his character. Her unbelievably ecstatic reaction to his renewed proposal makes even less—that’s all she needed to suddenly be comfortable with everything that’s happened? Certainly not the Kate we’ve come to know and love.
And then there’s wedding itself. Even if we ignore everything that’s led to this moment in this episode, the wedding itself is incredibly disappointing, more for its technical presentation than its content. The vows work well enough and the acting feels right. But after all this time, after everything Caskett has been through, and we’ve watched them go through, surely the show could have given us a gorgeously executed wedding.
Instead, thanks to director Paul Holahan, we get a (painfully) obviously green-screened background and terribly artificial lighting. It reminded me a little of You Were Meant for Me number from Singin’ In The Rain, where Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood takes Debbie Reynolds’ Kathy Selden to a soundstage to create just the right setting to profess his love to her. Of course, in that scene, we see how the shot is set up—the huge sunset matte painting, the fans, the lighting—so we know we aren’t supposed to believe any of it is real. But the same artificiality that frames Rick and Kate’s wedding just comes off as cheap and insincere. They and we deserved better.
But, as I said, the acting does feel right. My take on Castle over the long haul is that the writing has never lived up to the acting on the show, and The Time Of Our Lives is one of the very best examples of this. The main plotline of the episode is ridiculous, illogical, and defies much of what we know about the show and its characters. But you’d never know it from the performances that each actor—playing a part that both is and is not them—delivers in it. It would be easy to play much of the fish-out-of-water/doppelganger storyline for laughs or tongue-in-cheek. Instead, the cast takes whatever screen-time they are given to present alternate characters who are actually believable. They are not the people we’ve known for six years, but they are very much who those people might have become with just a little pushing in the right (or rather, wrong) direction.
Still, that rather large caveat aside, the moment that showrunner Andrew Marlowe has built up so much has been a tremendous let-down. My only hope is that we are allowed to move past it as quickly as possible. I assume we’re getting a honeymoon. But at this point, I’d almost rather pretend that we got the beautiful wedding in the season six finale (at the end of an episode that was fun, funny, and so very Castle) and that nothing else had transpired in the intervening time. It would almost be a relief to find out that, rather than some two-month self-imposed amnesia or talisman-rigged dimensional travel, Castle simply tripped on his way back down the aisle with his new bride and this week’s episode had him waking up next to Kate in Tahiti a week later.
It’s not like it would be any harder to swallow, and it would be much more emotionally fulfilling than the story that Marlowe and Miller have given us.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Meme Is Murder, here.
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