Beckett: The Heart of ‘Castle’
On April 18th, the day of an all-new episode of Castle, which was conveniently titled “Backstabber,” Deadline was first to report that two longtime cast members who had been there since the first episode were not offered contract renewals. While any loss of a good character is a difficult time for a TV show, it’s an anticipated casualty of program that’s currently contemplating a ninth season. The issue, however, comes with the fact that, along with the incredible supporting actress Tamala Jones, one of the two leads, Stana Katic, will also be departing.
Continuing without what is essentially one half of a show is widely considered to be a mistake in “TV Show Theory,” and many members of the cast and crew were shocked when they learned of the news at the same time and from the same source as fans, an ABC press release, which stated that “Kate Beckett has been a beloved character on our hit series Castle for the past 8 years. We are grateful for Stana Katic’s talent and dedication to the series and we hope to continue our relationship. Tamala Jones has also been an integral part of the series and we are grateful she was a part of Castle.” What is perhaps most confusing and, ultimately, disheartening is that, according to Deadline, ABC cited “budgetary reasons” as their rationale for letting Katic and Jones go, two of the remaining female actresses on the program.
Jones was gracious as ever on Twitter, and even live-tweeted the most recent episode. Katic also released a kind statement on Facebook, saying, “Rather than distract from what was an amazing experience, I would just like to say that I’m very grateful to ABC for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a much beloved show,” before tweeting, “To the fans: thank you for your support. I love you.”
The day after the news was released to the public, Tamala Jones was interviewed by Access Hollywood, with whom she shared a few of the details of her departure, saying, “I actually found out on Friday. I got the call and I didn’t think it was going to be exposed so soon… ’cause I thought, ‘let the fans get through the season and then announce,’ but when it came out I was very much aware.”
Cast members Jon Huertas (Javier Esposito), Seamus Dever (Kevin Ryan), Susan Sullivan (Martha Rodgers), Molly C. Quinn (Alexis Castle), and Toks Olagundoye (Hayley Shipton) were all shocked, and expressed their feelings on Twitter, along with past-cast members like Penny Johnson Jerald (‘Sir’ Captain Victoria Gates, another female star who was also suddenly dropped from the show last year), and even well-known fans of the show, such as Christina Applegate and Betty Buckley. Nathan Fillion, Katic’s costar, alsocommented, saying, “Castle has been one of the greatest joys of my creative life, and I hope the show continues on for years to come. Stana has been my partner all this time, and I thank her for creating the character of Beckett who will go on for all of us as one of the greatest police officers on television. I wish her well, and have no doubt she will succeed in everything she pursues. She will be missed.”
But what was perhaps most heartbreaking, was the original show creators/former showrunners’ responses, the very couple who Castle and Beckett’s love story was based on, Andrew W. Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller (lovingly known as MilMar). Marlowe has since changed his Twitter bio to “Castle creator (in exile)” and wrote, “Heartbroken. There are no words. #nmc.” The pair left last season to pursue other projects and spend more time with their family, trusting that the show was in good hands, but are obviously hurt, as Miller wrote, in response to her husband’s tweet, “I second that emotion.”
When the show originally aired, Marlowe was interviewed by Denise Faye for the Writers Guild of America, West. When asked why he created Castle, Marlowe responded, “Procedurals had become about things other than character. A show like CSI specializes on the forensics. A show like Law & Order specializes in the specific procedural elements. What I was missing were the shows like Moonlighting and The Rockford Files, where character played a really big part of it. A couple weeks later you really didn’t remember the case, but you remembered the people.” The show was always about the characters and their stories, not just “the case of the week,” which the current showrunners, Terence Paul Winter and Alexi Hawley, hope to get back to, according to a statement Hawley released to Deadline in regards to season 9 plans back in January.
In one of the final interviews the couple gave before leaving the show, Marlowe said, in response to questions about a “Beckett-less” Castle, “I think for us that’s off the table. For us we’ve been telling a love story for the last seven years.”
Miller noted, in the same interview, “I think that would be a huge betrayal of our fans.”
Ratings back their sentiments. Twice this season, the Castle showrunners have experimented with “Beckett-less” episodes, both receiving low ratings in viewership and fan reception. In “Backstabber,” the preliminary ratings in the 18–49 demographic, only about 0.99 million people tuned in, one of the lowest ratings in the eight season history of the series. This is a glaring reminder that fans would rather watch Castle without Castle than Castle with no Beckett. That’s not to say that people don’t love Fillion, but Katic has proven to be the heart of the show. Castle began with a bored crime novelist who found inspiration in an NYPD homicide detective, and has followed that take for the past seven years. To pretend now that the “Caskett” love story is anything other than the linchpin of the series is a grave misunderstanding.
That’s not to say that people don’t love Fillion, but Katic has proven to be the heart of the show.
“There is a universal truth we all have to face whether we want to or not,” writes Alexis Castle, Rick’s daughter and Kate’s now step-daughter, in her graduation speech during the season four finale, the episode where “Caskett” finally consummates their relationship, and arguably one of the greatest “get together” moments in “will-they-won’t-they” television history, stating that “everything eventually ends… The last day of summer, the final chapter of a great book, parting ways with a close friend.” This rings true with the ultimate episode in any epic TV series, “leaves fall, we close the book, you say goodbye,” and power down the TV at 11 pm on a Monday night one last time. And this is all ok. But when a TV show reaches its organic ending (in Castle’s case, many believe that the season seven finale, and the original creators’ final episode, was the ending the series deserved), it should be finished, not dragged out into something that barely looks like the original program. While fans need to respect actors wanting to leave the show (in this case, it’s rumored that Katic and Jones didn’t have much say, based on how they were informed and the reasoning behind their departure), they have a right to be upset (within reason) when showrunners and networks don’t know when to let the show, and the viewers, rest.
This is true for many shows among the “Big Five networks” (ABC, NBC, The CW, CBS, and FOX) and a lot of viewers have been equating the current Castle situation to Shonda Rhimes killing off Derek Shepherd, Meredith Grey’s husband, on Grey’s Anatomy. In Grey’s case, the viewership pretty much sustained, even though the show was reborn into a more female driven program in season 12. A lot of people seem to think that the same can be said for Castle’s future, even bringing up that the “title characters” of each show will still be there, justifying the cast shakeups. However, this is not why fans, and TV lovers in general, are so upset. Kate Beckett was more than the title character’s “love interest” and greater than just the “strong woman” trope, which is often written with misguided, but good intentions, as women are inherently strong. Beckett was tough and fragile, heartbroken and in love, and still trying to figure out how those two things could coexist. She was her own woman, her own person, and, in the words of Rick Castle, one of “the most remarkable, maddening, challenging, frustrating” characters to ever grace primetime television.
The Blacklist’s Elizabeth Keen was another incredible character who recently fell victim to a similar fate. Megan Boone, the actress who plays Keen, just had a baby, and is either simply on maternity leave, or asked to permanently leave the show to spend more time with her daughter. Either case is totally understandable, and people should respect her choices, including the showrunners. The issue comes with the fact that Keen either died in childbirth or has faked her death in childbirth (fans are going with the latter), following months of show creators slowly tearing down the complex character that they’d worked so hard to create by diminishing her to a love triangle. The final episode promos leading up to her supposed death all centered around Liz’s love life, asking questions like “which man will she choose?” and “what does this [other female character] mean for Liz?” Keen’s “death” has proven to be fuel for a James Spader-centered slew of episodes (which will undoubtably be action-packed and heart-wrenching, but for the wrong reasons) and, most alarmingly, the kickoff to a Tom Keen (her essentially abusive “husband”) The Blacklist styled spinoff, starring the incredible Famke Jannsen (X-Men and, currently, How To Get Away With Murder).
Beckett and Keen are just the latest casualties in the poor handling of female characters. TV and network executives need to stop knocking off female characters as plot points to further define a man’s character arc. Even if it was Katic’s choice to leave (although it doesn’t seem to have been), Kate Beckett’s epic character should be suspended in time, not regressed into something two-dimensional and, ultimately, made into a stepping stone.
While budget cuts are rarely the actual reason behind an actor or actress’ departure, it’s embarrassing to think that a television network would be okay with people believing that they cut out two of the main female actresses on a show because they suddenly couldn’t afford them. What’s even more humiliating is the way in which they deal with the womens’ characters, taking away?—?in the case of Kate Beckett?—?seven years of character growth and completely negating the version of herself that she fought so hard to be, so that they can justify her leaving her husband to join the CIA or to go into WPP or whatever out of character vision TPTB (The Powers That Be) have created to justify her exit in just a few short weeks, should season 9 actually happen, and propel the show to an unrecognizable incarnation of itself. In the extraordinary words of Kate Beckett, “What you destroyed today was worth a hell of a lot more than money.”