I wanted to watch the season finale of "Castle" a second time before writing a reaction to it, because upon first viewing, it was easy to confuse the emotional impact to the events of the episode with a positive reaction to it. However, on second -- and third -- viewing, my opinion remains the same: "Knockout", the finale of season three of "Castle", was the best episode the show has produced to date.
The episode continues the ongoing case of the murder of Kate's mother, starting with the elaborate escape of hitman Hal Lockwood moving to the eventual discovery and sacrifice of the mysterious third cop who worked with Raglan and McAllister and then ending with Kate's fate up in the air, on what has to be the biggest cliffhanger I've seen this finale season.
I can't say I was shocked that Captain Montgomery didn't survive the episode -- in fact, in the previous episode when he announced he was retiring, I figured he wasn't long for the world (the "retiring cop dies just before retiring" cliché exists for a reason). However, when he turned out to be the third cop, that was a serious twist. There was a moment early in the episode, when Castle was going over the third cop theory, that Montgomery's facial expression gave the twist away, but I was still waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it did, from all angles.
I thought the single best scene in the episode came not from Castle and Beckett (though I'll get to that), but from Esposito and Ryan, upon learning the truth about Montgomery. It wasn't subtle, or nuanced or light in any way. It was pure raw emotion, shining the spotlight on the differences between the two characters and what makes them work so well together. In particular, the fierce loyalty of Esposito was tested, resulting in one of his finest moments on the series.
Now, as for the big Castle-Beckett scene, the one in the middle of the episode where they got at each other, it was a perfect example of why this show works. On a lesser show, one of the two of them would have admitted their feelings for the other right there, or it would have gone in the other direction and they would have just politely danced around the issue. But in "Castle", they yelled it out, didn't resolve anything, and nearly ruined everything just because each one was afraid to be the first one to say something.
That of course led to the scene at the end of the episode, where a sniper hit Kate while she was delivering the eulogy at Montgomery's funeral, and Castle finally admitted his love for her as she was possibly dying. It was a poignent moment, and a tough way to end the season, leaving viewers wondering what's going to happen over the next four months.
Really, every scene between the two Castle-Beckett scenes is spectacular, and every actor on the show gives their best performance to date, and it's really not even close. This episode may be lacking in the show's trademark humor, but given the seriousness of the events, that's to be expected. I now can't wait for this show to return for Season 4, and I hope it finds a larger audience, because those who aren't watching are missing out.
For more coverage of the 2010-11 television season, visit the AdamReisinger.com TV Reviews home page.