We went into this episode of Castle fully expecting to hate it. The promos positively screamed flashback episode. We hate flashback episodes. Years of witnessing the very worst offences from shows like Friends have given us a bizarre form of flashback-related PTSD. They actually make us angry, at times. And yet this one completely and utterly surprised us. As the first flashback rolled, we tensed, prepared to cringe our way through it for the sake of our art (we are also occasionally prone to grandiose exaggerations about our writing ability), and then suddenly realized something was different. We relaxed.
This episode worked. A flashback episode that worked! We may die of shock. We have a few theories about why it wasn’t a complete disaster. Both fall under the umbrella of one overarching explanation: Castle strayed from the norms of flashback episodes, and did things a little differently.
The first instance of this was the format the flashbacks took. In most episodes like this, the flashbacks consist of whole scenes that are simply being rehashed, making us feel like the writers ran out of ideas and are using their old work to remind us (and themselves) that they could write, once. We resent having to schlep through what feels like an episode we’ve seen before just because they were having an off week. Castle took a new approach. Each flashback sequence was a montage, perfectly summing up a relationship that has spanned five years. They were skillfully put together (some of them had us welling up) and used to add to the story. Not to prop it up.
That latter point is the second reason why this episode worked. In so many flashback episodes, the plot is secondary to the flashbacks. It’s an afterthought. In “Still”, the flashbacks were a symptom of circumstances, not the reason for them. The plot of the episode – the scenes between flashbacks – was meaty and treated with the same level of importance and attention as the flashbacks, and even advanced the overarching narrative a little. We love, for instance, that Gates has known about Caskett all along, and that they can ‘go public’ now.
And the episode was sweet. It was emotional. It was moving. It had us pretending we had dust in our eye. And it went a long way toward allaying the fears we had after last week’s closing moments. Gone were our worries about the future of Caskett. But only temporarily. While the romance and tugs on the heartstrings were upped significantly, we’re conscious of the fact that “Still” and “The Squab and the Quail” were switched in the schedule very last minute. Therefore, the end of “The Squab and the Quail” is the one we should still be using as the guide for Caskett ‘bliss’. It’s altogether likely that next week’s episode will land us right back into uncertainty as Beckett tries to decide if she wants to stay with Castle when he seems unable to consider their future. We’re going to spend the next few days preparing ourselves. – K
Quoteworthy: “Oh for Heaven’s sake, Detective. Just kiss the man… As long as we’re on neutral ground here, I’d say he deserves it, wouldn’t you?” – Gates
PS We are now suffering from semantic satiation. ‘Flashback’ will never look like a word to us again.