With terms such as “explosive” and “mind-blowing” being bandied about, the Castle finale certainly lived up to the hype and then some. And I’m betting  some of you are still on the edge of your seats. After that magnificent episode one thing is for certain –  it’s going to be a long summer.

We begin with Beckett making her weekly visit to the prison where Hal Lockwood (guest star Max Martini) is being held, just as she promised she would do back in 3×13’s “Knockdown.” She asks to see Lockwood, but an Officer Ryker informs her Lockwood is no longer being held in administrative segregation where he was being kept from interacting with all the other prisoners. Instead, he’s been released into general population, which proves to be a problem since that’s where Gary McCallister, the corrupt officer connected to Beckett’s mother’s murder, is being held. Lockwood is intent on killing McCallister to keep him quiet and manages to do just that. Beckett arrives only moments later to find Lockwood holding a bloody knife, standing over a dead McCallister.

Lockwood is immediately arraigned for McCallister’s murder, and Castle and Beckett are at the hearing. Beckett talks to Lockwood before the trial in hopes of getting information out of him, but Lockwood only succeeds in taunting her. The hearing begins and three cops in uniform walk in and take a seat, but something is off and Beckett senses it. Just as she notices their uniforms are off, one of the men turns and releases a flashbomb into the courtroom. Beckett is extremely disoriented but manages to get to her feet and give chase, stumbling along the way. She spies Lockwood and the other men outside, but it’s too late – there is a helicopter waiting for them and they fly off just as Beckett makes it outside. She fires her weapon at them but they are too far gone for her to cause much damage and the men get away.

The murder of McCallister was all part of a bigger plan to help Lockwood escape from prison. The team deduces Lockwood is after someone else, but who? They know someone bigger is pulling the strings – the same someone that Lockwood is working for, someone who is doing everything he can to keep his identity a secret. Castle realizes there was a third man seen with Raglan and McCallister in the alley the night Bob Armen was murdered, most likely another cop. If you’ll recall, Armen was the federal officer who was murdered by the three corrupt cops while he was working undercover, the same case Johanna Beckett was investigating which led to her murder. With two of the three cops now dead, it stands to reason Lockwood’s next target is the mysterious third cop. Too bad the team has no idea who that is.

The Jersey Police locate the helicopter used in Hal Lockwood’s escape. The only telling sign of the helicopter having ever been missing are the bullet holes Beckett managed to put it in before the men flew off. The inside has been cleaned with bleach, removing any DNA evidence that may have been left behind, and nothing else of value is discovered.

While home at the loft, Castle gets an unexpected visitor – Jim Beckett. The man introduces himself as Kate’s father and Castle invites him in. Jim is worried about his daughter and tells Castle as much. Castle is very straightforward with Jim, letting him know just how much danger his daughter is in. While Jim is, of course, worried for his daughter’s safety, he knows she’s not going to back down and feels like the only one that can stop her from doing something stupid is Castle. Jim knows his daughter cares for Castle, just as he sees how much Castle cares for her, and he tasks Castle with protecting Beckett from herself. That’s quite the responsibility.

At the station the next day, Ryan and Esposito uncover a huge deposit made to Officer Ryker’s bank account, the same Officer Ryker who greeted Beckett during her weekly prison visit to Hal Lockwood. Officer Ryker was paid to make sure Lockwood made it into general population, thereby assisting in the man’s escape. The team swarms Ryker’s apartment, since he didn’t show up for work that day, only to find him shot through the head in his living room. It looks like Lockwood found him first.

After interviewing some of Ryker’s colleagues, everyone says the same thing, Ryker was a good guy who never confided he had financial troubles. So what would make a straight arrow like Ryker suddenly change paths? Beckett theorizes that, whoever this third cop is is the one pulling the strings. The third cop would have connections to the force and be able to run financial records on other officers, the same way they did to find out Ryker was their inside man. This third cop would’ve seen Ryker’s financial troubles and exploited that to his advantage to help Lockwood escape from prison. Ryker, desperate to get out of the financial hole he was in, agreed to do it for a tidy sum of money. Beckett figures this third cop must’ve crossed paths with Raglan and McCallister at some point, even if the three didn’t work directly together, and tasks Ryan and Esposito with looking through all their files, case reports and records again. Ryan and Esposito insist they’ve already gone over all of this, but Beckett laws down the law and insists they check again.

Castle assists Ryan and Esposito as they scour through files yet again, deciding to give Beckett some much needed space. Castle notices a name in the files, Napolitano, and asks Ryan and Esposito about it. Ryan quickly dismisses the man as their third cop, explaining the man had an alibi for the night in question, and Esposito adds that the man is now dead anyway. Being the writer that he is, Castle explains that not only has Napolitano’s name cropped up on more than one report, the reports have been altered to put it there. When Ryan and Esposito ask how Castle can tell this, he shows them the differences in the typeface. Older typewriters leave striations in the font, while newer ones do not – thanks to film ribbon. After showing this new information to Captain Montgomery, he sends Ryan and Esposito off to find the officer in charge of the records room back then. Maybe this officer will remember looking the other way during the time the files in question went missing, and maybe he’ll be able to give them a name.

Once Ryan and Esposito are gone, Castle has a heart to heart with Captain Montgomery. If Lockwood is not after this third cop, then he must be after Beckett. Montgomery has put a protective detail on Beckett already, but Castle is sure that won’t stop Lockwood. He wants Beckett off the case for her own safety. Montgomery knows pulling Beckett off the case won’t stop her and tells Castle as much. Montgomery also tells Castle he thinks he’s the only one who can get through to Beckett at this point. Talk about pressure. Now, not only does Castle have Beckett’s father counting on him to keep Beckett from getting herself killed, he has the Captain counting on him as well.

Castle heads to Beckett’s to tell her about the altered reports, but Beckett doesn’t seem very happy to see him. Castle tries to reason with her but she just won’t hear it. He has no choice but to tell her what everyone else is afraid to – she needs to walk away from this case. This case is going to kill her, and Castle asks her to at least consider her loved ones and how that will affect them before making any hasty decisions. This only succeeds in making Beckett angry, and she starts to push Castle’s buttons. She calls him out on their relationship but Castle isn’t backing down so easily. This time he pushes back, telling her flat out he doesn’t know where he stands with her because they never discuss their relationship. Castle accuses Beckett of hiding in her mother’s case, in relationships with men she doesn’t love, anything to keep herself from being happy, the one thing she’s afraid to let herself be. With emotions running at an all time high, Beckett tells Castle they’re over, to get out, and this time Castle walks away.

Back at the loft, Castle is still steaming over his argument with Beckett, so much so that he throws an empty glass at the “Naked Heat” cover art. Martha hears the crash and comes running to check on her son, quickly realizing what has him so upset. Castle tries to explain how worried he is for Beckett but the words just won’t come out right, even with Martha’s urging. Seeing her son’s distress, and how much he cares for Beckett even though he can’t seem to say the words, Martha urges him not to waste another minute.

At the precinct, Beckett is just as upset, only she’s pleading with Captain Montgomery to get rid of Castle. She wants him gone for good. To her surprise, the Captain agrees and Beckett is shocked. She was not expecting him to say that and instead looks at him like she was expecting him to talk her out of it. She starts to stumble over her words, surprised it could be that easy, asking what about the mayor. Captain Montgomery insists that he’s in charge and if she really wants Castle gone then he’s gone, but not before reminding her that she wasn’t any fun before Castle came along. Montgomery tells her how good he thinks having Castle around is for her, and reminds her the life of the living is not worth the life of the dead. Beckett softens as she tells the Captain that Castle doesn’t think they can win this battle, but the Captain thinks Castle is right. And though he knows they’ll most likely lose this one, if Beckett wants to make a stand, he’s willing to stand behind her in support.

For the first time ever we see Captain Montgomery at home, a telling sign of what’s to come. He is just pouring himself a drink when Hal Lockwood appears in the doorway. Lockwood is there to relay a message to Montgomery – his boss is not happy that Montgomery hasn’t been holding up his end of the bargain. As long as Montgomery controls Beckett, she stays alive, but now that Beckett is getting too close to the truth, she needs to be dealt with. Lockwood asks Montgomery to set Beckett up, send her to the hangar where the helicopter was discovered and he’ll take care of the rest. Captain Montgomery refuses and Lockwood issues him an ultimatum, either he can have Beckett or his family but he can’t have both.

The next morning, Captain Montgomery kisses his wife and daughters goodbye, taking a little extra time to say goodbye to his wife and remind her that he loves her. Once his family is gone for the day, he takes some case files out of his safe, puts them in an envelope and adds postage so he can mail them, but we never see who they’re addressed to. His next action is to load his gun. With determination in his eyes, he knows what he has to do.

At the precinct, Ryan and Esposito manage to locate the officer in charge of the records room during the time in question, a man named Mike Yanavich. He now owns a bar in the area, which they wonder how he can afford on a cop’s pension, and they decide to pay the man a visit so they can hopefully get some answers. They both agree not to tell Beckett, who is pouring over files and ignoring Castle’s many phone calls, unless they turn up new information. Once they leave, Beckett’s phone rings yet again. Annoyed that it’s probably Castle for the 24th time, she picks it up anyway and sees it’s Captain Montgomery. Montgomery is still at home but asks Beckett to meet him at the hangar and Beckett quickly agrees.

Ryan and Esposito locate Yanavich and press him about the missing and altered files. He explains that things were different back then, if something went missing, no one made a federal case out of it. Ryan questions Yanavich about graduating from the academy at the same time as Raglan and McCallister, and while Yanavich has read the papers enough to know that the two cops were dirty, he’s adamant he had no part in it. He would make occasional small talk with them but never anything more. In fact, he remembers them drinking at his very bar back before he owned it. Esposito asks whether he ever remembers seeing them with another man, and Yanavich remembers a young black kid that used to follow them around, a rookie. He even has a picture, and he turns to grab one picture out of the many pinned behind the bar. He hands the photo to Esposito, who looks at it just as Yanavich remembers the kid’s name – Montgomery. Roy Montgomery. Raglan and McCallister trained Montgomery back in the day, only, Montgomery specifically told Ryan and Esposito that he didn’t know either of the two men. Esposito refuses to believe it and tears up the photo before storming off. Ryan runs after Esposito, telling him they have to face facts. Why else would Montgomery want them to take out Lockwood? Because Lockwood leads them right back to him. Ryan tells Esposito that the Captain has been lying to them the whole time, but Esposito refuses to believe it. When Ryan reaches out to stop Esposito from walking away, Esposito turns and swings at him, punching Ryan in the face. Ryan slams Esposito against the wall but Esposito quickly turns the manuever around on Ryan, pushing him up against it instead. As Esposito fights the urge to hit Ryan again, Ryan tells him to go ahead, and both men slump back against the wall the truth of the Captain’s betrayal begins to sink in. Ryan looks to his partner and utters one word, “Beckett.”

Beckett arrives at the dark hangar, which looks completely deserted. She calls out to the Captain but doesn’t see him anywhere. Just as the Captain appears from a darkened doorway, gun in hand, Beckett gets a text from the guys telling her the Captain is the third cop. Beckett asks the Captain why and he tells her the story of how they went to kidnap Pulgatti, the mobster who was wrongly convicted of Armen’s death, the man Johanna Beckett was trying to help free. Montgomery tells her how it was all an accident, Armen was never supposed to be there that night but it was his gun that went off and killed Armen before he realized what was happening. McCallister and Raglan helped him cover it up, but Montgomery felt so guilty he put that energy into being the best cop he could be. When Beckett showed up at his precinct, he felt like it was an act of God, allowing him to right his wrong by taking her under his wing, protecting her. Beckett asks if he was the man who killed her mother but he says no, her mother’s murder took place years later but it was a consequence of what they’d covered up. This mystery man, he was the one who discovered what they’d all done and used it to blackmail them for the ransom money they’d been taking from the mobsters. The mystery man then used that money to become what he is today, someone powerful, untouchable, and Montgomery feels that was his biggest sin of all. Beckett wants a name. Who is this man who is pulling all the strings? Who ordered the hit on her mother? The Captain owes her that much. But he won’t do it. Montgomery knows her too well, she’ll only go after the man head on and wind up getting herself killed in the process. But isn’t that why Beckett is there? So the Captain can kill her? Captain Montgomery tells her it’s not, that he only asked her to come so he could lure out Lockwood and his men. She’s nothing more than bait. The Captain is not going to let Lockwood kill Beckett, he’s going to end things once and for all. A black SUV starts towards the hangar and Montgomery knows they are out of time. He calls for Castle to get Beckett out of there, who for the first time makes his presence known. Castle questions the Captain but Montgomery tells him to get Beckett out of there now. Beckett is frantic when she realizes what’s happening, the Captain is giving his life for hers. She tells him she forgives him, that he doesn’t have to do this, but Montgomery tells her this is his last stand. He yells at Castle to get her out of there, and with no other choice, Castle picks Beckett up and hauls her out of the hangar as she screams for him to let her down.

Outside the hangar, Castle is trying to keep Beckett quiet. He puts her to the feet and pushes her up against the car, putting his hand over her mouth, pleading with her to be quiet, whispering over and over how sorry he is. Beckett falls limp against the side of the car, crying and touching Castle’s face, no longer fighting him to escape.

Lockwood and his men pull up and realize the Captain has set a trap for them. Lockwood tells Montgomery one last time, it’s either Beckett or his family but he can’t hide Beckett from them. Montgomery tells Lockwood he has it all wrong, they can’t hide from him, and with that he pulls out his gun and takes out all of Lockwood’s men. Lockwood manages to get out of the line of fire just as the Captain takes a bullet to the arm. He quickly gets to his feet, looking around for Lockwood, but it’s too late, Lockwood is behind him. When Montgomery spins around, Lockwood fires two bullets into his chest. Lockwood towers over the Captain, telling him he’s just going to kill Beckett anyway, but Montgomery says that won’t happen, he’s already seen to that. Lockwood is done. They both are. And with one final act of courage, a gun pops from Montgomery’s sleeve as he fires a bullet straight through Lockwood’s chest.

Outside the hangar, Castle and Beckett hear the final gunshot and Beckett takes off running inside. This time Castle lets her go. She runs straight for the Captain but it’s too late, he’s already dead. All she can do is lean over his body and cry.

The steady beat of drums leads us into Captain Montgomery’s funeral. Beckett, Ryan, Esposito, and even Castle are all pall bearers. As the funeral progression plays out, we hear Beckett’s voiceover and see a brief flashback to Castle, Beckett, Ryan and Esposito in Beckett’s apartment as she tells them all that no one outside of their little family will ever know Captain Montgomery was anything but a hero. They all owe him that much. The team, along with the other pall bearers, lower Captain’s Montgomery’s coffin to the ground. His family is presented with the flag, and everyone has taken their seats. Lanie is sitting with Esposito, and Martha, Alexis and Jim Beckett are all there as well. Everyone has come out to honor Captain Montgomery as the man they knew and loved. Beckett stands tall at the podium with Castle just several feet away from her, delivering her speech about the Captain. She delivers the last words the Captain ever told her in his office, the ones about making a stand. Beckett says if you’re lucky, you find someone to stand with you. She glances over at Castle and the two share a meaningful look. Castle watches her a moment longer before looking out over the cemetery, and that’s when he catches a glint of light. Just as he realizes what it is, we see Beckett is being lined up in the sight of a gun. Castle yells her name and dives at her to push her out of the way just as gunshot rings out in the air, but it’s too late. The crowd screams and ducks for cover as Castle crouches over Beckett, who has been shot in the torso. The white glove of her dress uniform is now stained with blood. Castle cradles her head, begging him to stay with him as she stares blankly up at him, tears spilling from the sides of her eyes. Castle is doing his best to keep her holding on as he continues to stare into her eyes, using her first name, pleading with her not to leave him. Desperate to keep her from fading, he can no longer hold back his true emotions.

“Kate… I love you. I love you, Kate,” Castle whispers just as a serene look washes over Beckett’s face and her eyes slip closed, leaving him staring down at her unmoving body while the screen fades to black.

And on that note, who needs summer? Is it September yet?

Things We Learned From This Episode:

  • Castle has a Derrick Storm graphic novel coming out soon, which, incidentally, is going to be a real graphic novel fans can buy later this year.
  • During the talk of the mysterious third cop, Captain Montgomery’s eyes were seriously shifty, a very foretelling sign.
  • Jim Beckett is a Castle/Beckett shipper.
  • Officer Ryker was working up the courage to ask Beckett out. Apparently he didn’t get that “I’ve got a boyfriend” vibe from her either.
  • Ryan and Esposito keep their beer in the evidence storage refrigerator…which keeps it good and cold as long as you don’t think about the gross factor.
  • Both Captain Montgomery and Jim Beckett have a lot of faith in Castle. That is a lot of pressure.
  • Though Captain Montgomery may have made some huge mistakes in the past, he certainly did his best to redeem himself for them and will genuinely be missed.
  • Even though they were uttered under dire circumstances, hearing Castle finally saying those three little words to Beckett didn’t take take away their significance or cheapen the moment any.
  • The Castle writers sure do know how to keep us on the edge of our seats all summer.
  • It’s going to be a very long four months.

Written by Stephanie Guenzler. Find her on Twitter @pure_believer.