It’s been almost two years since Stana Katic last graced our screens as Detective Kate Beckett on the popular ABC series, Castle. In Beckett, she gave us a character of grace, strength, intelligence, wit and occasional silliness. Beckett’s love story with novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is one that fans will remember for many years to come.
Now, Katic is back with an all-new series finally coming to the US this Friday on Amazon Prime.
Absentia follows the story of former FBI agent Emily Byrne, who goes missing while hunting down a notorious Boston serial killer and is declared dead in absentia, which is where the title comes from. She is found six years later in a tank in a cabin in the words with no memory of the years she was gone. She returns home to discover that her husband has remarried and that her son is being raised by another woman, and then finds herself on the run after being implicated in a new series of murders.
The ten-episode series premiered last June at the 57th Monte Carlo Television Festival and has been largely lauded by international audiences.
Absentia marks Katic’s return to television after her highly publicized exit from Castle, where it had been announced that she and co-star Tamala Jones (Dr. Lanie Parish) would not be returning if the show had been picked up for a ninth season. Fans vehemently voiced their opposition to the casting decision and Castle ended with the eighth season finale, Crossfire.
She spoke about the exit to Entertainment Weekly, calling it a “harsh ending,” but that the cast and crew of Castle “told a love story that [she feels] moved people, touched people” and she “can’t be anything but glad that [she] was a part of something like that.”
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Katic says in the interview that Kate and Emily don’t have much in parallel “other than they bear a strong resemblance to one another,” but fans of Castle will surely be looking for any trace of their favorite TV detective in Emily Byrne.
While the styles of the two shows are very different, Absentia being a psychological thriller and Castle being a more traditional procedural drama, it’s worth taking a look back at some of Katic’s best episodes and moments in the role of Kate Beckett to get ready for Emily Byrne.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
Veritas, season 6, episode 22
Veritas marked the end of a long chapter in Kate Beckett’s life and a long story arc for the series (or so it seemed at the time). Her mother’s murder had set her on the path into law enforcement and in this episode, she finally was able to arrest the man who ordered the hit on Johanna Beckett, closing the door on that chapter of her life and paving the way for her to truly begin her new life with Castle. The emotion in Beckett’s eyes as she holds herself together long enough to get her job done and not break down during the arrest is heartwrenching and Katic pulls off this emotional moment and the sheer vulnerability of Beckett beautifully, leaving you simultaneously cheering and wanting to wrap her in a hug. The entire episode is masterfully written, shot and edited, but the emotional weight of six seasons falls on that moment of Beckett leading Senator Brackin down the steps and to the police car, and Katic nails it.
Knockout, season 3, episode 24
Another episode in the long saga of solving Johanna Beckett’s murder, Knockout is an episode where Katic manages to make the audience so frustrated with Beckett in her continued refusal to back down in her mother’s case, despite Castle’s repeated attempts to pull her out of the rabbit hole she feared she would fall into back in season one. This episode revealed more about Beckett’s stubbornness and Katic displays that with an intensity that intimidates even Castle. You start to fear for her, like she’s almost on the very edge of becoming unhinged over her mother’s case and Katic rides that fine line in the passionate exchange between Beckett and Castle where she throws him out of her apartment and terminates their partnership. The episode also breaks your heart when the beloved Captain Roy Montgomery (Ruben Santiago Hudson) is gunned down while trying to protect Beckett and she falls to pieces in Castle’s arms, having lost her mentor. I can’t help but break down with Beckett every time I watch that scene, not only because of the loss of Montgomery, but because Katic’s performance pulls it out of you and doubles down on your own shock and sadness.
Kill Shot, season 4, episode 9
Kill Shot is honestly one of Katic’s best episodes as Beckett. This episode focuses heavily on Beckett dealing with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following being shot by a sniper at Captain Montgomery’s funeral at the end of season three. She, Castle, and Detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) are on the heels of a serial sniper terrorizing New York and the case keeps Beckett in this constant loop of the day she almost died. Katic’s portrayal of PTSD is so incredibly realistic and pairs beautifully with how the episode is edited with flashbacks to the shooting and with moments of Beckett with her therapist, Dr. Burke (Michael Dorn, sans-Worf forehead ridges). Her scene with Esposito and the sniper rifle used to shoot her was powerful and underscored the bond between the two characters and both Katic and Huertas give amazing performances and reveal so much about Beckett and Esposito’s relationship and about their characters individually.
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Hollander’s Woods, season 7, episode 23
Given the disappointment that was season eight, some fans (myself included) wish Hollander’s Woods could have been the series finale and swan song to Castle. This episode was more focused on Castle admittedly, addressing why he became a mystery writer in the first place, but Beckett has her moments to shine as well. Here, she reaches a professional crossroads, having applied to become Captain of her own precinct. She finds herself in front of a panel of NYPD administrators who grill her on her exploits with Castle and question her integrity as an officer of the law. Her speech refuting their claims and defending her partnership with Castle is delivered so vehemently and passionately by Katic, culminating in the final lines: “I don’t cross the line. I put myself on it. And if you have any other questions, then you can ask the families of the victims that I have served.” And if that’s not a mic drop moment, I don’t know what is. And given how Castle and Beckett’s relationship took a wrong turn in season eight, it would have been the best last speech for Beckett, showing her character development and the development of her and Castle’s relationship over seven seasons, and would have tied beautifully with Castle’s final speech at the Poe’s Pen Award dinner where he mirrored many of the same sentiments.
Fidelis Ad Mortem, season 8, episode 15
Season eight was a bit of a mess, from splitting Castle and Beckett up to introducing whatever LokSat was supposed to be to Castle continuing his PI business we thought he had abandoned in season seven with his daughter Alexis Castle (Molly Quinn). Fidelis Ad Mortem was a shining light amidst the chaos. Another Beckett-centric episode, it gives the audience a fuller look at Beckett’s background and her training as a police officer, as the 12th precinct investigates the murder of a recruit at the NYPD Academy. Over the course of season eight, Beckett’s character gets lost in the drama of the Caskett split and her transitioning to her new job as Captain of the 12th precinct, and Fidelis Ad Mortem reminds us exactly who Beckett is and why we fell in love with her to begin with. Katic also delivers another intense interrogation scene to perfection in this episode, showing that simmering but calculated rage that Beckett uses to her advantage to interrogate the suspects. This episode was one of the only redeeming qualities of season eight, and that was purely because of Katic’s performance.
Sucker Punch, season 2, episode 13
A lot of the more emotional episodes for Beckett are tied directly into the long storyline of her mother’s murder. This is one of them. In this episode, Beckett’s friend and trusted confidante Dr. Lanie Parish (Jones) discovers that a recent murder bears a striking resemblance to that of Beckett’s mother Johanna. From that point on, the case becomes incredibly personal to her and puts a strain on her and Castle’s relationship as it was his poking into Johanna’s death that helped bring the similarities to light. Through solving the case, Beckett comes face to face with her mother’s killer and ends up shooting him to protect Castle. This episode also features another of Beckett’s emotional breakdowns as she futilely tries to save the life of her mother’s killer, only for Castle to pull her back. Much like the one we see later in season three (see Knockout), Katic puts Beckett’s fear and vulnerability and frustration on clear display in that moment. This episode also marks the first appearance of Beckett’s father, Jim Beckett, as they share a moment together at the end.
Nikki Heat, season 3, episode 11
One of the things that makes Kate Beckett such a great character is that she not only has intense serious moments, but also ones that are a little on the humorous side. Nikki Heat is of the latter. In this episode, Castle’s first Nikki Heat book, Heat Wave is being turned into a movie, and the actress chosen to play Heat (Castle’s fictionalized version of Beckett) is method actress Natalie Rhodes (guest star Laura Prepon of That 70s Show and Orange is the New Black fame). Rhodes, in an effort to understand and get into the character of Nikki, has decided to shadow Beckett, much like Castle. Beckett’s paranoia about Rhodes over the course of the episode is charming and hilarious, even though like Beckett, we’re supposed to feel a little creeped out by Rhodes. Katic does comedy just as well as she does drama and this episode shows that well. The scenes after Rhodes reveals her “Beckett outfit” complete with brown wig, and when she accepts the coffee from Castle are classic, with Beckett stuck in shock: “She took my coffee, Castle!” Katic delivers Beckett’s paranoia in a way that’s just slightly under over the top, which helps keep the episode from being too campy.
Tick, Tick, Tick…/Boom, season 2, episodes 17 and 18
These episodes marks the first two-parter for the series and the first time Beckett experiences real consequences in connection with being Castle’s inspiration. A serial killer latches onto Beckett, insisting on calling her Nikki like the character in Castle’s book, and starts killing people to gain her attention. When the second body turns up, the FBI gets involved and Beckett crosses paths with Special Agent Jordan Shaw (guest star Dana Delany of Body of Proof). The episode takes on a really creepy and dark tone, one that really hadn’t been seen before on Castle, but it also gave Katic opportunities for physicality that showed Beckett and Castle’s changing relationship. Fans sometimes point to the scene where Beckett lets Castle sleep over in her apartment as the start of a shift between the two of them and Katic demonstrates in her blocking and physical presence in the scene how Beckett’s walls are starting to come down in regards to Castle. There’s an easier give-and-take during the breakfast scene, one more between friends and trusted partners rather than forced colleagues.
Oooh, lots of favorites on this list! And agreed about the end of Castle. 🙁 I’m going to have to try out Absentia, though. Thanks for the heads up!