‘Castle’ Bosses Explain Season 8 Split: "Nobody’s Getting Divorced"

"This is an obstacle in the way that is going to make them ultimately stronger as a couple once they get through it," co-showrunner Alexi Hawley tells THR.
Mitchell Haaseth/ABC

It was the Castle moment no one saw coming. The ABC drama’s eighth season kicked off by delivering a total game-changer at the end of the two-part premiere entitled “XX.” As her husband, Castle (Nathan Fillion) knew Beckett’s (Stana Katic) past would eventually catch up to her, but what the private investigator didn’t expect is Beckett would need to take a breather from their marriage to face those demons head on.

Like the decision or not, the show changed dramatically when Beckett revealed she needed space from Castle to tackle the issues from her past. What does it mean for the show?  What influenced the decision to split the pivotal pair? Could a divorce be on the horizon? The Hollywood Reporter spoke with showrunners Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter to find out exactly what is in store in the coming weeks.

The two of you probably expected some backlash and reaction to the Castle/Beckett breakup. What have you thought of the response so far?

Hawley: It’s a bold choice. What’s been rewarding is after the initial flurry of people going after us a little bit on Twitter, there’s been a much bigger outflow of people who felt those episodes are really powerful and dynamic and are excited to see what we do next. We are trying to shake things up, but at the same time what we get into starting Monday night is back to the show being as the stand-alone episodes and a sense of hope and fun.

The show spent several seasons building the couple up and waiting for the wedding to happen only to have the pair split up pretty quickly. It was a risky move to the loyal fans who have been with Castle from the beginning. Can you walk us through the decision to have the breakup happen?

Winter: What we were hoping to do this year was to do some storytelling with some threads that have been left out in the past few years and to figure out how to connect all the pieces that have not been connected and bring them all together. We thought the leap off point for that could be Beckett’s story. Since the time she was 19 years old when her mother was killed, her life has been completely changed. Even though she took Bracken down at the end of season six, It’s hard to turn those muscles off. We were trying to figure out how can we explore her coming to terms with the murder of her mother all those years ago and what it has done to her and how she can move forward with Castle.

Hawley: The reality is they’ve really been together since season five. The wedding was last season, but as a couple they’ve been together and happy for several seasons now. For us we thought, ‘Let’s throw an obstacle in their way.’ Nobody’s getting divorced. They’re not splitting up forever. This is an obstacle in the way that is going to make them ultimately stronger as a couple once they get through it. It adds drama, it adds comedy, it adds a lot of different layers which, as we go forward, we use to breathe some new life and energy into the show. Let’s face it, after 150 episodes we’ve done almost every case you could ever do. So [the breakup] was about what about [Castle and Beckett’s relationship] is going to feel new and how can we get these characters going through a different journey than they’ve ever gone through before?

Beckett doesn’t want a divorce, so what does this break consist of?

Hawley: She really just asked him [Castle] for time.

Winter: At the end of the day she’s doing it out of love. She’s doing it to protect Castle, not to see if she is interested in other people or thinking maybe they went too fast or he isn’t what she wants anymore. Castle’s definitely what she wants and she’s willing to fight for it.

Hawley: It broke her heart too. … She’s doing it because ultimately Rita said, "Look, this obsession of yours that you can’t seem to get rid of is going to endanger anybody you take with you." That’s what we found was a really interesting journey to start the season with; Beckett is this realization that this injustice in her isn’t just tied to Bracken. Her DNA changed when her mother was killed and she started on this journey. Her hope is by pursuing it and seeing it through, she can break that cycle and then be happily ever after.

You both have said despite the break, Castle and Beckett are still going to be working together and appearing in almost every episode together in some capacity? So how will this break be played out then?

Winter: Castle, like many of the other people in the precinct, is a little bit confused about what happened and why Beckett broke up with him. What we’ll see in episode three is he’s realized the way I can get my wife back is by doing the same thing he did when they fell in love the first time — work cases with her. He finds a way to worm his way into her cases. What ends up happening is, of course, we get to a place where Castle and Beckett are building theory together, figuring out who’s behind whatever the murder of the week is. We get to see little pieces of that electricity we haven’t gotten to see for awhile now. We get to see them really fighting for this closeness they can’t take for granted anymore.

Hawley: By taking away the given of, a body drops and they are going to work together automatically, we had to get creative. Now we get to be clever and figure some stuff out. It’s a lot of fun, actually.

Will Beckett be living separately from Castle?

Winter: She will be living somewhere else. She won’t be living in the loft. She’s put space between herself and Castle because she’s trying to protect him. It’s not like she’s out buying new furniture, buying paintings for the wall. … You’ll see in the third episode she announces to Vikram … a little spoiler alert ... that she wants to get this over as quick as possible because she wants to get back to her husband. It’s about how can we get through this thing and how can we find out what’s really behind all the things that happened in the first two episodes. Beckett is working her tail off to try to get back to Castle.

Hawley: Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just knocking it out because secrecy and subterfuge is the only way they can do it. She wants to make this happen, but it can’t happen quickly.

Did the decision to have Castle and Beckett break up and possibly not share as many romantic scenes together this season have anything to do with anything offscreen?

Hawley: No. In coming to take over the show, Terence and I were on the same page about what we could do to really shake the show up. Not just to do it, but because after 150 episodes you’ve done every case you can do. Happily married is awesome, but it’s also not a value add in terms of dynamics. So we really came into it going, "What can we do to make this thing feel new again?’ It’s about taking anything that’s a given and spent seven seasons just automatically assuming is going to happen and shaking that up. For us, it’s re-energized the writers room, it’s re-energized us. When you take away the safety rope, it gets a little exciting. That’s what it was about.

Castle airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.