castle the human factor beckett stana katic future abc The future of "Castle": Will Beckett choose love or her career in the Season 5 finale?

It’s time for Beckett to make a choice. Job or love? This is always a tough one, and it’s a testament to the brilliance of “Castle” that the answer is not obvious. But unlike lesser TV shows, this one truly will confront a difficult reality: What does the future hold?

Right at the end of “The Human Factor,” after Beckett (Stana Katic) and Castle (Nathan Fillion) find the person responsible for killing a man with a drone strike, Detective Kate Beckett is asked to contemplate her future. Where does she see herself in five years?

This is a fair question. Anyone with ambition spends at least a little time thinking about where all the work is leading. But this isn’t what usually happens on television.

In order to keep a show going, it’s often necessary to minimize change. After all, the audience is watching for an established story — reaching any sort of ultimate goal in life sort of messes with that. The best TV shows are those that can incorporate change within the larger story, allowing a semblance of reality. Most television, however, just goes with the status quo.

The most common example of this has already been faced by “Castle.” In real life, no one waits 8 or more years for that first kiss. New relationships happen, or else actual humans get over their hang-ups and go for it. That’s not how it works on TV — lust and longing looks can endure for years.

“Castle” is itself a bit guilty of this one. It took four full years to get Rick Castle and Kate Beckett together as a couple. That’s an awfully long time. But at least the show realized this after awhile and took steps to insert a little bit of romantic reality. Season 5 has sailed along its merry way with its new, quite believable relationship.

Now it’s time to apply this same realism to the workplace. While Castle doesn’t need to worry about his future — he’s a writer, and he’s going to continue being a writer — it’s different for Beckett. As oh-so-many characters have mentioned, Beckett was once the youngest female detective in the New York Police Department. She probably isn’t now, and — after five years — such a high-achieving cop ought to be looking at promotions.

Most TV shows find it convenient to ignore this, or else they simply insist that staying in one place is best. This tactic keeps a show going in the short-term but weakens the plot over longer periods. We just can’t believe it.

By making Beckett face her future in a realistic way, “Castle” is actually confronting reality head-on. Sure, we know the show’s female lead isn’t just going to up and disappear into a federal investigative position. But the show is allowing for the possibility of change.

If nothing else, audiences will definitely see some changes in the Castle-Beckett relationship. A good opportunity like this totally would take away a single Beckett. It might even be a no-brainer for a casual-relationship Beckett.

The detective will not pass up an opportunity like this for anything less than true commitment. The question is — will Beckett get that commitment from Castle?

What makes “Castle” a truly excellent show is that we can’t just guess the answer. Season 5 may end in a step forward for its central couple. They might take a step back. Or, considering this is “Castle,” we may just be looking at a sideways step that will propel the show in ways we’ve never considered.

Posted by:Laurel Brown