Episode 13: Recoil
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
The idea behind this episode is a solid one. What if Beckett is forced to protect the life of the man who was behind her mother's death? It's a simple one that can lead to a lot of potentially good drama. It's a premise that is risky because it has the potential to be predictable. That's ultimately the problem with Recoil. It's a predictable episode that really wasn't having a lot of fun with the idea. It made some jokes but it was a lot of serious business but nothing really came together to deliver a great and outstanding episode. If I had to describe the episode in one word then it would easily be “predictable”. It's not just the plot points that I saw coming nor the beats within the scenes. There were a couple of terrible lines that I said in my head but then the characters actually spoke them. These are the kind of lines that you make fun of when they appear because they're just laughably melodramatic. Recoil might have had a neat idea but it never really did anything to create a good episode of Castle. If anything, this might actually be one of the worst episodes the show has done. The previous two episodes might have been forgettable and dull but at least they had acceptable writing. Recoil was so mediocre that it became increasingly easy to forget that this is a show that I normally enjoy. It wasn't that long ago that the series gave an episode that became an instant classic and a highlight of the season. I'm not sure how the same show that can have so much fun can find itself taking it so seriously to the point of taking away any enjoyment one might find in it. Recoil could have been a good episode but it was definably a big flop.
The episode begins like you would expect it. There's a cold open where the body is discovered and our characters are called in to investigate. It doesn't take long for the episode to establish the victim's connection to Senator Bracken. The first suspicion is that the Senator was behind the death and the goal is to expose him. It makes sense since he's the closest thing this show has to a Big Bad. The twist comes when they find the original crime scene only to find evidence that points that the killer is actually planning to target the senator. The characters are forced to be on the senator's side because they're good guys. That doesn't mean there aren't some doubts. It should come as no surprise that Javier wants to leave the Senator to die because it's already been proven that Esposito isn't really a fan of the law. Since Ryan actually respects the legal system, he believes they should do their job to ensure that the senator doesn't die. The small disagreement between the two is largely contained within a few scenes but they represent what's going on in Beckett's mind. On one hand, she wants the senator dead because he killed her mother. On the other hand, she's a cop and she believes in bringing him down within the legal system. There are times when she seems to go over to the dark side as she contemplates destroying evidence or when she doesn't tell the cops about the letter but she does the right thing in the end. She saves the Senator's life even as he calls into question her integrity. It's basically the plot you would come up with when following the idea before injecting your own fresh idea into it. Castle doesn't really do anything with the plot.
The problem with a lot of the episode is that the contemplation of whether to protect him or not came out to be very melodramatic. Was there ever any question that the Senator was going to survive the episode? If he's going to be taken down this season, it's going to be until the end of the season. Was anyone really doubting that Beckett was going to save the day? If this was a cable drama or a show that was known for taking risks then maybe I would have bought into the idea but this is Castle. You wouldn't know it considering how Castle doesn't really offer his opinion on whether the Senator should have been saved or not until the very end. He's largely delegated to Beckett's sidekick in this episode as his role is largely diminished. When it's quite easy for the show to remove it's titular protagonist from the plot without affecting it, the plot has a major problem. Caslte doesn't always have be in the center of the show but he should always be integral. That he's not very important to the proceedings doesn't just diminish his role in the show but also his value to Beckett. The episode basically diminished Castle on his own show while presenting melodramatic conflicts that were executed as weakly as possible. If there's anything this episode could have used it was Castle to keep it from becoming too seriously. This show simply functions better as a lighthearted love letter to cop shows than as a serious attempt to be one.
I think I've made it pretty clear that I didn't enjoy Recoil at all. It was an episode that was as predictable as it could possibly be, filled with melodramatic decisions and absent of Castle. I understand this is February sweeps but I'm hoping that the next episode is able to deliver what I like best about this show: fun. An episode where it seems as it's having as much fun as it is to watch. These last few episodes have been devoid of that and the quality of the show has suffered because of that.
The episode begins with Castle complaining to Beckett about Alexis' new boyfriend-but then the rest of the episode completely forgets about it. Was there an Alexis sub-plot that was dropped from the episode?
There is ONE decent scene in the whole episode where Beckett talks to her therapist as she contemplates destroying the letter. It was melodramatic in that of course she wasn't going to light it on fire but it was still well-done. I'm starting to develop a theory that adding a therapist to fiction will make everything better.
Beckett is apparently political savy as she's able to tell the viewers that Senator Bracken played a wonderful political move by having the "biggest kingmaker" arrested rather than killed. Castle-don't try to be a House of Cards series. It just won't work.