Castle: Recoil

The most recent episode of Castle, “Recoil,” dips back into the show’s mythology and Beckett’s mother’s murder, but with a twist – Senator Bracken returns, but in a coincidental sense, as he’s now involved in a different case.

Our victim of the week is Melanie Rogers, a young engineer who was helping Bracken with a speech – and, apparently, having an affair with him. Beckett and her team first suspect, of course, that Bracken was responsible for the death, and Beckett sees an opportunity: “This is it, Castle. This is my chance to finally make him pay.” But when they realize that there’s actually an assassination plot against Bracken – and Rogers was killed because she found out about it – Beckett winds up in the position of trying to protect the man who had her mother killed, and must decide how thoroughly and actively to perform that duty.

All of the clues lead to Robert McManus, a mentally ill man whose life unraveled when his son apparently committed suicide while an intern for Bracken – though he believes, pretty reasonably, that it was a murder ordered by Bracken. Everyone but Beckett is satisfied with this solution, but Beckett believes that McManus is being framed and keeps pressing. She puts her job on the line by forcing the evacuation of a large, important conference where Bracken is speaking – and then personally throws herself on Bracken to try to protect him when his car explodes. It turns out, of course, that she was right: the killer was actually Bracken’s own driver, who was hired by the head of a Super PAC. That explanation at the end all came very quickly, and I did wish for a bit . . . more.

I’ve seen a lot of fans complaining about how relatively uninvolved Castle was this episode, and particularly about how, at one point, he yawned once, Beckett suggested he go home to sleep, and he just went. I thought that was really weird as well – at the time, I assumed he was off doing something secret that we’d learn about later, but that never happened. In retrospect, it seems that the writers just needed a way to make him go away for a while because Beckett had to be alone to have her internal crisis about burying evidence, but this was a clumsy, out-of-character way to accomplish it. The Castle we’ve seen throughout the series would have put up more of an argument to stay with Beckett and help her throughout the case.

More interesting to me were Beckett’s interactions with Bracken and her own personal struggle. Bracken clearly doesn’t want Beckett leading the investigation but can’t say why, which leads him to say rather hilarious things like “Most of [my enemies] aren’t crazy enough to try to kill me, present company excluded.” She doesn’t bother to hide her hatred for him – “In my dreams, I’m the one that gets to pull the trigger” – but by the end of the case he seems to have a grudging respect for her and the fact that she suppressed her personal feelings in order to protect him, even when everyone else thought the case was over. And at the end of the episode, he tells her “It’s a dangerous world out there, detective. You never know when you might need a friend.” Hmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if that comes back at some point. Beckett having to ask Bracken for help would be interesting to see.

But Beckett does struggle with the question of whether to do her job in protecting Bracken, to the point of almost destroying evidence and semi-deliberately not shooting McManus when they’re trying to catch him. Ryan and Esposito argue over what she should do here, with Esposito claiming that if he were Beckett he’d shuffle papers until the assassination plot was successful. Ryan: “No you wouldn’t. That would make you no better than he is.” Yeah. It would also mean she was betraying her own principles and failing to do her job. Honestly, while I understand that her emotions were very complicated here, I was a little disappointed that she came as close as she did to deciding to actively hinder the investigation and let Bracken die. And she wound up hunting for the killer not because it was the right thing to do, but because of Melanie Rogers’s death and the potential for more innocent victims in future attempts. When she told her therapist that it felt like there was no right choice, he told her “Maybe the right choice is the one you can live with.” I’m glad Beckett eventually realized that she wouldn’t be able to live with herself if she started deciding who merited police protection and who didn’t.

(Image courtesy of ABC.)

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