C: As usual around Relatively Entertaining, we braced ourselves for the worst when we heard that episode 13, “Recoil,” would be one of the dreaded Beckett’s Mom Episodes. “I promise I won’t complain out loud about the writing,” I told the friends I was watching it with. “Or how the characters call each other weird names, or how there’s no comedy, or how weirdly out-of-pace with the rest of the show it feels.” Now, I’m not sure if expecting the worst just helped in this case or what, but believe it or not, I didn’t find it too bad.
E: Well clearly I should have followed your preparatory strategy, because it just left me stomping mad. In fact, I’m still kind of furious.
C: Mad? Why?
E: All the usual reasons; the stuff you promised not to say. Plus the fact that we’ve been too busy and sick to review the three post-Christmas episodes that were good — and now that we’re all free and healthy, we end up with what? I can’t believe I have to talk about this drivel!
C: Well, I’ve just accepted this kind of episode as inevitable at this point. Though in fact, this wasn’t exactly a B.M.E., since Beckett’s mom’s case didn’t really feature; just her killer.
E: Ah, but the characters knew it was a B.M.E., because none of them cracked wise at the murder scene or in the morgue as they otherwise would have. I can just picture an ad: “Wanted: Very serious writer. No sense of humor allowed.”
C: The plot certainly began on a grim note.
E: Which makes it different from any other episode how?
C: Hush. A young woman is found dead, her teeth knocked out and body incinerated. Unluckily for her murderer, though, a jaw implant makes it possible to ID her immediately. Our Heroes learn that her last evening before death was spent at a hotel with Senator Bracken (dun dun DUHHH!) so immediately track him down, discovering that he’s in town to announce a big deal energy bill at an eco-conference. Amongst his extensive hate mail Beckett uncovers a threatening letter that matches a journal they found at the scene of the crime. But it also reveals that the killer’s real target is Bracken, and for reasons Beckett can sympathize with. Will Beckett be able to do what it takes to protect him?
E: While I grant you this is better than a typical B.M.E. plot, I am still just so pissed off that they do this to us! The Mentalist and Bones have serious episodes mixed in with the lighthearted ones, but they never change the entire M.O. of the show! I’m sorry. I can’t get over the whining.
C: Give it a try, old sport. We must give the people an entertaining reaction post. They demand it!
E: Maybe if they could see me throwing things at the TV? Should I hurl invectives at creator/writer Andrew Malone?
C: Maybe if you carved invectives into blocks of wood and then hurled them at the TV? Only your kids might find them the next day, which would be awkward…
E: I want to clarify, I have nothing against mythology generally, I’m just so tired of the show’s schizophrenic mishandling of it. It’s especially vexing since they managed the end of the “will they/won’t they” period so very well — surely a more difficult writing feat!
C: I will say that I thought the first five or so episodes of this season knocked it absolutely out of the park, and they haven’t quite met that level since. Would you agree, readers? Getting back to this episode, though… perhaps it was the presence of Horn-Rimmed Glasses, alias Senator Bracken, that made this one a little better than the usual B.M.E. to me? He plays a loathsome character of the smiling villain variety, but he’s also a pretty good actor. His scenes with Beckett, where she is just a steely, seething ball of hate (to mix a few metaphors) and he’s playing it almost, but not 100% cool, were interesting to watch.
E: Well, true, HRG makes a marvelous villain that we love to hate. I’ve always enjoyed the way Castle picks up actors I love from projects I’ve enjoyed (Veronica Mars, My So-Called Life, Battlestar Galactica) and used them in fun new ways.
C: There was also some good acting on the part of our regular cast. Probably the best moment in the episode, to my mind, was [spoiler alert] after the real killer is uncovered; the name of the young woman who was murdered at the beginning is mentioned, and Bracken makes a spontaneous, genuine-sounding comment along the lines of “such a shame.” Castle and Beckett both look at him, startled, as if a shark just expressed sympathy for a tasty fish. They didn’t overplay the moment — just register their bafflement and let the scene move on.
E: Wait, our Big Bad has his human moments? Astonishing! Honestly, that moment didn’t really stand out to me — I figured they thought he was being disingenuous and trying to cover his nefarious tracks.
C: Really? I didn’t, which is why I thought it was interesting. More spoilers: I also liked, and did not foresee, the last-minute switcheroo of suspects. We’re led to think that the tension of this episode will not come from discovering who’s guilty, but from waiting to see whether Beckett will cross the line. But the show allows Beckett to have her cake and take her bitter pill at the same time — she does have to protect Bracken, but from a ruthless hired killer rather than the sad, broken man she sympathizes with.
E: Not that we don’t get a lot suspect switcheroos on this show, but yes, I thought we had the bad guy too, so I can grudgingly admit that’s a good thing.
C: One nitpick, though: when the real villain, Bracken’s nefarious driver, decides to blow the Senator up with a car bomb, I can’t quite follow why he doesn’t wait until the Senator is, you know, in the car. Since it’s apparently possible to survive a car explosion unscathed if you’re standing right next to the car, as long as a valiant police detective tackles you to the ground as the bomb is already exploding, maybe the hired killer should have thought of that, and got Bracken seated before pushing the button and diving away himself?
E: Amazing that he’s clever enough to frame the sad-sack guy so well, but lacking the common sense to secure his target.
C: I know, right? But when Beckett stakes her career on catching a particular criminal, you know he’s got to make some really dumb move! I mean, she can’t get fired — it’s not a season finale 🙂