Two-Sentence Summary When the death of a young woman points to Senator Bracken, the man behind the murder of Beckett’s mother, Beckett sees her chance to finally put him behind bars. However, circumstances change dramatically when the murder investigation leads to a planned attempt on Bracken’s life, forcing Beckett to act as his protector.
Favorite Line “I wouldn’t have done it. You know…what she did. I would have stood and watched.” (Castle)
My Thoughts This was the best Castle episode in quite some time. I have loved every episode in the “Johanna Beckett Arc” since we first learned about Beckett’s mother back in Season 1, and this was no exception. There’s something about the raised stakes that come with these episodes that seem to bring out the best in the actors, magnifying what’s good about the show while leaving you so captivated by the plot that you forget about the show’s flaws.
I know some might vehemently disagree with this statement, but I like dramatic Castle episodes on the whole more than the comedic ones. That’s one thing this season has shown me over and over again. Don’t get me wrong; I love when Castle is fun—especially when it’s nerdy fun. But I can’t help but feel that the filler episodes we’re sometimes stuck with seem even worse when viewed alongside any of the fantastic dramatic episodes this show has given viewers over the years. When so much character development can happen within the course of one hour, it’s hard to watch a few weeks’ worth of episodes where relatively little momentum happens.
Let’s get back to “Recoil,” shall we? I loved the moral dilemma presented in this episode and the way it asked not only the characters but everyone watching what they would do in Beckett’s situation. What’s more important: Vengeance for yourself and your loved ones or justice for strangers? It’s not an easy question, and there is no easy answer. And the fact that Kate Beckett realized there was no easy answer for her showed just how far she’s come.
When it came to her mother’s case, Beckett used to be blind to anything except her own need to find closure through revenge. In this episode, we finally see her with clear eyes—but human eyes. I loved the fact that Beckett hid the letter but then came clean to Castle about it. I also loved the fact that she didn’t shoot the suspect but ultimately saved Bracken’s life. I often joke that Kate Beckett is my favorite superhero, but that’s not because she’s superhuman. In fact, I admire her all the more for being human—for having moments of weakness that she must fight through, for facing temptation and struggling with it. The reality of Beckett’s internal, moral struggle makes her strength all the more inspiring.
I was so pleased to see the return of Dr. Burke in this episode. Falling in love doesn’t automatically heal you or keep your demons away. Choosing to become a better person doesn’t mean that choice is always going to be easy. By having Beckett turn to her therapist instead of Castle after she found the letter, we were given a smart dose of realism. Beckett isn’t going to be an open book with Castle all the time; that’s not who she is at her core. She’s still going to be guarded, and that’s not a character flaw. Which is why I adored the fact that Castle wasn’t mad at her for keeping the letter a secret. It was a huge step for Beckett to confess that to him, and he understood that. She may not have opened up to him instantaneously, but she ultimately leaned on him and opened up to him in a way that she never would have before making her decision in “Always.”
Ultimately, there was no other way this episode could have ended. Beckett had to save Bracken because that’s who she is. She wants to do things the right way; she wants justice rather than vengeance. She’s not Bracken; she’s a better person than he will ever be. But she still ends the episode fighting back tears as Bracken emerges from the ordeal with more power than ever. No choice is easy. No ending to this episode could have left you feeling good. And that’s why it was so compelling. As Captain Montgomery once said, “For us, there are no victories.” And he was right.
I know some people are surely upset over the lack of overt Castle/Beckett interaction once again. Were there some places where I would have liked to see more between them? Yes (especially in her apartment at the end. Is it really that hard to show him holding her on the couch? Or at least them sitting near each other?). However, I found myself more understanding than I have been lately about the way their relationship was played in this episode. For the first time, they dealt with the Johanna Beckett case in the precinct as a team. Usually, Beckett would shut Castle out of this part of her life or only grudgingly accept his help. But this time, he walked right in without invitation, just like he did in her apartment during the episode—a small but significant way to show how far they’ve come.
And it’s not like “Recoil” was a total letdown in terms of Castle/Beckett moments. I’ll admit; I got emotional when Castle called Beckett “remarkable.” It was such a great way to call back to his last confession of love in “Always.” She’s extraordinary; she’s remarkable. He’s been in awe of her from the day they met, and in an episode where she was doubting who she was at her core, it was nice to have that reminder from Castle; who she is at her core is remarkable. And he’ll always be there to remind her of that.
Another thing Castle will always be there to do is protect her. The scene between Castle and Bracken was filled with such pitch-perfect tension that it might be one of my favorite scenes this season—and certainly a high point for Nathan Fillion. He made it clear that he is not Beckett; his answer to the central moral question of the episode isn’t so righteous. Castle isn’t driven by justice; he’s driven by love. And love is a far more volatile motivating factor. I truly believe that Castle would have watched Bracken die. He watched Beckett die because of Bracken, and he’s not one to let that go and act in the name of the greater good. The greatest good for him is Kate Beckett, and I never doubted once that he would have watched Bracken die in order for Beckett to finally be safe and at peace.
That scene allowed Fillion to play with a level of moral complexity I haven’t seen since his days as Malcolm Reynolds on Firefly. His facial expressions in that scene were perfect. He looked almost cavalier, unafraid to show Bracken that this would have been an easy decision for him. It’s not an empty threat, and it’s not overblown intimidation. It’s a fact. Never have the words of Vulcan Simmons in Season 3’s “Knockdown” seemed more truthful: “He’s sweet on you—makes him brave.”
All in all, this was a great return to form after a rocky string of post-hiatus episodes for Castle. Stana Katic was brilliant as she always is in these dramatic episodes, giving Beckett both the vulnerability and steely strength needed to make this episode work. With her great performance leading the way, this became an episode worthy of joining the ranks of other great “Johanna Beckett episodes”—from “Sucker Punch” to “After the Storm.”