Castle "Recoil" Review: The Devil You Know

Castle S05E13: "Recoil"

I've made no secret of my general disdain for Castle's more serious episodes. Especially the ones that hyperfocus on the ludicrous mother-murdering conspiracy that Beckett has spent the last five seasons digging through in fits and starts. I come to Castle for lighthearted crime-solving, to see these silly NYPD detective caricatures joke around, act vaguely ridiculous, and trade one-liners with Nathan Fillion. I watch the show for those things because it's good at those things, and up until recently, it's never been very good at doing much of anything else. Even in Castle's dumbest, most forgettable murder mysteries, there are usually some good lines or amusing character moments that remind me why I watch the show. In the more serious episodes, I almost never see much of anything that resembles those traits.

So color me utterly flabbergasted that I found "Recoil" to be such an enjoyable diversion. It was the very definition of a serious Castle episode: A girl was murdered, her body is tossed into an oil drum in a known homeless encampment, her teeth were callously removed, and her corpse was set aflame to avoid any measure of detection. But, after a surgical device with a serial number was found inside of her, her identity was established, and her ties to the real world were discovered. Unfortunately, those ties lead right back to Senator Bracken, a.k.a. The Man Who Killed Beckett's Mother.

I was wondering when the show would get around to bringing him back. You don't spend an entire season premiere establishing a new series villain without having larger plans for him. At least, I hoped not. There have definitely been a number of moments throughout this series where I've been plum convinced the writers were just making up the conspiracy junk on the fly. But based on Beckett's brief encounter with Bracken way back at the beginning of the season, and her interactions with him in this week's episode, I'm a believer. I genuinely think this may have been the smartest way to progress this story.

Part of it is Jack Coleman's completely disturbing lack of a moral compass, and not in that typical TV villain way, either. Most evil politicians in TV—outside of, say, The Wire, or The West Wing—tend to lean toward the cackling, sneering variety. Coleman isn't doing that. He's painting Bracken as a guy more or less just devoid of any form of empathy. He's pragmatic about his role as a villain, calm and collected in just about any situation, save for those that might jeopardize his stature or power. The only time he raised his voice in this episode was when he was about lose an opportunity to significantly raise his profile on the political stage. This guy doesn't care about much, but he has a very specific, very distinct Achilles heel. And it just so happens that Beckett is in prime position to take advantage of that.

You see, Bracken didn't kill the poor girl. In fact, she wasn't even the real designated target. Rather, the target was Bracken.

The team quickly discovered that the victim had potentially identified and followed a potential stalker of the senator, and after following said stalker into a parking garage, found herself on the wrong end of a bullet. For a long time, we didn't know who this stalker/potential assassin was, outside of a description involving long hair, a scraggly beard, and aviator shades. A partial license plate number helped identify a car in the garage that clearly belonged to the assassin—why else would there have been a sniper rifle in the trunk?—but for roughly half the episode, there was no name or key evidence to identify the subject. That is, of course, until Beckett went poring through some threatening letters the senator had received over the last few years, and found one with handwriting that matched a note found in the car.

In any other episode, with any other case, Beckett would have leapt up and dashed it down to forensics. But not this time. Instead, she hid the letter from Castle, and took it with her to... her therapist? Okay, sure. I suppose if I were in a major moral dilemma I couldn't tell anyone else about, I'd talk to my therapist too, especially if my therapist had the smooth, dulcet tones of Michael Dorn.

She considered burning the letter and just letting the killer do his dirty business. She agonized over this, reluctant even to tell her colleagues about the letter the next morning, after she'd decided not to burn it. But then Beckett saw the sister of the gunshot victim in the precinct. She saw her in tears, being consoled by Captain Gates. Suddenly, it stopped being about her. It stopped being just a matter of whether Bracken dies or not, but the collateral damage involved. That scene was one of the best character moments Beckett has had all season. Stana Katic has give us several strong performances this season, but this was probably her best dramatic scene, outside of that first encounter with Bracken during the premiere.

She had more good scenes later on. After discovering the identity of the suspect, she found herself walking straight into the guy in the elevator lobby of his SRO hotel. She could have killed him as he started to run away, but didn't. Why? "I saw the pain in his eyes," she said. In her mind, she'd found a kindred spirit. The man, a mechanic with a history of schizophrenia, had lost his son to an apparent suicide. A son, by the way, who just happened to be interning for Bracken. When it eventually came time to interrogate the man, she used her own tragedy to try to bring out a confession. Gates walking in on that scene was interesting, since it was the first time she'd really been exposed to this stuff. Castle tried to brush it off as Beckett just working to get the confession, but there was something about Beckett and Gates' later interaction that says Gates didn't quite buy that explanation. But it didn't matter, because investigators had reportedly found all they needed to convict the poor transient. A bomb vest he'd apparently made had been recovered, and thus, the case was closed.

But not for Beckett. It all seemed too sophisticated for a guy with schizophrenia off his meds, and it didn't explain away certain other case details. So instead of letting it drop, Beckett ordered an evacuation of the conference Bracken was supposed to speak at. Bracken was furious, especially after the bomb squad was initially unable to find any additional devices. What happened next was perhaps a bit ridiculous, but it was really the only way this episode could have ended. Beckett, identifying the man who was the real assassin all along, ran straight at Bracken and shielded him from an exploding limousine. The assassin was caught, Bracken was unharmed, and Beckett was the heroine of the day.

The only part of "Recoil" that left me a bit cold was the last scene. For most of the episode, Bracken and Beckett went back and forth in primarily knowing, nonspecific dialogue that nonetheless managed to say a lot without having to say a lot, if you know what I mean. Their last exchange was a wonderful mix of uncomfortable gratitude from Bracken, and smirking (temporary) satisfaction from Beckett. I would have been perfectly satisfied if the episode had ended right as Bracken turned to the cameras and began delivering his speech to the press. But then the episode went on for about one scene too long, trying to wrap up the mystery behind Bracken's assassins by showing Castle and Beckett watching a major political magnate and Super PAC chairman being arrested for organizing the hit.

Why did we need that? The idea that there's more going on with Bracken than just an evil man doing evil things was intriguing, but I guess the writers aren't planning on heading in that direction. It seems that Bracken, all by his lonesome, will remain the primary focus of Beckett's ire until he either ends up dead, in jail, or both. That's okay, though, because Bracken is proving to be a most interesting nemesis for Beckett. Again, I come to this show for the comedy and silliness, but if every now and again, a dramatic episode of this caliber wants to come along, I certainly am not going to complain.



NOTES


– Fillion didn't have much to do this week. Normally I'm not fond of episodes where he gets pushed to the back, but he made a good sounding board for Katic, who owned this episode.

– Guys? Really? We're going to send Esposito and Ryan to the senator's mansion in an attempt to keep Beckett's involvement in the investigation a secret? There aren't any other detectives we can send that he most definitely won't recognize? Sigh.

– Dear Castle writers: E. 72nd street is not in downtown Manhattan. Hell, it's not even midtown. You are straight uptown at that point.

– Prediction: Second-to-last episode of this season features Captain Gates finding out all the crap Beckett has been hiding since the end of last season, and it results in her once again exiting the force and going rogue for a season finale that probably involves Bracken winding up either dead or arrested. I kind of hope it wraps up less predictably than that, but I'm not confident it will.

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It seems that for some unfathomable reason the writers have been listening to that nit-picking pseudo-critic Alex Navarro. Ever since "Significant Others" there has been hardly any displays of affection between Castle and Beckett. We might as well be back in Season 2 as far as their relationship is concerned. I don't want every episode to be nothing but moon-eyes and sighs between the two but it would be nice if they could show the two of themcould show they had something more than a nodding acquaintance. "Recoil" was a great episode that could have been better (in my opinion a 10) if there had been some romantic empathy shown by Castle and reciprocated by Beckett. The best episode of the season so far, emphasizing all that is good about the series in addtion to romantic by-play between the two leads, was "Murder, He Wrote". Let's hope the writers can get back to that real soon.
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I really really loved this episode. I too was bored with all the Beckett's mother thingy up until now but this one was amazing and putting Beckett and the senator in such a gray area is delightful. Something I usually dislike about procedural is their tendency to have "the good guys" and "the bad guys" and "the right choice" and "the wrong choice". I love that this episode was a little more like *life*, where people are never entirely black or white and there is never a choice that is 100% right or 100% wrong.
This season of Castle is really working up to levels unseen in the whole show.
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Castle is even worse than The Mentalist as far as how much time passes between long arc episodes. By the time they pickup long-arc again, I've forgotten what happened and who's who. I've never trusted Gates.
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I had terrible problem with this episode..because of that twisted moral message. I don´t understand why Beckett tried to protect his life. I would feel ashame that I saved man who killed my mother and other people..she even risked her carrier because of him? Are you kidding me?? I wanted to slap Beckett so hard..
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For the most part I agree with Alex's assessment of the episode, although, like other responders I disagree about "Castle's" serious episodes being dissapointing but that is neither here nor there.
I was dissapointed by the last minute reveal and arrest of that PAC chairman, I thought the mystery of who could get close Bracken was a very intriguing arc, not to mention what Beckett would do about it.
All the acting performances were phenomenal, although the episode could have been filled out a bit more, and made a two part, and thereby using other characters more in what was an emotionally fraught case - for Beckett most so, but most definitely not solely. Plus more depth in this one could have shed more light on Rick's benign approach and treatment of Beckett's case (as other people have noted, he wasn't jumping to speculate like he normally would) not to mention the relationships that have been developing mostly off-screen over the episodes of this season thus far (such as Alexis, Beckett and Martha's relationship which hasn't been touched after they were obviously living together during the whole Meredith fiasco). That is my only criticism on this episodes behalf.

As for predictions; I would like to think that the upcoming 'appearance' so-to-speak of Rick's father will serve to be more of an affirmation of his and Kate's relationship, which while consisting of some very touching and tender gestures, hasn't really been demonstrated or developed (they have been together some months now, and have acknowledged their feeling of years before, so I'm surprised there has been no talk of where they are headed, or of different stages in their relationship, moving in together, stuff like that) but I will optimistically predict that that will be expounded upon soon.
End of season ultimate twist: Bracken is Rick's father. XD. Not gonna happen but boy... No, in all seriousness though, I think Rick's father's appearance will bring some tension between him and Beckett, and I think for once Castle will be being pushed by Beckett.
I think towards season's end, Gates will find out about their relationship, but let it slide on the back of some situation where Rick will be forced to choose loyalties in a situation that may or may not connect to Bracken, and probably will to his father. He will offer to stop working with them in order to continue seeing Beckett in an intial confrontation with Gates, but I hope they will come to an eventual understanding. Bracken will be exposed politically, and will end on a cliff hanger with him facing charges/arrest before a press conference.

I have really rambled on here, forgive me, after just seeing 'Recoil' my mind has kind of let loose with my keyboard. Can't wait for the next one!
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I thought it was awsome episode. It had everything in it. Yeah I also wondered,why send Ryan and Espo,but it's always those 4,who solve crimes,so I just let that pass. Plus there was NO Alexis or Martha in this episode!
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All I'm going to say is: Jack Coleman *inserts many hearts* He was pure perfection.
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This is one of Castle's good-serious-episodes for sure. And could be a major turning point of over all story since the ghosts from past come face to face.

"Maybe the right choice, is the one you can live with." Amazing line, memorable. At least I am going to remember it for perhaps rest of my life now. What more should I say about the episode. I could say many things such as that I was sure Castle would find the real assassin by either the sound of lighter or sight of it but Beckett heard it - not bad, she is the sharp detective after all, the deserves the crown of queen.

The last of episode give away the hint that maybe, maybe Team-Beckett will work with man-who-kill-her-mother since he is now target and although the King-maker is arrested but it doesn't mean he is working alone, there must be others so Bracken needs to work with people he can trust and so far he now knows that Beckett is that person.

Maybe Beckett will, at some point will forgive him (if my above prediction come true) but something or someone else would kill him off before dying. Yes Castle's serious episodes made me think a lot.
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Tristan. true that Anthony`s stori is really great... on tuesday I bought a new BMW M3 sincee geting a check for $7990 this munth and more than $10 thousand last-month. with-out any doubt it's my favourite job Ive had. I began this six months/ago and right away made myself minimum $86... per-hour. I work through this website,, wow83.cℴm
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Well, for all that money, they should have taught you to spell and speak English, your native toungue.
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I'm sorry, but the serious episodes have been some of the best of the series. I like the moments of levity as well but those moments need to have balance. There can be no humor without drama and there can be no drama without a little humor. One element makes the other stronger. All of the levity on this show helps the audience to get settled in and we get comfortable, then they hit us with the drama and shake things up which for me makes the drama feel more authentic.
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The biggest problem I had with this episode was the scene where Beckett is trying to convince Castle that the whole case against their suspect doesn't make sense, and Castle throws out the inane line "but all the evidence points to him." Isn't Castle the one who taught Beckett that "the evidence isn't the whole story."
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Castle has always gone back on his belief when it comes to the case about Beckett's mother, especially since he started to realize that delving into this puts her in the direct line of fire and messes with her head in ways that he can't fully understand. I took that scene as a sign that Castle was very much ready for this case to be done with so that they could all move on. He'll go writer-esque on other cases, but not on Beckett's mother's case, because it's just too real for him.
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Its a plausible explanation but I don't buy it. If Castle had been deferring to Beckett I believe he'd have asked something like "how would you write the story?" I think the writers simply weren't paying attention to the show's bible.
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Technically, Beckett was too late and they should both have been killed, the device went off before she even leapt.

I wasn't engaged by this episode, it didn't leave me upset but it also didn't leave me terribly entertained either. The way it played out, each little mystery in the chain didn't feel very connected to one another and was solved with too little fun or policework.

My only other thing to say here is that the cinematography on Stana Katic was awful, bad angles, bad closeups, bad lighting, it added easily 10 years to her face.
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I thought the same, but I'm wondering if maybe that wasn't the point. Coming face to face with Bracken and having to protect him, I think you were supposed to be able to see how emotionally draining it was for her, and that can affect appearance as well. I think she was supposed to look aged — or at least that's how I saw it — to show just how much the whole deal with Bracken and her mother and chasing this case has taken out of her.
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An interesting idea, seems almost too smart for this show, but you could certainly be onto something. Had it been more stylized, I'd have likely seen it off the bat the way you're describing, but as it was presented it felt more clumsy than intentional so as a layperson I definitely found it more distracting than useful as a storytelling tool.
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I don't know. Maybe it's Jack Coleman's incredible charisma, but, if the good senator wasn't a complete sociopath, I could come to like him!
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Just s small note: Castle, all of your main characters should have things to do, and don't just give them one thing. Lanie has shown herself to be fairly complex, interesting character, so have her do more than just talk about dead bodies. This is the second season that Gates has been a main character, and she still has problems with Castle for pretty much no reason, and she's still unhappy most of the time. The only episode I can think of, ever, in which she had the briefest of character arcs is the one in which Castle bought that storage locker with the doll, and she was nice to him for all of five seconds.

Martha and Alexis were absent this episode, and in general they've been relegated to appearing at the beginnings and ends of episodes, usually so that they and Richard can exchange some kind-of-useful-but-not-really wisdom that makes them think they've solved the inane problem one or both of them had at the beginning of the episode. And this episode did a weird thing where it introduced one of these silly issues and then instantly forgot about it. Castle told Beckett that he didn't think that Alexis's new boyfriend was serious, because he hadn't met this new suitor in order to intimidate him. I instantly assumed that there would be some shenanigans involving Alexis finally telling her dad that she's, you know, in college and might not bring all her serious boyfriends home right away. But no, it was just left hanging in the air as to whether or not this newest relationship on this show--which probably won't involve an additional actor, and at the most will consist of Alexis talking into her phone--will actually go anywhere. I'm not sure whether I'm proud that Castle mentioned something about Alexis without it blowing up in his face, or disappointed that they mentioned Alexis without having her show up, which just serves to remind us that it's been an entire season since she did anything that carried over for more than an episode. And don't get me started on Martha.
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I've heard there is a story-arc coming up that involves both Alexis and Martha. This makes sense since we have also been promised Castle's dad in the shape of James Brolin
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I hadn't heard about that, though now I'm certainly looking forward to it. However, I hope that Beckett and Castle don't somehow split up over his father for some reason. I think at this point that would just be drama for the sake of drama. Still, I look forward to Alexis and Martha actually being involved in a meaningful arc.
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I don't think they will brake them up - I think they sort of promised not to. But it might bring a little turmoil, which isn't all bad!
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I thought this was a great episode as well, though I usually enjoy it when this show utilizes more serious season arcs. This is mostly for two reasons, the first being that a long show like this, composed of cases of the week, needs at least one season arc to glue these episodes together into a season, and I would much rather that this season arc be a big case as opposed to some drama with Castle and Beckett. Because these two are best when they're partnering up to solve a crime, not when they get into their awkward and downright stupid "I like her but does she like me? I like him but he had that girlfriend so does he like me, maybe I'll get a boyfriend to see if he'll object and says he loves me. Oh, I was just about to tell her how I feel but now she has a boyfriend so I'll just respect her wishes..." zone. And then there's the fact that I really enjoy season long mysteries, with twists that don't all get revealed in one episode.

I also think that this show is pretty good at being serious when it wants to. Ever since the two-parter "TIck, TIck Tick..." and "Boom!" which introduced a completely new serial killer, killed him, and then had the great reveal that he had faked his own death by killing someone else, "Castle" has shown that it play with the grown-ups and do serious very well. And sure, these episodes still are pretty zany, even at their most serious. This episode, for instance, was based on the premise that someone who was planning to assassinate Bracken found someone else who planned to do the same thing, and then set that person up to take the fall for the thing they were pretty much planning on doing, while counting on the fact that this patsy wouldn't say anything. But then again, "Castle" has always been ridiculous at the sanest of times, and it gets away with it because it never allows things to get so crazy so that they are downright unbelievable to the point that literally anything could happen, and you might as well flip a coin to see what decisions people will make next.

All this being said, I do genuinely wonder what the show has planned for Bracken. There has been a surprising eleven whole episodes in between when Beckett first learned that he ordered the hit on her mom, and this episode where he turned up again. And in this time, neither she nor Castle has spent any time doing even an iota of investigation into Senator Bracken. I know that he's dangerous and all that, but you'd at least expect her to look into his past a little, or do one of the many discreet things she could do in this situation. But regardless, he's back, and now he owes Beckett a favor, which I think is a nice turn for the show to take. Ironically, of course, if she had decided not save him, then only he would have died, and not several additional people, as had first been assumed when they discovered that a bomb was involved. But still, it's a good choice to make her want to bring down Bracken on her own terms.

In terms of where I predict the Bracken arc will go, I think that Alex made some pretty good predictions, though like him I hope he's wrong. I think that Gates isn't all that stupid, and that the only reason she hasn't pieced everything together thus far is that it would create too much conflict at this point in the season. So yes, she will probably find out about the off-books investigation into Bracken, though I don't think she'll suspend Beckett so much as demand that if there's going to be an investigation, that it at least be done properly. It's not as if they don't have any evidence to go on: there's the account number that belongs to Bracken, as well as his numerous implied confessions to Becket which, though they haven't been recorded, should be enough for Gates.

I also think that she will find out about Beckett and Castle's relationship, though I don't think it will be that big a deal, or at least, I really hope it won't. Even though Castle and Beckett have stayed together thus far over the course of the season, they don't really seem all that together. In this episode there was one touching moment where they kind of rubbed hands, which is the first time in about three episodes that they have shown any physical affection towards each other. Some people have predicted that Gates will find out about their relationship at the end of the season, forcing them to break up, but this is really not the time for them to break up, because for a while they haven't really seemed like they're together. Sure, they've been trusting each other a lot more for a while, and there haven't really been any of those petty squabbles that used to get on my nerves, so that's good. But at the moment they come off as friends and partners who care about each other, but not as a romantic couple. And if you're going to tear them apart, which would be really lame for a number of reasons, then you may as well have them depict a proper romantic relationship first.

Getting back to Senator Bracken though. I think the next time we see him will be during one of Beckett's cases, when she'll need his help with something. This way we'll get to know him better, and not just as a villain. As to what will happen with him at the end of this season, I'm not really that sure. I don't think he'll go to jail, since so far this hasn't been the show's style. Montgomery took out some bad guys and died, and his dirty secrets remained secret. Beckett's mother's killer died and didn't go to jail. So far, no one involved in this conspiracy has even gone to trial, much less jail. And I doubt that the much more powerful Senator Bracken will be the first. Which means that he'll probably die, either by Beckett's hand or someone else's.

More importantly though, I'm curious as to whether or not the writers have something twisty up their sleeves. I thought they did a great job with the reveal that Montgomery was part of the conspiracy, and it is the closest that this show has come to a season-long whodunit. It was a great indicator that this show could pull off season-long mysteries well, since the only other season that ended with a twist like this was Season 1, and that was just a vague implication that there was more to Beckett's murder than met the eye. So I was disappointed when it turned out that the person ultimately responsible for her mother's murder was quickly revealed to be someone we had never met. Sure, there had been several implications that this person would be powerful and probably in a government position, and the only person we had met so far that fit this profile was the Mayor (why couldn't it have been the Mayor?), so it was probably going to be a new character; but, at least they could have actually made an appearance before being revealed as the shows new big bad. So I'm wondering if, and hoping that, Senator Bracken actually isn't the one ultimately responsible for Beckett's mother's death, and that the one ultimately responsible becomes a recurring character for at least four or five episodes before they are revealed as being the mastermind. Either that or the show should at least have a similar reveal to the one with Montgomery, and not just the extremely predictable showdown between Becket and Bracken at the end of this season, in which there are only a few outcomes, none of them all that surprising.
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I wonder if they are going to continue on the storyline about Castles father.
Ms Katic looked stunning with her hair up and in the tight suite!

I predict the ending will be Gates finding out about Beckett and Castle being together and in stead of making a big deal out of it, she just says something like she already knew and/or suspected it.
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She looked nice but it was kind of wierd that she wore a shiny black suite to work in a policestation.

Stoyline with Castles dad is coming up in an epiode or two..
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Yes, you are right, I was a bit surprised as well, but still....nice!! :-D
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My prediction for end of season is more like Beckett gets her self in trouble and only Bracken can help her out, but somehow by helping her will implicate Beckett in a crime/ murder intentional or not. final scene is her getting arrested.
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Loved the ep, but I've been a Castle fan for a long long time and this episode was Castle at its best performance. Which is kind of ironic with Fillion not having that much of a lead this time around.

I - as always - disagree with this reviewer that Castle has nothing else to offer than witty lines and caricatures. In fact what drew me to it in the first place is the ability to switch so deftly between humour, tragedy and seriousness in between episodes along with the obvious cast chemistry that other similar shows often lack.
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Maybe it's just me, but I actually found one of Fillion's parts to be my absolute favorite. At the end of the episode, when they're interrogating the driver, Castle looks right at Bracken and says, "You know, I wouldn't have done what Beckett did. I would have just stood there and watched." And I was both frightened and highly amused at the exact same time!

You know, I was thinking the exact same thing. I was like, "Um, weren't they the two that ran right up to Bracken after Beckett clocked him across the face?" Sure, the guy may have been seeing stars, but I doubt he'd really forget a detail like that, guys! Even so, I absolutely adore Ryan, so any part with him is a good part, in my opinion.

The number even tells you it's uptown! I was only there for a semester for college, and even I know that!

Prediction: Gates will not only find out about the whole Bracken deal, but she will also discover Castle and Beckett's romantic relationship. This will lead Castle to both a) breaking off the relationship, and b) "resigning" from the precinct to help Beckett avoid a backlash from the department.

I sure hope we're both wrong! But I've been waiting for them to break up since they got together.
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