This review contains spoilers.
6.14 Dressed To Kill
This week’s episode was full of surprises, most of them lovely.
The mystery at the centre of the episode took advantage of the success of The Devil Wears Prada to bring us into the fashion world. Because many of us had seen the movie, the writers were able to spare us the explanation of why fashion matters (at least enough to take all the characters but Yumi seriously), and more importantly, they were able to use the aide-leaving-her-apartment-at-the-crack-of-dawn-to-get-her-boss-her-nitpicky-breakfast to communicate a great deal about not only the kind of woman Matilda King is, but to instantly illustrate precisely what the relationship to her subordinates was like—even to the point of making the terrified receptionist seem a touch redundant.
Which means they could have cast a lesser actress in the role of the fashion diva, but thankfully did not. Frances Fisher had to run a wide gamut here from Cruella Jr. to a stand-in for Beckett’s mom, and she did not disappoint. It would have been easy, on either end of the scale to over-play it—to turn Miranda into a caricature of the evil boss or let her slide too far into the sentimental in her wedding-dress scene with Beckett. But Fisher spared us both by largely letting the writers’ Meryl Streep allusion handle much of the heavy lifting on the one side and not letting herself over-commit to the pathos of the other. She was just wicked enough to make us believe how bad she could be behind closed doors and just compassionate enough with Kate for us to buy Beckett having her moment of sadness and loss about her mother.
The fact that both writer and actress did such a good job setting up the character of Miranda then allowed us to understand why, even in a cut-throat industry like fashion, there were enough plausibly terrified and/or craven people about that trying to figure out who did it was particularly difficult for us this week. I’ve been more than a little critical of the weakness of the weekly mysteries, so I think it’s fair that I admit that it wasn’t until right before Miranda set up her trap that I really got it. So I was surprised that I was surprised.
And it was, we find out, Julian Bruckner, a member of the editorial staff. But the real surprise here was that Bruckner was played by Rob Estes, an actor best known for his turn as Detective Chris Lorenzo on Stephen J. Cannell’s longest running series, Silk Stalkings. The show, a bit risqué for broadcast television, was initially broadcast on CBS late at night before eventually moving to the USA network on cable, one of the first such dramas produced specifically for a cable channel, making it the common ancestor of so many other cable hits (Burn Notice, The Closer, Sons of Anarchy, Monk). And despite the tragic end of Chris Lorenzo himself, also an important predecessor of the will-they-won’t-they detective series. It’s hard not to see his casting as a nod to that genealogy.
Probably the only surprise that I didn’t find pleasant was the revelation that Beckett was “a model, for about fifteen minutes.” While we know that she was a bit of a wild child when she was younger, it seems a real reach for the character to have been a model. While I suppose it could explain the impeccable (and from a financial point, unbelievable) clothing, hair and makeup that she seems to pull off no matter what the situation, this is hardly unusual for such a show. It’s hard to recall, beyond In Plain Sight’s Mary Shannon, many female cops who are leads who dress the way actual women in law enforcement do. Still, it’s hard to imagine someone as no-nonsense or uninterested in haute couture as Castle’s partner, making it extremely difficult to envision her on a runway. Beckett herself is obviously embarrassed or conflicted herself as we see when Katic ducks behind Fillion upon first encountering her old mentor (?), Miranda.
But the surprise that both threw and delighted me was that of Kate’s reluctance to snatch up the venue she sent Castle to investigate for their upcoming nuptials. I had seen preview of the episode, many of the asking the question “Is Beckett getting cold feet?” so I was prepared for us to take the same kind of wrong turn we saw at the beginning of the season, effectively estranging the two.
The show has given us so many false starts and crushing stops that it’s been difficult, since Beckett showed up at Castle’s door ready to finally take the next step, to trust that they weren’t going to do it again, even after the couple was engaged. We’ve seen it not just on this series (Beckett joins some mystery Washington agency) but on other shows that have let their leads get to this point. Hell, Bones actually resorted to bringing in the arch-nemesis of the show just to create serious obstacles for Booth and Brennan. And it’s not like the “cold feet” thing isn’t trotted out on just about any drama that includes a wedding. So it wasn’t exactly difficult to see them doing the same here.
Which, in turn, would have led to Castle being hurt and reacting in a fairly childish manner, pushing Beckett even further away until… well, you know. You’ve seen it all before.
So it was such a wonderful surprise when we found out that that wasn’t the source of Kate’s sudden reticence. Instead, Kate’s pain at the realization that she won’t be able to share these special wedding experiences with her mother became a way to weave the storyline about her mom back into the series, gently reminding us that, however stoically Kate may be behaving at the moment, whatever her day-to-day joy with Castle, this is still very much an open wound.
It also became a moment for Castle to shine. We’ve been getting a lot of really wonderful, joyous, fun moments at the beginning and end of each episode (we’re starting to head in the direction of Hart-to-Hart, in this way), and we love those. But for all that, and keeping in mind, again, that he doesn’t deal well with rejection, the one place where he really does excel is in listening, comforting, and caring for someone in pain. Especially someone he loves. Seeing him in this mode with Kate is almost as lovely as the bookend moments we’ve been getting in recent episodes.
So it seems the wedding is on and sooner than expected. I still haven’t overcome my doubt about the possibility of future relationship shenanigans, heightened by Hart Hanson’s cagey responses to the question of whether we’ll get a wedding this series. But Dressed to Kill definitely gave me reason to hope that we might just get to see Beckett in that amazing dress again in the coming weeks.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Limelight, here.
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