This review contains spoilers.
6.7 Like Father, Like Daughter
We’ve been building toward this week’s episode for a while now.
It’s not just a matter of the recent spat between Castle and Alexis over the ubiquitous Pi which then led to Alexis telling her dad to give her some space. Nor Alexis’s insistence that she’s ready to move out of the familial home into one of her own (well, with Pi, that is). Like Father, Like Daughter also dealt with the hinted-at coolness between Beckett and Alexis, a recurrent theme in series 4 when Beckett was shot, making the teenager forcefully aware of the danger her father’s relationship with the detective puts him in.
In this week’s episode, Alexis is all but forced to go to her father for assistance in clearing a man she believes has been wrongly convicted of murder and who is three short days away from execution. In part of her work with the Innocence Review, she has been working on the case of a man who supposedly killed his neighbour. When his last appeal is rejected, Alexis initially asks Ryan and Esposito for help, who in turn want to know why she hasn’t asked her father for help. I guess Castle kept the fact that he’s in the doghouse when it comes to his daughter a secret at the precinct.
Castle, of course, jumps at the chance to spend time with her (so much so that he forgets there’s a man’s life hanging by a thread) and agrees to travel to Pennsylvania with her even while warning her that they are unlikely to save the man. Of course they do, with Beckett and Lanie’s help (not that it’s much of a mystery; the actual murderer all but announces himself to them early on), and by the end, much appears to be mended, not only between father and daughter but daughter and soon-to-be-stepmom.
Which makes it all sound both fairly canned and smooth in its execution. But neither are the case.Part of the roughness in the delivery goes back to previous episodes. We’ve seen the strain in the Castle Alexis relationship in the last few weeks over Pi and Alexis’s desire to live neither under the watchful eye of her father nor the Resident Assistant of the dorms.
We’ve also seen friction between Alexis and Beckett. Yes, Alexis has been generally welcoming of Beckett, including seeking her out to ask her advice on studying abroad in series 2 (Leave Me Dead) and working in the precinct. But when the detective is shot, Alexis’s attitude changes and it’s not until later into series 4 that Alexis comes to understand that whatever the danger, Beckett will always have her dad’s back. By the time Beckett and Castle seal the deal at the end of series 4, Alexis seems to have come to terms with their relationship.
All well and good. Even when Alexis learns of her father’s engagement from Martha, and her father asks her if she’s upset at Beckett, Alexis assigns blame to the proper person: “No. But I was hurt you didn’t tell me.” So we have to wonder why Beckett suddenly sees herself as having a problem with Alexis. It’s not like Alexis has never had to deal with a new step-mom. In fact, she gets along with Castle’s second wife Gina better than she does her own mom. So when Beckett suddenly tells Lanie that she’s concerned because Alexis didn’t ask for her help on the case, it comes out of nowhere. Beckett’s been given no cause beyond this one incident to think there’s a problem, and the detective has made a career out of not letting her imagination run wild, so it’s difficult to understand the depth of the sudden anxiety she expresses to Lanie.
More importantly, Alexis is aware of none of Beckett’s fears on the subject. And there are plenty of reasons why she might not have approached Beckett on this case, perhaps the most important being her own fear that Beckett might let her father know what she’s been doing (which also explains her anger when she finds out her father’s been keeping tabs on her from afar).
So while it is understandable that Alexis wants to thank Beckett for her help on the case, it’s hardly enough reason for her to want to rush back to Manhattan to thank her in person (and indirectly reassure her that things are okay when Alexis has no real reason to believe otherwise). The lack of any narrative basis for this final scene, which is obviously supposed to be a real Hallmark moment, ends up making what could have been a lovely tableau—especially considering the look on Castle’s face at his new family getting along—instead feel contrived and essentially hollow.
What is infinitely more interesting and on point is the weird Freudian tones throughout the episode. A big part of the Freudian conflict for girls is the desire for the father which first makes her hate the mother but eventually emulate her and identify with her. Alexis is in a strange relation to all of this in that there has never been any mother to stand between her and her father. Her own mother has all but abandoned her in favor of her acting career. Castle kept his second wife, Gina, at a distance from Alexis, and he has been, for his daughter’s entire life, a stay-at-home father. Alexis has never had a rival for her father’s affections (all his dalliances having been carried on outside the home) nor, as a result, anyone to emulate.
As a result, Freudians might argue that Alexis has never really matured to the point where the super-ego, that part of us which we might refer to as morality and the successful result of this conflict/identification, develops. Of course, Alexis is, in many ways, not only the most mature member of her family but the most traditionally moral, so such a theory seems unreliable here.
On the other hand, a later part of that development includes shift of desire from the father to men other than the father. And while we don’t see this happening with Alexis, something like this may have been happening to Castle himself (whose own childhood lacked both mother and father). After years of an unthreatened, unquestioned relationship with his daughter, Castle appears to have shifted away from her (the incestuous connection) and to Beckett—just in time for Alexis to be able to go out into the world as an adult.
And when Alexis and Castle begin constructing their theory in the same collaborative, cross-talking, momentum-building way as Beckett and he usually do, we all – Castle, Alexis and us – recognize precisely how disturbing such an imitation is. To quote Alexis, “Ew!” The only question is, is Alexis unconsciously imitating Beckett or vice-versa?
The show’s history would suggest that Alexis has internalized this behavior from Beckett, and if so, Beckett has nothing to worry about when it comes to her place in this family. After all, if Alexis has in some way remade herself in Beckett’s image, that’s precisely what a girl is (again, according to Freud) supposed to do in relation to her mother. And that should make Beckett’s relationship to Alexis and Castle clear to all of them. She is the mother that she herself lost at 19 and which Alexis has never known. It will be interesting to see how she does in that role.
And on a lighter note, as a writer, I really appreciated Castle’s screensaver at the beginning of the episode. I just have to find a way to emulate that.
Read Laura’s review of the previous episode, Get A Clue, here.
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