Castle season 7 episode 15 review: Reckoning

Even if the plot in this week's Castle left much to be desired, the performances were as strong as ever, Nathan Fillion's especially...

This review contains spoilers.

7.15 Reckoning

So my prediction last week panned out. Castle has been invited back to work with Beckett at the precinct, his career as a PI outlasting hers as an FBI(?) agent by one episode. But to be fair, the whole thing was a bit of a gimme. I mean, we knew from the beginning that the status quo would eventually be re-established, if only because Castle’s producers/writers would never run the risk of playing with the formula that has paid them such dividends. I just wish that they had done it in a way that did not strain credulity quite so much.

I mean, Castle is guilty of attempted murder. Neither we nor the NYPD doubt that. But rather than file charges, they decide to reward him by giving him back the access they stripped him of for very good reason in Bad Santa by calling it “community service.” Frankly, given the real-life trouble the NYPD has been in lately, I’m surprised they didn’t object to being made out to be even more ridiculous and preferential than they actually are.

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As to the rest of Reckoning, there weren’t a lot of surprises really, except for one big one. Jerry Tyson, it would appear, is actually dead, which is unfortunate. While we got some indication (in a rather non-sequitur way) that Caskett will finally start delving again into what happened to Rick during his two-month disappearance, it seems clear that the 3XK myth-arc is over (unless Tyson has an evil twin or other doppelganger). Always wondering when Tyson was going to pop up added an air of mystery to a mystery show that all-too-often lacks it, and I’ll miss that.

But the way they brought Tyson down was thoroughly unsurprising. After all, while Rick can be impetuous and a little dense about certain things, after all this time, we had to assume that he really wouldn’t try to go take on three killers on his own. Especially when he knew they were likely expecting him. The idea that he’d go to a house in the woods to face down a maniac like Tyson without back-up was too risky, even (or maybe especially) for someone whose soulmate’s life depended on good decision-making. And I doubt many of us thought he’d find Beckett in that house. It was even odds on whether Tyson himself was there.

What fooled no one was the fake shooting of Kate. The fact that the police somehow thought they knew for certain that it was Kate – despite only seeing her silhouette through frosted glass – comes off a bit as a bit desperate on the writers’ part. Rather than construct a scenario that would fool us, they instead counted on us trusting the authority of the NYPD and taking their word for it that it was Kate. And using the recorded voice trick a second time (and having Castle and the boys believe it without question) felt equally lazy.

Perhaps Castle creator and Reckoning writer Andrew Marlowe should have let David Amann finish the two-parter he started. It was a great set-up in Resurrection. It’s frustrating not to get a better pay-off, plot-wise.

But if the plot left much to be desired, the performances did not. Again, the actors filled in the gaps beautifully. Penny Johnson gave us Capt. Gates delivering a motivational speech to Castle that, in lesser hands, might have felt as trite as it was on paper. Instead, it came off as not only heartfelt but sincere—it has taken Gates a long time to come around on Rick, but we do actually now believe that she’s in his corner, largely due to the subtlety with which Johnson has handled what could have been a very flat and annoying character.

Equally enjoyable was the return of Lee Tergesen as Tyson’s ex-bunkmate, Marcus Gates. I’m always surprised that Tergesen, while he was worked steadily in episodic television since his last semi-permanent gig on the amazing prison drama Oz, has not managed to find another strong series to regularly use his considerable skills. On Oz, we saw him go from a doe-eyed innocent who made one terrible choice—drinking and driving his way into a manslaughter conviction—to a serial murderer in love with a vicious sociopath, all while making that transformation seem natural in keeping with the morality of the series: that prison doesn’t correct society’s worst ills; it largely creates them.

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Suffice it to say that he’s a very skilled actor and we get to see this in his scene with Fillion where Castle must convince Gates, a man he put away for life, to help him save his wife. The scene is too short and Castle gives the character little reason to change, but Tergesen manages to fill in the missing motivation by showing us the internal conflict playing out on his face. By the time he agrees to help Castle, we have all but forgotten that what this character should want to do is sit back and watch what’s about to happen to Beckett.

Stana Katic herself gives us a great moment as well, in her scenes with Annie Wersching, the ice-cold Dr. Kelly Nieman. A lot of the scene involves close-ups of Katic, and there is a tense and frightening moment when Kate suddenly understands exactly what plans the skilled but depraved doctor for her. The moment of realization plays only briefly across the actress’s face, but it is stark enough that that split-second ratchets our sense of danger up to where, just for a moment, we think Nieman might actually be a threat to Beckett.

But let’s be clear: this episode belongs to Fillion.

Fillion has, in the last decade or so, faced a particular problem as an actor. His physicality as a corn-fed Canadian farmboy-type, his status as a geek icon, and his overall charisma generally combine in a way that makes you think of the person you are seeing not as the character he’s playing but simply as Nathan Fillion. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to remember that he can really act.

But none of this is true in Reckoning. Yes, a big part of the reason that he works as Castle is because Rick is largely created in Fillion’s image. But Castle is more than a “ruggedly handsome” creative celebrity. He’s a husband and father, of which Nathan is neither, and it’s in these aspects of the writer that’s it’s easiest to see Fillion’s skills. His panic as he screams his daughter’s name in terror and then brooks no objections in sending her and Martha off to Europe (and safety). His grim determination in going after Tyson in Bourdreau’s apartment (which is precisely why we are so sure he’s absolutely guilty of attempted murder—Fillion leaves us little doubt his character was about to pull the trigger). His despair when he sees Kate shot (again). His shocked disbelief in learning it’s not her. And, of course, his relief when they finally find her. The lackluster writing of each of these scenes disappears in his depiction of a man terrified and enraged at the thought of losing his family.

And that’s a large part of what keeps me coming back to this show. No matter what ridiculous set of clichés or formulae the writers of Castle combine to create an episode, this ensemble of actors always sells it. They may not make you forget how predictable or far-fetched any particular plot is, but they consistent make sure you don’t care all that much. Which is better than a good many network television shows can boast. It’s also why Castle will likely be around for years to come. 

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