Epic. Intense. Heartbreaking. Completely and irrevocably game-changing. I don’t even know where to begin. It’s hard to analyze an episode that is so emotionally hard-hitting, but at the same time there are a lot of amazing elements in “Knockout” that I want to address.
For one thing, we see a whole new side of Kate Beckett. As events unfold, we see her slowly unravelling from the confident and slightly cocky cop at the beginning to the ragged, vulnerable Kate at the end. I knew we were in for quite a ride when her reaction to McAllister’s prison murder was not despair, but steely, hardened determination. It was actually kind of creepy to see that she seemed glad when McAllister was killed because it gave her new leads to follow – as she says, “I’ve been going to that prison every week for the last four months to have a staring contest with the devil, and the devil just blinked” (Great writing, Will Beall!).
Even though she’s emotionally invested in the case, Beckett still has her wits about her, at least at the beginning of the episode. She pulls Castle to the ground during Lockwood’s arraignment just as the flash bang goes off, somehow piecing together the staged break-out based on the police officers’ collar pins. There’s an amazing shot of Beckett stumbling disoriented into the hall of the courthouse, falling to the ground only to discover Lockwood’s discarded prison shackles. Picking up on S’s analysis, the direction, sound, and editing of this scene really convey the jarring confusion that the flash bang generates, with Beckett trying desperately to fight the sluggishness in order to pursue Lockwood.
The difference between that Beckett and the one we see in her apartment having a revealing shouting match with Castle is striking. Though Castle begins by imploring her not to throw her life away on this case, he is led (almost goaded) to address the hitherto unspoken aspects of their relationship: “We kiss, and then we never talk about it. We nearly die frozen in each other’s arms, but we never talk about it”. I’m glad that he actually came out and said it! Castle goes on to confront Beckett about how she hides in insincere relationships, and in her mother’s murder because she’s afraid of who she is without it. The mounting tension as the scene progresses is visible on both of their faces as they dig themselves deeper and deeper into a hole. It’s probably become evident that we here at The Viewing Party are big fans of face-acting, and this scene provides a lot of great examples: there’s Beckett’s betrayed look when Castle tells her to walk away and Castle’s frustrated head-jerk after she tells him they are over, as if to say, “fine, be that way, arrrrrgh, I’m going to go throw a glass at a poster!”
Once Beckett’s called it quits with Rick, she’s surprised at the lack of resistance from Montgomery over Castle leaving. Though she professes her desire to have Castle kicked out of the 12th precinct, it certainly looks like she expected (and wanted) more of a fight from her captain to keep Castle around. She’s reluctant to believe that Castle can be out of her life so easily, and reluctant to admit her reluctance. Cue the second of Montgomery’s three moving speeches, this one telling Beckett that he will stand with her in the fight. Beckett is mostly silent throughout the scene, but Stana Katic’s face speaks volumes as she absorbs Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s well-delivered words.
The most heart-wrenching scene for me was Montgomery’s death and the events leading up to it in the airplane hangar. The way the beginning of the scene played out – Beckett receiving the text from Ryan and Esposito, Montgomery pulling out his gun – ramped up the tension to epic proportions. But the moment that I started trembling was when Beckett realizes that Montgomery brought her there to bait the murderers; that he’s planning to save her and make his last stand there. Beckett’s increasingly desperate pleading and her refusal to accept Montgomery’s final decision is devastating to watch. Although I agree with S that Beckett was in some sense letting herself be taken from the hangar by Castle, I also think that nothing could compel her to leave Montgomery’s side except being bodily carried away from him. Her echoing, harrowing sobs as Montgomery prepares to face his killers are enough to start the tears flowing. Stana Katic pulled out all the stops for this scene, and the result is an emotional, raw, utterly shattering performance. Am I the only one who thinks that someone seriously needs to give that woman an Emmy? I saw an interview with Katic (watch it here) in which she said that all the characters are pushed to extremes we have never seen before in this episode. That is certainly evident in Kate’s refusal to accept the Captain’s sacrifice, in her passionate desire to save him, and in her useless struggles against Castle’s arms.
Montgomery, standing alone, redeems himself in an amazing final scene, shooting about four of Lockwood’s henchmen in the blink of an eye, and ultimately killing Lockwood himself before dying. When Beckett and Castle hear the final gunshot, Castle can no longer prevent her from running back to the hangar. There’s a beautiful shot, almost a tableau, of Beckett kneeling, weeping, over her Captain’s dead body. Again, I have to mention the phenomenal directing of this episode by Rob Bowman.
At this point, I also have to give kudos to Max Martini, the actor who played Hal Lockwood. He is a truly terrifying villain, beginning in “Knockdown” and only increasing the scariness factor in “Knockout”. The way Lockwood kills McAllister in prison and stands, triumphant and blood-spattered, over his dead body is chilling and gruesome. And when he enters Montgomery’s house carrying a teddy bear, we really get the horrifying impression that Lockwood will stop at nothing to achieve his mission. Plus there’s something about his voice that just sends shivers down the spine.
And now for the final scene, which was so moving, surprising, and again, heartbreaking. I couldn’t restrain a gasp when I saw that glint of metal in the cemetery. We see Beckett through the sights of the gunman and realize, like Castle, a split second too late that Kate is about to be shot. As she lies on the ground bleeding, Castle pleads with Kate not to leave him, at which point I started yelling, “Say it! Say it! Aww, he’s not going to say it!” And then he did! He said it! I think this was such a great decision by the creators of the show; it demonstrates the continuing character and plot development over the course of the series. These aren’t stagnant or perfect characters, they’re flawed people who grow and change as their relationships strengthen. Compare “Knockout” to the pilot episode or even the season 2 finale…it’s a pretty huge difference (and I thought Castle walking off with Gina was a cliffhanger!) Now I know we all want Castle and Beckett to get together in a real way, not motivated by tensions from external conflicts, and certainly not taking advantage of each other’s compromised position. But given Castle’s talk with his mother (great performance, Susan Sullivan!), I think he might have said those three important words to Kate anyway. She just happened to get shot before he did.
Other favourite things:
- I was strangely happy and felt almost triumphant when I noticed that Beckett wasn’t wearing heels in the hangar scene
- Esposito was cutely proud of Beckett’s sharp shooting skills – she didn’t let Lockwood’s helicopter get away without leaving some bullet holes in it
- Great acting from Judith Scott who played Montgomery’s wife. Not just in the funeral scene, but the scene at home as well
- Esposito’s split second of recognition when he sees Montgomery in the photo at the bar, before Yanavich says his name out loud. You can see him putting it together in his head and then completely refusing to face it
- The “check it again!” scene at the precinct
How do you think the writers will resolve Beckett getting shot? (I think we can all agree that she’s going to live.) Who shot her? Will she remember that Castle told her he loved her before she lost consciousness? How will their dynamic change now that those words have been spoken? And I’ll say it again, where is Doctor Motorcycle Boy? He has to get the boot, and in my opinion it can’t happen soon enough!