First of all, let me say that I have always been a supporter of Ryan and Esposito. They’re loveable sidekicks of Beckett and Castle, but they’re also complex characters that have developed over the course of the past three seasons. “Kick the Ballistics” demonstrates that, even though Rick and Kate are at the centre of almost every episode, Castle is so much more than a two-person drama. Castle’s family at home and the boys at the 12th precinct (including the late Captain Montgomery) round out the show, and this week’s episode was Detective Ryan’s time to shine.
In 2×21 “Den of Thieves” we got a great Esposito storyline, and Jon Huertas skilfully showed us some of the depth, strength, and vulnerability of his character. After that, it was only a matter of time before Ryan became the focus of an episode. And after a couple of somewhat lacklustre episodes, at least in my opinion (read our reviews here and here), a Ryan-centric narrative was just the ticket! “Kick the Ballistics” sets the stage for an exploration of Ryan’s identity as a cop when his gun, which had been taken from him by the Triple Killer, is used in a homicide. He can’t forgive himself for allowing 3XK to steal his weapon and badge (even though it clearly wasn’t his fault) and launches into an emotionally-charged investigation to find the killer.
We can see Ryan’s anger and guilt building beneath his usually composed exterior, finally leading him to lose his cool while interrogating suspects. I really thought Seamus Dever did a fantastic job conveying the difficulty of the journey that Kevin Ryan undergoes in this episode. From disbelief to frustration to desperation, Seamus hit all the right marks. We gain insight into Ryan’s character often just through a flicker of not-quite-controlled emotion or a line delivery that betrays the turmoil that is raging inside him. Like in the season finale, Seamus proved in “Kick the Ballistics” that even in a short amount of time, he can make the audience understand and empathize with his character.
Ryan’s friends at the precinct, including Castle, also witness his instability and try to support him in the ways that he needs. While Beckett isn’t afraid to tell Ryan to back off, or to break up a fight between him and Carver in the interrogation room, she’s also there for him professionally and personally. She accompanies him on an investigation, leaving Castle to sift through reports and Esposito to follow up on another lead. We don’t often seen Beckett and Ryan working alone together, and I thought it added a compelling new dynamic to the show. One of my favourite scenes of the episode involved Ryan in the break room telling Beckett a story about his experience as a rookie narcotics cop. We learn a lot about Ryan in this little snippet: he doesn’t forget his mistakes and certainly tries to learn from them, but also holds himself responsible for them.
Esposito, as Ryan’s police partner, also provides support and I think Jon Huertas continues to bring a lot of depth to the Ryan-Esposito relationship in an understated way. We gain insight into both of their characters when they are apart as well as when they are together; Esposito telling Castle about his reaction to a car backfiring after coming home from Iraq was another small but moving moment. He shows his empathy and love for Ryan, but we also see that he himself has undergone intense trauma. And I absolutely loved the scene when Esposito follows Ryan out of the precinct, promising to accompany him on an unauthorized job. As partners, they will be there to support each other no matter what impediments they may face. It was a nice parallel to a similar scene in “Den of Thieves”, in which Ryan declares that he will be with Esposito “’til the wheels fall off”.
So basically, Beckett was right in “Knockout” when she called the 12th precinct team an “immediate family”. I can certainly see a brotherly-sisterly bond between Beckett, Ryan, Esposito, and Castle. They back each other up, play with each other, annoy each other, and ultimately love each other like family members. And that, my friends, is what an ensemble drama is all about!
Other things I liked:
- One of the few funny things in this dark episode was Esposito’s outrageously awesome undercover outfit and attitude. Jon Huertas must have had fun with that!
- What was with Beckett’s T-Rex claw as she left Gates’s office? Watch that scene again and look for Beckett’s manner of closing the door, it’s pretty funny…
- In an episode about family, I thought Lanny Joon and Tim Jo, the actors who played the brothers Philip and Ben Lee, were excellent. Their dynamic worked really well, and if you throw Seamus Dever into the mix, you’ve got some exciting TV!