We’ve been through a lot with Kate Beckett. We’ve seen her investigate and confront the tragedy of her mother’s murder; we’ve seen her endure the betrayal and death of beloved mentors and friends; we’ve seen her survive a near-fatal gunshot wound. But we’ve never seen her like this. “Kill Shot” represents a foray into new emotional territory for the character and the show…and consequently for the viewers. The savvy, self-possessed Beckett we’re used to is reduced to the unstable, out-of-control Kate in “Kill Shot”, cornered by the inescapable repercussions of her past traumatic experiences.
When Beckett and the boys are called on to investigate a sniper murder, the case understandably brings up memories of the shooting at Montgomery’s funeral. While everyone tiptoes around Beckett, avoiding eye contact and the word “sniper”, she maintains that she is perfectly fine. However, we have inklings that she is in no way fine very early in the episode: she clutches her chest when she realizes the victim was shot through the heart, and pointedly asks Lanie whether the victim felt the bullet that killed her.
The first time the other characters really begin to worry, however, is when Beckett hears a siren at the second crime scene and ducks to the ground. I thought this scene was played really well by all the cast members. We feel the wash of embarrassment, surprise, and concern, the awkwardness of the situation when no one knows where to look; to me, this is the moment when the tables really turn in “Kill Shot”. Beckett can’t make light of this or pretend it didn’t happen, especially because she’s just as confused and dumbstruck as everyone else is. She literally cannot control her reactions to triggers like the siren, and much as she might want to move on and ignore it, it’s clear to everyone involved that she is not okay. This also is the beginning of some great eye communication by Ryan, Esposito, and Castle (check out S’s review for more on this, and on Castle’s tough decisions this episode).
“Kill Shot” makes use of a lot of different methods, including the acting chops of the cast, to communicate the feeling of post-traumatic stress. One of the most effective demonstrations of this takes place in the precinct: the cinematography and sound give us a glimpse into the sensory overload that is often a symptom of PTSD. At certain times the voices of other people are muffled and distant, while at other times the noise and frenetic movements of the precinct are amplified. As the action, sights, and sounds get more and more frantic, so does Beckett; she can’t filter out this bombardment of her senses. Stana Katic does a fantastic job showing the escalating fear that envelops Beckett over the course of the episode – at first it is only betrayed through subtle gestures or facial expressions and then becomes overt as Kate is overcome by her own involuntary reactions and emotions.
It’s scary to watch Kate spiralling out of control because we’re so used to her holding everything together, for herself and the victims. Beckett’s breakdown in the hallway after she runs from a desperate and wounded survivor at the third crime scene is a perfect example of this. She is overwhelmed by emotion, but what Stana Katic captured really accurately is the sheer and suffocating panic that comes in waves and can’t be fought off. Kate tears off her gloves and jacket before tossing her gun and badge on the ground and succumbing to the terror. It is as if she is trying to remove both her physical and metaphorical impediments – clawing away her clothing so she can try to breathe, but also shedding her carefully-preserved identity as a cop. It’s just Kate, with nothing and no one to hide behind, alone in the hallway with her grief and trauma.
This upsetting scene is followed by more heart-breaking performances from both Stana Katic and Jon Huertas as Javier Esposito. I’ll leave most of the Espo-Beckett relationship to S, but this was definitely one of my favourite scenes of the episode. It was beautifully played by both actors as Esposito kindly but firmly forces Beckett to acknowledge that the weapon and the person who shot her are not special – they’re fundamentally just a tool and a bad guy. Esposito telling Beckett that the sniper is not some all-powerful god was a nice parallel to Beckett’s earlier enraged interrogation scene in which she furiously asks the suspect what it’s like to play God. And Esposito is really the hero of “Kill Shot”: he makes major headway in solving the case, helps Beckett confront her psychological wounds, and ultimately saves her life by sniping the sniper who is about to shoot her.
There’s so much more to talk about in this episode, but I will conclude with the final Castle/Beckett scene in the precinct. I thought Castle’s way of handling the situation (asking her if she’s seen his partner) and his subsequent description of her was really sweet and also appropriate in the moment. Beckett at first doesn’t seem to want to play along, but finally submits, acknowledging that she “sounds like a handful”. But perhaps even better than the “always” (which of course means “I love you”) is Castle saying that Kate owes him a whole lot of coffee. Since we all know that coffee equals love in the Castleverse, I feel like this is his supportive and gentle way of asking her to reciprocate his feelings. It’s as if he’s caringly saying, “I’ve made it clear how I feel, can I get something back from you?” I think this plus the final “always” makes Beckett start to rethink the barricades she has constructed around herself. When Castle walks away, there’s a split second in the precinct where we see Beckett register the idea that the walls might be ready to come down (which is confirmed in the final scene when she expresses it to her therapist).
In closing, I must say that the acting was excellent in “Kill Shot”, from Jon Huertas’s nuanced performance to Stana Katic’s enormous and evocative range of emotions that can turn on a dime and carry the viewer through all aspects of the story. She really blew me away with this episode!
- S and I noticed parallels to The West Wing episode “Noel” in which Josh Lyman deals with PTSD – both he and Beckett are shot, have some run-ins with alcohol, cut their arm/hand, protest that they’re okay, resist the help of a therapist, and react to sirens as triggers
- Captain Gates pulled a Montgomery in this episode, letting Beckett get away with staying on the case when she probably shouldn’t have. Will Gates turn out to be a Mama Bear to Beckett by the end of the season?
- Other possible titles for this review included “Scars and Snipes Forever” and “Dancing with the Scars”. Too soon?
What were your favourite parts of “Kill Shot”? How do you think the developments of this episode will affect the characters in future? Please share your thoughts and feelings! If there’s one thing we love, it’s having conversations about Castle!