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Murderboard: An Author's Perspective on Castle - Episode 4.09





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EP. 4.09: "KILL SHOT" / BEST OF 
"CASTLE & BECKETT NEED TO FIND A SNIPER WHO IS TERRORIZING NEW YORK CITY, AS BECKETT BEGINS TO EXPERIENCE INCREASINGLY STRONG MOMENTS OF PTSD."
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..IN A NUTSHELL..
Gripping, heart-wrenching, pivotal... What a performance from Stana Katic - and what a scene between her and Jon Huertas.

[Please note: the main theme of this episode - PTSD - is very personal to me. As a result, this review will contain some comments based on my own experience]
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..DRAMATIC HIGHLIGHTS.. 
So many in this episode...
• The opening scene. -- The blood from the sniper's victim splattered all over her friend's face. Gory, disturbing. Sets the tone right away.
• The first hints. -- All the small details paving the way for Beckett's full-blown PTSD:
1) The way she touches her chest when looking at the first victim - "Bullet wound straight to the heart..." -, followed by the way she looks at the blood trail, her eyes lingering on it.
2) In the morgue: "Did she feel it?"
3) Looking at her scars in the mirror, touching them.
• Beckett's first PTSD episode. -- The cinematography was great (see below), combining sounds and camera movements to create a disturbing/disorienting atmosphere. The sound of the car door being slammed feels like an opening salvo, and things escalate from then on. Beckett is no longer the "detective leading the charge". She's out of breath, struggling to find her words... rattled, jumpy, confused... And talking from personal experience [see author's notes] this is the first of many scenes that portray extremely well what PTSD feels like. -- Beckett diving for cover when she hears the siren almost comes across as over-the-top on the screen, but this is one of the classic reactions in real life. Just as people looking at you, baffled, not getting what's going on.
• Beckett, in her own world, at the precinct -- Another very authentic scene. Feeling cut off, scared, confused. Almost like being stuck in a parallel universe, unable to connect with others or even hear them properly... -- Beckett snapping at Castle as he tries to comfort her was a first key moment: very unlike Beckett, highlighting how affected she is. And the line "Well, I'm not anyone" was brilliant, leading us right into the next scene: Beckett's not only confused and scared, but also mad at herself for not being able to control what's happening to her. 


• The first therapy session. -- Brilliant. Stana Katic nails every single beat in that scene, both in terms of physicality and emotions.
1) "I don't have PTSD." - The way she delivers that line, angry and dismissive at the same time: great choice.
2) Her hand movements as she says: "I need to figure out how to make this stop."
3) Her body language as she paces the room, turns around, and sits down - elbows on her knees.
4) "I don't have time to get all weepy over a couple of scars." - Again great choice in terms of line delivery: matter-of-factly, almost flippant.
5) "You don't think I can handle this?" - Absolutely love the tone here. The half smile to start with, the taunting attitude. This is the Beckett we know, but Stana Katic manages to add another layer to her: subtle, edgy, slightly disturbing. Fascinating to watch.
6) Holding her head in her hands. - Not like you've seen it a thousand times before on a screen. More intense, heartfelt, visual. Even before the great line that follows, you know it’s a pivotal moment. You know Beckett is about to make a dreadful decision. -- One of the things that always impress me on Castle, is the cast's ability to convey a lot with very little, and often without words - and this moment is a classic example.
7) "You know what? I'm fine." -- *Perfect*. -> The line. The delivery. The shock effect.
• The elevator scene. -- Beckett scared, hyperventilating, her hand shaking... You can see the physical effects of what she's experiencing, but also sense her frustration as she tries (and fails) to keep things under control. - Especially liked Stana Katic's facial expression as she steps out of the elevator. Like Beckett's going into battle.
• Apprehending the suspect. -- Beckett freezing, as she's supposed to follow Esposito inside the elevator. Just like at the second crime scene, 'zoning out', short of breath. Very strange and powerful to see her so still and silent.


• Interrogating the suspect. -- So much intensity in that scene, and just like the first therapy session, Stana Katic delivers both in terms of physicality and emotions. The finger pointing, the threatening voice, her body language... Again, this is the Beckett we know, owning the space (physically and mentally), but she's way more aggressive and predatory than usual. Nathan Fillion and the guest star are also great - one concerned, the other one standing up to Beckett - both contributing greatly in terms of overall effect.
• Night / PTSD. -- Beckett is barely recognisable when you get that first glimpse of her in her apartment: drunk and terrified. First of several "short and powerful" scenes build around a strong performance from Stana Katic and great cinematography.
• Beckett's bandaged arm. -- Very visual. Liked the shot when she pulls her sleeve down to cover it, hide the blood stain on it. In a way, it reminds us that Beckett is physically hurt (i.e. the scars we can’t see) and makes her look physically more vulnerable.
• Beckett running towards the new crime scene (right after all the phones start ringing at the same time). -- Blue light and silence ('white noise' effect). Her silhouette, still, surrounded by blurred movements. Very artistic and gripping sequence.
• Beckett breaking down in the corridor. -- Heartbreaking, beautifully shot and scored. One of these perfect scenes you will remember for a long time. The way she strips away her jacket, her gun, her badge... Leaning against the wall... Brilliant performance from Stana Katic (yet again: physicality + emotions). Another "short and powerful" scene.


• THE RIFLE SCENE. -- Honestly, one of the best scenes I have ever seen on screen: absolutely heart-wrenching. - Stana Katic and Jon Huertas deliver such an outstanding performance... This is way more than just a scene, more like one of these 'magic moments' only a few actors (and production team) can create.
1) "It's the rifle... that shot you" -- The beat made that line so much more powerful.
2) "You are way out of line." -- Beckett starting to break. Hard to watch.
3) "What the hell are you doing?" - Incredible performance from Stana Katic at that very moment. Her voice: broken; heartbreaking. The way she steps back. That 100% in the moment authenticity that makes you feel so much. You can sense Beckett's fear, her despair, all the pain she's been bottling up for so long. And when the dam breaks, it's such a unique moment...
4) "Javi, I'm fine." - Heartbreaking. The way that single sentence was delivered: absolutely gut-wrenching.
5) Esposito's speech about the rifle: extremely well written and delivered by Jon Huertas. Especially liked the way he says: "It's a hunk of steel." and "It's just a guy. With a gun.".
6) "He's damaged goods." / "So am I." -- Stana Katic's performance is so raw. The way she barely articulates the words, the long beat before she does. Everything is brilliant: the emotions on her face, her body language (hands in pockets), the moment she starts crying. -- No way you cannot cry, and/or *really* feel something during that scene!
7) "You think it's a weakness, make it strength." - Not only a beautifully written and delivered line, but also so very true.
8) Beckett finally grabbing the rifle. -- The music (*excellent*). The close-up of Stana Katic's face, looking away, crying... Her fingers tentatively touching the weapon, holding it... -- Such a powerful scene.



• The ladder. -- Yet another "short and powerful" scene. Love all the different layers, combined in 30 *seconds* or so! 1) It's a key moment plot-wise: Beckett realizing the suspect must have a physical disability. 2) Very visual: the rooftop, the camera angles, the rifle. 3) Believable: climbing a ladder is not something we've seen Beckett do since the shooting; uses very specific muscles/movements. 4) Another gripping performance from Stana Katic: Beckett's pain, anger and frustration are perfectly conveyed.
• Confronting the sniper. -- Great action sequence (searching the building), followed by a very moving one (Beckett pleading with the sniper). - And the two combined create a highly satisfying conclusion to the "case-of-the-week". Such endings are often a big let-down (rushed and/or clichĂ©). Here, we have another very emotional moment with Beckett opening-up, vulnerable and scared. -- "You think my life is a picnic?"... Showing the sniper her scar, pleading for her life... Stana Katic was brilliant (once more) at creating a heartbreaking Beckett: exhausted, overpowered, letting it all out... - The ending of the scene also offered a nice parallel: Beckett hurt, and saved, by a sniper. So glad the creative team didn't opt for a "happy" ending here. Much more powerful that way.
• The last therapy session: outstanding and pivotal scene. Last few minutes of Stana Katic's amazing work on that episode. -- The way she delivers: "I want to be more than who I am." was so heartbreaking... The therapist talking about her mom: "She's dead, Kate. You can't let her down."... Beckett crying... And the final exchange: "Are you ready?" / "Yeah, I think I am".  -- Perfect ending to a perfect episode.


..FUNNIEST MOMENTS..

Despite the overwhelmingly dramatic tone, there were still some light-hearted moments:
• "Roger" -- Castle teasing Beckett about her "mystery man". Nice banter between the two, but also great way to (re)introduce Beckett's injuries. "Sometimes, the scar pulls a bit" was the last time it was mentioned (in "Kick the Ballistics") and that small scene gives out two key pieces of information: 1) Beckett is still seeing a physical therapist, and by her own admission, is still not physically 100% - something that will pay off in the "ladder scene"; 2) the actual theme of the episode is revealed: "strength/weakness". -- Writing exposition scenes is often one of the hardest parts of a writer's job. Here, it's done elegantly.
• The word "sniper" (in the morgue) -- Great ensemble scene. Really liked Esposito and Lanie bickering and blaming each other, and the way Nathan Fillion's delivered: "Even I noticed". The tone was also spot-on. You could feel how much these characters care about each other. Beckett: "You guys, you don't have to avoid the word on my account." was kind of playful (Beckett is more touched than mad). The other three trying to protect her was sweet. Lovely interactions all around.
• "She's never snapped at me before." -- Castle talking about Beckett and Esposito giving him one of his "looks" (Jon Huertas should trademark them!)
• "I think I know how to check an alibi, detective." -- Gates to Beckett.
• "Can I just say, this school of yours is worth every penny I paid?" -- Nathan Fillion's delivery was great.

..GREAT CINEMATOGRAPHY..

• The sniper, right before the credits. -- Absolutely loved the editing here, cutting right as we hear the shot. Almost feels like we didn't fully hear it. Very artistic and efficient.
• Beckett's first PTSD episode (at the second crime scene). -- The combination of camera movements (Beckett's POV as she walks towards Lanie, looks up at the surrounding windows, turns around) + the sounds (car door, siren) really create a sense of disorientation and an unsettling/threatening atmosphere. You feel surrounded - inside Beckett's head and watching her at the same time. Again: very efficient. The sound effects also make the next scene at the precinct more powerful: all about silence and "white noise", as Beckett feels cut off from her immediate surroundings, in her own world.
• The therapist's office -- As I've mentioned in previous reviews: *great* set - and very well exploited. These type of scenes (same applies to the interrogation room) are very static by nature, but the production team often finds ways to shoot them in a creative way. Here, really liked Beckett's hand with the therapist in the background. Original way to tie the two in the same shot.
• Beckett breaking down in the corridor. -- This was *so* well shot. The angles, the colours, the out-of-focus ending. Especially liked the shots (fixed) of her jacket and gun landing on the carpet. - And *loved* the music
• Searching the building. -- Beckett running into the building, moving from room to room, looking for signs of the sniper... Quite reminiscent of the scene in "Cops & Robbers" when she scans the blast scene: "X-Files blue light" + kinetic camera movements. Nice touch to opt for a thigh holster and earpiece (very visual).
• Confronting the sniper. -- Beckett's POV as she spots the door ajar, sees the school bus photo on the window... Perfect build-up before the sniper suddenly overpowers her. That sequence was extremely well shot and edited (especially the hand-to-hand combat and the stunt part).

..FAVOURITE QUOTES.. 
• "It could happen to anyone." / "Yeah, well, I'm not anyone." (Castle & Beckett about her 'startle response'). -- Liked how much is implied in Beckett's answer.
• "I don't have time to get all weepy over a couple of scars." -- There was something about the word "weepy" that made that line work especially well.
• "I'm fine. Thank you." (Beckett at the end of the first therapy session" / Followed by "How worried should I be about Beckett?" (Castle at the start of the next scene) -- Nice Q&A the other way around. We usually have a question... answered in the next scene. Here, we have the answer... then the question. Nice writing.
• "You know what I think? I think that you should be on the other side of that barrel." (Beckett interrogating the suspect) -- Really brings home how far out of line Beckett is.
• "Yeah. Like we caught the guy that shot me." -- Quite banal on paper, but the intensity Stana Katic puts in it, and its place in the storyline, made it quite pivotal.
• "You think it's a weakness? Make it a strength." (Esposito during the rifle scene) -- Powerful. Beautifully written and delivered.
• "I want to be more than who I am." (Beckett to her therapist) --  Again... Powerful. Beautifully written and delivered.
• "She's dead, Kate. You can't let her down." (Therapist to Kate, about her mom) -- Anyone who has lost a loved one will know how powerful - and cathartic - this line is.


..SPECIAL KUDOS..


• Stana Katic. -- This was one hell of a performance. Emotional, physical, outstanding throughout the entire episode. There was something really special about the way Beckett was explored and portrayed over the course of this episode. The writing was excellent to start with (how often do you get 90% of an episode devoted to a character study?), but Stana Katic added so much to it. She goes through such a wide range of emotions... - letting us in at all stages. In a way, it was a very generous and courageous performance: raw, heartbreaking. To show that level of authenticity, you do have to be 100% in the moment. Very few actors/writers can do that.
• Production team. -- Another beautifully shot and produced episode.
• The score. -- Thought the music was especially great in this episode. Emotional scenes often get the "soapy" treatment. Here, the score added a special layer to several emotional moments, especially the one when Beckett breaks down in the corridor and the rifle scene.
• Costume design. -- Haven't mentioned it in previous reviews (very sorry about that!!), but Beckett's look this season fits particularly well with the current storyline. It's darker, edgier, more retrained. In this episode it's also used to create some very visual moments -- Beckett's silhouette as she searches the building / Black jacket, hands in pocket, during the rifle scene; black again in the corridor scene / Beckett drunk, terrified. -- Hair, outfits, silhouette... Feels like *everything* is used to enhance what we see on the screen.
• Full cast. -- Even though this is very much a Beckett episode, all the other actors and characters had a great role to play, including the two main guest stars: suspect and sniper.


..CASTLE & BECKETT.. 
Very much a "Castle & Beckett" episode, even though there aren't that many scenes between the two. 
Castle watching over Beckett, trying to give her some space while protecting her at the same time was very well done.
- The elevators scene, when he finds a good excuse for her to stay at the precinct.
- Asking Esposito what should be done to help her.
- Bringing her a *decaf* coffee (funny and sweet).
- Realising, before anyone else, how much the case is affecting her.
 
The last scene between them, right after the sniper's death. - Castle: "Just waiting for my partner. Maybe you've seen her. Pretty girl, thinks she can leap tall buildings in a single bound, carries the weight of the world on her shoulders, yet... still manages to laugh at some of my jokes." / Beckett: "She sounds like a handful." -- So well written and acted.
 And of course, Beckett: "I think I am (ready)", at the end.

..NOT SO SURE.....
Considering the quality of this episode, mentioning anything here would feel like nitpicking...
So, will leave it blank! :)

..TOP 3..
If I had to choose...
#01: The rifle scene.
#02: The therapy sessions.
#03: Beckett breaking down in the corridor
(And if I had more than 3... -- The PTSD, the ladder, the elevator scenes... Interrogating the suspect, searching the building, confronting the sniper... - Such an outstanding episode!)

Agree? Disagree? Leave your comments below!

..AUTHOR..
CAROLINE is the author of a series of thrillers set in Vancouver [ www.seriecsu.com ]. She also writes for a TV magazine: articles, interviews and BTS reports. She currently enjoys CASTLE, FRINGE & THE KILLING.
Author's notes - I started watching Castle for two main reasons: Beckett was in many ways like the main character I had created for my series (a strong, guarded and caring female cop, dealing with a traumatic past... who also happened to be called Kate); Castle was a writer with an overactive imagination (something I could personally relate to!). Over the course of the seasons, I have liked some episodes way more than others, but the show has never failed to deliver some special moments for me - touching, moving, funny... -- The aim of this blog is to share some of my thoughts on the show, via a series of reviews and features. On a more personal note: I live in Belfast (Northern Ireland) where I have witnessed acts of violence such as shootings and explosions - something that has shaped me as a person and as an author. My comments on certain aspects of the show (like the blast in "Cops & Robbers" or Kate's PTSD) do stem from personal experience. 
@murderboard on twitter

Other posts:
Episode 4.09: "Kill Shot" / BEST OF 
Episode 4.07: "Cops & Robbers" / BEST OF 
Episode 4.01: "Rise" / BEST OF 



 





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