Target: In-depth Analysis
Andrew Marlowe said recently that they can only do Alexis’ kidnapping one time in the series or else risk the cheese factor, and boy did he and his team take advantage of this one-time-deal in “Target.”
What I really enjoyed about this episode is that it set up a lot of tension to be resolved, either in the next episode or the rest of the season. There were several pivotal relationship and character moments in this episode, and if I thought “Recoil” was full of material to mine, “Target” might have even more of it. “Target” is more subtle with some of the issues it brought up, but that subtlety is what makes it so much fun to analyze.
Playing a character like Richard Castle, the opportunities for Nathan Fillion to delve into the darker emotions of the human psyche have been limited. We know just what Mr. Fillion is capable of from previous glimpses, but “Target” gave him an opportunity to really put his character on display, and Nathan delivered in huge ways.
I’m really close with my parents, so maybe that’s why the genuine family moments were one of the big selling points for me when I first started watching Castle. Without Martha and Alexis, especially early in the show’s run, we wouldn’t see who Richard Castle truly is behind closed doors. Without them, we wouldn’t have the Castle that we know and love. To date, the moment in “Countdown” when he comes home after the freezer incident and sends Martha and Alexis to the Hamptons has remained one of my favorite scenes of the series. The brave front he puts on for them, then the look of absolute anguish as lips quiver and his eyes water when they leave… It was almost physically painful to watch it.
Similarly, the scene in “Target” when Castle arrives at the van and sees the smear of blood all along the bottom has got to rank up there in the absolutely excruciating moments of the show. There’s no other word for it. It just…hurt.
Beckett tries to distract him, and Lanie has a wonderful moment trying to protect him from the sight of the blood in the van, but it’s all for naught. To see Castle so worked up and distraught… It was a powerful thing.
“I didn’t think you had that side to you.”
Castle’s “appeal to the humanity” in Douglas Stevens is perhaps one of the most cleverly written scenes of the episode. Not because Castle essentially physically tortured a man for information (though seeing BAMF Castle always sends tingles down my spine), but because of how it got to that point.
First, there’s the trust. Castle lets Beckett do her thing first, and when that yields no results, Beckett doesn’t hesitate to let Castle be alone with Stevens. As a cop, she knows what’s going to happen and that, really, she shouldn’t leave Castle in there like that, but she knows that this is what Castle needs to do. And so she turns her back on something ethically questionable for Castle’s sake. But that flinch when Stevens starts yelling? This moment will haunt her because this is a step taken that can’t be undone. For better or worse, this moment will change both of them.
Second, I thought this was a great scene because of the build-up of Castle’s character from “Recoil” and even from “Probable Cause.” In the latter, we saw him shoot the crap out of 3XK to protect Beckett, and in the prior, we had him basically telling the Senator that he would gladly watch him die without lifting a finger to stop it. This is the kind of character development and payoff that I enjoy. We were treated to glimpses of this darker to Castle in earlier episodes, and now that the situation is dire, he proves that he’s not just talk. He will quite literally do whatever it takes for his loved ones.
A long time ago, I mentioned that Castle has the type of personality to get lost in his own rabbit hole, and I think we’re beginning to see the makings of it. This isn’t something I expect will turn up too often (and it shouldn’t), but the fact that there’s this aspect to Castle is fascinating to me.
“Don’t. Don’t promise me you’ll find her unless you can do it because… I would never forgive you, any more than I’d ever forgive myself.”
From a story-teller’s perspective, these are the kind of lines that I wish I’d thought of. In fact, with respect to the development in the rest of the episode, this single line is perhaps the cornerstone upon which Castle and Beckett’s relationship builds.
It hurts so freaking much because Castle refuses the comfort Beckett’s trying to give, but at the same time, he’s trying to protect Beckett and their relationship from the potential fallout even as his mind is consumed with worry for Alexis.
Don’t promise me, he says, because if you promise me this and we don’t get Alexis back, I won’t be able to get over it. I won’t be able to forgive that lie.
It’s even more agonizing because on Beckett’s end, she interprets this as saying she needs to prove through her actions that they’ll get Alexis back since Castle won’t listen to her words. Personally, I see a definite correlation between this phone call and how she handles the case and Castle. She becomes more detective than girlfriend because she thinks this how she can help.
Gah, everything about this scene is just painful in all the best (worst) ways.
Beckett is caught in a difficult place. She has to be the settled one, the logical one because that’s the best way she can help Castle get Alexis back. But at the same time, she’s so torn because she just wants to make the hurting stop for him. She tries to ground him through physical touch, through her words, but nothing can help heal the broken parent’s heart. She’s helpless and that helplessness is evident throughout the episode. And this is almost as heart-breaking to me as Castle’s anguish in the episode. She sees the man she loves going through this ridiculous trial, and she just doesn’t know how to make it better.
She tries so hard to help in the only way she knows how, but she can’t help but feel like it’s not enough.
And this resonates so strongly with me. So many times in the past, Castle has been Beckett’s rock and source of comfort, but now that the situation is reversed, it’s almost like she doesn’t know what to do.
“We’ve done it before with less to go on. You know who told me that?”
I love love LOVE how Beckett brings this back up. It’s a sign that she’s learned from him, that she takes comfort in his words and in the history of their partnership. And now that it’s Alexis at stake, she’s begging him to find hope in them and who they are. Because together, they’ve overcome the impossible before, and surely, they can do it again.
This moment is also a tad bittersweet because finding Alexis and making this terrible situation right is the only thing Beckett thinks she can do to help. I can’t help but wonder if maybe, just maybe, she could have been even more of a healing balm to him if she’d stayed beside him—a comforting presence for him to turn to in the night when the nightmares come.
I like how they handled Alexis in this episode. This is the level-headed and mature teenager that we were introduced to way back in the pilot episode instead of the slightly wonky, explore-my-boundaries college kid we’ve been seeing this season. I thought Molly Quinn did a great job with playing Alexis in a situation far different from anything we’ve seen before. There’s a short scene that I really enjoyed in particular. Alexis wakes up to find her and her friend in captivity. There’s fear and uncertainty in her eyes as she scrubs her face, but that brief moment is all she takes to compose herself before she stuffs the rioting emotions behind her to tackle the issue at hand. It was just a fantastic instance of mental fortitude.
Her vlog has been a matter of some derision, and while I do think it’s pretty stupid to broadcast locations like she’d been doing, her last entry really struck a note with me. I remember being that freshman sitting between the columns at majestic Royce Hall with Powell Library just across the way, sunlight slanting down through the quad and glinting off the bursts of water from Shapiro fountain. And I just marveled at the fact that I was there. In many ways, I remember being Alexis, and this connection hit an emotional note that enhanced the episode for me.
It was wonderful seeing Martha be such a rock. She’s such a colorful and eccentric character that we forget that this is a woman who single-handedly raised her son through difficult times. Castle and Martha even got a moment of desperate humor in during dire circumstances, and I love that this mother-son duo are so solid.
Not much to say about Espo and Ryan, but I like how Gates’ supportive side really comes out in this episode and that she notices the physical touches between Castle and Beckett but she chooses not to say anything about it. I think she’s been turning a blind eye to their relationship all along, but I thought that her physically turning away from Beckett holding Castle’s hand in the station was actually a pretty powerful moment. When Gates looks down, she’s almost flustered, like she’s seen something private she shouldn’t have. And there’s something quite touching about that.
Wrapping it up
In conclusion, I thought this episode made huge strides in showing different aspects of characters that we don’t usually see, from Castle to Alexis and even Gates. I’m still a little bit worried about how they’re going to *spoiler?* introduce Castle’s dad in a way that’ll be good enough for all the hype *end spoiler* but if this episode is any indication, I’m optimistic that the writers have some aces up their sleeves.
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