Title The Human Factor
Two-Sentence Summary When the man behind a website famous for leaking government information is killed by a drone, the team at the 12th precinct must work with Jared Stack, an operative put on the case by the attorney general. Beckett’s tenacity and intelligence earn her Stack’s respect as well as a chance at a job in Washington.
Favorite Line “That theory is highly improbable. And coming from me, that’s saying something.” (Castle)
My Thoughts “The Human Factor” was much better than I was expecting it to be. It came on the heels of “Still,” one of the best episodes of the season and was originally supposed to follow, “The Squab and the Quail,” which was one of the worst. I was worried that it was going to bring Castle and Beckett back to an angst-filled place in their relationship before the finale, but I am so happy to say that my worries were all for naught. Instead, we saw them as flirty, fun, and united as ever. I’m happy that the obstacles coming their way in the finale are external ones, and they’re believable ones. After so many seasons of seeing how good Beckett is at her job, it felt right to see her offered a chance at something bigger. This episode did exactly what it was supposed to do—it made me excited for the finale while standing on its own as a solid episode with a very strong case at its center.
This was probably one of the most interesting cases Castle has come up with this season. I found myself drawn to the more “procedural-ish” (I love inventing words!) aspects of this episode even more than I was drawn to Castle and Beckett’s interactions, and that only happens with the most compelling cases. I think what made this case stand out were the guest actors. From the son’s palpable anger over his father’s abandonment (and its reflection of Castle’s own abandonment issues) to Stack’s journey to respect Beckett and her abilities, these characters felt like real people with real emotions and believable motivations for their actions.
The case itself also raised some interesting questions about national security, the use of drones on American soil (and abroad), and morality in general. I love when this quirky little show gets serious because it does it in a natural way. There’s never a “very special episode” feel to it (except maybe when it comes to the Johanna Beckett case); it’s merely a matter of reflecting reality: Sometimes life is funny and light, but sometimes it’s serious and makes you think about things much bigger and more complex than your world usually is. I’m not always a fan of episodes where the 12th precinct deals with federal agencies (Season Four’s two-parter was not a favorite of mine), but the conflict in this episode felt real and understandable from both sides.
I think the real reason I loved the case so much—more than its complexity or its great guest actors—was because it allowed Kate Beckett to shine. Beckett is extraordinary for so many reasons, but it should never be forgotten that one of the first things Castle (and, by extension, the audience) came to love about her was just how good she was at her job. When I watch other characters come to admire Beckett’s skills as a detective, I feel like a proud mother. Beckett is my favorite character on TV for so many reasons, but one of the first things that stood out about her was that she was allowed to be exceptional at what’s typically known as a masculine job, and those exceptional skills were what attracted Castle to her as much as her looks.
Interrogation scenes featuring just Beckett alone with a suspect are some of my favorite Castle scenes because Stana Katic owns the interrogation room set with a presence unlike anyone else on TV. As Stack said in this episode, silence is a powerful thing, and she uses that power to her full advantage. The way the tension builds in those interrogation scenes just through Katic’s body language and tone of voice puts me on the edge of my seat every time. She doesn’t have to be loud or overtly threatening to be intimidating, and I love that. Watching interrogation scenes like the ones with Stack and the victim’s partner in this episode reminded me that I would never want to face Kate Beckett in an environment like that.
While Beckett is truly a force to be reckoned with on the job, I loved how that aspect of her personality was balanced by some wonderful playfulness and banter with Castle throughout the episode. Yes, she’s a woman who excels at making hardened criminals break and breaking cases wide open with ferocious tenacity, but she’s also a woman who plays “Rise of the Machines”-style pranks on her boyfriend in the middle of the night. That was one of my favorite moments of the episode because it showcased the easy, effortless comedic chemistry between Katic and Nathan Fillion. These two can be incredibly passionate together, but they can also be incredibly playful, and that playful side is so much fun to watch. It came out again through some fantastic banter and snarky one-liners, which reflected a major theme of this episode: These characters are still the same people in so many ways from Season One. Beckett is still the tough cop who’s great at her job and gets annoyed when Castle gets ridiculous. And Castle is still the overgrown little kid spouting crazy theories just to get a reaction from the pretty girl he’s working with. The differences between their Season One selves and their Season Five selves is the fact that they’ve grown together—the eye rolls and the name-calling are laced with love now. (Anybody else get a kick out of Katic’s perfect delivery of “Pervert!” when Castle was using his tank to spy on her?)
For as serious as this episode was, it was also a lot of fun. Castle’s theories are always great, but what I love most about them are the reactions the rest of the team has to them. I laugh every time I see Ryan nod along with him while Esposito rolls his eyes. The dynamic between all four characters has never been better than it has been this season. Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas have been fantastic even in their smallest moments. With each perfectly in-character background reaction, they’ve built a rapport and a sense of realistic camaraderie that make this show special. They are without a doubt a family, and they’re a family I hope doesn’t get broken up by a job offer in Washington.
While I loved Beckett finally getting professional recognition for her extraordinary skills, I find myself hoping she doesn’t get the job or decides not to take it. Yes, she deserves it, but I think she would miss the direct contact with the victims’ families. From the beginning, we’ve seen that her ability to relate to them has been one of her best traits as a detective, and I can’t help but feel like she would miss that personal connection if she took this job with the government. Plus, from a purely selfish standpoint, I would miss seeing her interact with Ryan and Esposito on a constant basis.
Notice how my reasons for not wanting Beckett to take the job have nothing to do with her relationship with Castle. I know “The Squab and the Quail” was supposed to make us question the commitment each of them have to the relationship, but I never doubted that commitment for a second in this episode. I honestly think “The Squab and the Quail” doesn’t fit in at all with their interactions in this episode. It feels as if that episode was the one thrown in at the last minute instead of “Still.”
I think Beckett didn’t tell Castle yet about the potential job because she wasn’t even sure herself what she wants. And something that will always be true of Beckett is that she keeps things close to the vest—even though she loves Castle, she’s not getting a total personality transplant. (Thank God!) I’m intrigued to see where this new twist takes their relationship next week, but I’m even more intrigued to see where it takes Beckett as a character. Her growth has always fascinated and inspired me, and this is another chance for a big moment of character development. It’s the kind of character-driven cliffhanger good finales are made of, and I’m more excited than ever for next week to see how it’s going to be resolved.
Just a little note for anyone wanting to comment on this review: I know a lot of people (myself included) are trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible for “Watershed,” so if you could either refrain from posting any spoilers in your comments or put a warning about spoilers before writing any, I would greatly appreciate it!