Episode 23: The Human Factor
By: Carlos Uribe
Castle is a show about a mystery writer who helps his lover solve crimes.
Castle is not always a very realistic show. This really shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, the premise of this show is that a worldwide best-selling author would help the police solve crimes. He might have his reasons (love of mystery and love of Beckett) but it's doubtful that he would have been allowed to shadow a police detective for over a hundred cases in the real world. The whole point of fiction is willing to suspend your disbelief for the sake of the story. The show has been able to get away with a lot over the years but sometimes I must question the credibility of a case. Take this week's investigation: it's over a drone strike that killed a prominent government critic. Federal agents quickly show up at the crime scene and start gathering all evidence. They take the car away and don't let CSU get their hands on the body. They threaten to arrest any cop who gets in the way of their investigation and basically take it over. In the real world, this would be the end for any local detective to help out on the case. They would cede jurisdiction over and go to the crimes that they are supposed to solve. In the world of Castle, this possibility doesn't even exist. Beckett treats this case like it's always her and she's determined to solve it no matter what. It's a sign of her desire to put away criminals but it's not her case. When the federal agents came, it was no longer her job to investigate. The series might be about a group of cops but it has very little respect for rules or laws. Esposito has already been shown to be willing to break the law or regulations in order to get the desired effects. Beckett and Castle are likewise willing to bend the rules to catch the killer. There's a moment where Beckett notes they can't enter a person's property because of a gate but Castle's advice is to pretend to not see the signs. Really? I don't think that would hold up in court. I don't think I'll every understand this show's flippant disregard for the legal system.
I'll admit that, while I had to accept that Beckett would treat this investigation as her own, the set-up of the case was pretty intriguing. It looked a lot like a cover-up which had me wondering what exactly happened. It turns out this wasn't a cover-up but a legitimate investigation by a special federal law enforcement branch. They simply didn't want anybody else getting involved since they wanted to keep the investigation as neutral as possible considering how the target was on the watch-list of other federal agencies and the New York City Counter-terrorism Unit. Beckett is only able to get them to co-operate with her when she arrests the lead agent and basically refuses to free him until he tells he everything she knows. They're able to figure out that the government played no role in the murder because the drone was hacked. The one person they believe is capable of hacking the drones and having the software to drive them turns out to be innocent. He's a bit crazy because he believes that allowing the government to have drones will allow it to control the lives of citizens through fear. He does reveal that someone does have the code and it turns out to be the son of the victim. The son wasn't happy because his dad made his life miserable, never spent any time with them, and had an affair. He had motive and the opportunity so he took it. The kid gets arrested and the case is solved because of our detectives. The son as the killer felt like a sudden move by the writers. It might be because the kid couldn't sell the anger he was supposed to have but it felt like he was chosen because the other suspects were red herrings and the show needed a real killer. So it simply chose at random. I'm not sure but more could have been done to paint him convincingly as the killer.
Beckett was able to solve the case and this impresses the federal agent. The agent works for an investigation group right under the Attorney General. He thinks that Beckett is too good to be just a homicide detective and that she would want cases with higher stakes. He decides to offer her a job. She has to interview for it but there's no doubt she would get it if she applied. She decides to think about it and then later lies to Castle when he asks her what the agent talked to her about. The question we're supposed to be asking is whether or not Beckett will accept the job offer. I sincerely doubt it. This is an offer that's exclusive to Beckett which means Castle wouldn't be able to tag along. Guess whose name is the title of the show? Castle. If she accepts this job then it would basically break the structure of the show. He's investigating crimes because he's in love with her and their rapport makes him good at it. Sure, he could stick with Esposito and Javier but it just wouldn't be the same. No offense to those two characters but they're not developed enough that the show would be able work with just the three of them while Beckett is in a federal agency. It's not like Castle can just follow her and if he could then what would happen to Esposito and Javier? This is the kind of job offer that comes along to threaten to disrupt the status quo. She might even accept it as a small twist that the writers later find a way to get out of. This is a decision that she supposedly grapples with in the season finale but it's hard to really care when you know that it doesn't matter. For the sake of the show's survival, there's no way the show is going to permanently have her join a federal agency.
The Human Factor is largely a good episode of Castle. It's flippant disregard to laws and rules become apparent this episode but the case is interesting enough for it to be forgiven. The killer felt forced rather than organic, seemingly picked because the writers had run out of characters. The job offer towards Beckett at the end would disrupt the status quo too much to really be an effective build-up to the finale. The episode might have it's flaws but it was an entertaining one.