Castle season 8 episodes 13 & 14 review: And Justice For All & The G.D.S.

Castle enacts another Firefly reunion as Summer Glau appears in season 8 of the Nathan Fillion-led detective show...

This review contains spoilers.

8.13 And Justice For All & 8.14 The G.D.S.

I’m playing a little catch-up this week, after a bout of flu, and Castle had two interesting if flawed episodes to get me through at least some of the Nyquil-infused twilight.

And Justice For All is one of the sub-genres of Castle that I both love and hate. As an American, I appreciate anytime a show that doesn’t have to takes on a political issue and does something enlightening with it. And a few months ago, the topic of illegal immigrants being extorted to avoid deportation, and a sitting judge making kickbacks off funnelling those immigrants who cannot afford the payments into the private prison industry, was one that might have seemed, in my country, like it would have met with universal condemnation—and thus being a politically safe one to base this week’s mystery in.

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But to my nation’s shame, the recent scenes at Donald Trump’s rallies belie that assumption. Apparently, there are far too many of us who might see nothing wrong with the mistreatment and for-profit incarceration of people.

So, though I might have thought that Castle’s approach to the issue of illegal immigration lacked sufficient teeth and complexity a few weeks ago, now I’m convinced that there is a substantial enough portion of my countrymen that need reminding of the simplistic lesson of the basic humanity of all people, that the English-as-a-Foreign-Language classroom background—and its sometimes stereotypical inhabitants—largely worked. Especially since, if there was cliché that was over the line, it was the one person who wasn’t supposed to be an immigrant: undercover American Castle himself (played, too heavily as a French-Canadian sophisticate to be ironic, by Edmonton prairie-raised Canadian Fillion).

Luckily, whatever might be trite about their characters is largely counteracted by the way the classmates work together to stymie the FBI who are trailing the offending judge. Their timing and humour are winning. Unfortunately, there isn’t any such charm to counteract Castle’s terrible fake accent, though watching Hayley gun him down late in the episode does help relieve a little of our annoyance. And while the ending is as predictable as always, there are enough twists and turns along the way to distract us at times from the inevitable conclusion.

A couple of other things jumped out at me about And Justice For All, and I’m not sure if they are intentional or not. The first is not only the open admission that Alexis is all but running her father’s business at this point (with some amount of help from Hayley—though it’s unclear how much) but the way she is doing it. While she and Hayley are quick to point out that they are handling actual cases when Rick pines for something exciting, Alexis telling her dad that everything he’s suggested it straight out of “1940s gumshoe novels.” And she does it while wearing a nicely tailored menswear look that seems influenced by the same period. Are father and daughter really both just playing—in different ways—at being detectives?

The second was the reaction of Esposito and Kate when Vikram asks, “Who’s the sexiest digital investigator alive?” Yes, we are supposed to find his comment hyperbolic, but the response of the other two should provoke us to laugh at Vikram. Instead, their shockingly flat response just makes us feel uncomfortable but not sorry for him. Is it possible that the writers have picked up on many viewers’ outright dislike of Beckett’s supposed partner?

But while we are on the subject of associates, the following episode, The G. D. S., takes us back to a question that has been plaguing me all season. What the hell is Hayley’s reason for hanging around the detective agency or anywhere else Castle-centric?

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I think part of the reason I’ve been so frustrated is because I like Toks Olagundoye. Bringing on someone that beautiful and with that kind of comedic timing and presence, and then giving them nothing to do, is just a ridiculous waste. So when, in the midst of my cold-medicine-induced waking coma, I saw Hayley sitting so apparently threateningly in the back of Alexis’ rental car just after the younger woman had uncovered evidence of a connection between this new presence in their lives and her father’s mysterious disappearance, I bolted up in bed and yelled out, “Finally!” sending myself into a coughing fit that had my husband both laughing and exhorting me to breathe as I tried to get out the importance of the moment between lung-ripping hacks.

This, I thought, this is going to be a great thing—so great that the actual case (the death of Phillip Harris), and even the appearance of Firefly’s Summer Glau as rival detective Kendall Frost, virtually faded into the background. We’ve been wondering for forever when happened in those lost months for over a year now. All we really know is that whatever it was involved the CIA, a secret mission to Thailand that foiled an Al Qaeda attack, and was so bad that Castle knew he had to walk away and not try to ever again uncover the truth—a truth he intentionally forgot and went to great lengths to insure remained buried.

So while the G. D. S. (Greatest Detective Society) double-killer plot would have more than enough to keep our attention under normal circumstances, the allure of learning more about such a secret coupled with the possibility that sunny Hayley might actually have been a bad guy this whole time was just too delicious to spare much of our focus.

It was well set up, too. The fact that they had come to Los Angeles specifically to track down a lead that cropped up in And Justice For All signalled to us that there must be some revelation about his disappearance to be expected in this episode. And Hayley’s seemingly calm and wise advice to Alexis—who very much looks up to the more experienced detective—about letting sleeping dogs lie when the clever daughter finds an even better lead reassures us that Hayley is just looking out for Castle. So we are truly caught off guard when Alexis looks in her rear-view mirror after leaving Malcolm McCabe’s aunt’s house.

Honestly, my somewhat violent reaction to that moment had more to do with my excitement that the writers had just stepped way outside their safe zone. If Hayley was a bad guy, there had to be a pretty good reason for her to have been keeping such close tabs on Castle and company and from such a public viewpoint. While the Castle writing team has strung its myth-plots out for years, they’ve never been particularly well-conceived or complicated—their success has been in the dribs and drabs by which they have come out, like a puzzle that sits forgotten on a table most of the time, worked at only a couple of pieces at a time. If anything, it’s more of an event when the last piece is placed, simply because it feels like there’s been so much more time invested in it. So for Hayley to turn out to be a traitor and at what promised to be a spectacular level had me salivating.

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I should have known better.

Even by the time that she tells her non-story—that she was, like Jenkins, just doing what Rick (and his father) had asked her to do—we can already see the writing on the wall. So when, after apparently talking Rick down from pursuing the mystery any further, he changes his mind and she (a little too quickly) reveals that he did leave her with one clue, we now know that it’s not really going to go anywhere, at least not anytime soon.

I will give the writers credit for finally giving Rick the right reason to walk away. As long as he thought his own life was the only one in jeopardy, his inquisitiveness was always going to get the best of him. By having his pre-amnesia self report that it was actually Kate’s life that was in danger, he has just about the only motivation that would keep him from proceeding. He’s sacrificed a lot more than his curiosity for her.

So it seems a bit odd that, after placing those couple of pieces in the forgotten puzzle, they’d follow it up so quickly with his realization that his actions got Beckett’s team killed. First, the logic of this seems a little murky. I’m happy to be corrected, but this seems a leap at best. But it is compelling. Certainly, Castle is a compassionate enough guy that the deaths of Kate’s team are going to weigh heavily on him and he’s not going to be able to walk away now. So second, why, from a narrative perspective, if you wanted to drop the LokSat storyline (say, for the first half of the eigth season) and had the perfect way to get the character to ignore it, would you not use it until you actually were ready to pick up that plotline again?

But, then, that’s Castle for you. I guess the real mystery at this point is whether we will ever see that final puzzle completed. While The Powers that Be at ABC say they want to keep the show around, the ratings are pretty dismal and neither Fillion nor Katic have signed on for another year yet. It would be the ultimate irony if, after wrapping up the whole Joanna Beckett/Bracken storyline so beautifully at the end of the sixth season, they resurrected it only to leave us forever hanging…