Next week is the finale of Castle season five! I can’t believe there’s only one episode left! After last night’s episode I’m sure some fans are worried! It certainly looks like it’s trouble in paradise. Still, I don’t think Andrew Marlowe is setting us up for total heartache. Some interesting questions have certainly been raised though….
COMING UP – SPOILERS FOR “THE HUMAN FACTOR”
I can tell that there’s a lot more interest in what’s happening with Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) and boyfriend/partner Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) than the case, but I do think the case is worth looking at, because the subject matter is relevant to current US affairs. Besides, between the opening and the ending, I’ll bet half of you don’t even remember the case!
“The Human Factor” was written by the brilliant David Amman – which immediately put Castle fans on notice that the case would not be your “normal everyday” murder. He’s done six episodes for Castle – including this season’s After the Storm” & “Target” – all of which have dealt with large issues or government conspiracies. “The Human Factor” is no exception.
Even if you didn’t know who the writer was, the opening would have clued you in. It starts out innocently enough, to the tune of a Robert Duncan arrangement of sad wistful piano and strings, a child’s toy glider plane sails through the air to land with a bump against a man’s shoes. The man, (James Stellos) picks up the plane, hands it to the child and smiling, watches him skip away with his mother. As the man continues along his way, he notices a black car with tinted windows that causes him some concern. He walks to his car, gets in, looks in his rearview mirror at the black car again, and then his car blows up.
It cuts directly to Nathan Fillion saying, “An explosion! Is this incoming artillery fire coming from above?” He’s lying on the floor, playing with a remote-controlled tank on a realistic-looking playfield of desert sands on top of his plush pile rug. It’s a fantastic transition from the crime to Castle’s loft, for many reasons.
The playful mood continues as Castle maneuvers his remote-controlled tank – complete with a camera hookup so he can see where the tank is even if the tank is out of view – into his bedroom, just as Kate Beckett walks out in nothing but a leopard print cami and black undies. He watches her (so we watch her) toss a shirt on his bed, where there are several other shirts lying, as she holds one against her, Castle yells, “If you’re to decide what to wear, just keep wearing what you’re wearing now…or…less.” Beckett quickly figures out that he’s watching her with the tank and calls him a “pervert” before throwing a shirt over it. Before much else can be say, Beckett’s phone rings in the living room with Castle. Beckett yells for him to answer it. It’s the precinct about the car bomb.
The crime scene is unusual because it’s crawling with military people in helmets and machine guns. For the record, in NYC they could get there that fast as they’re a low-key but active military presence in the city ever since the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Even more unusual is the sight of the blown up car being hoisted away on a lift. Detective Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) is already on the scene, and tells Beckett Federal agents have seized the vehicle Beckett tries to get information from the person in charge, an Agent Guerrero from Homeland Security (Jed Bernard), but in the words of Esposito – they are “iced out.” Detective Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) comes up to tell Beckett (and Castle) that witnesses saw the black car staking out the one that blew up, but Homeland Security won’t let the detectives talk to them either. Not that it would matter, as they wouldn’t say anything anyway, not even when Castle tries to joke with them.
Beckett, as we know, is impossible to deter, so even with no body, crime scene or witnesses to the crime, she’s not going to stop trying to solve the murder. She takes note of a dark-haired guy wandering the crime-scene, but before she can pursue asking him any questions, Esposito comes up with the victim’s wallet – blow half a block clear from the car. Dale Tanner – whose last act of kindness was giving a kid back his toy plane.
Dale Tanner turned out to be a government whistle-blower who ran a website where he’d post sensitive information that he felt the public should know. Obviously, the government was not happy with him and according to his wife Beth (Catherine Dent) and son Sean (Shane Coffey) Dale was often under surveillance Recently, it had gotten so bad he’d moved to their rental place in Queens because he was concerned for their safety. Sean is an angry teen who tells his mom they shouldn’t even be talking to the police since the government killed his father. Back at the precinct, Beckett figures out that the bomb had to have been placed in the car earlier and discovers that a motorcycle was seen leaving his garage at 1am. They quickly track down the owner, a Monica Lane (Amanda Tepe) who works for one of the companies Dale Tanner had been able to discredit. She seems to be a likely suspect, but alas, Monica L’s only crime was having an affair with Dale. It’s not the wife either, who had just learned of the affair, but failed to mention it in the interview with police. Well, there’s the reason for the wistful look he gave the mother and son.
At that point, Ryan interrupts the investigation with some intense news. Despite all the feds blocking and stone-walling,the police Crime Scene Unit (CSU) uses what little evidence they’d gotten – a few very specific type of metal fragments, and the placement of the explosion – to figure out that the car wasn’t blown up. It was hit from above by a missile launch from drone – a remote-controlled military airplane.
I’m going to stop with the scene-by-scene recap for a bit, because within these three scenes – less than 10 minutes in – are all the major talking points of the case. Now I can point out the levels of foreshadowing David Amman has set up: the toy plane landing at his feet, Dale Tanner giving the plane to the boy and smiling wistfully at the mother and son, Castle playing with a remote-controlled military vehicle and asking if the bombing came from above, and then using said vehicle for something inappropriate. I also want to take note of how Red Carpet Luke dressed the victim in a black shirt with a bright red long tie, which looked like a red slash down the middle. Talk about marked for death!
After a useless trip to a military base, orchestrated to find out where the police evidence was – so the federal government could seize it, they identify the man Beckett saw at the crime scene as Omar Dixon (Hrach Titizian). With some questioning of Dale’s son Sean, Beckett is able to meet up with the guy in the park. The results…are more fun to watch:
It turns out the guy following Omar is Agent Jared Stack (Carlos Bernard) he’s a special investigator with the Attorney General’s Office in washington D.C.. While Beckett is forced to release him she actually bargains with the attorney general so that Stack has to answer her questions. Stack, who had said she wouldn’t be getting any answers from him, seems to actually admire the move, explains who he is and why the situation is of great concern. They are aware that it was a drone that took Tanner out, but the government didn’t do it. Castle suggests the drone had developed a mind of its own – which gets an Esposito “you are insane” look. Stack informs the group that although the drone that killed Dale Tanner was government-owned, during a routine testing flight someone had managed to take control of it and used to kill Tanner.
Agent Stack isn’t about to let them help with the investigation, but he does say the only person known who could create that kind of software is a guy named Simon Warburg (Eric Lange) who’s been in hiding for the past year. Of course, Beckett and the guys look him up. It turns out Warburg actually designed the drone software, but then sabotaged it. Castle weaves a story about Warburg creating a thinking drone army and that he was planning to take over the world. Esposito does a classic face-palm.(Jon Huertas is hilarious in these little bits!)
Instead, Warburg is concerned about his own invention being turned into a drone army and being able to kill US citizens. The topic has been a hot one in the US, as drones have been used increasing in overseas military situations and the argument involving a possible attack of US citizens on American soil, has been heated enough to have delayed the conformation of CIA director John Brennan. Currently there is no US policy that directly prohibits such an attack. Warburg outlines a scenario where the government could in fact have its own drone army patrolling the US.
Castle and Beckett are able to find Warburg by realizing the significance of the books behind him in his webcast. They are all rare first editions, so they track down the sales, which eventually leads them to where Warburg’ been hiding. In a nod to the famous 1940’s film “North by Northwest” Castle and Beckett are attacked by a drone aircraft buzzing and shooting at them. Beckett takes the drone out – although Castle insists that he did in order to make up for the fact that he ran the night before when Beckett made him think his own remote-controlled military toys had come to life and were attacking him.
Warburg sabotaged his software because in fact, Castle really wasn’t far off. While current drones are in fact controlled by a real person – like Castle’s toy tank – the software he’d been working on wouldn’t have human pilots. They would be completely run by artificial intelligence (AI). The story he tells is compelling. A drone strike had been ordered on a car that intelligence operatives said held three enemy combatants. However, the drone’s pilot noticed that the back of the car had a row of red dots on the back and aborted his mission. The car was the wrong one and instead held a couple who’d just gotten married.
In his quest to stop the USA drone program, Warburg created a software that could hijack control of a drone. He’d wanted Dale Tanner to post it on his whistleblower website and had sent him a copy, but Tanner said it was too dangerous to have “any idiot with a computer” able to hijack a drone and had sent it back. After Tanner wa killed he checked the flash drive he’d gotten back and realized someone had made a copy of the software.
From here things wrap pretty quickly. Stack had used Beckett to find Warburg, which Beckett realizes after the fact, but she tells him Warburg didn’t kill Tanner. They think it’s Omar, Tanner’s assistant, who’s now on the run. Stack is able to use his fancy federal facial recognition program to spot Omar at JFK getting on a flight to Beirut, and then uses his fancy federal connections to have the plane that took off an hour prior turn around and come back to New York.
Stack let’s Beckett do the interrogation, since she led them to Omar. As he watches her through the one-way mirror, he remarks to Castle on just how great Beckett’s technique is. Castle laughs and says, “you don’t know the half of it.” He turns to look at Stack, but Stack’s eyes are glued to watching Kate Beckett do her interrogation…
The problem is – it’s not Omar either. Beckett believes Omar when he says he didn’t even know what was on the flash drive, and asks if anyone else had access to the flash drive. The only other person was Sean Tanner – Dale’s son. The angry teenager, who resented what his father’s work had done to him and his mom, completely snapped when he learned about his Dad’s affair. He’d taken the software, found out where his father was, and killed him. Dale’s concern about any person with a computer having access to software begin dangerous turned out to be prolific, as was Ryan’s earlier comment asking if they were looking for a 14-year-old with a computer.
That’s the end of the case – but not the story. It’s the end of the story that has Castle fans absolutely terrified about the season finale. “The Human Factor” ends with Stack telling Beckett about a job offer, doing the same work he does – in Washington D.C. Beckett plays it cool, but the agent does has Beckett pegged right. Here’s the ending, it’s worth watching because it’s good to realize just how torn up Beckett is over this.
I love how Stana played this, and to me it held a certain continuity. The last guy who asked her questions about her future ended up kissing her, so when Stack starts with his “where do you see yourself in five years” Beckett is like ice. That kind of situation she had with Eric Vaughn would not be happening again! It’s after he says that he used to work homicide that she stops to listen to him. Throughout the episode, Beckett’s been having it thrown in her face just how much more you can get done if you’re law enforcement with the federal government rather than the state. Hearing him say he used to be a police officer peaks her interest, even though she’s keeps her guard way up. It’s a great scene, and the tension Stana brings to the room was intimidating to me – and I was just watching.
Both actors did a terrific job in the scene, I can see the exact moment Stack correctly reads that Beckett is not trusting his intentions and thus decides to change tactics. However, it’s not just the actors that make it work. When you look at these intense one-on-one Castle scenes – there’s a good chance it was directed by Bill Roe, who has among his Castle credits last season’s “Undead Again” and most recently, last week’s episode “Still.” Enough said.
Now, I am not discussing the promo in this article, but I am going be going over a lot of Caskett and why it’s best to not flip out over this episode’s ending. First of all, just like last week, it appears that Beckett has moved into Castle’s loft. Especially with that opening where she’s got a bunch of her clothes on the bed while trying to figure out what to wear! She also has no problem with him answering her phone anymore. However, the episode’s ending says that technically she has not moved in. Castle says, “How about a glass of White Zinfandel when we get back to my place.” In other words, Beckett still has her place. I think it is safe to assume that she’s not spending a lot of time there – since half her wardrobe has migrated to Castle’s loft.
Beckett not being officially moved in, but, basically moved in, points to the kind of limbo she mentions in “The Squab and the Quail.” Stack’s job offer makes the issue even more urgent, because while another man wouldn’t make her consider leaving her current situation, someone offering her a dream job might. What Martha said about the ring on her finger still applies . If she was engaged to Castle, if they’d talked about the future, about having kids or not, etc, this offer might not tempt her, (unlikely it wouldn’t though, I’ll get to that) and even if it did, she wouldn’t have the kind of hesitation about talking about it with him because she’d have a sense of stability that existed beyond the day-to-day.
This isn’t to suggest that Beckett is considering leaving Castle. It’s that she’s unsure of what that suggestion of change in the status quo would do their relationship. In theory she and Castle could keep dating if she took the job. It would mean leaving the precinct, not working with him any more, and having a commuter relationship, but it’s certainly doable. After all, Castle’s rich and can basically do his work from anywhere. Plus D.C is just 4 hours by train and a hour by plane. Nevertheless, it would be a huge change, and she has no idea what he’s thinking about them for the long-term.
After Castle makes the comment about how one person sees roses and another sees a chance to move on from a past life – he heads off for a shower, inviting Beckett to “join him.” Why the heck did he say that? My thought is is Castle is a observent man. He saw how Stack was watching Beckett work. His causal comment asking what Stack wanted to talk to her about – right after that statement – makes me think he has an idea what Stack wanted to talk about. Meanwhile, watching Kate sitting alone on the couch you can tell she’s miserable about the whole thing. The offer has stirred up parts of herself she hasn’t thought about in a long time. She’s not ready to talk about it with Castle because really, she doesn’t want to think about it at all. Look at how long it took for her to admit she wanted to be with Castle. Ironically, if not for Castle, Beckett would never even be considering Stack’s offer.
Before Kate’s mom was killed, she wanted to be a U.S. supreme court justice. She was that smart and that ambition. After her mother’s murder, she narrowed her world down to one thing: finding her mom’s killer and bringing them to justice. It’s Castle who helped open her back up to the larger world, and set her on the path to let go of her mom’s death. He’s also been the one that has helped her get a lot of actual closure on the case. She now knows exactly what happened and other than Senator Bracken, everyone associated with the Johanna Beckett murder is dead, including Dick Coonan, whom she herself had to kill in order to save Castle’s life.
Now that she’s let her past go, and opened up to loving Castle, all that she was before her mom was killed, is available to her – including her ambition to make a big difference in the world. The thing is, until Stack made that job offer, I don’t think Beckett even realized that she wanted and needed more jobwise. She became a police-officer to help victim’s like her and solve her mom’s case. The latter is pretty much done, and the former is very much like her Christmas tradition of working Christmas Eve: a penance for a crime she didn’t committed and a balm for a wound that has largely been healed – only she hadn’t noticed.
The question is, now what? Realistically speaking, if Kate’s not at the precinct with Castle following her around there’s no more show. Likewise, if they broke-up it would be a hard sell to have Castle still following her around – he tried that last season and it definitely wasn’t working for him. It’s safe to say Beckett isn’t moving to Washington D.C. and Castle will still be following her around on cases for the 12th.
Now this part is all just speculation and theory. Show creator Andrew Marlowe has done a lot of episodes involving federal agents,spies,etc. We’re got Bracken owing Beckett a favor, Castle’s dad as fancy CIA agent and Marlowe talking about the finale “opening up a lot of complex interesting storylines.” What if Beckett does become more than a police officer, but not by moving to D.C.? For instance, what if Gates is actually an undercover federal agent investigating police corruption in the NYPD and Beckett ends up working under her in that capacity? I say that because Gates is always talking to some federal agency and getting information. In other words, what if there’s a way to expand Beckett’s job without her permanently leaving NYC or the precinct? I mean at this point Castle and Beckett have saved the city from a nuclear explosion and saved the world from starting World War III – how far-fetched is it to Beckett to become an undercover fed?
Marlowe likes to work with the complex questions of relationships, and this work one definitely qualifies. I think the question of the finale will be what Stack asked Beckett: “Where does your heart lie.” Well, we know Beckett’s heart lies with Castle, and Castle’s is with Beckett. Vaughn tested Beckett emotionally and woke Castle up to realizing that he’s been taking Beckett being around for granted. This issue will challenge their working relationship – and ask make them both talk about what is it they really want from their personal one. Really, this is what Marlowe’s goal has been throughout the run of Castle – showing a more honest road to creating a permanent loving relationship. It’s a road that is challenging, even though it is always moving forward. Speaking of “Always,” I suspect this season finale will likely be even more of an emotional rollercoaster than last year’s – but look how that one ended. As Castle said a long time ago, “The heart wants what the heart wants.”
Any thoughts about “The Human Factor” and where we could be heading next week? Do share them in the comments section – but no spoilers please! I’m so excited for next week’s finale – and also really sad. It’s the last new episode of Castle until the fall and season six! We all know that there’s going to be a season six. The show gets over 10 million viewers a week! Both Castle and Caskett have a bright future ahead of them!