For those keeping track, this is now the third ep in a row that I genuinely enjoyed, something I was a little nervous I wouldn’t get to say again after the first chunk of the season. This hour had a few things going for it: great focus and pacing (and barely an acknowledgement of Castle and Beckett’s faux separation), another opportunity for Alexis to be in the thick of things, and most of all, an exceptionally gripping case.
Longtime Castle fans know that this show prefers its murder with a side of comedy (last week’s ep was a great example), and because of that it’s easy to forget that it also does murder with a side of creepy really, really well. And the creepy was on full display in this one: Odd, ritualistic symbols? Check. Disturbing experiments on children? Check. Booby trapped classrooms? Check. There was also the “hunt or be hunted” aspect that upped the stakes considerably, especially as Castle and Beckett took on the leader role in their respective rooms. The dual setups was a twist that I didn’t see coming, and the timing of that reveal was a particularly strong part of the episode. There were at least a few segments there where I wondered if Kate had been kidnapped alone or was mounting an attack from the outside, making her appearance at the corner of Castle’s screen that much more haunting.
I also liked that, because of their situation in this one, Castle and Beckett both got to show off their intelligence, as well as their other similarities. For example, Castle figuring out how to get the poison antidote, and Beckett removing bullets from the gun as soon as she saw it. I did have to laugh a little at how casually Beckett disarmed Meadow, though I guess knowing the gun was empty probably did give her a bit of confidence. This hour also showed how in sync are favorite duo is, with both escaping at the exact same time, knowing in advance who the mastermind was, and sharing the sense of honor and bravery that made them stay behind while the others went free.
The only real weak spot of the case for me was the killer himself, who I picked as soon as I realized that he didn’t have a loved one in the next room. I also thought his vendetta against Kate was a little tenuous (though at least Castle pointed out the ridiculousness of it). And did they ever say why he chose the other people? Luckily, the questionable motive didn’t decrease the tension in the episode at all, so it didn’t bother me nearly as much as it could have.
It’s been really nice to see Alexis so involved in cases this season, and she played a big role in this one, working out the finer points of what happened to Castle and Beckett on her own, with a helpful assist from Hayley here or there. Her reaction to finding Castle was totally sweet (great work by Molly C. Quinn), as was Ryan/Espo’s declaration (I honestly can’t remember which one said it, apologies!) that they’d had their best guy on it.
Afterwards, we had that nice little scene with Alexis and Hayley, and I liked that Alexis acknowledged her very understandable concern for her dad there. I had to laugh at the “he gets abducted like twice a year” line, just because I love it when shows get a little self-referential. Girl’s got a valid point.
However, much as I liked the content of that scene, I’m still a little torn on Hayley’s role in Alexis’s life. I love the character of Hayley, I really do, especially considering how short a time she’s been on the show. She’s cool to the point where I want to be her friend, so I totally understand Alexis looking up to her and the two developing a sort of big sister/little sister bond. I think that’s a great thing for Alexis to have in her life. My only issue with it is what it’s meant for Alexis’s relationship with Kate this season. Or at the very least, what it’s meant for what we’ve seen of their relationship on-screen.
To be clear, there’s totally room for two badass ladies in Alexis’s life. I think she has unique, valuable relationships with each of them. The problem is (and correct me if I’m wrong on this) we haven’t had any solo scenes with Alexis and Beckett this season. Any conversations like the one in this episode, that she potentially could have had with Kate, she’s had with Hayley instead. And I wish that the writers were continuing to develop Kate’s relationship with Alexis at the same time as hers with Hayley, instead of focusing on one over the other.
It’s always been kind of an awkward situation with Kate and Alexis: it would be weird if Beckett was the one taking her to clubs, but Alexis is also too old for them to have a traditional stepmother/stepdaughter relationship. And then of course the separation muddled their relationship even more, since Alexis no doubt has some feelings of animosity towards Kate for hurting her dad (the same way she did in season 4). But that’s actually why I wish they’d had more scenes this season, because it would have been a cool way to show that Alexis has grown to love Kate independent of her relationship with her dad, which I think she definitely has. They settled into something really nice the last couple of seasons (Kate giving Alexis advice on Pi/moving back in was especially sweet), and it’s been kind of a bummer to see that ignored so far this season, especially when they’re devoting a fair amount of time to her relationship with Hayley.
What are your thoughts on this ep? Am I just being nitpicky about Alexis/Hayley/Beckett? Let me know in the comments!