Castle: The Human Factor

The penultimate episode of season five of Castle, “The Human Factor,” was a great example of a big standalone case that nevertheless opened the door for the conflict to come in the finale. We open with Castle playing with a tiny remote control tank with a mounted camera that lets him watch Beckett get dressed, which sounds extremely creepy but only comes off as slightly creepy on screen. But it nicely sets the stage for this week’s case.

Dale Tanner, owner of the site Whistleblower Anonymous, is killed in what seems to be a car bomb, but the feds show up and seize the vehicle before the NYPD can properly investigate. Being shut out of the investigation at every turn, of course, only makes Castle and Beckett more determined to solve the case. Tanner’s wife and college-aged son Sean claim that the government had been harassing Tanner and presumably killed him before he could reveal certain documents on his site. And when CSU tells Beckett that Tanner was actually killed by a drone, not a bomb, government involvement becomes all the more plausible – though Beckett objects that “huge bureaucracies don’t act with that kind of efficiency.” For once, though, Castle is a little hesitant with the conspiracy theories: “I just don’t want to believe my country could do something like this.”

Beckett and Castle visit Fort Drum, where they are again told that all information is classified, so they get Sean Tanner to set up a meeting with Tanner’s former student turned IT assistant Omar Dixon. Dixon claims innocence but says people have been following him – which is how Beckett catches Jared Stack, a special investigator for the Attorney General’s office. He begins to work with them, reluctantly, and shares some new information: The drone was military, but someone hacked into it to make it target Tanner.

Stack suggests the involvement of Simon Warburg, a software engineer who designed drone software for the military, became disillusioned, and went off the grid. The team traces him through his rare book collection, and when Castle and Beckett ignore a “private property” sign to try to find Warburg, they are themselves targeted by a drone. They shoot it down, which is pretty awesome, but it turns out that Warburg was firing blanks to scare them. Warburg himself shows up, and admits that he created the drone-hacking software – but he gave it to Tanner to post on his site, in hopes that having the software out there publicly would make the government stop using drones. Whoever killed Tanner copied the software from the flash drive Warburg gave him.

Omar Dixon is the obvious suspect – especially when he tries to flee to Lebanon, where he has dual citizenship (and where there’s no extradition agreement). The Attorney General gets the flight recalled to JFK, but Dixon claims innocence and says he was only running because he thought that the people who killed Tanner would come for him next. But after all this, the real motive was much closer to home: Sean found out that his father was cheating on his mother, after she’d stuck by him through years of government harassment, and used the software Warburg gave Tanner to kill his father himself.

At the end of the episode, Stack tries to recruit Beckett. “I see bigger things for you.” “Who says I want bigger things?” It’s an interesting question, because now that her mother’s case is solved, Beckett’s main motivation for becoming a cop is much less compelling. Stack tells her about a job opening working with him for the Attorney General, and Beckett turns him down (and doesn’t tell Castle about any of it), but she’s clearly thinking about it. This is clearly preparation for a conflict in next week’s finale, and I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I’m all for character growth, and it’s perfectly reasonable for Beckett to be thinking about her future. On the other, the promo for next week (which could, of course, be misleading) sets this up as a decision between the job and Castle, which doesn’t make a lot of sense: First, we know Beckett won’t actually be leaving the show, so to some degree it’s false tension. And second, Castle works from home and has plenty of money. Unless there’s something completely different going on (which there could be!), there’s no reason why Beckett taking a job in DC would mean the end of their relationship. I don’t think she will take the job, but I don’t see why she couldn’t. But I guess we’ll find out in next week’s finale, “Watershed.”

(Image courtesy of ABC.)

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