It is always fun to solve a locked-room puzzle, even a deadly one, and The Blame Game delivers on that premise. The clues are intriguing and the interpersonal dynamics are tense and yet entertaining. Meanwhile, watching the supporting characters attempt to solve the case of the murder of the week as well as the whereabouts of Castle and Beckett was refreshing. This episode gave all of the characters a chance to be an active part of the story.
As a standalone episode, this is great. However, within the overall continuity of the show, it presented some problems. Namely, Castle and Beckett are supposed to be separated in public. Yet the killer selected them as a couple, so said killer either has not paid attention to recent news (probably looking up families on Google) or is smart enough to see through the ruse. The former makes sense, and as the episode is fine by itself, I can presume that is indeed the case. The killer googled Castle and Beckett and discovered that they were married, but not that they were separated. Separated is not divorced, after all. It is reasonable to assume that they still care about each other.
More poignantly, the episode focuses on a character who feels cheated by the systems that were in place to protect them in childhood. Police and school officials neglected to press charges. By the time the episode takes place, it is too late for the killer to come to reason and realise that not only had their abuser regretted their actions, but so did the officials, and the media could have been helpful instead of a hindrance.
That is the tragedy of abuse, particularly child abuse – the victims lose trust on top of everything else that they endure. It is all the more difficult for them to overcome that loss, as they are always seeking out ways that others might be trying to hurt them.
Moving into an arc that will delve into the LokSat mystery, And Justice For All has Castle working undercover on a case for Beckett. He infiltrates the victim’s English as a Second Language class to determine who might have had a grudge against the unfortunate man who ended up in a tank full of venomous snakes. Like earlier episodes this season, Castle and Beckett were both working the same case separately, with Beckett trying not to let Castle get on her nerves. It is clear that they miss working together, and so while the episode itself was fun, it was also painful in that regard. Much of this season has felt like a dark twist on the classic episodes. I am tired of them working “separately but together”, as much as I would be tired of visiting a couple who is living separately together, just too proud to get a divorce. Castle is increasingly buffoonish, even if he comes up with brilliant ideas. This arc about LokSat should have opened the second half of the season after Christmas, not waited a few episodes in.
On a truly serious note, human trafficking is discussed, albeit from an unusual perspective. The killer and his accomplice trafficked illegal immigrants back to their countries of original, or at least to border detention centres, and got paid per head. Human trafficking is still human trafficking, however. People-smugglers are still smugglers, no matter how legal they may think their scheme.
For a second time, Castle found himself investigating in Los Angeles in G.D.S.. Unlike in the third season (which seems like years ago!), now Alexis and Hayley were by his side, Beckett nowhere to be found.
I must be one of the few fans of the show who actually likes watching Hayley and Alexis. Alexis is acting overly mature for her age, or at least dressing like it, but she feels that she has meaning in her life now. Plus, it is much easier for her to keep an eye on her dad! Hayley is funny, independent, and practically the female version of Castle. The relationship between Castle and Hayley is very different from that between him and Beckett. While it is revealed in this episode that she is “fond of him,” it remains primarily a platonic affection. Watching the two of them is more like watching siblings or, indeed, normal co-workers. But it is hilarious!
I also enjoy watching Hayley and Alexis together – they are sarcastic, capable, and able to work together to get on Castle’s nerves. Honestly, the dynamic between the three of them is enjoyable. I did not miss Beckett in this episode. I would likely miss her after a second hour’s absence, but G.D.S. was a refreshing change. After all, while the show is named after Castle, it has never really been about only him. This episode is reminder of why the initial premise of the show included Beckett. While Castle as the private investigator is a lot of fun, it is unrealistic and seems to lack significant depth. It is not the same show at all.
However, for a standalone episode, the investigation in Los Angeles was intriguing and entertaining. We are treated to two mysteries – one of which is the standard catch-the-murderer variety, which is solved, and the second is Castle’s disappearance from the end of Season 6, for which we learn more details but do not get closure to. Watching Castle and Hayley (with help from Alexis) compete to solve the case of the week with a guest star was enjoyable because they were like two schoolkids, giddy and excitable. Hayley is the professional, but even she acts before she thinks, particularly where Castle and Alexis are concerned.
Furthermore, the clues to Castle’s disappearance are integrated well into the episode and do not drastically affect the pacing of the story, so the entire hour is entertaining and enjoyable. There is just the right number of dramatic twists to surprise the viewers – hopefully for the better. It is a pity that this episode was not placed chronologically earlier in the season, perhaps right after the Christmas holiday break. In fact, if this and the previous episode had opened the winter half of the season, there would have been more time to salvage the storyline. As it is, Castle seems destined to end this year having muddled its way through the past season, never really finding its way.
However, it would not be all that bad if we were left with the impression that while Castle and Beckett are still solving crimes together, Hayley and Alexis are keeping the private investigation office open.