I confess, I quite like the character of Hayley. I do not have a problem with her taking on a more active role in the plot or with having her backstory explored. She is a new face and has a complicated past that is interesting to learn about. After milking Beckett’s (and even Castle’s) past to death, someone new is a welcome change – for one episode only, mind you.
Backstabber aired at an unfortunate time. Overall, it was a well-written episode and the acting was superb. Did it stretch the bounds of credibility? Yes, but so have all Castle episodes. Would it have been better to spend more time on an existing regular character? Perhaps, but after a season, Hayley is a regular character, like it or not. This episode allows to her to catch up to the others in terms of characterization. She is no Kate Beckett, but she really isn’t trying to be – and the writers aren’t trying to make her into that, either.
What I like most about the character of Hayley is that she is not being presented as a romantic interest. As I have said in previous posts, her relationship with Castle is more like being his bratty little sister than a lover. She also brings out the playful but capable side of Alexis. I can’t decide whether the writers are trying to suggest that Hayley has a romantic interest in either Castle or Alexis, or whether she is simply supposed to be platonic and familial with them. She certainly comes across as the latter. I like that her character is not a love interest, romantic foil, or eye-candy. While I enjoyed watching the unresolved-and-then-resolved sexual tension between Castle and Beckett throughout the series, it was also annoying in hindsight. Castle was especially annoying – he has mellowed out and matured nicely now and is no longer pursuing the person he is working with. We can go back to solving cases with romance on the side.
Dead Again is an episode that I would like to forget. In it, Castle acts like an idiot and the rest of the characters spend most of the show rolling their eyes at him. It seems more like a self-parody than an actual legitimate episode. There was no chemistry between Castle and Beckett, either – despite them working closely together. I was as aggravated by Castle’s behaviour as the victim of the week was! I couldn’t wait for the hour to end. Of all of the years that this show has been on, this was the first week that I had really felt like I had wasted an hour. Oh well, it had to happen eventually! Over 150 enjoyable episodes isn’t a bad record.
In contrast, Much Ado About Murder once again felt like a classic Castle story. Our lead characters were collaborating (and seeming to have a fun time while doing so), the mystery was about writing and telling a story, the supporting cast got the chance to have a sentimental subplot*, and the viewers could play along to try to solve the murder. After many seasons, Castle-the-writer got to wax poetic about his love for Shakespeare. There was romance, intrigue, crime, action, and suspense. It is a great standalone episode with a high re-watchability factor.
However, there is still a lot of tension in this episode compared to past seasons. Both Castle and Beckett seem desperate to prove how much they love each other. Jokes are not as funny because they are not as secure in their relationship as they once were. It is wonderful to see them reconnect and rebuild trust, but perhaps the real world knowledge that it is almost over clouded my judgement too much.
It is these types of episodes – fun, romantic, a little quirky, and heartfelt – that I will miss.
*I also have to point out how wonderfully the writers have woven Det. Ryan’s relationship with his now-wife Jenny into the main story of the series. Since meeting her in the second season, she has appeared about once per year – sometimes just for a cameo, sometimes for an extended appearance throughout an episode. This week, Jenny got two scenes: one along with Det. Ryan, the other with their children. It was nice to see how much they have changed, but also how normal and constant their relationship and marriage has been over the show. Hence why they don’t appear much, I suppose. It isn’t as exciting to watch as Castle and Beckett’s tumultuous relationship. But the Ryans are a great treat once in awhile – and this episode was a heartwarming send-off!