I've never been a super-regular viewer of Castle, but this season I've been particularly negligent at watching it. I stopped watching after the mediocre season opener, but the promos convinced me to tune in for "47 Seconds." "47 Seconds" was disappointing as well, and I figured I was done for the season. When I heard that Firefly's Adam Baldwin was stopping in for a Mal and Jane reunion, however, I was determined to watch, even if it was disappointing. Luckily for me, it was not.
I liked that the episode paired up Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin rather than simply having Baldwin play the role of a suspect. They work well together, and it allowed them to share a lot of scenes. At the same time, Castle pairing up with a detective other than Kate flowed well with the story (as far as I could tell with having only seen two other episodes this season) and didn't feel like a contrivance solely for the sake of the guest casting. I was hoping for a few more Firefly references, but I only caught one, the "brown coat" reference (although it's very likely that I could have missed additional references). Honestly, however, it may have even been a wise move not to go overboard on the allusions because there have already been plenty on Castle. Additionally, the episode wasn't created solely to placate Firefly fans craving a revival; there are, gasp, some Castle fans who have never seen Firefly.
I also liked the way that Castle and Beckett's relationship drama was handled. The scene with the therapist particularly impressed me because he laid out the obvious notion that Castle has likely been pushing Beckett away in order to deal with her rejection. A lot a shows would have had her struggling over this concept for the rest of the season before even acknowledging that. I'm sure that there will still plenty of will-they-won't-they tension, but that scene gave me some faith that it will be handled well. I also liked that Ryan and Esposito also were dealing with rejection from Castle. It was sweet to see the whole team missing Castle rather than making it solely a romantic issue.
I've long believed that Castle's success lies largely in characters and actors rather than its non-character-related plots. The cases often fail to really grab my attention, and the case in "Headhunters" was no exception to that. It wasn't terrible, but it was forgettable enough that I'd have a hard time repeating it back to you (although my minimizing the screen during some of the case-heavy scenes may something to do with that). It was fun, however, to see how Baldwin's character Slaughter handled the case in contrast to how the cases are normally handled by the regular team.
Another aspect of "Headhunters" that I wasn't crazy about was the Alexis storyline. Alexis is a teenage character that proves they don't have to be written annoyingly, and her and Castle's relationship is one of my favorite parts of the show. I didn't even mind the idea of having a college acceptance letter storyline for her. What I did mind, however, were the heavy handed parallel between her feeling rejected from Stanford after they denied her early admission and Castle feeling rejection from Beckett after she denied remembering his telling her he loved her. I know that Castle has a tendency to draw these kinds of parallels, but this one felt particularly contrived.
Despite a couple of issue, I really enjoyed "Headhunters." I tuned in with low expectations, but I'm definitely glad I watched it. I don't think it was amazing enough to make me start watching Castle regularly, but it's restored some of my faith in the show. I'm definitely going to be more inclined to watch some future episodes.