After a rough fourth season, “Castle” has found its footing once again in Season 5 and the show has gone back to what made it so awesome in the first place: the characters. Sure, it’s fun when the cases are interesting and there’s a twist here and there, but for the most part, the reason to watch the show is the cast, the fantastic chemistry they have with one another and the bits of humor and sarcasm that the writers manage to weave into each episode. “The Final Frontier” was the epitome of all those things and very enjoyable to watch.
The episode starts with a simulation of a show called “Nebula 9.” The sci-fi show was over a decade old and had only lasted 12 episodes, but the show still had a huge, loyal fanbase that was excited at the prospect of going to a sci-fi convention to participate in a fan experience (for those who have never been on the internet before, this entire thing was an amusing reference to Nathan Fillion’s experience with “Firefly”). But when the fan experience ended, a dead body was discovered on the set.
Luckily, Castle was already at Supernova Con, signing copies of his graphic novel. Beckett came to get him and Castle was excited about the idea of a sci-fi murder at a sci-fi convention and admitted that he’d thought in the past that it was the perfect setting for a crime when he used to come to conventions with Alexis. But when he hears the show in question is “Nebula 9,” he quickly loses interest because he was not a fan. He’d much rather watch a good sci-fi show like “Star Trek” or “that Joss Whedon one.” Beckett seems disappointed by his reaction, but Castle doesn’t pick up on that quite yet.
The victim is Annabelle Collins; she’s the one who put together the fan experience and she also owns the rights to the show. She bought them cheaply after the show was canceled and then turned it into the sensation that it became. But when she started producing new episodes on the web, fans cried foul and she received death threats. Castle continues to be down on the show and then Beckett runs into a fellow mega-fan, who even has a picture of Beckett dressed up as one of the characters on the show. Castle teases her, but Beckett tells him that she’s not ashamed and she’s proud to be a fan. The case becomes even more interesting to Castle when they learn the victim was killed with a high-powered laser beam.
While Ryan and Esposito interview fans in costumes, Castle and Beckett track down the last person the victim was seen with: Stephanie Frye, the actress who played one of the characters on “Nebula 9.” Stephanie has moved on to become a “serious” actress and she admitted that she didn’t appreciate Annabelle trying to convince her to be part of the fan experience. She wanted to distance herself from the show and the fans and everything else (Side note: How horrible are actors who do this? Stop being so ungrateful and don’t forget your roots, people).
The investigation turns to the show’s other star, Gabriel Winters, who actually has been taking part in each and every fan experience since his career never went anywhere. Annabelle had been angry with him because he’d been late or had showed up drunk or he’d been doing debaucheries in his hotel room with fans. Annabelle apparently threatened to fire him for his bad behavior. As Castle and Beckett walk through the con, he’s stunned to see Alexis there with her friends in a very skimpy costume. Castle tries to cover her up and Beckett pulls him away before he can embarrass his daughter any further.
Castle and Beckett interrupt a fan experience to question Gabriel. They want to see his stun gun and when he won’t drop his persona, Castle grabs it and fires it, proving that it really works when it melts a piece of the dashboard of the ship. Castle quips, “Some guys have no business commanding a ship.” Back at the station, Castle is still upset about Alexis and Kate makes things creepier for him when she points out the costume Alexis was wearing wasn’t that different from the one he wanted her to wear. They question Gabriel and he tells them that he got the gun from the props table and asks what kind of killer would be stupid enough to continue carrying around the murder weapon? He also tells them that Annabelle never would have fired him and finally admits that his alibi was “a burning desire to see his doctor” after his escapades. Kate looks like she’s ready to vomit.
But Gabriel also tells them that Annabelle had a boyfriend so Ryan and Esposito go to an party at the con to try and find out who that was while Castle and Beckett go to investigate the place the stun gun was purchased. They meet Benjamin Donnelly, who explains that he sells sci-fi hardware to enthusiasts. He finds out that Castle fired the stun gun and asks if he was wearing protection, which freaks Castle out as he wonders what’s going to happen to him. He also tells them that he sold the gun to a man in costume that drove a white SUV with North Carolina plates.
Castle is worried about all the things that could be wrong with him and wants to go home to take a shower. When he gets there, Alexis is waiting for him. She asks if he wants to talk about it and he says no and asks if she does and she says no. The two barely look at each other and Alexis hurries to leave (ha, so awkward). The detectives trace the SUV to a man named Simon Westport (who is played by Chris McKenna and I’m disappointed to say that the show missed an opportunity to do the two Joey Buchanan jokes, which would have fit right into the meta episode).
Anyway, Simon explains that he and Annabelle basically just hooked up at cons, but she was over it and had decided not to come to them anymore. He also told them that Davis, one of the people she did the webisodes of the series with, had hit on her and she’d slapped him because Davis was dating her best friend Audrey, the other person involved in the fan experience. They question Davis next and he admits that it was always Annabelle that he wanted. He also tells them that Annabelle was getting ready to sell the rights to “Nebula 9” because she wanted to move on. When Annabelle died, the rights went to Audrey.
The detectives find out that Audrey sold them the day after Annabelle died for $2.5 million. She tells them that there was no fan experience without Annabelle, but she insists that she was her best friend and never wanted her dead. Castle and Beckett return to the fan experience set and Castle starts teasing her about making her fantasies come true until she points out that it’s still a crime scene. Then Beckett asks him to stop making fun of her, admits the show was cheesy, but it meant something to her. She gives a great speech that anyone who has ever been a fangirl or fanboy will appreciate and then Castle runs his hand under the UV light and freaks out when he sees burns there. Beckett tells him that he just solved their case.
Castle and Beckett gather Stephanie, Gabriel, Simon, Davis and Audrey in the ship and one by one make them put their hands under the light. Gabriel’s hand shows the same marks Castle’s did, but he explains that he went to Benjamin and bought his own stun gun and they can check the wall in his hotel room to prove he fired it. Stephanie tries to leave and when Beckett calls her out, she grabs Gabriel’s gun and holds it to his head. She starts ranting about how hard she’s worked to distance herself from her character and she knew if Annabelle sold the rights, it would all start again (See? I told you she was ungrateful and awful). Gabriel overpowers her, flips her over and says he’s been waiting to do that for ten years.
After all is said and done, Castle asks Beckett if she’s upset about her idol falling from grace and she tells him that it wasn’t Stephanie that she looked up to, but Chloe, the character she played and she says that if “Nebula 9” becomes a movie, she’ll be the first in line to see it. Castle asks her again to wear her costume for him and she agrees if he’ll watch a marathon with her. He’s not thrilled, but they shake on it. Castle is waiting in his bedroom and Beckett slowly starts to reveal herself to him, starting with her legs (be more gorgeous, Stana, seriously) and then she comes into the room wearing a hideous mask along with her costume and asks Castle to makeout with her. He screams, jumps off the bed and locks himself in the closet, asking if they can just start with the marathon. It was basically the best thing ever.