Yeah, this was definitely an off episode. The violations in back story were problematic, but even in a vacuum I'd have too many issues to like this one. It's like they tried to roll an entire season's worth of sentimentality into one episode and didn't care if they had to ignore any sense of logic to get it away with it. Most of it just comes off as sloppy, particularly how little care the writers exercised in trying to fit the characters of Ryker and Sarah's mom into the establish back story of the show. It could have been made to work, but it wasn't, they didn't even try and I'm not going to ignore that. Sarah's pre-Chuck days have been revisited far better than this.
I didn't even like the fight scenes, which seemed way more brutal than usual (by admission, I could be wrong about this, it just felt that way to me), and were edited in a more "frantic" style. Actually, a lot of the editing/directing didn't work for me, particularly the shot of the tumbler spinning on the board game in castle. Cute, I guess, but it took me right out of the show.
Even the largely unrelated subplot in castle fell flat. I loved "Frosted Tips", but if this is not the end of the "Morgan has to win back Alex" arc, I'm going to retroactively hate it for unleashing this terrible waste of time upon this show's final precious few hours. How I long for the days when Morgan and Anna would break up, *and* get back together, entirely off screen and we'd hear about it in one line of dialogue from Chuck or Big Mike. How I long for Anna period. At least she was funny.
I liked seeing Tony Todd again, even if his scenes were problematic continuity-wise. I liked the scene where Casey and Chuck had to interrogate someone with a phrase book and a borrowed waitress. Everything else revolved around brand-new characters pulled from nowhere with no care given to integrate them organically into the first four seasons' history. As a result, everything the story used them for felt unearned, and that includes all of the emotional beats many fans are praising. Oh well.
I loved last week's episode. This week's made me want to rewatch that one.