Tonight's episode was very gimmicky and very serious—or, at least, very dour, which is generally what tone Castle ends up settling for when it wants to get serious. In keeping with my pledge to encourage creativity and promote the cause and creation of Quality Television, I should probably salute Castle on its serious ambitions and encourage it to tackle them head-on next time, without the safety net of gimmicky cleverness. To be honest, though, I think the gimmickry was the most admirable thing about the episode. It showed that there was an honest impulse to entertain buried somewhere in all the solemn upholstery.
It's clear from the first scene that this is not going to be one of those playful, companionable, yucking-it-up-between-bodies Castles. A TV reporter and her cameraman are covering an Occupy-style street demonstration at "Boylan Plaza." The cameraman says something about how these protests are getting kind of old, and then, suddenly, there's an explosion. "There appear to be people on the ground, not moving," which unless they're napping peacefully is never a good sign. There's an even worse sign in the music, which is the kind of thing that used to play under photo montages of people killed on 9/11. Nobody in this episode ever actually mentions 9/11, but I'm not sure that you can show a bomb going off in a New York City setting, in a story with political overtones, and not expect people to make that connection. There's evidence that Castle itself isn't sure about how to handle this when, early in the episode, a witness points a finger at a "Middle Eastern"-looking man, who is immediately ruled out as a suspect before the actor playing him has had scarcely a minute of screen time. It's as if the show were saying, "We know we have to acknowledge that the investigation would at least nod in this direction at some point, but we don't really want to go there."
The explosion has killed five people, including Jesse Friedman, the leader of the "Take Over Wall Street" movement. The main gimmick is that we, and the detectives, get to piece the case together by listening to the conflicting testimonies of the survivors and re-assembling the moment before the bomb went over from what they have to say. Some of what gets said is meant to reflect the point of view of the witnesses, so that we can appreciate how the detectives take their biases and quirks into account and shave off a bit of the pieces they have to offer so they'll fit into the overall shape of the puzzle. For instance, one witness is a homeless man called West Side Willie, played by an actor who seems to think he's auditioning for the role of Charlie Manson in a Disney version of Helter Skelter. Willie claims that, just before the bomb went off, he saw Beethoven on the street. "You saw Beethoven," Ryan asks in his stop-pulling-my-chain voice, "the composer who's been dead for 200 years, in the Plaza this afternoon?" Willie assents that he did. Ryan and Esposito roll their eyes and discount Willie's testimony. You can see why. How could Willie have actually seen anyone or anything on the street that day that made him think, "Beethoven!" It's not as if, in the era of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, anybody has ever shown up at a televised political rally in a funny costume.
While everyone is slaving away trying to solve the case, Castle and Beckett still manage to find time to get reflective about it. They listen to a woman who explains that and her dead husband weren't with the protestors, they just happened to be tourists who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. "Matt and I just bought a house. We were going to start a family. We had it all planned." Beckett tells Castle that another victim "was the first kid in his family to go to college." Castle hears this stuff and has to swallow deep. If the people who got blown to kingdom come had been non-achievers who didn't make plans, didn't want a family, and spent the money for the down payment on a house on porn, he'd laugh, shake his head, and suggest to Beckett that they blow the case off and go to Shakey's. But this business of people who had dreams of career advancement and nuclear families in their heads being killed for no reason—it troubles him deeply. Usually, when somebody gets blown away by somebody else, "they die for a reason. There's a logic behind it. It may be a twisted logic, but it's there."
That doesn't seem to be the case here, and it gets both Castle and Beckett to thinking about, as Beckett puts it, "all the things in your life that you don't want to put off anymore." In Castle's case, that means telling Beckett that he's warm for her form. He told her once, at the end of last season, but she'd just been shot, and he's been proceeding from the assumption that she doesn't remember what he told her just before she blacked out. Mama Castle urges him to listen to his heart and tell her how he feels. So, the next day, he marches into the office and asks Beckett if he can tell her somethin'. She gulps and says, sure. Then Ryan and Esposito rush in and say, "Beckett, we got something." Beckett says, "Um," and Castle says, "It's okay. It can wait until after the case." It was at this point that my wife got up, shook her head, and as she headed for the bedroom said, "I've got your review for you. 'Tonight, Castle gets cock-blocked again.'"
Castle watches through the one-way glass as Beckett interrogates the latest suspect. Feigning amnesia, he makes the mistake of saying that he doesn't remember anything because he was so traumatized from the explosion. Naturally, the word "trauma" is like waving a red cape in front of Beckett. Plus, she never wants to waste an opportunity to tell a brand-new person her story about how she got shot. She barks that when she got shot, it traumatized her plenty, and she remembers every damn thing about it. Castle, demonstrating once again the limited imagination regarding human behavior that makes me suspect that he must be a really sucky novelist, deduces from this that she does remember him telling her that he loves her, and that she's been lying about it ever since because she doesn't feel the same way and wants to spare them both embarrassment. A little later, when the detectives are talking about the case, Beckett reflects on how odd it is that the bomb didn't use nails or any other kind of projectiles, "to maximize the damage." Castle looks at her meaningfully and murmurs, "That's not the only way to maximize damage." Oh, just go in the men's room and have yourself a good cry, you big baby!
As for the resolution of the case, it turns out that the dead protest organizer had set the bomb himself, though he didn't intend for anyone to be hurt, and that he was working in cahoots with the TV reporter, because they both had reasons to get the movement some more publicity. The fact that the TV crew was there already, and that the cameraman had been there long enough to be tired of covering it, would seem to suggest that they were deranged to think that the protest had been so under-publicized that it needed a pipe bomb to get the media's attention. But on the other hand, this meant that there really had been a logic behind the bombing, albeit a twisted one, which I hope made Castle feel better. At the end, he's so depressed, because he thinks Beckett doesn't love him, that he turns down her offer of an after-work drink. When a Nathan Fillion character turns down an offer to ply a beautiful woman with liquor, you know for sure that it's crying-towel time in the Big Apple.