“Dial M for Mayor” was one of Castle‘s darker episodes, partially because it brought with it the return of the mystery of Beckett’s mother’s murder. It also had two layers of conspiracies atop a fairly straightforward murder, and made Castle and Beckett yet again consider the lengths to which they’d go for each other.
Let’s put the conspiracies mostly aside for the moment and get the facts of the murder straight. Laura Cambridge, a young English professor, quits her job to write a book about what it’s like for a privileged person to take on a series of minimum wage jobs. (Her agent inexplicably thinks this book proposal is “astonishing.” Has he never heard of Barbara Ehrenreich?) One of the jobs she takes is as a phone sex operator, and she becomes very successful at it because of her listening skills. One night, a client tells her about a conspiracy to frame the mayor for embezzlement. Laura’s a writer, and she wants the story, so she tracks down the client, who turns out to be Jordan Norris, an assistant to the mayor’s chief of staff. Norris tells the conspirators that Laura is a threat, so they have her killed, but before he can tell Beckett who was responsible, a lawyer sweeps in and orders him to stop talking. This was an interesting way of solving the murder of the week but simultaneously leaving things unresolved as part of a larger arc.
The first layer of conspiracy is the one against the mayor. Mayor Weldon – who is, let’s not forget, a longtime friend of Castle’s – has just formed an exploratory committee for governor. Both the embezzlement investigation, which targets him, and Laura’s murder, for which he is framed, are designed to ruin his political career. As everyone from Gates to Weldon’s chief of staff to Castle himself points out, being named as a suspect will ruin Weldon’s future even if he’s ultimately proven innocent. Castle sees the possibility of conspiracy more quickly than Beckett, both because of his personality and because he wants his friend to be innocent; as Beckett points out, “Conspiracies, intrigue, that’s your bread and butter. That’s exactly the kind of story that you’d respond to.” Castle tries to see spies and conspiracies around every turn even in run of the mill cases, but this time, he’s finally right. Frustratingly, though Jordan confirms that the conspiracy exists, we never find out who is behind it. All Weldon says to Castle is “I wouldn’t play ball, so they took me out of the game.” Will this shadowy “they” come back later? We’ll have to wait and see.
The second layer of conspiracy begins when Castle gets another call from the mysterious man who is claiming to protect Beckett by keeping her off her mother’s case. Creepy Guy claims that there is more at stake than Castle realizes and gives him a number to call when he needs help. Castle hides this from Beckett, though of course she can tell that something’s wrong. He at first thinks that Creepy Guy is saying Joanna Beckett’s murder is somehow linked to this case, but that’s not it at all. The show cleverly hides the real reason in plain sight: throughout the episode, Castle, Beckett, and the team keep bringing up the fact that if Weldon is forced out of office, Castle’s political influence will be gone too and Gates won’t have to let him shadow Beckett anymore. They all present it as an emotional issue, but this is in fact the threat that Creepy Guy is worried about: if Castle isn’t allowed to work with Beckett, he won’t be there to keep her from looking into her mother’s case. Creepy Guy still won’t say why he wants to protect Beckett, though, just “There are times when a well-placed pawn is more powerful than a king.” Intriguing. I’m glad this storyline is being tied back in to the show’s weekly plots.
This episode was promoted as again featuring a case that might tear Castle and Beckett’s partnership apart, and I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at that. No one really believes that’s a possibility at this point, do they? But they did manage some nice tension, as Castle refused to believe that his friend Weldon could be guilty and Beckett was torn between trying to respect Castle’s feelings and just doing her job. Gates was openly concerned about Castle’s friendship with Weldon, and when Beckett hesitated to get the warrant she needed to test Weldon’s clothing for evidence because the mere fact of the warrant would do irreparable damage to Weldon, Gates told her “You do your job, whatever the cost.” Now, is it true that Beckett shouldn’t let Castle’s loyalties get in the way of the investigation? Sure. But it’s also true that with any job, there’s a point at which it isn’t worth the cost, and Castle is probably Beckett’s best bet for realizing that before it’s too late. She ends up sending him home because he can’t be objective, but when he calls her, she shows up for the meeting – and he’s surprised. Aww.
Beckett: “I can’t apologize for doing my job, Castle.”
Castle: “And I would never ask you to.”
They’re both pretty teary, and I think – I hope – they have gotten to a point at which they acknowledge that they’ll sometimes class, but both know that the other will be there when they call.
There’s so much going on with the conspiracy plot and with Castle and Beckett that there’s very little screen time for anyone else’s personal lives, but there are a few nice moments with Martha and Alexis. At the beginning of the episode, Martha is driving Castle crazy by holding her acting classes in the apartment, but later, she acts as a good sounding board for him. And Alexis is driving herself crazy because she had planned to be at Stanford by now and needs something to do. Castle tells her to give herself a break and just live, but Alexis is Alexis, so she interprets this as “Go get an internship.” Aww.
Next week: PUPPIES!
(Photo courtesy of ABC.)