There's often a melancholy component of disappointment to the holidays, as idyllic notions of warmth and tradition are inevitably challenged by the chaos of real life. That's the exact situation Castle and Beckett face on their first Christmas together, as the enthusiastic Castle is forced to adapt to Becket's more wintry lack of cheer. This being Castle
, the conflict is symbolized by a murdered man in a Santa suit falling out of the sky to his death.
Initially, the murdered man has no ID besides a card with the name Kris Kringle--his custom leather boots, however, reveal him to be Edmund Smith, a sketchy businessman-turned-altruistic Santa. Edmund had, in his past life, made a small fortune through fraudulent mortgage sales, but he was turning himself around by embodying Santa-like principles of charity, and was quietly attempting to help the people he had wronged.
The trouble began when his attempts to reform started alienating people from his past life. Edmund died while trying to steal a wrongly confiscated antique clock from his former partner, hoping to return the family heirloom to a struggling family. Though many had motive to shoot him, it was his bitter ex-wife who did the deed: she never forgave him for leaving to start anew.
As the investigation progresses, Castle and Beckett are attempting to reconcile two very different approaches to Christmas. For Castle, Christmas is an unbroken chain of hope dating back to childhood: his mother would make Christmas special no matter what, and it's unthinkable that he should be anywhere other than with family. Becket has a far more troubled relationship to the holiday, as it always brings back memories of her mother's murder. In a particularly resonant scene, Beckett explains how it's her Christmas Eve tradition to keep watch over the night shift.
This was a remarkably strong episode, for me earning a place among not only the best Castle episodes, but the best Christmas episodes in general. Though the mechanics of the murder plot are largely forgettable, this episode is all about Castle and Beckett as characters: their histories, their motivations and their romance are all effectively nurtured by the holiday theme.
And while a show like Castle is under no obligation to be "about" something every week, there really is a very observant commentary on Christmas here: when beloved traditions are forced to change with time, it kind of feels like Santa's corpse is falling out of the sky. It's therefore remarkably sweet that Castle and Beckett are able to accommodate and adapt to each other's starkly different holiday rituals--that's about as pure an expression of hope as I've ever seen on a Christmas special.
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(Image courtesy of ABC)