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Everyone has a past… an aspect of their life that they’re not particularly proud of. The things about ourselves that – when asked about them – we down-play it. We ignore it. We bury it.
In the Castle universe, we call it the onions that are the characters.
The Beckett-onion has been being unpeeled for four years. So many layers there. The Espo-onion has revealed a past that included growing up in a broken home, a youth that resulted in a juvenile record, and a military history. The Gates-onion has revealed a strong exterior under which cloaks a Reality TV-loving, doll-collecting enigma. The Martha-onion is more from a different food group (“On the exterior, she’s a tough cookie, but underneath all that bravado – gooey center”), but the layers are there. The Alexis-onion has shown to have just as many layers as her father, and the Lanie-onion has unpeeled layers that have revealed a lover of dance and a woman who keeps one foot out the door in her relationships, just in case – like Beckett once did – though we have yet to discover why.
The Castle-onion and the Ryan-onion are as equally intriguing as all of the other characters. In this episode, we saw more layers unpeeled from these two characters. And in unpeeling the layers from them, layers were unpeeled from Beckett and Espo as well.
In ‘The Limey’, Castle remarked that, “sometimes it’s the people we think we know the best that we don’t really know at all.” This concept was highlighted in this episode.
First, Beckett is curious about the mysterious “Jordan” that Castle spoke about in his sleep. He shrugs it off and tries to convince her that it’s nothing, but you can’t bluff to a woman who could write the instruction manual about building walls and hiding your past from others: “I know nothing. ‘Nothing’ is a dear friend of mine. And this? This is not nothing…” This will not go away, so much so that she refuses his coffee. She is a detective… she is her mother’s daughter. And like Johanna, all Kate Beckett “cares about is the truth.” And she “hate[s] not knowing things.” This is a layer of the Castle-onion that intrigues her, and she will not allow him to re-bury this part of his past.
Furthermore, just as we think we are beginning to understand Kevin Ryan (a former narcotics detective who once dated a girl who liked to think she was a vampire), Siobhan kisses him and calls him “Fenton”… right in front of Jenny. We’ve always known him to be the ‘nice-cop’ to Espo’s ‘bad-cop’, to be the guy who accepts that “it is what it is” when he and Espo don’t see eye-to-eye, the guy who doesn’t like breaking the rules. We’ve known him to be “Honey-Milk”. We’ve known him to be “Castle Junior”. But Fenton O’Connell? Pool shark?
Do we really know Kevin Ryan at all?
In discovering that he was undercover with the Irish Mob for fourteen months, Esposito is shocked: “He’s not the Ryan I know.” But Ryan and Esposito are partners. They are with each other “till the wheels fall off.” So in the diner when Ryan insists on seeing this through, Espo asks him: “What’s wrong with you?” He wants Ryan to realize that he now has a wife, a different life than he had seven years ago. He now has a lot to lose. Even Jenny wonders about her husband’s motives, asking Beckett, “Why would he do something like this?” She wonders if her husband feels that he has something to prove.
However, Beckett’s reply to Jenny not only explains Ryan’s motives, but Castle’s as well: “He wants to do the right thing… That’s who he is.”
In ‘Kick The Ballistics’, when Jane was killed with his service weapon, Ryan felt at fault: “That weapon was issued to me by the city of New York. I let it out of my hand and now a girl is dead. So please do not tell me that it’s not my fault!“ He’s disgusted when he discovers that Seth Carver used Jane: “You– you sent her in there alone! No back up, no protection, and now she’s dead!” Even after he helps Ben Lee escape an unpleasant life and find closure, Ryan continues to doubt himself, but Castle reassures him: “You are a better cop, Kevin. You’re a better man, because you didn’t send him in there alone.”
That is the kind of man Kevin Ryan is. Ryan puts a gun in the hand of Bobby S, spelling it out for everyone: “You think I’m a man without honour?!”
He leaves no doubt. He loved Siobhan at one time, he put her in danger, and he needs to do the right thing to keep her alive. His honour is at stake when he’s told to kill her. But he’s a better man than that. He’s an honourable man. Kevin Ryan is a good man who – at times feels like a fraud – but always strives to do the right thing.
Castle, too, believes himself to be a fraud. Like he’s not worthy of anything he now has in his life. He is terrified of Kate knowing the unpleasant aspects of his past: “What happens if you don’t like what you see?” It’s as if he’s afraid of not being worthy of her. But as they already learned, “secrets are like time bombs, eventually they explode.” Neither of them want to go through that again.
We all have aspects about our pasts that we’re not proud of, but these are often the aspects that have the most profound impact on who we become. They are the moments that lead us to become the people we choose to be… for good or bad.
As it was explored in ‘Under The Influence’, the actions and words of other people can have an enormous influence on the course of our lives. Now, in ‘The Wild Rover’, the exploration is about how our own decisions influence the course of our lives.
Beckett used to be afraid to reveal the truth about her past, but she eventually let Castle see the ugly truth. But Johanna Beckett insisted that “the truth can never hurt you” and Kate has come to understand the wisdom of her mother’s words. Now Castle is afraid that Beckett won’t like what she sees in him, but she counter-argues, “What happens if you don’t let me look?” So he lets her look. He allows her to see that, when he was in high school, he took credit for writing something he didn’t write, that he didn’t earn the praise he received, and that he’s been writing ever since in an attempt to earn the acclaim and the applause he was awarded when he was an adolescent. That he’s “still trying” to be worthy of that acclaim.
Both Castle and Ryan have felt like frauds at some point in their lives, but they keep trying to be better men. Better so that they can be proud of themselves. Better so that they people they love can be proud of them. Better so that the women they love can be proud of them.
We all have aspects of our lives that we are ashamed of, times when we have felt like a failure. But as Castle once told Alexis: “It’s how you handle it that determines where you’ll end up.”