I overall liked this episode. I was REALLY happy that they dealt with the conspiracy and wasn't expecting it to, so that was nice. Dial M for and really needed. The episode explained why no one has bothered Castle until now - they had no reason to. The whole Castle as pawn thing was great - loving the levels of chess metaphors! It totally speaks to the fact that there IS a deeper level of play going on in Castle. Also the way they chose to keep Castle in place is interesting. It was such a roundabout way to do it, It said to me how CAREFUL w this dragon works to keep his/her hands clean. You'd think someone with that kind of power could just pull some strings to keep Castle in place. However, those strings would tie back to the dragon and look suscious: why would someone WANT Castle to stay at the precient? The way this was done created no DIRECT, provable links, and just looks like the indugence of a rich guy's fancy. It's very much like the way her mom's murder appeared random, and even when it was realized not to be, the actual killers of her mom couldn't be traced back to who ordered the hit.
I also liked that it really wasn't a "sex scandal" case, and that the mayor isn't in on the conspiracy. When it was advertised the idea of some politician being set up or caught in a phone sex sting seemed so mundane. How the phone sex angle was used was alot more interesting than some guy being caught with his pants down and trying to hide his behavior from the public.
However, the fact that the person described was cauciasan and the the mayor was African-American did stand out. Sure, it's possible the killer just wasn't seen but it still was a long-shot connection. I wasn't sure which person around the mayor was responsible, but knew it wasn't the Mayor. I suppose it was political to make sure it didn't look like they were favoring the Mayor, but it still seemed off for Beckett to be focused on him. The only thing that makes sense is that she was trying so hard NOT to be bias because of Castle that she ends up being bias in the other direction. With the pressure by Gates (and I loved that scene) this does make sense. I'll have to watch it again to be sure, but it's STILL strange that once it became clear that the person seen following the victim around is Caucasian and that the Mayor is African-American, no one mentions it as a reason th back off the Mayor a bit. Not that she would of, I do think she was bent over backwards to be sure she WASN'T biased
I didn't mind that blip in the case so much because it raised some issues that had to be of concern to Beckett - like would Castle ever want her to not be a cop. For me, the Caskett stuff was there in the sense that SOMETHING has changed. We don't know what happened at that wedding, but Beckett is now privately referring to Castle as Rick. She's listening to him more, and even when they argued it was...different. She's not completely blowing up or shutting him out. Stana & Nathan, at least to me, seem to have shifted the characters' dynamic to something more intimate. No, NOT lovers, just as if there's been another conversation about their relationship...and maybe a slow dance or two. Like, I could see how important it was for Beckett to hear Castle say he would never ask her to stop being a cop for him. That whole exchanged felt loaded. I'm curious to see what other new layers are revealed.
Oh, and I'll just mention again - I am enjoying the relationship developing between Gates and Beckett. Even the way Beckett questioned Gates meaning during that office scene showed a certain comfort level. It's the first time the "Sir" didn't seem awkward. The whole scene was really good.