'Castle' recap: Murder goes back to the future in 'Time Will Tell'

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Energy wars? Time-traveling murderers? Castle and Beckett have three children?

"Castle" went a little bit nuts -- in the best possible way -- for its time-travel episode, "Time Will Tell." Guest-starring Joshua Gomez ( "Chuck") as either a future cop or an obsessed nutjob, the police have to stop a scary murderer before more people die.

Depending on who you believe in this one, the eventual death toll would be either three or billions. It's awesome either way.

"Lot of weirdos out there with too much imagination."

From its first moments, this is an odd "Castle." A young woman is found tortured and killed. Although the woman, Shauna, was a parole officer, none of her ex-cons are likely suspects. The only person of interest is an unidentified crazy guy in a hoodie.

That would be "Simon Doyle" (Gomez). When questioned, Doyle admits to stalking Shauna before her death but only because he had to save her in order to save the world. Like, literally save the world. You see, Simon believes he is from the future -- the year 2035, to be exact.

In the future, time travel has been invented as a side effect of energy advances, and some awful person has slipped back in time to set off events that will eventually kill roughly half of the world's population. The first link in the chain seems to be the murder of Shauna.

Obviously, Simon is crazy. Or is he?

"Not where ... When?"

Shortly after Simon makes noise about being "recalled" to the future, the guy vanishes from a holding cell. Did the NYPD just lose a killer to time travel?

Actually, it turns out that Simon couldn't be the killer because that lunatic was being held for psychiatric evaluation at the time of Shauna's death. The hunt next turns to a mystery man who paid a prostitute to go home with the victim and steal a key to the apartment.

The man is Garrett Ward, a terrifying monster who just got out of prison after six years for attempting to bomb an energy conference. Part of an extreme environmental group that has issues with science, Ward also happens to have no past. None at all.

Perhaps all he has is a future ...

"Maybe we should put something in our vows about following each other into creepy places."

There's still no obvious reason why Ward would target Shauna until the detectives realize that the victim's stepbrother, Malcolm Wickfield, was once a speaker at the conference Ward tried to bomb. Shauna was tortured and killed just so Ward could get Malcolm's address.

Alas, the cops are too late to save the brother. Ward beats them to the man's house and kills Malcolm, demanding to know the location of "the child" in the process.

None of this makes much sense yet, so Castle and Beckett hunt down the former leader of Ward's old eco-rights group. The man dissociates himself completely from the criminal Ward, but he does provide crucial information -- back in the day, the killer lived at an abandoned power plant (so that the government couldn't track him, thanks to electromagnetic interference).

When the detectives reach the creepy, now abandoned plant, they find Ward's wall o'crazy with a photo of Shauna and Malcolm occupying a prominent location. Before they can do much more, however, Ward ambushes the detectives and knocks them both to the ground.

This might have been the end for our heroes, but suddenly Simon Doyle returns! Ward takes one look at Simon and his futuristic toys and runs away.

"Richard Castle lives in New York, with his wife, Senator Beckett, and their three children."

Beckett and Castle sift through Ward's leftovers and find a photograph of an old letter. A kid wrote it to Malcolm Wickfield years earlier, before the energy conference, and it is clear that Ward is trying to track down the author.

But the photo has neither a name nor an address.

To find that, Ryan and Esposito get the original letter from Malcolm's widow. The author turns out to be a young man named Paul Deschile, now a post-doctoral student at Hudson University.

The important thing here is "Deschile." Ward wasn't saying "the child" before. Castle and Beckett now know who Ward is after.

Throughout all of this, Simon is back in custody and finally piecing together the "history" he has to "save." In addition to telling Castle and Beckett that they'll be happily married, successful and fruitful in the kid department, Simon mentions that Deschile is the future father of a tachyon power shield that saves the planet from fascists. They have to stop Ward from killing the physicist, or billions will die.

Unfortunately, Ward has also managed to track Deschile to the planetarium. The killer goes to make his move in the middle of one of those "The universe is vast!" shows, but Ryan and Esposito are there first. Ward is taken into custody.

"See you in 20 years!"

Not that the cops get anything useful out of Garrett Ward. He just sits around looking scary. The only new information comes from Paul Deschile himself -- the kid was the one who alerted security and got Ward arrested before the bombing could occur. All of this was about revenge.

Or was it? Castle theorizes that Ward might have initially targeted the conference only because Deschile was there and gaining inspiration for his future energy work. The time travel theory still holds!

The psychiatric hold on Simon Doyle, meanwhile, evaporates. Simon claims to have lied about a totally believable past and walks out a free man. But he forgets one of his future toys in the precinct, so Castle follows to return it.

Simon has already vanished. Where did he go? Or, more correctly, when?

None of this may have been anything but the ramblings of a nutcase, but there is one more strange and creepy coincidence before "Time Will Tell" ends: Beckett knocks over a cup of coffee onto Deschile's letter. The resulting stains exactly match those seen in the photo Ward may have gotten in the future.

Also

Alexis is moving in with Pi, and Castle isn't happy about this. While these events will likely be important to future "Castle" episodes, time travel is way cooler in this one. So don't worry about Alexis yet.

"This just became my favorite case!"

"Time Will Tell" is a perfect example of why "Castle" is a horrifyingly underrated drama. A perfect blend of comedy, mystery and even a little bit of fear, this episode was immensely entertaining and oddly believable. The fact that -- in the end -- the whole thing could be the work of either time travelers or delusional nutjobs just makes "Castle" better.

Everyone gets to believe what they want. Everyone is happy. Also, serious novelist Richard Castle and Senator Kate Beckett are going to have three kids! It really doesn't get any better than this.

Photo/Video credit: ABC