“Castle, P.I.” didn’t stray from the tedious procedural paint-by-numbers pattern that the show has embraced like a pair of ratty slippers. There was still a victim with more than a few secrets, a guy who seems like a perfect suspect before it’s made clear that he’s not (there were two of those, actually), the seemingly helpful witness that also has more than a few secrets, and the surprising but hollow twist ending.
That’s what this show is, but Castle has found its highest highs when it has wrapped that flavorless paste with an enjoyable concoction of fun banter and tension. Something that has been underutilized this season while the writers walked themselves back from the season’s tense and heartbreaking beginning by overloading us with cute gimmicks like Rick’s adventures as an action hero and a kindergarten cop.
It would have been easy to make Rick’s choice to become a private eye after being kicked out of the 12th precinct for good into that same kind of lark. Just a fun episode that was chock full of noirish fantasy moments, but instead, the premise injected new life into the show by creating a barrier between Rick and Kate that wasn’t as awful and frightening as a disappearance and the spectre of lies and deception.
In previous years, that barrier had existed because the two leads weren’t romantically linked, but their romantic chemistry and familiarity drove the tension this time as sex and crime solving blended together in an interesting and amusing way. Frankly, things got a little naughty as Gates reinforced Rick’s ban from the precinct and barred Kate from sharing any information with her sleuthing husband despite the fact that he inexplicably kept getting a jump on the investigation.
Eager to come out on top, both Kate and Rick participated in a dance of “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” when it came to the evidence, complete with wine enticements, sex, and a feeling by Rick that Kate had used him for information that she then texted to Ryan while she and Rick were in bed.
Besides the cheeky and playful back and forth between husband and wife, the episode also had a few animated, almost screwball comedy moments that fit in nicely with the P.I. theme. From Rick getting chased in the morgue by Perlmutter (who apparently hates Rick, unbeknownst to my memory banks), to Gates’ exaggerated reactions whenever she sniffed Castle, to the great scene near the end when Rick brings a dog into the interrogation room and starts throwing dog hair on a suspect to force an allergic reaction — I honestly laughed out loud a few times, and I can’t remember the last time that that happened while watching Castle.
As for the future, apparently Rick is going to continue with the detective thing, which means that Castle will do the same. Which, if you recall, is all that I asked for when this was first teased after the winter finale. How long this lasts is anyone’s guess, but for the first time in awhile, Castle felt like a breath of fresh air even though the show once again revolved around a boring case.