Title Castle, P.I.
Two-Sentence Summary As Beckett attempts to readjust to life at the precinct without Castle after he was banned from helping the NYPD, she begins to investigate the murder of a teacher at an elite NYC preschool. The complicated case gets even more complicated when Castle, now a licensed private investigator, tries to solve it, too.
Castle: Did I tell you I got pepper-sprayed today?
Alexis: You say that like it’s a good thing.
My Thoughts Although no TV fan enjoys a hiatus, sometimes they can be the best thing for a show. Castle’s last episode, “Bad Santa,” left me feeling depressed and blindsided by its big cliffhanger ending, but it appears that some time away from the precinct has done both Rick Castle and me some good. Having some distance from the bombshell ending of “Bad Santa” and some time to process what things could be like for Castle as a private investigator allowed me to approach “Castle, P.I” with an open mind. And the result was an hour of TV-watching that made me even happier than I’d imagined it would.
It’s tough for shows to stay fresh in their seventh season, and I think we can all admit that many of the procedural aspects of Castle were starting to feel stale. However, making Castle a private investigator breathed new life into the crime-solving part of this show, and it even added a nice little spark to the romantic part, too. The time in between “Bad Santa” and “Castle, P.I.” allowed the latter to have a light tone even after the former had such a heavy ending. Airing them only a week apart might have felt too jarring in terms of their vastly different tones when it came to Castle’s dismissal from the precinct. However, airing them a month apart made it seem less jarring and more of an example of the kind of tonal shifts only Castle can pull off so fluidly.
In my recap of “Bad Santa,” I mentioned that the case in that episode—which was neither emotionally compelling nor nerdy in nature—was downright boring. Imagine my surprise when I found myself thoroughly enjoying the case in “Castle, P.I.,” which was also without a fun theme or an emotional component tied to one of our protagonists. Instead, it was the pure thrill of good-old-fashioned crime solving that did it for me this week (and did it for Castle and Beckett, too—but more on that later). I really liked watching the different ways Castle and Beckett used their various skills and resources to take steps closer to solving the case. By putting the focus on the actual detective work, this episode reminded me of what made Castle so special even when it was a very young show: It features two main characters who approach the world in very different ways but whose different approaches are perfect complements for each other.
Kate Beckett is a great detective; we’re reminded of that all the time. But what I really liked about “Castle, P.I.” was that it reminded us that Castle is a great detective in his own way, too. Rick Castle is intelligent, charming, connected, and gifted with a way of thinking outside the box that drew Beckett to him from the day they met. In this episode, he put all of those things to good use in his investigation. Sometimes this show has a habit of dumbing Castle down for the sake of creating a comedic moment, but I loved that this episode instead chose to show just how good he could actually be as a private investigator—not just because of what he’s learned from Beckett but also because of the skills he had long before they met.
“Castle, P.I.” was simply a fun episode, and I think that was because it felt fresh and exciting, while still keeping these characters recognizable in their new situations. It also allowed some of the show’s most entertaining relationships (including its central one) to have some great moments in the spotlight, bolstered by the new energy that seemed to radiate through the entire cast.
The episode started with a very light moment at home for Castle, Beckett, and Martha. What stood out to me in that scene was how effortlessly Beckett fits into life at the loft now that she and Castle have been married for a while. Watching her and Martha exchange a sweet little greeting was wonderful because it reminded me that Martha is exactly the kind of woman Beckett needs in her life—a mother figure, but one who would never try to replace the memory of Beckett’s own mother. It’s little moments like that which keep me invested in every relationship on the show—not just Castle and Beckett’s. The same could be said of Castle and Alexis eating takeout while talking about his day; it reminded me of the show’s early days in the best way.
Castle’s interactions with everyone in the precinct were perhaps my favorite parts of the episode, because they mixed the early-Castle vibe I felt in that scene with Alexis with the comfortable ease that’s developed over seven years with these characters and actors. Watching all of these characters navigate around Castle—sometimes working with him, sometimes competing against him, and always having a snarky comment for him—was wonderful. It was an especially nice touch to have him interact with Perlmutter in this episode. While I missed Lanie (and wished there could have been some follow-up on her breakup with Esposito), Perlmutter and Castle’s antagonistic relationship was the ideal fit for “Castle, P.I.” His comment about a woman as astute as Beckett marrying Castle was a highlight in an episode full of great zingers.
I’ll admit that I was a little worried about how Castle would continue to show the characters in the precinct (namely, Esposito and Ryan) interacting with Castle now that he’s no longer supposed to be there. It turns out I shouldn’t have worried because this episode provided some of the best moments between them—especially between Ryan and Castle—in a long time. It was adorably fitting that Ryan would become “conspiracy theory man” in Castle’s absence, and I loved that one of the most enduring things in my TV-watching life is the way the 12th precinct always splits between Esposito and Beckett on the side of the skeptics and Ryan and Castle on the side of the believers. Castle’s look of total pride that Ryan carried the “C” (conspiracy) card in his absence was one of the best moments in the whole episode, especially when it was followed by them “feeding the birds”—a nice little nod to their friendship and the show’s early days.
Ultimately, though, the relationship that benefitted the most from Beckett and Castle being separated at work turned out to be the one between Beckett and Castle. It was so much fun to watch them try to balance being competitors with their natural instinct towards being partners. It made for moments of tension that were both hilarious (No one plays exasperated like Stana Katic.) and surprisingly sexy. Even the most stable relationships need a little change, and this change in their professional relationship made their personal relationship feel like something at once totally new and brilliantly tied to the beginnings of their partnership.
It’s amazing that Katic and Nathan Fillion can still make “theory building” scenes crackle with chemistry after seven seasons, but it’s the truth. And this episode used that unique ability of theirs perfectly. Even when they’re not working together; they can’t help but be drawn to each other as partners in building theory because that’s always been such a huge turn-on for them. And this episode made the connection between theory building and sex more explicit than ever, with plenty of perfect innuendos about Castle’s creativity, the things Castle shared with Beckett, and Beckett being on top of things when it comes to Castle. Their banter was the best it’s been all season, and if Castle being a private investigator means more of this kind of playfulness in their relationship, then I can handle some more time spent on this new dynamic.
One of my favorite things about Castle and Beckett’s relationship in this episode was how genuinely proud of her husband Beckett was. We’ve often seen Castle sing Beckett’s praises in terms of her detective skills, but it was really nice to see Beckett sing her husband’s praises, too. And the way she showed her pride—with the gift of a magnifying glass and Sherlock Holmes hat—felt like a page out of Castle’s playbook in the best possible way. Castle has always been attracted to Beckett’s skill at her job, so I liked seeing Beckett being attracted to Castle for his detective skills, too (and also for the way he looks in a Sherlock Holmes hat).
“Castle, P.I.” was such a strong way for Castle to return from its winter hiatus. It took a storyline I’d been skeptical about and made me a believer. Castle and Ryan would be proud.