Two episodes into the post-coital era of Castle and Beckett’s relationship, I’m ready to give the happy, horny couple my provisional blessing. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have proved to be that statistical anomaly: a “will they or won’t they?” TV couple whose chemistry actually improves when they do it. Katic is so much more relaxed now that you kind of have to wonder if she was taking her role with unbecoming seriousness. Did she always want to lower herself to Fillion’s level and just have fun, but didn’t feel that she could so justify it so long as Beckett was all tied up in knots of frustration and self-denial? Whatever the reason, the playing field has gotten much more level, and the duo's scenes together have become something to look forward to, the way Fillion’s scenes with some seductive, flirtatious guest actresses have always been.
The best joke in this episode comes when Beckett reports back to work after a two-week suspension—and, presumably, two uninterrupted weeks spent in Castle’s company, boinkyty-boinking. (The show is almost explicit about this, and, indeed, it makes perfect sense. Castle and Beckett have decided to keep their relationship secret, and since he’s a celebrity and New York is a small metropolis when you’re trying to keep a secret in it, what else can they do to explore and enjoy their new relationship? They can’t go to dinner or the movies or for a walk in the park, and you can only snuggle in bed together watching Casablanca so many times.) She and Castle are greeted at the crime scene by Dr. Parish, who immediately detects that there’s something different about Beckett. The next time Dr. Parish appears, a few scenes later, she’s figured it out. “You’re having sex,” she says, causing momentary inner pandemonium for Castle and Beckett, who at first think she’s talking to both of them. But she just means Beckett, who, she points out, now has a glow about her. This would be more sad than funny if Beckett was the same walking dead battery she’s always been, but in fact, she does seem different, and damned if she doesn’t have a glow about her. It’s funny, as they say, because it’s true.
The others in Castle and Beckett’s orbit—there are no family scenes this week, and Penny Johnson Jerald’s Captain Gates is hiding in her office, so that really just means Esposito and Ryan—also pick up faint signals that some dynamic has shifted, but they can’t really put a name to it, being dumb ol’ guys. (They’re also distracted by their own problems. Esposito is still mad at Ryan for not being a standup guy when the chips were down, or something vague and bro-code like that. The writers like to throw this kind of curve into the Esposito-Ryan relationship every so often, because it allows them to feel that they’re writing actual characters. Or maybe they do it to make the actors feel better. This subplot will drag out until the writers get tired of remembering to have either Castle or Beckett say, once every episode, “You two still not getting along?”)
The problem with the show right now, and it’s not a small one, is that the murder mysteries are duller and more pointlessly convoluted than ever, to the point that it doesn’t seem too early to wonder if the show has any fresh story ideas left after four seasons. Tonight’s episode involves the murder of a TV weather announcer who had a reputation as a bimbo airhead. The younger meteorologist being groomed to replace her tells the detectives that her core audience consisted of “People who cared about how many buttons on her blouse were undone. At her age, in high-def, she was running out of buttons.” It turns out that the weatherwoman had hidden depths and was working on an expose of some dangerous, polluting carpet company. I think. Honestly, every time I tried to focus on what all the exposition meant, I had to strain so hard to dispel the cloud of boredom fogging up my skull that I could smell my own brain cells frying. I’m not suggesting the show extend staff writing job offers to Lawrence Block, Ed Brubaker, and Christa Faust, though it couldn’t hurt. But so long as the crime plots are just padding, maybe the show could treat them more playfully, instead of switching back and forth between a decent romantic comedy and the deadliest procedural on the air.
Happily, taking Castle and Beckett’s relationship to the next level hasn’t stopped the parade of seductive, flirtatious guest actresses. The biggest prize in tonight’s box of Cracker Jacks is the pretty fantastic Jodi Lyn O’Keefe, as a TV entertainment reporter who lassos Castle for an appearance on her show and has the temerity to ask him out on a date when they’re on the air, the shameless hussy. There’s a nice moment when Beckett is watching, amused, while Castle is playing around with the green screen, and then O’Keefe makes her entrance, and little cartoon daggers seem to shoot out of Katic’s eyes. It turns out that O’Keefe is a notorious man-eater famous for tracking men back to their lairs and tearing open her dress to reveal that she’s wearing a bikini underneath; I can think of nothing more charmingly old school than the conceit of a brazen seductress slinking around Manhattan, waiting for the chance to show the next conquest that underneath her clothes, she is—not naked, not rigged up in Victoria’s Secret bondage lingerie, but ready to hit the beach with Gidget and C. J.
After Beckett has shown up just in time to save Castle from being ravished by O’Keefe, Castle says that O’Keefe is “like the Terminator of sexpots.” “What’s that even supposed to mean?” snaps Beckett. “That she just keeps coming?” The sound you just heard was the censor who approved that line, after seeing how it looked on the page but failing to imagine how it would sound when spoken aloud, grabbing his chest and falling dead on the floor.