TELEVISION: Dana Delaney Sparks Explosive New Castle!

When ABC’s Castle [tonight, 10/9C] premiered last season, it was a clever twist on the veteran detective/amateur sleuth kind of series. It introduced a wit and charm that felt very much like classic series like Moonlighting and Murder, She Wrote, but with a fresh twist – the detective is veteran police detective Kate Beckett; the amateur sleuth is bestselling mystery writer Richard Castle [Nathan Fillion].

Jordan Shaw & Castle Cast

That Castle has become a very sophisticated show, without in any way seeming snobbish, is exemplified by tonight’s episode, Tick, Tick, Tick… – which introduces hotshot FBI profiler, Special Agent Jordan Shaw. Shaw has all kinds of new toys [she scans a fingerprint with her cell phone [prompting Castle to inquire, There’s an app for that?] and, once she gets past the idea of a writer helping a murder investigation, almost instantly develops a rapport with Castle that mirrors his rapport with Beckett. It’s both a novel twist and a send-up of the actual series.

The reason Shaw is there is because this new murderer is using Castle’s Nikki Heat – the character inspired by Beckett – as his excuse for killing. Worse, he’s calling her to let her know he’s killed. He’s also very smart: he sets up clues that point in different directions, leading Beckett, Castle and Shaw on a merry [but bloody] chase. The central mystery also leads Castle and Beckett to question whether they’re in some way responsible for the killings.

In and around the mystery, Tick, Tick, Tick… also works in subplots about Castle’s mother deciding to move in with her boyfriend of six months, and everyone considering the possibility that Castle and Beckett have slept together [an idea caused by a scene from the new Nikki Heat novel]. Even Shaw figures they’ve done it [I’m almost always right, she proclaims].

Tick, Tick, Tick… was written by the show’s co-executive producer, Moira Kirland, and she nails it. The dialog is clever and witty; the relationship between Castle and Beckett practically bristles with possibilities, and the mystery is the best of the series to date. She deals with all the relationships in a bright, empathetic manner – especially, in the brief moments they get, the one between Castle and his mother, Martha [Susan Sullivan], and the one between Castle and his daughter, Alexis [Molly Quinn].

Bryan Spicer directs with the delicate touch required to meld mystery and relationship material in a manner that gives each its due without compromising the other – and still keeps the pacing up tempo enough to draw us in without making anything feel forced, or inessential.

Plus, there’s one hellacious cliffhanger!

All in all, Tick, Tick, Tick… is the best episode of Castle so far.

Final Grade: A

Photo courtesy of ABC; Photographer: Karen Neal