‘Castle’ 3.01 Recap: “You Don’t Want to Let the Universe Down, Do You?”

‘Castle’ (or “ABC’s Castle,” as the network insists on marketing it) returned for a third season last Monday with an episode called ‘A Deadly Affair’. That comes on the heels of the previous season finale, with the very similar title of ‘A Deadly Game‘. I fear the show’s writers are running out of ideas already – at least as far as it comes to episode titles.

As we last left things, Beckett stood on the verge of declaring that she had feelings for Castle, when Castle went and ruined everything by running off to the Hamptons for the summer with his ex-wife. We pick up a few months later, and no one has heard a peep out of Castle. He hasn’t written; he hasn’t called. They know he isn’t still working on his novel, because the novel is about to be published. And they know he’s back in town too, because he’s scheduled for a book signing stop at a local store. Beckett is sad. Even Ryan and Esposito feel jilted. What a jerk Castle is.

All this moodiness is interrupted by a case. A chemistry teacher fell off a building after being shot. Clues lead the cops to another murder scene, this time an artist… and Castle standing over the body with a gun. Whoops!

Beckett takes great relish in arresting Castle and interrogating him. He claims that the victim called him, that she was already dead when he got to the apartment, that the gun was at the scene, and that he picked it up when he heard someone come in behind him because he thought it might be the real killer. Now, I seriously doubt that anyone in the audience was ever supposed to believe that Castle murdered the girl. Beckett doesn’t seem to either, but she sure enjoys grilling him about it, until lab results come back proving that his gun wasn’t the murder weapon.

Castle tries to get in on the investigation, just like old times. Beckett is still pissy with him and sends him home. Later, there’s a third murder – a guy who ran a small vending machine company – and again Beckett finds Castle standing over the body! This time, he was trying to investigate the case on his own, and got there just before the police.

No one can figure out the connection between the teacher, the artist, and the vending machine guy. Castle and Beckett make a wager on who will crack the case first. If Beckett wins, Castle will leave her alone forever. If Castle wins, they get to go back to their old relationship where he tags along on her investigations.

One thing leads to another, and they eventually wind up at an underground burlesque club where all three of the victims were regulars. Castle solves the mystery first. The tattoo artist there did it, because they were all involved in a small-time counterfeiting operation. The vending machine guy had a large supply of $1 bills, the chemistry teacher could bleach the original ink off so that they could re-use the paper to print larger denominations. The artist built the printing plates, and the tattoo guy supplied the ink – until he got greedy and killed everyone to run off with the fake money.

So, Castle wins the bet, and we’ll be back to business as usual in the next episode. In a last minute mini-twist, it’s suggested that Beckett had actually figured it out first and let Castle win, because she wanted him back.

All of this is intertwined with a subplot in which Castle’s daughter Alexis is having boy troubles not terribly dissimilar from Castle and Beckett’s relationship. The boy she likes hasn’t called her back in a timely fashion. Castle tries to stick up for him, because he recognizes that he did the same to Beckett, but soon comes to realize that she must have felt just like his daughter.

‘A Deadly Affair’ is a pretty good premiere. The chemistry is still in place. The banter is witty. The murder case is moderately clever without getting in the way of the character relationships. The episode also does a fairly good job of straightening out some of the mistakes of the previous finale. (I never really bought into the sudden escalation of Castle’s feelings for Beckett, or hers for him.) Now we’re nicely positioned to settle right back into the old groove again, which for a show like this is an asset rather than a detriment.

The only thing I didn’t like is Lanie’s new hairdo. She’s straightened her hair, and it doesn’t suit her at all. She looked so much better before.

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