Just your typical, garden-variety procedural, wouldn’t you say? However, the difference between this second episode and the first has to do with the writing. The story itself, a young, beautiful nanny murdered and found in the basement of the building she works in, is pretty typical. But, unlike last week, in which the red herring was a little too bright and the suspect was a little too obvious, this episode gave the viewers a variety of choices and the result was actually satisfying.

To start the episode, Castle finds himself signing his life away, literally, ensuring that should anything happen to him while he’s shadowing Detective Beckett he will not sue the city. Beckett uses this paperwork as an excuse to leave Castle behind on her next case … only to find he’s beaten her to the crime scene.

Begrudgingly, as I have a feeling she will always be in Castle’s presence, Beckett allows him to accompany her as she questions the murdered girl’s employers, the murdered girl’s best friend, the murdered girl’s best friend’s employers and a few other people in between. As usual, Castle takes notes and injects his own humor and insights. At one point, he mesmerizes Beckett and her entire team by weaving a tale straight out of his next novel—one with flowery phrases and one lonely man’s quest for companionship. It’s a great moment if only because ALL of the police officers fall for it, even Beckett. I thought for sure she’d call him on it, but the payoff comes from Castle shrugging off the story and asking about coffee. It makes the officers smile and the audience too.

We also got to see more of Castle’s daughter and mother and I have to admit, I’m starting to really like them. When his daughter Alexis wonders why she never had a nanny, Castle throws it away on a great, pithy line (“Your mother and I decided that if anyone was going to screw you up, it would be me.”), but we learn later that Richard Castle was a doting father, taking his daughter to the park. He even considers those years to be some of the best of his life. Beckett’s surprised; me, not so much. However, it is good to see that Castle has a real relationship with his daughter; one that is reinforced in the last scene of show. And this time, instead of being just charming, Castle is also endearing. And it’s great.

As I mentioned, the writing in this episode was sharper and wittier; Castle had too many great lines to mention them all, but tighter dialogue coupled with Nathan’s delivery means I was caught laughing out loud quite a bit. Also, Beckett’s dialogue was a bit more “forgiving”, not quite as biting or suspicious as it was in the first episode. And, Stana Katic has managed to strike a satisfying balance between annoyed and charmed by Castle’s smiles, witty rejoinders and tag-along tendencies.

Another highlight of tonight’s episode was a great guest spot by Sarah Drew. As the betrayed lover and slightly unhinged nanny, Chloe, Drew (best known as the sweet Hannah on the short-lived “Everwood”) conveys a level of craziness tinged with loneliness that proves to be a deadly combination and completely believable. The other guest stars were a veritable who’s who of TV staples—Jayne Brook, George Newbern, Melinda Page Hamilton—and all turned in great performances despite the limited amount of screen time afforded their characters.

We also got a glimpse of Castle’s next fictional character, Nikki Heat, the one we assume is based on Kate Beckett. The name alone made me laugh out loud; imaging the moment when Beckett might find out made me grin.

This second episode of “Castle” was far better than the first and I’m heartened. Ratings last week were strong, not surprising with its lead-in “Dancing With the Stars.” Hopefully, if the writing continues to get stronger and the cast continues to gel, people will find genuine reasons to watch “Castle,” as opposed to just not bothering to change the channel.

Plus, Beckett and Castle are really starting to hit their groove. I can’t wait to see their foxtrot.

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