Castle Review: Fake Break-Up Nudges Show Closer to Its Season 5 Sparks

TV Review Grade B+Why are you watching ABC’s Castle?

(I could leave that question there, call it a day and still trigger 206 passionate comments, but allow me to elaborate.)

Are you (still) watching for the Castle/Beckett banter? For the flirtiness between husband-and-wife crimesolvers? To work your own noodle solving twisty cases? Do you watch for the added something that Ryan, Esposito, Alexis and Martha offer? Or are you here to see Lanie and Perlmutter poke and prod corpses? (If the latter, that’s kinda dark, man.)

Or: All of the above?

Season 8 has taken some dings, to say the least, for the storyline that found Kate calling a “time out” on her nascent marriage, in the name of safeguarding Rick from LokSat aka the late Senator Bracken’s thus-far-unidentified partner in crime. Viewers sweated out a half-dozen episodes of that marital misdirection, until the very end of the fall finale, where Rick called Kate on the carpet, and she let him in on the ruse — with the caveat that they must continue acting out the estrangement.

Thus, the good news moving forward, starting this Monday, is: Rick and Kate have (secretly) reunited. The possibly bad news: Will that be enough for the disenfranchised longtime fan?

Which brings us back to: Why do you watch Castle?

Having screened the midseason premiere, “Tone Death,” I can report that the “Caskett” spark is back, at least in their private moments together. When eyes are not on them at the 12th or wherever, Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion sell us on the anticipatory giddiness of the marrieds’ covert encounters. Simply said: Getting it on, on the down low, has lit a fire in both of them, creating a certain shared… insatiability.

And as for the faked break-up, faux fights are held and bogus barbs are hurled, but it’s always with a deft, sometimes literal wink or an apology-in-advance. Meanwhile, the “snowball” effect of an on-the-fly lie from Rick, about his new girlfriend “Svetlana,” makes for great — earmuffs, because I’mma gonna say the F-word! — fun, especially when Kate eventually attempts to one-up her “ex.”

But… if your answer to “Why do you watch Castle? is “To see Rick and Kate attached at the hip for 42 minutes!,” you’re resigning yourself to be disappointed. Because yes, Rick still is working separately from the NYPD. Because yes, in the public eye he and Kate are partners of no sort. Because yes, there is a stretch in Monday’s episode where its Alexis, not Kate, who joins Rick on an ominous outing.

However, if the measured dollops of banter, sexytimes and reassuring professions of love suffice for you, “Tone Deaf” marks a return to form — a small step in the direction of early Season 5, when Rick and Kate first canoodled on the QT.

Add in some rousing a capella numbers (as well as a capella versions of the Castle theme song and the show’s familiar music cues), a sufficiently twisty Case of the Week and a highly entertaining demonstration of cast member Jon Huertas’ pipes, and you have a solid return from a medium-sized hiatus.

For how long will the fake break-up last? I’m hearing of a springtime thaw. Is Rick, Alexis and Hayley’s Episode 14 trip to L.A. setting the stage for a possible “evolution” of the series? Quite possibly. But in the here and now, for some of you, Castle‘s midseason premiere just may deliver enough of the “why” you watch.

Want more scoop on Castle, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.