Mandi Bierly
March 10, 2009 AT 05:30 PM EDT

While I agree with EW TV critic Ken Tucker that the premiere episode of Nathan Fillion’s cop-mystery series Castle was “too-playful-by-half,” here are the facts: I am this show’s demo. I DVR character-, comedy-, and chemistry-driven procedurals like Bones, Psych, and NCIS. I would probably blush were you to put me in a room with Nathan Fillion. And my schedule is wide open Mondays at 10 p.m. ET. So congratulations, ABC. You got me.

That said, I am hoping that the cutesy quotient was excessively high in the premiere because producers wanted to make sure that we all got that Fillion’s Richard Castle — a famous crime writer who partners with Det. Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) first to solve a series of murders matching those in his books, then because he wants to “research her” for the heroine in his next series of novels — is unpredictable. He’s the kind of man who encourages his 15-year-old daughter to drink champagne so she has stories to tell her children and eats whipped cream from the bottle. He can pick up a dropped handcuff key with his toes, talk himself out of arrests and into search warrants because the mayor and judge are fans, and play poker with (guest stars) James Patterson and Stephen J. Cannell. He enjoys signing women’s chests, yet allows his Broadway diva mother, who probably gets more than he does, live with him. I get it. We can now move past the pilot shorthand and give Castle some time to breathe, to not be “on.” Fillion’s a good enough actor to sustain quiet moments. Let him. (Especially if it spares him from trying to sell a stale comeback about his claims being big when asked if he knows a small claims lawyer. No one’s that good.)

The premise of the pilot — Castle aids in the investigation of a copycat killer — was predictable but obviously necessary to bring he and Beckett together. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you if Fillion and Katic (who I’m semi-ashamed to say I recognized more from The Librarian: The Curse of the Judas Chalice than Quantum of Solace) have great chemistry, or if my mind just filled in the blanks. (It wants to go to there.) What I do know is that I like that Beckett’s a fan of his books, yet immune to his charm. I like that he’s hot for her and clearly up for the chase. I like that he’s raised a daughter (Molly Quinn) who’s not going to bring down the show with teen angst. (She turned down the champagne and opted to keep studying at his book release party. She also called him out on where he likes to put his Sharpie). I like that even though Castle can read Beckett (she’s a cop because someone she loved got hurt and the person was never caught — snooze), you know that there’s more to his story than meets the eye. (I’m betting that his divorce from his publisher did a number on him, and he’s all talk when it comes to the ladies now…) 

The fact that I’ve gone this long without discussing the case is a sign that this series won’t actually be about that. But it doesn’t mean the unfolding of the mystery wasn’t enjoyable. As a crime novelist, Beckett knows how a story should go, what motives could be in play, and when something is wrapped up too swiftly. He knew that their suspect, an obsessed fan, would’ve matched his murder scenes to the books’ exactly, so the slight differences pointed to a frame-up. Only one of the victims — a social work grad student with a rich, dying father and a jealous, cash-strapped brother — was the target, the other two were killed to make police think they were looking for a Rick Castle fan. My favorite moment of the investigation was when Castle, who refuses to stay in the car (we get it!), broke free from the brother, who’d captured him as a hostage, and said, “You’re gonna put that in your report, right?” That’s a line Fillion can sell.

Your turn. Are you wooed by Castle, playing hard to get (how many more eps will you give him?), or calling it quits? How would your relationship with the character change if it wasn’t Fillion playing him?

addCredit(“Eric Liebowitz/ABC”)

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