Binging: Castle

So, you’ve finished The Wire, Breaking Bad and The Killing but you’re still hungry for more boxsets. Fear not, Standard Issue writers are on the case with some hidden gems you might not yet have seen. This week, Debra-Jane Appelby suggests the writer/cop pairing of Castle.

Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion as Kate Beckett and Rick Castle. Photos: ABC/Disney.

The famous aphorism goes: “To write, one must first read.” As an aspiring writer with my ambitions set firmly at the small screen, that can easily be paraphrased as “To write a TV show, one must first watch a lot of TV.” Sounds like a great excuse to me.

So, when I decided I’d like to try my hand at a proper hour-long drama show I sat down with an empty pad, a pen and the remote control. The plan? To work out the formula. I was intrigued by Castle because the eponymous character is a writer doing research. Many birds slain with a single stone. I settled in to watch the pilot and a couple of random episodes.

Three weeks later I had watched every episode in the show’s (at that time) five-season run to the exclusion of everything else. Absorbed is not the word, obsessed more like. For well over 100 episodes, I had laughed, cried, been on the edge of my seat, leaping off my seat and, on more than one occasion, screaming at the TV, the writers and the universe for doing (no spoilers) whatever they were doing to my ‘friends’ while standing on my seat!

“There are episodes where the murder seems straightforward but turns out to be complex, or vice versa. There are crazy, wacky episodes with ninjas, superheroes, time travellers and sinister CIA plots. Or are there?”

Castle is a really simple show. Like many others, it pairs two opposites and sets them to a task. It’s a ‘One’s a…’, a staple trope: one’s a cop, one’s a doctor; one’s a cop, one’s a mathematician; one’s a cop, one’s a psychic; heck, even, one’s a cop, one’s a robot!

In the case of Castle, one’s Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion), a top-selling Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, Stephen King-type thriller writer who has decided to kill off his cash-cow hit character Derrick Storm. Everyone thinks he’s crazy, especially sassy, stereotype-busting NYPD homicide cop Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), whose latest case has people being murdered in EXACTLY the same way as in Castle’s books.

Once it’s established Castle isn’t the killer, he quickly decides Kate will be the muse for his new character Nikki Heat and contrives to get involved with helping her solve this and every other case for the next (currently) seven years! They make a great team, she with her empathy for the victims and her drive to see justice done and he with his flair for a story, being able to see past the mundane and piece together the clues.

There are many things that drew me in with Castle: the fantastic female lead, the amazing cast chemistry, not only between the two stars but the supporting cast too, the innovative storylines and the inevitable ‘will they/won’t they’ between our crime-solving duo.

clinch in car parkThe main ingredient that had me fall instantly in love with the show was the humour. It’s funny, very funny. The people are funny, some of the situations are funny, the chemistry is funny. It makes the characters seem more real and it makes the stark and serious bits all the more emotional because of the contrast.

There are episodes where the murder seems straightforward but turns out to be complex, or vice versa. There are crazy, wacky episodes with ninjas, superheroes, time travellers and sinister CIA plots. Or are there? Usually there is a rational explanation for what Rick’s flair for the thriller plot sees in every case. But not always. It’s a show that plays fast and loose with parody and pastiche, as well as having deep and meaningful and serious plots too. And romance, of course, plenty of romance.

Castle logoI mentioned the supporting cast of regulars in passing but they are much more than mere foils or background. With Rick’s endearing, childlike qualities he’s lucky to have his actress mother Martha and wise-beyond-her-years daughter Alexis keeping him grounded at home. Bromance partners Ryan and Esposito, checkers of financials and phone records and leg-workers extraordinaire work tirelessly to support boss lady Beckett. Medical examiner Lanie, another funny and sassy lady at the top of her field, holds her own in the morgue and when sparring with Castle.

In later series we even move from mentor-ish Captain Roy Montgomery to stern but loyal Captain Victoria Gates. For a series set in the boys’ clubs of cops and thriller writers, there are more than enough great female characters played to perfection.

Like one of Rick’s bestseller books, Castle is a real page-turner; you just want to watch one more. You care about these people and their stories just as our protagonists do the victims of the crimes they investigate. Oh, and if you fancy, you can actually read the Derrick Storm and Nikki Heat novels written by Rick Castle. Buy them from Amazon; they’re really good. Seriously, how cool is that? And that pad of notes I made while binging? The script that came out of it is doing the rounds. It’s about… Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?

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Written by Debra-Jane Appelby

Loud, Yorkshire, opinionated, techno-geek, trans-woman comedian with a fondness for excessive culinary pleasures and too little exercise.