‘Castle’ is one of several shows that I enjoy watching, but don’t consider priority viewing. I usually record it on Monday nights and then save it to watch later. Sometimes I let it get backlogged a few episodes. Honestly, if I found myself in another situation where my overloaded DVR were to purge several episodes, I wouldn’t feel too guilty about it. And I probably wouldn’t have much trouble picking up wherever the DVR chooses to leave me. Still, it’s a fun show that I always like when I do finally get around to watching it. I was reminded of that this weekend, when I had a chance to catch up on the series in time for tonight’s season finale… which, admittedly, I probably won’t watch for several days.
By most normal standards, ‘Castle’ shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. It’s a very formulaic “Murder of the Week” detective show that breaks absolutely no new ground in the genre. It also trots out that shopworn “Will they or won’t they?” flirtation between the leads. The show does absolutely nothing that ‘Bones’ doesn’t do as well or better at the same time, not to mention countless predecessors.
Further, the basic concept is pretty absurd. A popular crime novelist (Nathan Fillion) tags along with a homicide detective (Stana Katic) to do research for a new character. That’s fine, I have no problem buying into that for a little while. Except that he continues to hang around long after the novel is finished, and is effectively treated just like any of the other cops. He handles evidence, he goes on raids, and he even interrogates suspects. And, despite being a bestselling author and playboy celebrity, almost no one ever recognizes his face or even name. If someone that I assumed was a police officer were introduced to me as John Grisham or Dennis Lehane, I think I might pick up on that.
As I said, pretty absurd. This show should be terrible. That it’s not – and is in fact rather consistently entertaining – all comes down to the chemistry of the cast. The role of Castle nicely showcases Fillion’s charisma, charm, and goofball sense of humor. Katic is also pretty appealing here, which I never would have expected had I seen her in Frank Miller’s atrocious ‘The Spirit‘ beforehand. Even the supporting characters like Ryan, Esposito, and Lanie (the far-too-glamorous M.E.) feel more fully-rounded and fleshed-out than you’d expect. They all have great banter with each other. And I just love Castle’s relationship with his daughter, which is completely devoid of the usual clichés about teenage angst.
As far as plotting goes, the show’s “Murder of the Week” storylines are often its weakest aspect. Many of them are very predictable, so much so that you can usually tell the killer’s identity right away just by looking at the list of guest stars. Chances are, the most recognizable name is the culprit.
Last week’s episode, ‘Overkill’, actually veers too far in the other direction. Its ultimate resolution, which involves two separate and unrelated killers unknowingly providing each other with alibis for the same murder, is almost ridiculously convoluted. Even so, the episode is a lot of fun, as usual. I’m not really sold on Castle’s sudden and overwhelming jealousy of robbery detective Demming, with whom he’s competing for Beckett’s attention. But his race to solve the murder on his own first, all the while Demming is completely oblivious that they’re even competing for anything, provides some solid laughs. I just hope that Castle doesn’t try to derail Beckett’s relationship in this week’s finale. He seems like the kind of guy who ought to be able to brush off the loss and wish them well.