Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


17 May 2012 by Nicholas in TV

Castle is an ABC show that stars Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic. It’s as hackneyed a concept as you can imagine: a mystery writer is drafted in by the NYC police to help with a case that seems to be based on one of his books. While working on the case he develops a crush on the detective that is handling the case and insinuates himself into the department through his contacts.

Ostensibly a romantic comedy with some police procedural thrown in, Castle sometimes suffers from tonal clash and seeming uneven. It also tends towards formula, with it being entirely possible to work out whether a suspect is guilty or not purely based on how far through the episode the police investigate him.

Every crime is neatly solved and I find it hard to believe the reasoning and “evidence” would actually stand up in a court of law. This is, of course, purely incidental: Castle is a showcase for Nathan Fillion and a romantic comedy, everything else is more or less window dressing.

Fillion plays a man child with problem exes who nonetheless surrounds himself with women: his failed actress mother and precocious daughter. He chases after a smart and independent woman while occasionally being distracted by women who serve as little more than blocking characters and plotting devices. It isn’t really trying to be high art or even a particularly good example of its genre. That’s ok, sometimes I feel like slumming it.

The show has enough of interest in the window dressing elements (even if I do find some characters, especially the mother, annoying) and some neat conceits for some of the cases to make it watchable. And it has Nathan Fillion. It’s a guilty pleasure.

Stana Katic is just about believable. She has a long running sub plot about the death of her mother which isn’t particularly plausible and the series normally has one of its tonal problems whenever it revisits it. As the seasons have progressed it has played a larger and larger part and got more and more convoluted and unlikely. Which is a shame. The show works best when it is being light-hearted and focused on its gimmicky crime of the week. When it tries to do anything more it finds itself struggling under a dramatic weight it can’t sustain and that it is particularly unsuited to.

The other characters are pretty much either there to serve the plot or provide comic relief. Or both. Although there is a large cast, there is precious little for most of them to do and even less in the way of rounded characters on display. So, really, it all comes down to your tolerance of the stars and your stomach for gimmickry.