Castle: Catch-up

This catches up six seasons of Castle, so yep spoilers are plenty

Ah, you young people with your ipods, your gibberish language and your Smiley Virus. You won't recall it, but back in the seventies serial actress boffer Robert Wagner and the gorgeous polo playing Stefanie Powers formed a husband and wife crime solving team for the TV. Every week, the opening titles were introduced by their butler Max (played by Lionel Stander) who explained the premise of the show to the hard of understanding, concluding with the witticism that when his employers met and began their sleuthing together it was "murder".
Now, I associate Hart To Hart, as it was called, with formulaic Sunday night telly of the visual cocoa kind. The sort of thing where good clean married heterosexual people catch bad evil threats to our way of life and visit upon them our judgement and collective fury, but in a winsome rather unchallenging way. Now I mention it here because it also serves to show what happens when you remove all sexual tension from your two attractive leads - they become dull individuals with no real lives of their own, you know like real married people.

Think Moonlighting after Bruce and Cybill stopped thinking about it and started doing it. Think Chuck when Sarah gave into the sheer force of male wish fulfilment. Think of any show where the build up to two romantically attracted characters getting around to getting it together gives way to actually getting it on. It's like listening to couples tell stories about each other, it's like watching wedding videos, it's like...well it's like Hart to Hart.
Well, back in the beginning there was a writer called Richard Castle, played by Canadian spaceship captain Nathan Fillion, and he wanted to write a series of books about a gorgeous female detective called Nikki Heat. To get background for his novels, Castle was allowed to shadow real life detective, Kate Beckett, as she worked her cases. Beckett, the real-life cop was tough and hard working and not given to flim-flam, Castle was rich, a playboy and full of both flam and indeed flim.

Beckett was played by fellow Canadian, and major hottie, Stana Katic. And lo, Beckett was a goddess whose single-minded commitment to solving crimes and uncovering the mysterious circumstances of her own mothers death has made her simultaneously single and seemingly romantically unobtainable. She would endure Castle until his placement came to an end, but it never did, not really. We are now half way through season six and no one at the NYPD has ever raised concerns about the insurance complications of letting civilians solve crime, nor has any police officers union thought about the long term consequences of having unpaid detectives.
In the five completed seasons, Castle and Beckett have become a formidable crime fighting team. She has worked the case, brought it down to earth and done the sceptical bit when he has flown off on a fancy. He has thoroughly examined leftfield and been comically outlandish. As a pair, he has been the inspiration and she has been the perspiration. They have grown close and his initial nosing around in her mothers death has driven them apart and then back together as a growing conspiracy was uncovered and both of them have been at risk. Castle has stayed way past his original placement, and Becket has let him - and we all knew why.

Romances have come and gone for both of them. Ex-wives and flirtations for him, brief dalliances and pale imitations for her. Yet we have always known that they have chemistry - her brass tacks and his nonsense, her model-like looks and his hunkiness. Just the way they have gawped at each another, the way they have looked when the other is gone or when the possibility of another life has arisen where they are apart. These people need to be brought together, dammit.
When he told her that her mother was assassinated at the end of season 1, she spurned him before taking him back as a crime solving partner. When season 2 ended with Kate realising her feelings and dropping her partner before seeing Castle disappear in the arms of another. When season 3 concluded with the murder conspiracy boiling up and Kate shot, Castle declaring his love as she lay bleeding in his arms. When season 4... well season 4 was the best, with her recovery and their dual fear of being found out and hurt playing alongside greater shocking truths.

Truthfully, seasons 2 to 4 are pretty awesome with the programme makers understanding that the murder of the week format is the secondary element here. The point of Castle the show was watching two grown likeable adults fall in love and negotiate their way through extraordinary and contrived circumstances to the realisation of that feeling. This was a long elaborate romantic waltz through dead bodies, that was a joy because it was so knowing, so meta - when Kate says "see you in the fall" at the end of season 2, we know she's talking to Castle as much as to the audience desperate for these two crazy mixed up kids to sort it out.
This was romance like in olden days, love frustrated by desire, love threatened by assassins and love that was all bereft glances and absent silences. Fillion and Katic weren't just good as the star-crossed couple, they were electric. Fumbling towards each other, smashing through obstacles of fate and scared stiff that it would never come together. As a viewer, I was infuriated, I was desperate for them, and I wanted the slow burn delicious agony to end.

And so it did with the glorious finale to season four. Castle trying to stop Beckett from seeking the answers to a search he started, scared of losing her as she stumbles into certain death, seeing their partnership end as he can't take what will happen to her if she can't stop. Beckett feeling betrayed as Castle has kept the truth from her, propelled forward to personal and professional ruin. Then Castle literally deleting Beckett from his life when there is a knock at the door...
A very sexy and damp Beckett, a deluge of forgiveness and aching vigorous and clammy love-making that was the pay-off to four years of anticipation. Oh mamma.

And then they woke up with season 5. It wasn't a dream, it was the next day and the rest of the Castle household were to be navigated before Kate could go home. A bit of guilt perhaps, some office politics about the relationship, some doubt over whether the reality could live up to the dream but no real tension to replace the four seasons before. Season 5 is fun in that cute way the show has always been, and it's nice that the characters around our couple have moved on to fatherhood, college etc, but it wasn't season 4, or 3 or 1. It was okay, I guess.
Bigger more elaborate cases, returning killers - the writers have tried to amp it up but the sad cynical fact is that romantic bliss isn't all that entertaining. With the season ending the only idea they could offer was the appearance of a dream job offer for Beckett and the idea that this might split the loving couple up. And even that was botched, with the actual cliffhanger being the writers marriage proposal followed by a between seasons pause.

Season 6 begins with an engaged Beckett in the new job and partnered up with Lisa Edelstein off House. We get a few cases with the original supporting cast squeezed in and Castle visiting Washington, but Beckett proves too principled and can't take the bullshit in her new job and ends up fired and unemployed. Well I bet you can guess where her next job offer comes from. And...we're back to normal, the very domestic and usual kind of normal. I have to say that season 6 is circling, and I am not sure it isn't the drain that is its object. A return for the X3K theme juiced things up recently but overall Castle the show is struggling.
The show is still blessed with good ratings, but the makers have talked about an "organic" ending. To my mind, that is where married life kicks in or even before. I do hope that some jeopardy can come back to the romantic plot if they continue and that a better arc is found soon, as a show that once entranced me is currently becoming a mere time filler.

Mystifyingly, Castle is several seasons behind on Channel 5 but available if you want to catch the great stuff in seasons 3 and 4. You can also catch season 6 on Alibi in the UK as well, or up to date on iTunes....



out of 10

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