Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Englishman's Home Is His Castle

By Jay Stringer

It's not enough for me to say that something, works, I want to know how. If a film is good -or bad- I want to look at it's pieces, figure out how we got to that result. If a book moves me, I need to look at how it's structured, what tricks the author had used.

I can't just say that I think Castle is good TV, I need to figure out what makes it work for me. I know why people assume I like it. I had it even today, someone said, "I bet you like it because he's a writer." I dont think i'd be drawn to a story about a writer, if I'm honest. I remember struggling through the first few chapters of Salem's Lot for that very reason.

Something else I get is folks deciding it's down to my man love for Nathan Fillion, but I'm not convinced.

Let's look at the parts.

Richard Castle has changed over three seasons. By degrees. He started out as the rakish, slightly caddish, playboy writer who had a heart of gold. Over three years his rakish elements have been downplayed and his 'good at heart' side has developed. But I doubt he alone is why I like the show. If we take the first season, ad assume that Beckett doesn't stay in his life, a solo Richard Castle show would probably be a brother to Californication. liked the first season of the Duchovny vehicle; it was fun and fast, but I didn't need to see any more after that. Also, Castle is a fantasy character, writers don't live that life.

So, is it Beckett? Not really.

Beckett as played by Stana Katic is strong, independent and dedicated. At the same time, she's yet another in a long line of fictional cops who view policing as a sacred duty, and talks of standing up for the people who need help. Her captain of the last three seasons, Montgomery, made similar speeches. To characters like these, policing is about making a stand or drawing a line. All well and good, but all dull and cliche. A solo show of Kate Beckett wouldn't make it onto my viewing list, because I simply don't believe in those kinds of characters. Cops are employees, they do jobs. I don't need yet another show about a principled and driven cop walking the mean streets despite not being mean.

The supporting cast maybe?

Actually, yeah, maybe.

Detectives Ryan and Esposito are a tonne of fun. They weave through the episodes like the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern of crime fiction. Their humour and humanity undercuts many of the cliche'd elements of the shows leads, and they're the vehicle the writer can use to carry us from comedy to drama and back again.

Still, though, am I going to be drawn to a show about two cops who's most defining traits are that they're both good at being cops? Probably not.

Is it because it's a crime show? Hmmm. Maybe that's why I first clicked on it. But it's really not what I would describe as my kind of crime show. It has a different murder mystery every week, and some of them are extremely far fetched and full of logical leaps. My favourite mystery so far is still probably the frozen woman from the first season. Yes, it had twisty mystery elements, the basic story was about grief and a very simple murder, and the real impact of the story came after the mystery was solved.

Is it the writing? I thought so. For the first two seasons, the writing was snappy and fun. It carried both old and new concepts with a spring in it's step, and the mysteries usually boiled down to simple and believable mysteries. The third season was a bit more inconsistent. There were a handful of fantastic episodes hidden away amongst a lot of very lightweight or illogical ones. Really, guys, a dead body hidden inside a sofa bed? And I tend to think TV shows shouldn't go past four seasons, and Castle is now entering it's fourth.

So what is it then?

It must be a mix of all the above. It's chemistry. It's a show where the right people are in the right place at the right time, and the result is one of my few 'must see' TV shows.