Saturday, May 14, 2016

Castle: All Good Things..

Scott D. Parker
I can't think of another situation like this where many longtime fans of the TV show CASTLE are happy, albeit bittersweet, about its cancellation.
On Tuesday, I wrote how I was dreading this season’s finale because of all the behind-the-scene shenanigans regarding the firing of co-lead Stana Katic and Tamala Jones. I lamented the inevitable way Katic’s character, Captain Kate Beckett, would have to be written out of the show: her death. I even had my failsafe way to assuaging the anger I knew I was going to feel this coming Monday: re-watch the Season 7 finale.
But now, all that is moot. On Thursday, ABC cancelled Castle.
For me, Castle was one of my all-time favorite shows. Ever since the promo to the series aired back in 2009, I was hooked. Part of it was Nathan Fillion. C’mon! But the other part was the concept. A bestselling writer teaming up with a tough lady cop? Banter that hearkened back not only to “Moonlighting” but Nick and Nora Charles? What’s not to like?
I not only liked it. I loved it. Passionately. In an interesting bit of timing, my family was selected by the Arbitron folks to wear this little pager-like devices that would monitor what we watched and listened to on the radio. “CSI: Miami” aired Mondays at 9pm, but so did Castle. And, since the monitors didn’t pick up VCR recording, we watched Castle live (and taped CSI: Miami). I’d like to think that my family helped in the ratings during that first 10-episode season.
The chemistry between Fillion and Katic was present from the beginning. Charm oozed from them both. They were so good together. I watched each and every episode with a goofy grin on my face. My wife enjoyed the show, too. I’d tell everyone about it and why they should give it a try. It was a rare instance when a friend would come back and say, “That’s not the show for me.”
Even though Fillion and Katic were the central crux of the show, the entire ensemble deserves high praise. Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever, as Detectives Esposito and Ryan, became inseparable and indispensable as the show continued. Together, they formed a unique team, the likes of which are rare on network TV: co-stars that belong together. As I wrote back in 2011 during my recap of the season 3 finale, “If there was an Emmy Award for Best Co-Star Team, Huertas and Dever should be nominated annually.” Molly Quinn, who played Castle’s teenaged daughter, literally grew up before our eyes. Her special chemistry with Fillion was so good you’d be forgiven for believing they really were father and daughter. Susan Sullivan, Martha Rodgers, Castle’s mom, usually played her role for laughs and conflict, but she brought decades of experience to the show and always was a welcome addition to any episode. Early on, Ruben Santiago-Hudson played Captain Montgomery, Beckett’s commanding officers. He brought gravitas to the prescient as well as heartfelt courage when his character sacrificed himself for Beckett. That he was replaced by Penny Johnson Jerald as Captain Gates was wonderful casting and helped keep the show’s conflict afloat. Together, all these wonderful actors—and so many more—created something so much more than the mere sum of the parts.
The writing on the show, created by Andrew Marlowe, started strong and kept up the momentum. It’s a rare serious show that can do comedy well. “The X-Files” was good at that. But it’s also the rare lighthearted show that can craft such deeply emotional and serious episodes. This is where Castle excelled. I wrote about Castle at lot over the years, and more than one time, I commented that they should have just changed the name of the show to “Beckett.” She grounded the show. Her emotional arc is the through line of the entire series. The overall investigation into her mother’s murder gave the show heft and showed, that even when life jars your and knocks you off your planned trajectory, you have to right yourself. Katic breathed so much life into Beckett. She portrayed the police detective not only as a strong, capable, modern woman, but also one that had to overcome life when life broke down the walls she built. She is an incredible actress and she did such a stunning job at playing the part written and tailored to her.
Speaking of writing, I can’t think of another show with as much meta-stuff as Castle. That the good folks at ABC decided to actually publish real books featuring Nikki Heat and slap Fillion’s face on the back cover was inspired. Brilliant! I absolutely loved them all. They were great to read in real time as Rook and Heat (Castle and Beckett’s doppelgangers in the novels) got together early on. And a big shout out to Johnny Heller who narrated the first four novels. His voice and cadence so closely matched Fillion’s it was like “Richard Castle” was narrating his own book.
And so it ends. As I wrote on Facebook, I actually have mixed feelings about the cancellation. I know it would have to end sometime. There were times in this final season where even I could tell the show wasn’t reaching the heights it had in past seasons. But I still loved it. Passionately. Fervently. It was perfectly suited to my nerdy, geeky, writerly wheelhouse. That it went from a gimmicky show about a nerdy writer and his muse to an incredibly deep one that showed the blossoming of a real romance amidst the uncertain times of the early 21st Century is remarkable. I will dearly miss it and my "I don't answer the phone Mondays at 9pm" time. Heck, if you throw in CSI: Miami which started in 2002, I’ve had a 9pm Monday show for 14 years!
Before the cancellation news broke, I had my fail safe backup plan in light of Beckett’s inevitable death: I was going to rewatch the season 7 finale. In that episode, the writers buttoned up the entire series with a smiling cast and wonderful, heartfelt words. I have since learned that they filmed two different endings for this season’s finale, the one where Beckett most likely died and the happy one. Let’s hope the editor gets it correct! It looks like we’ll get our closure ending. It looks like we’ll have our sad, yet happy tears. 

But, most of all, CASTLE will end the way it started. With two characters, Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, two people from different worlds who found each other, discovered in the other person that which they themselves lacked, withstood the hardships of life, fell in love, and got married. In so many love stories, there’s the “and they lived happily ever after” line. The implication is that life will always be smiles. That’s not the case. What the romance of Castle and Beckett showed, time and time again, is that life throws obstacles in their paths, but together, they can overcome anything. That they are stronger together than apart.
And we are all happier for all the joy that CASTLE has brought to our lives. Together, we have experienced our lives together, cast, crew, and fans. No matter what life threw in our way, we always knew that, come Monday nights, we can see our TV friends and they’ll bring a smile to our faces.
Man! I so loved this show!
It’s easy, now, to write “There’ll never be another show like it,” but there likely will be. After all, some folks characterized Castle as a new Moonlighting. But the next show that tries to do what CASTLE did will have an incredibly high bar to reach, to say nothing of surpass.
So, come Monday, we will get our happy ending. And Castle and Beckett (and us) can end this wonderful relationship in the only way possible.

P. S., I just re-watched the series premiere Everything we love is there, right from the beginning. It was like Marlowe and company created this show from whole cloth and the subsequent years only refined its flavor. Truly a one-of-a-kind program.

1 comment:

D.M. McGowan said...

Yes, Scott, a great show. Serious now and then but most of all entertaining which such a show should be. I've missed episodes but caught most of them.
But, as you touch on, what's coming now?