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Posts Tagged ‘Castle’

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Recently, the hubs and I watched the series finale of Castle, which has dominated our Monday nights for several years now. The show has suffered over the last couple of seasons, amid writer/producer turnover and a few casting changes. But we love Rick Castle and Kate Beckett and their ensemble cast, and we wanted to watch the end of their story.

In case you’re not familiar with it: Castle features Rick Castle, bestselling mystery writer, and Kate Beckett, NYPD homicide detective, who are thrown together when Castle begins shadowing Beckett as inspiration for his novels. Nathan Fillion plays Castle to cheeky, charming, boyish perfection, and Stana Katic is Kate Beckett: sharp, intense, brilliant, good with a gun. The supporting cast is equally beloved at our house, especially Beckett’s fellow detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas).

We fell in love with Castle after our friend Nate practically shoved the DVD of Season 1 into my hands, telling me, “You’ll love it. He’s a writer!” And it’s true: one of Castle’s unique pleasures is its focus on, and delight in, good stories.

Especially in the early seasons, Castle is often able to help solve a homicide by thinking of it as one of his mystery plots. At least a dozen episodes include the line “If I were writing this story…” and feature Castle pacing around the 12th precinct or his apartment, trying to fit the clues into a narrative arc. Beckett – ever the practical cop – sometimes gets impatient with this line of thinking, but Castle’s narrative framework often leads them to a solution. Sometimes it provides the episode’s final twist, when the case seems to be neatly wrapped up, but the story is missing something.

As the show continued, its narrative arc expanded beyond each episode’s murder and solution: Beckett recommenced her longtime quest to track down her mother’s killer, and Castle wrestled with a few of his own demons, writing-related and otherwise. The show has traced his relationships with his whip-smart daughter Alexis, his ebullient actress mother Martha, and Beckett herself: what was at first a grudging partnership (on her end) became a dramatic love story. Meanwhile, the wisecracks from Ryan and Esposito made me laugh every week, and their quiet, steadfast loyalty to Beckett and each other has often made me cry.

After sticking with these characters through some serious highs and lows (and a mind-boggling number of homicides), I was hoping for a satisfying finale. We did get some resolution of a few major plot threads, but the ending was…not great. As the final credits rolled, the hubs and I looked at each other and said (almost in unison), “If I were writing this story…”

Maybe we didn’t get (exactly) the ending we wanted. I know that Hollywood studio politics, and the last-minute decisions of producers, had a great deal to do with that. It didn’t feel smooth or coherent or clean, and I’m also sad that I won’t be spending Monday nights with these characters any more. We’ll still quote episodes and watch reruns occasionally (and Esposito’s trademark “Yo!” is now a staple at our house). But it won’t be the same.

I love shows that make me laugh and make me think, and Castle has done both, in spades. I’m going to miss the folks at the 12th precinct. But I’m grateful for the hours of enjoyment, and the insights into what makes a good (heart-pounding, witty, compelling, highly entertaining) story.

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I’ve made no secret of my love for Castle – the show that blends crime-solving drama with relationship tension and hilarious one-liners. J loves it almost as much as I do – so it’s no surprise that it was a Castle Christmas at our house:

Striking a pose

If you can’t tell, the apron reads “I really am ruggedly handsome” – one of Richard Castle’s classic lines.

And it’s not bulletproof (like the vest it mimics), but I do love my new shirt:

Happy New Year, friends. I’m still savoring the joy of 9 days in Texas with family and dear friends-who-are-family – but I’m glad to be back in Boston, and in this space. More soon.

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Recently, when I gushed about Castle (which I’m still loving – I haven’t been this obsessed with a show in a long while), I noted that while I prefer strong protagonists in books, I love ensemble casts in TV shows. Ever since then, I’ve been wondering why – and eventually I came up with two reasons.

One has to do with the nature of both media. Books, by definition, are a solitary experience. I know books grew out of a long tradition of oral history (and I grew up listening to my parents read aloud), but when I read now, I’m usually curled up on the couch or standing on the T, or I’ve retreated to a cafe or a park bench, seeking a little solitude in the midst of the madding crowd. My favorite protagonists’ voices (I prefer first person or third-person limited) pull you into their heads, their hearts, their worlds. I like to feel like it’s just me and them.

But TV shows – especially my favorite ones – are meant to be watched together. Television is a communal medium for a communal world – we’re all about connecting, or at least we claim we are, and we do love to huddle around the TV set and laugh or cry or gasp in amazement together. When I watch TV it’s nearly always with someone else – usually my husband – and the company enhances the experience. And lines from my favorite shows become part of my vernacular with my friends who love them too. (We have a growing list of favorite Castle lines at our house, and it’s actually embarrassing how often my husband and I quote Friends.)

The second reason is this: I sort of envision my life as a TV show with an ensemble cast – with co-stars, sitcom moments and even a soundtrack. (Please tell me you do this too. I can’t be the only geek here.) As much as I love the solitary, immersive experiences of my favorite books, my life doesn’t always look like that. I am the leading lady in my own story, of course, but I share the stage with an ensemble cast: my husband, my dear friends, my co-workers, my family – and a whole lot of extras.

In some ways, ironically, my Boston life can feel more solitary than communal: our friends here are scattered across the city, and our other dear ones live much farther away. My social circles are much smaller, and I no longer have an equivalent of Monica and Rachel’s apartment (which I had in college at a place we called House 9), or Monica and Chandler’s place (which I had in my post-college Abilene life, at Nate and Abi’s house). But my life still has an ensemble cast – and since moving cross-country, I cherish my “co-stars” more than ever.

Do you prefer strong protagonists or ensemble casts – in TV, books or other media? And the kicker: why?

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Confession: I am a total wimp when it comes to on-screen violence. I often shut my eyes during bloody battle scenes; I can’t watch slasher or horror movies because of the gore (whereas my husband loftily refuses to watch them “because they’re lame”). I get easily creeped out by crime shows (I can’t watch CSI or even The Mentalist). For some reason, I can read about violence with relatively little trouble (though I’d rather not – and when Bethany and I had to read Blindness in college, well, we didn’t want to turn off the lights afterward).

Anyway, since watching violence on screen is not my thing, I wasn’t at all sure I could handle Castle. However, after having watched most of the first (brief) season: I love it.

I love it mostly because of the banter between Detective Kate Beckett (no-nonsense, sharp and yet disarmingly pretty), and writer Rick Castle (a cocky playboy who’s just vulnerable enough to be endearing). Of course, they spend a lot of time solving homicides, dealing with unsavory characters and trying not to get shot, but instead of being a crime show with a side of witty banter, this show is witty banter with a side of crime. The crimes provide the setting and much of the action, but the show is really about relationships – both the one between Castle and Beckett, and their relationships with the supporting cast (packed with more wonderful characters).

Because the show isn’t just about crime, there’s a lot going on outside the crime scenes – from Castle’s deep love for his daughter (and the antics of his hilarious diva mother) to Beckett’s long-buried grief over her mother’s death. The ensemble cast really makes the show tick (I love Beckett’s fellow detectives Ryan and Esposito, and medical examiner Lanie). I often prefer a strong protagonist in the books I read, but in my favorite TV shows (Friends, Gilmore Girls, Mary Tyler Moore) I enjoy a solid ensemble cast.

Finally, of course, I love that Castle’s a writer. Every episode contains a line or two about constructing a plot, about making a story believable, about throwing in a twist. There’s a lot of “if I were writing this…” and quite a few instances of truth being stranger than (or just as complicated as) fiction. While I don’t write crime fiction (or read much of it, except Agatha Christie), I appreciate the nods to Castle’s chosen profession, which is also mine.

Are you a fan of Castle (or other crime shows)?

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