Saturday, 20 April 2013

"There are two kinds of folks who sit around thinking about how to kill people: psychopaths and mystery writers."

He's the kind that pays better.
Castle was one of those TV series which I figured I'd get around to watching eventually, because it sounded  interesting and had an actor I knew in it (In this case, Nathan Fillion), so I figured it might be interesting. Eventually it came to a night when I felt like watching something, something I hadn't seen before, so why not try the first episode of Castle to see how I liked it. A few weeks later I'd watched every episode which had been broadcast up to that point, which was all of four seasons. So you don't need to be a master of deduction to realise I liked it. I also made sure to get the DVDs and to specifically show at least the first episode to a few people just so they'd understand if I started talking about the show.

Before I started watching, all I knew about Castle was something along the lines of "Millionaire novelist Richard Castle ends up working with (and aggravating) the NYPD when a serial killer starts staging murder scenes like ones from Castle's bestselling books." Which sounded interesting, but limited. I mean, how many times can it realistically happen? Fortunately, it turned out that's just how it starts, and the ensuing episodes involve non-Castle-themed murders (albeit rather strange ones), and Castle gets to stick around because, y'know, he's rich and has powerful friends.
The other surprise which comes out is that the show isn't exactly about the murder investigations. I mean, obviously, they make up the bulk of the events of each episode, but they're not exactly the focus. They're just the context. The setting. The background against which we witness the real story, which is about the people involved. Their various quirks, odd things going on in their lives, and most particularly the tension between Castle and Detective Kate Beckett.

I mean, obviously, this sort of thing can't be unique to Castle. All shows have to have characters, many of them have well-written characters, but these are just the observations I kind of made while watching. I suppose one of the big lessons I got from watching it is... actually, come to think of it, it's something I've blogged about before, along the lines that regardless of extreme circumstances, people remain people, or something of the sort. I mean, obviously homicide detectives have to take their jobs seriously, but equally, they're still people, and people joke and laugh about things, so regardless of the tragedy around them, they do those things.
Actually, I'm going a bit out of sequence on what I meant to say. I initially thought it would be more that Castle brought the light-heartedness intot the mix, since he doesn't really seem to take anything seriously most of the time. And so it is, he's certainly more frivolous, but it's not like the detectives are a bunch of misery-gutses or anything. Because, particularly if death is an integral part of your day-to-day life, you can't just put things on hold and act solemn about everything. You'd probably go crazy or something. Or get really depressed, or just generally have a terrible life.

OK, so this leads me onto one of my other things - obviously, by the nature of the show, people die. Every episode (with occasional exceptions), there's been a different murder. It can get a little wearing at times, especially if you're watching lots of episodes back-to-back, as I was. I felt a little burned out at times, because regardless of the fact they do keep things a lot more light-hearted than you might imagine, nevertheless they don't shy away from periodically giving you that emotional kick in the gut, as it were, with victims' families and such. For which I definitely respect the writers.

The whole setup is interesting in that of course Castle provides a different perspective on things, though sometimes I think not enough is made of that point. Because while the others are police detectives, Castle is a writer. A storyteller. He's a clever man, he can make some fairly impressive deductions (He does his best Sherlock Holmes impression in the very first episode deducing Beckett's backstory), but he looks at it from the  point of view of telling a story and making it make sense. As if he was writing it. So there are cases of him saying things like "Obviously he didn't do it. He's the  red herring!" The place where this falls down, however, is that in a lot of stories you can watch and think "Surely it's obvious that this is dangerous/that guy can't be trusted/insert plot twist here?" And the counter to it is "Well, they don't know they're in a story. Experienced in first person, in real life, these things wouldn't be so obvious. Castle doesn't have that excuse, since he is supposed to be treating things as a story. And sometimes it seems like he should see some important things coming because of that.

The one other real criticism I can come up with is that they do like reusing some ideas. Such as "Castle gets a criminal to talk by claiming he's doing research for his new book and wants it to be authentic." Makes a certain amount of sense sometimes, but when he's literally getting them to explain specific details about the crime being investigated, whiel they're in a police station and when they already know Castle's working with the police... it seems like at least one of them would be smart enough to figure out it's a ruse. The other problematic reused idea comes in later on and it's a thing they do where the episode starts with a scene setting up some sort of a cliffhanger moment, and then rewinds and the action shows how they arrived at that moment. Now, the first time they do it it works well. Other times, less so, because the cliffhangers are less interesting, they didn't necessarily need to be previewed, they're not teased and played with at other points in the episode, sometimes they're not that far into the episode, and so they kind of fall flat. The episodes in question are still good, but they'd be just as good or better if we just saw everything in chronological order rather than previewing a snippet of one later scene at the beginning.

I think that's all the general stuff I can say. I suppose there's a bit of an ongoing plot, but other than a couple of backstory mysteries to be solved, it's all to do with the characters growing together, their interactions and relationships, or lack thereof. And I don't know if I really want to go through the characters here. Some of them I'd find hard to describe in a way which would get across how interesting they are. I really just would recommend that people watch it. I might be willilng to lend you the DVDs if you ask nicely, or watch it with you some time.
Secretly I'm just cutting this blog post short so I can get back to my DVDs. Shh, don't tell anyone.

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