By: Stephanie Hall|For The Duquesne Duke
When Castle premiered on ABC in March 2009, it looked as if it would become another stereotypical will-they-won’t-they story. Replacing a short-lived, ratings-challenged reality show called True Beauty was no help to its appeal. But 100 episodes later, Castle has solidified its place as a fan favorite and has spawned four tie-in novels, three novellas, a graphic novel and regular marathons on TNT.
Castle, created by Andrew Marlowe (writer of Air Force One), centers on mystery writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) helping to solve murders with an NYPD team led by homicide Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). Originally shadowing Beckett as his inspiration for a new series of novels, Castle soon develops an attachment to the puzzling cases and a romantic eye for Beckett that carry him from plucky sidekick to veritable partner. The relationship between the open-minded Castle and the pragmatic Beckett unfolds as a story of unlikely allies perfectly complementing one another even when they refuse to admit it.
A rarity on television, Castle blends the genres of crime drama and comedy, also including a tinge of romance and a streak of suspense. As odd as the combination sounds, it makes the show intriguing. The clever writers, masters of subtext and references, have penned a plethora of convoluted cases, alternating the case of the week between high-stakes scenarios and more relaxed ones. Even when the case verges on ludicrous, it still provides the audience with an hour of innocent enjoyment, an hour of entertainment with a mystery wrapped in the dynamic relationships among the characters.
Unlike plot-driven crime dramas, which detail the forensics, the legal process or the criminal psychology and are prone to repetitive storylines, Castle focuses on how the cases influence the characters. Its character-driven nature still gives it a fresh feel after five seasons. There are few explosions and minimal fight scenes in favor of the actors’ reaction shots that express more emotion than words would in the moment.
The show thrives on the alluring chemistry between Castle and Beckett, and this carefully balanced tension leads to one of the most stunning changes: Beckett’s character development. Because of Castle’s presence in her life, Beckett evolves from a closed-off detective driven by her mother’s unsolved murder into a woman willing to express vulnerability without ever losing her strength. Actress Stana Katic constantly proves her range of talent. The 100th episode exemplifies this statement, as she floats from flirty to a force to be reckoned with.
As for the rest of the cast, there is no weak link. Fillion’s charm and buoyancy are never overblown. Even the supporting actors shine in well-developed roles. Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas, who play detectives on Beckett’s team, have chemistry rivaling that of the series leads. Their brotherly bond provides occasion for lighthearted banter and quips at Castle’s expense, all while chasing down suspects. Susan Sullivan as Castle’s eccentric mother and Molly Quinn as his mature teenage daughter maintain a balance of personalities when delivering real-world advice.
Castle may not be winning Emmys or beating CBS in the ratings, but this unconventional crime drama that isn’t afraid to have fun is a worthy watch even after a hundred episodes. Amid occasional goofy one-liners, sensational case premises and the sudden revelations that solve them stands the most heart-filled show about murder on television.