Fillion is King of his Castle

Posted on February 25, 2010

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RTE are encouraging insomnia.

At least it certainly seems that way when you consider the fact that the majority of their good stuff is on at Stupid O’Clock in the morning. We’ve got Mad Men on Monday nights, Damages on Tuesday and new addition, US detective drama Castle on Saturday nights, all airing at around the midnight mark which doesn’t suit working people midweek. But at least Saturday’s aren’t too bad. If you so wish you can stumble in from the pub around midnight, sit down and watch, what is actually, quite a good detective series in Castle.

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It’s certainly taken off in America where it’s in the middle of its second series. The premise is simple enough. Nathan Fillion plays crime novelist Richard Castle except he’s gone and killed off his lead character Derek Storm. A copycat murder case in the first episode introduces Castle to detective Kate Beckett when he offers to help them catch the culprit.

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Impressed by Beckett, Castle pulls some strings and is effectively installed as Beckett’s shadow, on the assumption that he’s basing a new character on her and needs to research. Beckett, of course, objects. After all, a two hander crime drama wouldn’t be any fun were there not some hostility/sexual tension between our two leads.

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Fillion has great fun in the role of Castle, the arrogant, smarmy and philandering lead. While there are hints of a background, including details about his marriages, it is his charm that carries him so far. We haven’t really learned anything about him except that he has a daughter who is a little too well behaved to be a teenager, and an eccentric mother living with him for reasons yet unknown. Susan Sullivan also relishes the role of the retired, cocktail popping, eyelash fluttering (ideally cast as Fillion’s mother in that case) Castle matriarch. Though we haven’t seen much of her thus far, the signs are there that she’s a prime candidate to instil some humour into the series. To me, her actions are somewhat reminiscent of Magda in There’s Something About Mary.

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Molly C. Quinn does what she can as daughter Alexis, with limited screen time and even more limited character development. Independent child figures have always been good plot devices in series, the most recent I can think of being Emily in Fox’s Lie To Me, but Alexis doesn’t have the same narrative drive as that character. So far she is too well behaved, going so far as to prompt her father to ask why she doesn’t rebel and act up. He should probably be careful though. After all, it’s always the quiet ones…

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Stana Katic so far hasn’t really impressed me in the role of Kate Beckett. It takes a certain kind of actress to play a strong female lead character, especially one that is feasibly having a novel based on her actions. But I’m not sure Katic is the right person for the job. Her dialogue is a bit wooden in places and her dealings with the rest of her team so far feels forced. Her interactions with Fillion are her saving grace at the moment, the two showcasing a quirky chemistry, something which will probably determine the lifespan of the show more than the actual quality of the narrative.

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The plots are straightforward enough. You could probably solve them yourself if you were inclined to concentrate hard enough come midnight. In a way, it’s a perfect time slot for a show which really isn’t trying to be anything either than a fun, rollercoaster, detective drama with some likeable characters, a bit of action and some humour. Perhaps a Friday might have been a better option though.

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It’s always difficult to know what kind of fate is in store for detective dramas like Castle. Each series tries to do something new to make it stand out, shows like The Mentalist and aforementioned Lie To Me follow protagonists with special abilities. Castle gives an audience a view of the police force through the eyes of someone who doesn’t belong there except it doesn’t really show us anything that other series don’t, leading an audience to the conclusion that police stations are actually that boring all the time, whether there’s been a murder or just bought a new coffee machine.

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Essentially, Castle plays it safe, offering us credible but by no means overly interesting plotlines, and exhibiting its one dimensional characters. But that’s by no means a bad thing. It’s only two episodes old after all and they have to leave something out to keep us watching.

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Coming back to issues of scheduling again, the show is very unfortunate – midnight on Saturday nights might catch the older generation who’ll stay up the weekends with a glass of wine but it won’t attract many of the younger crew who would much prefer to be sweating buckets in a pub, club or house party and not really caring about Richard Castle’s new lead character. Curiously enough, this series is not repeated on RTE’s Player function either, meaning you either have to set the DVD recorder or find alternate ways of viewing.

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As a crime drama, the show is entertaining. By no means original, it does have a certain cleverness which hinges mainly on the character of Richard Castle and so far Nathan Fillion is bearing the weight of this series well.

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Worth a look if you’re of the older generation, or just have nowhere else to go on a Saturday.

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Castle airs Saturday nights on Network 2 at sporadic times. Best consult the TV Guide on this one.


Posted in: Reviews