|From the cover of the Complete Season Three DVD, link below|
In case you are wondering why a post on a TV crime show is showing up on this blog, the answer is simple. This show manages to build a large helping of social learning around something popular and, lets face it, negative - crime and mystery. A feast of verbal jousting and subtle satire, “Castle” appears to be about the crimes being solved and the love between the two protagonists played by Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic. But behind this lies serious comment on parenting, morality and its evolution, friendship and loyalties and a sharp look at the world of performing and creative arts. The self proclaimed theater diva of yesteryears, Martha Rodgers, (Castle’s mother), and Alexis, his daughter provide the balance to the world of crime and criminals that the show otherwise mostly deals with. Ryan and Esposito are two detectives in Beckett’s team who help solve the mysteries along with Beckett’s Emilia, the medical examiner Dr. Lanie Parish, rounding off the American demographic. The parallels and contrasts between the journeys of all of these characters embody the emotional and ethical challenges that all of us struggle with for much of our lives.
Now into its fourth season, Castle has till now been more about Beckett than about Castle. Kate Beckett is a pretty, smart, and driven NYPD detective who is haunted silently and continuously by the mystery behind her mother’s murder by the underworld. Richard Castle is a successful crime writer who gets to work with Beckett on her cases, initially to get first hand research for his new novel, and later as they form a great crime solving team. The obvious attraction between the two evolves across the first season, but neither Castle nor Beckett acknowledge or express it. The feminine mystery that lies behind the tough exterior of the detective is simultaneously erotic and vulnerable. Castle is the quintessential male much of the time, repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth, flirting openly, opening doors only to have skeletons from his past come tumbling out, and sulking with the slightest of perceived slights. Their gender roles are frequently reversed with Beckett assuming the role of the protector baling Castle out of the mess that he gets himself into. Season two ends with Beckett on the verge of telling Castle how she feels about him, only to be interrupted (a ploy used repeatedly throughout the series) by his ex-wife with whom he goes off on a writing holiday to the Hamptons.
Season three adds more flesh to the relationship with numerous occasions where the situation brings them close to expressing their love. Along with it are the jealousies and power play and of course, the misunderstandings that have you gritting your teeth and wanting to throw the remote at them and scream, “Tell her, dammit,” or “Tell him, dammit.” There is the Countdown episode in the freezer container which they are both locked in, and huddling together to keep their bodies warm, Beckett comes close to “telling him” but passes out before she can finish her sentence. Then there is the Knockdown episode where they kiss, though only for appearances sake. And of course, there is my most favorite episode of the season, Nikki Heat, which has an actress studying Beckett to play Nikki Heat (Castles detective character based on Beckett) in a screen adaptation. It is one of those rare episodes where the guest star, Laura Prepon, walks away with all the credit.
|Screen capture from Knockdown (Season 3, Episode 13)|
Kate and Richard both call each other by their last names (Beckett has called Castle by his first names a few times, and a couple of times even called him Rick), and they make for the best couple ever on television since the days of Scully and Mulder. They are perpetually in conflict, perpetually protective of each other, and a recurring device is their contradicting and simultaneous replies to questions, most commonly regarding the status of their relationship with each other. They burn up silently and keep their hurt to themselves. Season three ends with Kate coming close to discovering the truth behind her mother’s murder, and at the funeral of her boss (Lt. Montgomery of three seasons), she is shot at by unknown assailants. In the Devdas sort of a season finale, though in a differently convoluted way, Castle manages to finally express his love for her but only after Beckett has been shot through the heart and lies dying. For me and a million other Castle fans, this was the ultimate irony. While there was hope that Beckett would live to fight another season (her then heartthrob Josh being a cardiac surgeon), there was also the disappointment that Castle was finally able to verbalize his love for her only when it was too late!
Season four starts with Beckett surviving the assassination attempt but claiming to have no recollection of the last moments. Castle manages to look like a hormone-impaired lost puppy. Later we learn from a session with her therapist that Beckett actually remembers the three magic words being said to her. Later on in the season, she lets it slip during an interrogation while Castle is watching from the other side of the glass that she recalls every single second, and another round of complexes and misunderstanding begins. Season four sees almost every episode touching on the unspoken feelings between the two and emphasizing the brevity of life and the futility of regrets. It is obvious that the makers of Castle have studied Indian soaps thoroughly, and I live from episode to episode certain that nothing will happen but hoping that something will.
To come back to the question of why a post on Castle on this blog. There are several reasons other than the obvious value creation aspect of it. The crimes that they solve deal with some of the most relevant issues of our times. Some of these issues include culture, or the lack of it, greed, corporate machinations, governmental deceptions, and of course, the contrast between attachment and commitment in human relationships on one hand and the total disregard for it on the other. The current season brings greater relevance to our times by addressing things like the global environmental crisis, the bankruptcy and fragility of the United States economy, the vacuousness of reality television and celebrityhood and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Alexis growing into a college going daughter brings with it the conflicts that the single father experiences between wanting to be protective and respecting her freedom to choose. Having both Kate and Alexis at the workplace also is a new experience for Castle, as he learns to see it as a support system rather than a constriction of his freedom.
Other than that, my most favorite aspect of the show is the wordplay. This show is scripted in English (as in English and not the stuff that passes for it), and the dialogs are written for people who can think beyond stand-up comedy punchlines. Allusions and puns abound in every episode, and Castle’s hysteria is perfectly tempered by Beckett’s cool yet scathing verbal indictment. One can watch this show just for the dialog and the wit in it. Castle (Season Four) is presently showing in India on Star World at 10 p.m. on Wednesday nights. Neither Star World nor anyone associated with Castle have bribed me to write this post. If they read this and decide to buy my silence, that will be another matter altogether. If you enjoy intelligent conversation and a good mystery thriller, do give it a dekko. The first, second and third seasons of Castle are already available on DVD, while the fourth season can be preordered from Amazon.