“There’s always a story. You just have to find it.”
What happens when you’re a popular murder-mystery writer and someone starts to use your stories and ideas to kill people in the real world? At first you become the prime suspect, particularly if you’re found to be completely self-centered and annoyingly arrogant. That’s where a pretty good alibi might come in handy. Is playing poker with the Mayor and the Chief of Police good enough? So, you’re no longer a suspect. Now what do you do? You sign on as a consultant for the special crimes squad of the police department, and you help catch the real killer. Only instead of looking for him O.J. style on golf courses and in steakhouses, you team up with the cops and nab that good-for-nothing plagiarist. The problem with that is you might just find that you like it. Even worse, it might end up curing that writer’s block you got after killing off your lead character and proverbial golden goose, much to the chagrin of your publisher who also happens to be your ex-wife. Follow any of that? If you did, you now have the setup for one of the better premiere series from last season, Castle.
Rick Castle (Fillion) is a very successful mystery pulp-fiction writer with over 26 books hitting the best seller list. He’s rich, and he’s spoiled. He lives with his mother (Sullivan) who is pretty much a has-been actress who thinks she’s just one part away from stardom. He has a young teen daughter (Quinn) who is more responsible than he is. She pushes away the sweets he serves for vegetables and grounds herself when she jumps a subway turnstile to get home. She’s definitely the adult in the family. After having so much fun and inspiration tracking down his fiction copycat killer, he decides to pull strings and become an unpaid consultant for the team. That’s not so good for team leader Detective Kate Beckett (Katic). While she might secretly find him a bit charming, she thinks he jeopardizes her cases. To her surprise and often irritation, he ends up providing valuable “out of the box” thinking and logic that more times than not leads to catching the bad guys. She is also secretly a fan whose life was literally saved once by his books. Of course, she’s not telling him any of that. The series has an interesting enough supporting cast, but make no mistake. These are the major players.
Nathan Fillion is one of those actors that are hard to pin down. He reminds me a lot of Bruce Campbell. He has a sudden disarming quality to him even if he is not always the most likable guy in the show. Most fans will remember him as the fearless and cocky captain of the Serenity in Joss Whedon’s short-lived but critically loved Firefly series. He has that kind of charming smile and way about him that gets him out of a lot of trouble and makes you wanna love him even as you hate him. And it is that love/hate relationship with Stana Katic that is the secret of this show’s quality and early success. For her own part, Katic is a marvelous actress who has only one thing going against her here. She looks and even sounds too much like Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay. Katic is younger, but so was Hargitay when her show started. Too often Katic reminds me too much of, if not the actress, then the character from the other show. It doesn’t really matter though, because I promise you you’ll fall in love with these two characters and the show after only one episode.
When we last left the show at the end of season two, Beckett and Castle were each looking at their own romances and doing a little pining away for each other. Of course, neither is willing to admit it to the other and so Castle left for the summer to write his latest book. But when the fall arrives Castle doesn’t rejoin his cop buddies, and they start to harbor some resentment toward him. It’s the perfect setting when they find Castle at their latest murder scene holding a gun. Sure, we know Castle didn’t do it, but it’s enough to get the team back together. The season provides another group of episodes that finds the team with unusual crime scenes and even stranger criminals. Castle’s always looking for the exotic theories that often involve international spies or time travel. But he usually contributes just that missing element to solve the crime. Castle’s daughter is growing up, and now he has to deal with such real-world realities like boyfriends and motorbikes. The real thrill happens when the team flies to L.A. to check out the set of the Nikki Heat movie that’s in production. Of course, they manage to get themselves in the middle of trouble and the season ends with a few questions we’ll have to wait to be answered.
Each episode of Castle is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Even on DVD these newer shows are all starting to look, on the average, a lot better. With high-definition broadcasts and preparing for the Blu-ray market, the picture on these things is getting better. Colors and sharpness are all well above normal. But … you knew there had to be one. There’s still too much stuff on a disc. I continue to believe four episodes on a disc are too many. With discs themselves costing the industry almost nothing, I push for higher bit rates. Compression artifact, that’s the only enemy here, and it is nearly completely unnecessary.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not really anything to write home about. This is a very dialog-heavy presentation, so you can expect everything to be front-loaded here. It’s all clean and clear.
Castle Goes Hollywood: (7:59) A look at the two-part season finale.
Murder They Wrote: (22:04) Another writer’s roundtable, a poker table. Nathan Fillion joins the group for a short while.
Murder Boards: (3:24) A quick look at how that whiteboard is set up.
Music Video: 2:15) Get On The Floor.
Bloopers: (4:13) You know what you’ll find here, don’t you?
It should be noted that television master Stephen J. Cannell died before the new season premiered, and the series does do a good job of paying tribute to the fallen comrade with an empty chair at Castle’s mystery writer poker game. For fans of shows like The Rockford Files, it was nice to see him back in the saddle on another quality character-driven show. He’ll be missed, but let’s hope his legacy lives on for some time to come in Castle. Wherever he is now, I’m sure he’s regaling some angel with the twist of his latest series idea. The rest of us remain glued to his last television effort, because “Down here, everyone’s got a story.”