Mystery on TV – Castle

Castle title card


One of my favorite shows on TV right now is ABC’s Castle, a fun crime drama with an emphasis of mystery starring Nathan Fillion (of Firefly fame) and Stana Katic.  Richard Castle (Fillion) is a best-selling murder mystery novelist looking for inspiration for his next book.  He begins shadowing Detective Kate Beckett (Katic) on her murder investigations and models the protagonist of his new books after her.  Castle’s creative thought process as a mystery writer often helps the investigative team make connections they would have missed, and he proves to be a useful addition to the precinct, in spite of Beckett’s initial doubts.

The show mostly follows a Mystery of the Week format, so it’s easy to dive into the series at almost any point in the season.  This week’s episode, The Blue Butterfly, was especially accessible to new viewers and featured a really cute series of flashbacks to 1940 New York, where the main characters of the show were re-imagined as the suspects and victims of a 70-year-old cold case.  This episode also helps highlight one of the most fun aspects of Fillion’s character– since Rick Castle is a huge mystery fan himself, he often outwardly displays the same excitement and enthusiasm over unexpected clues, unlikely suspects, and strange developments that you, as a mystery-loving viewer, are feeling while watching the show.  I really recommend checking out The Blue Butterfly episode over at Hulu if you’re at all interested in the show.

The Blue Butterfly
This week’s amazing episode left #BlueButterfly trending on Twitter!

Castle is mostly light-hearted, with Beckett and Castle’s will-they-or-won’t-they relationship (a major focal point of the show) producing lots of playful banter and quick humor.  The writing overall really makes this show stand out, and the impression I get is that the writers seem to take their audience seriously.  To me, this means that, for the most part, they avoid overplayed stereotypes and plot devices, or only use them candidly and in a self-aware way.  As soon as you’re thinking “Well obviously the victim’s twin brother killed him and assumed his identity!” that theory is already being proposed and disproved, and the plot is taking a more interesting and fresh turn.

In addition to the powerhouse duo of Katic and Fillion, Castle also boasts an entertaining and talented supporting cast.  Don’t blink or you’ll miss a subtle-but-hilarious interaction between buddy cops and bros-for-life Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Esposito (Jon Huertas), who are such close friends that they play the same lotto numbers so they “both win and it’s not awkward.”  Castle’s teenage daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn), and thespian mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) help keep Castle emotionally grounded after tough days at the precinct.  With women so underrepresented in modern media, it’s nice to have a TV show that regularly passes the Bechdel Test via Alexis and Martha’s interactions.

Though the show is certainly far from gritty, Castle still touches on more serious themes from time to time, most notably the overarching plot of Beckett investigating the cold case and connected conspiracy theory of her mother’s murder.  Castle is in its fourth season, just gearing up for its mid-season two-part cliffhanger-type episode, so check out this week’s The Blue Butterfly for a light episode and tune in on Monday night for what will likely be a more dramatic example.

Castle and Beckett
The nature of Castle and Beckett’s relationship is best summed-up in this photo

I do love this show, and I’m truly entertained by it every week, but I will say that lately some of the episodes have gotten a little bit formulaic, and sometimes figuring out whodunit has become as simple as pinpointing the character that had one arbitrary line but no further significant development.  The Blue Butterfly was much more engaging (maybe even one of the best episodes in all four seasons), however, and I’m looking forward to next week’s two-part episode for another dose of solid quality drama and intrigue.

In general, we prefer to watch Castle online instead of when it airs on TV, even though it’s hard to have to wait the extra day.  When we watch it on TV, the previews before the show and the long commercial times seem to take a lot of the wind out of the sails and make the show seem more slow and predictable (and I tend to forget suspects, details, and plot lines if the commercial break is too long).  If you’re interested in catching up online, about half of the Season 4 episodes are available for free on Hulu, and the rest of Season 4 is on Hulu Plus.  It’s really unclear whether the other 3 seasons are on Hulu Plus, so instead I’ll direct you to Amazon Instant Video where all four seasons are clearly available in standard and HD at $1-$2 per episode or $14-$32 per season.  At least one season appears to be available on DVD through Netflix.

And use the player below to enjoy The Blue Butterfly while it’s available!