Tuesday, 13 April 2010

CASTLE 1.1 - "Flowers For Your Grave"

Tuesday, 13 April 2010
WRITER: Andrew W. Marlowe
DIRECTOR: Rob Bowman
CAST: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan, Monet Mazur, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Molly C. Quinn, Stephen J. Cannell, James Patterson, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Dan Castellaneta, Tamala Jones, Keir Dullea, Colby French, Brian Avers & Kurt David Anderson
[SPOILERS] Castle is now an established and successful show in the US, where it's been airing on ABC since 2009 and was recently picked up for a third season. Last week it finally started on Alibi in the UK. A canny acquisition for the digital channel that may draw them some new viewers, but will it keep them?

Richard "Rick" Castle (Nathan Fillion) is a world-famous crime/mystery author in a world that treats such people as rock stars (we meet him mingling at the rooftop launch party for his latest book, signing model's breasts and quaffing champagne.) The playboyish Castle's grown bored of his greatest creation, investigator Derrick Storm, so has recently upset his publisher by killing Storm off with a gunshot to the head, and finds a new literary muse coming from a very unlikely place...

Enter stern but sexy NYPD homicide 'tec Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), who's investigating a killer who's basing his kills on murders from Castle's novels. When Beckett, herself a closet fan of Castle's ouevre, makes said connection after a girl's found murdered and covered in flowers (echoing a death in Castle's tome "Flowers For Your Grave"), she requests the author's help in finding a serial-killer who appears to be obsessed with Castle's literature.

It's a serviceable idea for a buddy cop show, if nothing revolutionary and perhaps a better fit for a movie. Beckett's the bullish and practical type who can't admit she admires Castle's work and fancies him, despite the fact Castle makes it abundantly clear he's attracted to Beckett. It makes you wonder what her problem is. I guess they're the typical mismatch in terms of core personality; she's composed and professional, he's reckless and mischievous. Owing to Castle's prowess at predicting criminal behaviour and a list of fans in "high places" all willing to do him favours, he's a valuable asset for any detective. This episode already reveals Castle has the ear of the New York's mayor, which he uses to pull strings to get him a fulltime consultancy job alongside Beckett, as he's enjoyed his time as a "real" sleuth and intends to use Beckett as the basis for a new female heroine.

I've never been a huge fan of cop/doc procedurals, even the quirkier ones that involve "misfits" as a way to lure you in (Lie To Me, The Mentalist, even House to an extent.) I just find they're so reliant on formula that I'm bored after a few episodes, particularly when they're combined with the regimented stye of US hour-long scripts. The chemistry between Fillion and Katic wasn't potent enough to draw me back, sadly -- although it was there, in raw form. Admittedly, the fact Castle's earned itself a third season is a promising sign that something about the show works for its intended audience (and it's not just cult hero Fillion's fan-base keeping the show afloat, with approximately 10m tuning in every week), but not enough about this pilot clicked for me to come back.

The notion of a novelist being much use to genuine detectives was hard to swallow. There was a nod to Castle's knowledge being flawed (the speed it takes to trace a fingerprint is a lot faster in fiction than reality), but you were otherwise left to accept he's going to be of great help in future cases that won't involve copycat readers of his bibliography. Of course, that's the core conceit behind Castle, so you either go with it or you don't. Maybe the show makes it all seem more plausible further into its run, admittedly. I realize this review might look outdated to Castle's US fanbase, as it's perhaps picking fault with problems the show has since fixed, but I'm just going on the pilot as I see it.

Overall, "Flowers On Her Grave" wasn't a wasted hour thanks to Fillion and Katic's prickly relationship, but the investigation and writing didn't hold my attention. In fact, the enticing idea of a crime novelist investigating murders based on those in his books (echoing Basic Instinct, no?) was tackled in a surprisingly limp way. US procedurals like this feel like they're constructed by flow-chart formula and churn out exactly what fans of the genre want with any idiosyncrancies ironed flat and inoffensive.

  • By far the most fun of this episode was celebrity-spotting: Castle amusingly has poker nights with real-life writers like James Patterson (author of the Alex Cross novels) and Stephen J. Cannell (creator of shows like The A-Team 21 Jump Street); Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey) starred as Jonathan Tisdale, and Dan Castellaneta (voice artist of Homer in The Simpsons, amongst many others) also appared as a judge!
7 APRIL 2010: ALIBI, 9PM