The concept of the television show Castle is a simple one. In 2007 the NYPD called in famed novelist Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) when one of their murder cases was staged identically to a scene from his book. Surprisingly, his input on the case proved helpful and he assisted the NYPD in solving the homicide. Despite some resistance and with a little nudge from the mayor, Castle was hired as a full-time consultant to NYPD homicide detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katich). Thus began the eight year run for this crime fighting duo which led to them being kidnapped, frozen, fired, promoted, and neck deep in a host of government conspiracies.
Through it all, the show maintained a good fan base and held up pretty well in the competitive Monday 10 pm slot on ABC; Castle had a large and enthusiastic following. It won the People’s Choice Award for best Crime Drama for the past five years (often up against juggernauts like NCIS and CSI). Both leads garnered numerous awards for their work over the years as well. In 2007, Hyperion Books released the first of six novels attributed to “Richard Castle” entitled Heat Wave. All of these tie-in books appeared on the New York Times Best Seller list. People loved their Castle any way they could get it.
So why did the viewership decline? Many would point to the inevitable: writing the “will they, won’t they” couple as finally being together. Many shows have experienced a drop in rating when the center-stage romance that viewers cheer for finally get together. Friends (Ross and Rachel), The Office (Jim and Pam), and the Big Bang Theory (Leonard and Penny) all experienced a ratings drop when their main characters finally hooked up. Castle and Beckett had as much chemistry and sexual tension as any couple on TV. In 2011 TV Guide listed them as their “Favorite couple who should”. We cheered for them to finally get together and when they did, the story stalled. “Will they” won out and the result was a lull in the story that led to the show’s ultimate demise. While there is no award for “Favorite couple who shouldn’t have”, hindsight would indicate that holding off the couple’s romance might have added some years to the life of the show.
Regardless, let’s look back at what made Castle so successful to begin with:
Nathan Fillion is beloved to many fans from his great work on the short-lived series Firefly. As Malcolm Reynolds he was endearing, witty, and lovable. He was able to translate many of these qualities to his portrayal of Richard Castle. He embodied his playboy character flawlessly and was able to make us believe in the ability of a mystery writer to actually solve crimes. Even though he played an elite socialite who had everything, he maintained a relatable quality through dealings with his eccentric mother, constant overbearing concern for his daughter, and his subtle insecurities as an artist working with real NYPD detectives.
Katic’s breakout success
A Canadian with Croatian origins, Stana Katic was cast in several small TV and movie roles before landing the role of gritty detective, Katherine Beckett. Driven to right wrongs after her mother was senselessly murdered, Beckett was the driving force behind the homicide team at the 12th precinct. Smart and sexy, Katic brought life to the character and forced us to see life through her eyes. Like many memorable characters, Katic exuded a likability that forced audiences to truly care about the things Beckett was passionate about. Things like Castle, the 12th precinct, and avenging her Mother’s death.
The Great Ensemble Cast of Castle
The ensemble really shined throughout the show. The great performances of Molly Quinn as Castle’s daughter and Susan Sullivan as his mother help us understand the title character and gave us clues as to his motivations. Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever played detectives Esposito and Ryan to perfection and they always kept Castle in check. Tamala Jones killed it as Lacy, the medical examiner who was Beckett’s only female friend not related to Castle. There were many other name actors that graced the screen and the running joke at my house was that the whoever the most well-known guest star in the episode was, they were always the killer.
Castle succeeded due to an intriguing plot-line and a unique story blend between the writer and the detective. When explaining the premise of Castle to people, they always seemed to be impressed and interested. It rarely fell prey to the main problem that many shows have when the main character is an outsider who is almost always right. Shows like Psych or White Collar (both of which I thoroughly enjoyed) are flawed by having a main character who knew more than anybody but was often ignored or minimized by the rest of the ensemble. This is not the case with Castle, as the detectives recognized his ability and, when Castle wasn’t pushing some supernatural nonsense, they gave his opinions the credit they deserved.
So what’s next? Castle will live on in syndication and on DVD for those looking to binge. Katic has already secured roles in four upcoming films and has lent her voice to a recent Batman: Return to Arkham video game. Show creator Andrew Marlowe has already been working on a seemingly similar show in which a private investigator reluctantly partners with an actor from a former hit cop show. As for Fillion, he always has voice work lined up for cartoon movies and video games. He is slated to portray Simon Williams in the second installment of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But all of those pale in comparison to the most important question, “When will we see Captain Hammer again?”
The death of Castle will hopefully lead to the rise of another Dr. Horrible.