Nathan Fillion’s new series Castle premiered last night on ABC, and the pilot has already established a number of character dynamics and claimed its own territory in the Specialist + Handler mode of procedural drama.
Fillion stars as Richard Castle, narcissistic best-selling mystery novelist. Castle is called in to assist Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) when a copycat killer re-creates murder scenes from Castle’s books. Castle’s upcoming book kills off the protagonist of his long-running series of best-sellers, and Castle is now stymied by writer’s block.
Katic and Fillion have created great chemistry between their characters, but Fillion is the real stand-out here. Castle has enough qualities in common with his role of Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly to re-captrure some of the fun of that character. Castle is rebellious, impulsive, and narcicisstic, while Beckett is controlled, by the book, and sharp-tongued. They grate on one another in a way that brings conflict but also sexual chemistry as a result. Like any similar situation, much will depend on how well the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ question is handled.
Aside from the chemistry between the leads, I think the show’s main staying power will be the fact that Castle sees everything through the lens of storytelling and the laws of dramatic narrative. He continues investigating a case after it is initially ‘closed’ due to the fact that as it was, it made a crappy story. He also reads people well based on his experience with characterization. Castle sees things that Beckett doesn’t, and Beckett picks up on things when Castle misses them. Castle‘s version of the Specialist appeals to me specifically because of my love of genre conventions and because I am a writer myself. It is likely to appeal not only to general procedural watchers but especially to true fans of the genre due to the way that it weaves in direct discussion of the mystery/detective genre to the story.
At the end of the pilot, we’ve established how the show is going to work — Castle is doing research for his new series (with a protagonist inspired by Det. Beckett), so he’ll be hanging around getting into trouble, giving insights based on investigative and/or dramatic theory, and annoying the hell out Beckett, while they’ll waltz around their feelings.
Castle is for Fillion fans, procedural fans, and for fans of self-referential/post modern genre/narrative amusement.