Season two of Castle has done something unusual for a television series: it has outstripped the first season with its writing. The actors are in better possession of their characters, the scripts are incredibly well done, and the mysteries that fuel the ongoing story and relationships are so well thought-out that there is rarely one that doesn't have surprising twists. These aren't your average predictable whodunits.
Rick Castle, played famously by Nathan Fillion, is your typical wealthy playboy writer who is continually shot down and put in his place by the 'muse' who has been saddled with him. Detective Kate Beckett, the aforementioned muse, is a homicide detective with the NYPD, a no-nonsense, tough, tries-so-hard to be the gritty cop. Because of his friendship with the mayor, Castle is in position to help find the bad guy to further his writing career by observing Detective Beckett. Although she is none too thrilled about the situation, Castle's sense of humor and loyalty gradually breaks her down. Throughout season two, they gradually become true partners in crime-solving.
There is an interesting mix of gimmes and mind boggling twists this season - almost as if they are hamming it up for both the tender-at-heart crowd and the more jaded group. Episode ten, entitled "One Man's Treasure," however, is likely to leave even the most perceptive couch sleuth feeling had. This tale is more what one might expect when shelling out the bucks for a murder mystery in the theater. It's tauntingly tangled, and the unexpected hits just keep adding up to. "Huh?" To add a bit of sweetness to the ugly mess, Castle's eleventh-grader helps out on a side case, ending the show with a dimpled grin and sweet shining eyes. The end of episode ten not only reaffirms Beckett and Castle's association but shows that the writers understand the need for closure for the audience as well as for the characters. The lack of emotional blackmail is wonderful.
"Sucker Punch," while somewhat sad for Beckett, does the unthinkable: it cuts out a long-running story arc and heals the detective. It looked like they might replace it with another in "Tick, tick, tick." but that too was resolved. Instead of the air of drama hanging about her head, they simply introduced a second gentleman to create a tension triangle - let's face it, if it were a love triangle, it would simply be tawdry. Demming coming onto the scene creates a little more interest and stirs up the obvious tension between Castle and Beckett, making for a deliciously ornery wrap to the season.
Although Fillion is the face of Castle, the side characters add so much to the ensemble that it really can't be said that it is "his" show. Stana Katic is a perfect foil as Detective Beckett. The other pair of partners who help by doing much the legwork - running down suspects, getting warrants, etc. - are Detectives Esposito and Ryan, portrayed by Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever, who add a nice degree of comic relief and goofiness to the show that is really essential when we're dealing with gory murders.
Castle himself lives with a teenage daughter and a drama queen of a mother. Daughter Alexis is charming and brilliant, played by Molly Quinn. Susan Sullivan is Martha Rogers, actress extraordinaire who seems to be tossed into the mix partially to simply offer a bit of reflective character development for Castle. Sullivan is perfect and completely believable in her role, and Quinn adds that touch of authenticity to the Castle world while giving viewers hope as parents. We would all love to have an Alexis: smart, responsible, sweet. (Though they've set her up for a bit of drama at the end, so it will be interesting to see how intelligent little Alexis handles herself. Will they allow her to fail a bit?)
Although it is pretty obvious from the get-go that the characters are all fairly one-sided, they are so eager about it, so very enthusiastic. well, it is almost forgivable. Stir in the quippy conversation, the functional happy non-traditional family unit with the undeniable chemistry that abounds in the station, and one simply forgets the obvious gripe. Also, whereas many shows are made or broken by character development (or the lack thereof!), Castle is different. It is the utter lack of growth that aids in the show's success. Sometimes, knowing that a character struggles with gambling or sex addictions can be distracting to the main goal: solving fascinating crimes as a team. In Castle, the little paper people overlap to make a whole, much like a puzzle. The talented writing and scripting makes us forget that the members who make up the team are one-dimensional.
The "extras" are amusing if not life-changing, worth a gander while finishing up that double-scoop sundae. There is one that is important, and it is found on disc one. Whether just jumping into the show on season two or trying to re-connect with hazy, old memories of season one, the "Starter Kit" is one of the best extra features that can be offered. In this case, it is a 5(ish)-minute comical summation of who, what and why from the beginning of Castle to get us up to date and ready for more.
While there is no question that Castle is more than a little predictable in some ways, the charm of the show outweighs this obvious flaw. Each episode is a light-hearted but insidious murder mystery, the attraction of which is the humor and chemistry woven into each scene. The cheeky one-liners and crinkly-eyed smiles are what make it, every time. It doesn't hurt that Castle himself is a stickler for good grammar (being a writer) and that he pays tribute to longtime fans (read: Firefly) in episode six while discussing Halloween with Alexis by donning a "space cowboy" costume. Simply put, Castle is a gem.
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