Cast: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Jon Huertas, Seamus Dever, Molly Quinn, Susan Sullivan, Ruben Santiago-Hudson
Things are rocky between our two lead characters. After prying into the death of her mother, Nathan Fillion’s tantalizing Richard Castle is in Stana Katic’s just as sharp Kate Beckett’s bad books. If he is to continue hanging out with the NYPD, especially with his first book, Heat Wave, coming to a close, then he needs to go all-out with that charm we have gotten so used to him displaying.
I hate to keep doing this to the show, but it is hard to review it without dragging the clear competition, ‘Bones’ into the argument. Castle’s first season feels like a copy of that show, striking a similar tone, bringing two leads together with implied romantic undertones and having them solve murders each week. The first season was good, but still living in Bones’ shadow. Now, the writers have been given an extended amount of episodes to play with, fleshed out the supporting characters and come up with some interesting scenarios for the detectives to play around with. I am going to start off this review with a bold statement; Castle may have started as an student or even an apprentice of ‘Bones’, but now ‘Castle’ has excelled and definitely surpassed their master.
Yes, ‘Castle’ comes back this season fighting, quickly addressing its flaws and correcting them; not that there were many mistakes last time around. The characters get deeper and the mysteries get more interesting. Kevin, played by Seamus Dever, gets a love interest and although she is kept off-screen, it makes the character, who was kind of bland before, more interesting. Huertas, portraying his partner, doesn’t get much life outside the force, but he does get his own episode dedicated to him, expanding on his origin story and relationship with a fearsome gangster (played by an under-used Michael Ironside). It could be one of the best episodes of the season. As for the leads and Castle’s relatives, Molly Quinn and Susan Sullivan, they are fleshed out more, even if there is little expansion on what we already know. Every cast member is as charming as ever and now very comfortable in their roles. The only person who has room for complaint is the head of police, Santiago-Hudson, who only really gets bit roles in each episode, sometimes missing from them altogether.
If I was to make a single complaint about the season would be that every now and again, we do get a ‘filler’ episode. This is the downside to having more episodes to work with. The writers throw together a murder mystery just to keep the show ticking over. They’re not necessarily bad; usually each episode has a gimmick that keeps it memorable, even if it’s something simple like Castle and Kevin having a bet over who can crack the case first. The answer is usually a tad predictable though. Once you’ve watched twenty or so episodes, you can usually put yourself into the writer’s frame of mind. A good crime writer predicts the answer the audience is thinking and double-bluffs them, always finding new ways to drop a twist, rather than resorting to the same one again and again and wondering why it has stopped working.
On the flip side, these bad episodes make the good ones so much more impressive. What I loved about season two of Castle is that rather than waiting for the finale to turn up the Heat (pun intended), they could throw in the good stuff at any given time. It makes for some good twists. One episode midway in the season, it turns out that the murder is connected to Beckett’s mother’s killer. We are thrown into that ordeal again, even finding a satisfying ending to the storyline, rather than a ‘wait till next season to find out the truth’. It happens more than once. Without warning, we are thrown into a gripping two-parter, where a serial killer comes after Beckett, boasting an explosive storyline that would make a good end episode. It is these surprise sucker punches that give Castle life and make you desperate to tune in each week.
Sure, the actual finale could be accused of lacking in comparison. Rather than go for the emotional power, the writers decide to have some fun. Castle and Beckett are thrown a murder of a secret agent, complete with exploding pens and restaurant rendezvous. However, this story works in its own, charming way, suiting the tone of the show. I will happily take a lesser end story if it means that we get the emotional stuff out of the blue midway through the season. It shows us that the writers know what they are doing with their material. Castle upgrades itself to must-see TV.
Final Verdict: Always gripping, sometimes emotional and never lacking in the sense of fun that made the first season so great. Terrific TV.