Anyone who tunes into ABC’s Castle knows they aren’t going to get drilled with hard hitting drama, the type that makes you feel like you’ve watched something important, but will leave you laying awake for hours, depressed and/or confused. No, anyone that tunes into Castle, especially those viewers winding down from as exhilarating two hours of Dancing with the Stars (Castle’s lead in) know that they’re in for a lighthearted sixty minutes of quick witter dialogue, enjoyable characters and a whodunit that gets wrapped up by hour’s end.
Castle’s place in the TV spectrum is a hopeful one as it’s a meat and potatoes show driven by its excellent writing and strong characters rather than the names at the top of the credits. Not that Nathon Fillion isn’t worthy of being a huge star (or Stana Katic, for that matter), it’s just that their names don’t draw an immediate audience like a Julianna Marguiles (The Good Wife), Tom Selleck (Blue Bloods), or even a Jim Belushi (The Defenders). Castle earned it’s place on the dial the old fashioned way, through hard word, diligence and best of all, patience on the part of the network. ABC could have easily canceled the show after its delightful, yet ratings challenged first season. However, in Castle they found a sturdy companion to their reality mega hit, Dancing with the Stars, and instead of watching the show wither against CSI: Miami, they saw ratings actually grow.
Season 2 of Castle picks up where the first season concluded, with Fillion’s Rick Castle, a world famous mystery author following around a New York homicide team for research, back in the squad room with his “partner,” Detective Kate Beckett (Katic). Castle continues to hang with Beckett and her co-workers, Dets. Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Ryan (Seamus Dever) as good PR for the department, as mandated by their captain (played by Rubem Satiago Hudson). Beckett is plenty peeved with Beckett as he’s dug up evidence of the cold case of Beckett’s mother’s murder. The detective joined the police force so that she could solve this case, but gave up years ago when she kept coming to dead ends. Making matters even more uncomfortable for Castle is the matter of his next book, which is about a female detective clearly based on Beckett. Yeah, she isn’t too happy about that, either.
Since this is a series that works based on the “will the/won’t they” plotting of a romantic comedy, you know that Beckett can’t stay mad at Castle. He’s just too charming not to be liked. But he also has a conscience in the form of his precocious teenage daughter, Alexis (Molly Quinn) and his blunt mother, Martha, an ex-actress played to perfection by Susan Sullivan. When he makes mistakes, Castle eventually mans up and apologizes. That’s what makes him a decent guy.
While most of the episodes of Castle are light on continuing storylines (you can pretty much tune into any episode and follow the action without having seen any previous episode), there are some fun surprises in season 2 that deepen the relationship between Castle and Beckett. Alyssa Milano appears as an ex-girlfriend of Beckett’s and the first signs of jealousy in Beckett begin to arise. Then, during a two-parter that features guest star Dana Delaney (who once played Fillion’s wife on Desperate Housewives), Beckett comes to terms with her feelings for Castle. But just as you think the writers may screw things up (a la Moonlighting) by having these two hook up, Beckett meets a handsome robbery detective (Michael Trucco) and they begin dating, leaving Castle pining for Beckett at season’s end.
As I said, Castle isn’t hard hitting drama, but the characters are endearing enough to make you care and the mysteries are involving enough to keep you entertained for a solid hour. The appearances of the late Stephen J. Cannell in the show are not an accident. Although he’s appearing as himself in the guise of his career as a mystery author (Michael Connelly also pops up on occasion), it’s his work as a producer and TV writer that Castle owes itself more to. Cannell was a master at entertaining an audience with memorable characters and mass entertainment. You remember the characters from A-Team, Hardcastle & McCormick and Riptide, but how many plots can you name off the top of your head. Castle is that kind of show. While it may not win many awards while its on the air, it certainly has won the hearts of viewers.
Castle: The Complete Second Season is a 5 disc DVD set containing all 24 episodes from season 2. Included among the bonus features are the obligatory deleted scenes and bloopers as well as outtakes. There are also cute featurettes that involve the cast members guiding you through the sets.