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17 July 2011 @ 12:18 am
"Castle", first two seasons: Light and fun  
So ninjamonkey73 got into Castle … round about season two, I suppose? And she's recently been very into it. I always meant to get into it but never quite got around to it, but in the aftermath of the third season's finale, she tracked down the first two seasons for me and [personal profile] violetcheetah to watch. (We can't see season three yet; the network is only airing isolated episodes, and I hate watching things out of order. More than that, we both vastly prefer to watch with captions/subtitles so that we don't miss dialogue, which means the typical online methods aren't useful. We'll catch up when that season releases in September and just buffer season four for a few weeks.)

I'm actively enjoying it; it's fun. Stana Katic has some serious charisma, and Nathan Fillion is magical. I can't say I ship them, at least yet, but I definitely like each of them and like them as friends.

Some thoughts on the first two seasons, in no particular order:

She's the boss: From the outset, Beckett gives orders to the two junior (male) detectives, and no kind of deal is made of this. Katic does a fantastic job of selling her character as tough and in-control when the situation demands, but she can just as easily be playful (I adore the glee she takes in yanking Castle's chain) or vulnerable.

Cherchez la femme: That said, there doesn't really seem to be much to Beckett as a character. Who is she, really? She has a formative trauma; she apparently helped her father climb back out of alcoholism several years after that trauma; she likes baseball (which mostly seems a cheap tie-in to the Plot of the Week, so she could fangirl over meeting Joe Torre, except that they did have her try to look up the score of "the game" the week before); she … went to Stuy? The character is meant to be closed-off, yes, and the series is actually about Castle rather than her … but I'm not sure I see what it is that Castle is supposed to be falling for. By the end of season two, he seemed more jealous of her attention going to Denning than interested in her for anything to do with her. I'm hoping we get a better idea of who she is in season three.

Make love, not war: Both Castle and his mother are freely, unapologetically sexual. I really appreciate that; US television is usually so puritanically knotted up regarding anything to do with sex. To see both characters happy with short-term affairs, and particularly to see a sexually active senior (though they've settled Martha down in the second season), is a refreshing change. On the downside, Kate seems to be punished for stepping outside the narrative-approved sexual configuration. I mean, what was that with Denning? He was a good guy, she liked being with him … and the thought that Castle thus might stop trailing after her makes her dump him? … And then she's further punished by having to watch Castle walk away to spend the summer with his more recent ex-wife just as she's lost her relationship? On the one hand, the setup plays into her avowedly more classic relationship model ("one and done", I think she put it); on the other hand, it veers uncomfortably close to the tired old trope of endorsing male oats-sowing while demanding fidelity and/or viginity from women. I dunno, it worries me a bit.

Isn't it bromantic?: Meanwhile, Ryan and Esposito. Having watched the series in order (*cough*), I can totally see why this pairing is so very fandom-popular. From the very first episode, just look at how close together the two stand. Americans, particularly American men, typically have a hell of a lot more interpersonal space between them … and that's leaving aside the particularly macho quirks of their profession. The two play off one another constantly, swapping off sentences (and possibly finishing one another's sentences, a trait they cited as evidence that Castle and Beckett were totally into one another in season two). By episode four or five, it's canon that they hang out for gaming enough that Esposito particularly likes one of Ryan's couches. It's not until episode nine (out of ten total in the first season) that Ryan suggests having a girlfriend … in a reference so self-emasculating and ham-handed that it serves as mockery for the next half season. To the point that former colleagues are greeting him as "Honey Milk"; to the point that by 2x16, everyone is effectively accusing Ryan of having invented a beard. That's also the first time that the show actually displays the girlfriend, at the very end. I mean, seriously, in 2x06, Ryan and Esposito go to Castle's Halloween party together, with each other! This stuff writes itself, and I can imagine about six different plotlines explaining Jenny in the context of a Ryan/Esposito ship. (That's leaving out bashing scenarios, by the way.)

By the end of season two, I get more of a partnership vibe than a shippy one from them. That's actually fine with me — I find partnership, friendship, and teaminess far more compelling — even if it's a little disappointing to see the show apparently revert to the dead-red-heteronormative, everybody's-inherently-straight, who's-this-Kinsey-you-speak-of model so beloved of US television. Le sigh. (The sole element I can remember, out of the entire two seasons, in which any other possibility seems to be acknowledged is the pair of guys who found the rug in 1x04. Which is the episode that confirmed Ryan and Esposito spent off time together, by the way. Nudge, wink, and so forth.)

On the partner front, I adore that Esposito is devoted to his former partner and his current partner(s) without any kind of competition or jealousy involved in those connections. And watching Ryan and Esposito take the piss out of Castle will never get old.

O Captain! my captain!: There's another important figure in the department, and that's the boss, Roy Montgomery. Can I just say I love him? He gets the job done. He looks out for his people and knows the right connections to play. He can glance up and know, just by the fact that his detective and her plus-one are walking in front of a person of interest, that they're in trouble. He is good at his job and competence is always my squee.

I am just sufficiently spoiled for season three to be really upset. Dammit.

As you know, Bob …: The police-work in general, in contrast … ugh. "Criminal Minds" occasionally has a tin-eared moment in which the characters explain their jobs to one another or take five full minutes to process an elementary deduction, but those moments are rare. CBS knows its audience has seen a police procedural ever, and they've mostly figured out how to convey developments to the audience without resorting to making the characters intellectually challenged Captain Obvious auditioneers. "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior", on the other hand, failed badly on that score … but "Castle" kind of makes CM:SB look brilliantly written in comparison. Every now and then, they lampshade it or make the characters react naturally to "well, duh" moments (such as Esposito using a TLA and then explaining it to Castle in an aside … and Castle responding that yeah, he knows); unfortunately, that just makes the surrounding clunky handling that much more obvious.

One of my greatest complaints about "FlashForward" and "V" was that I, a software programmer with a writing hobby, would (with no further training) make a better FBI agent than their leads. I don't want to say that about this show, but the scripting certainly doesn't make me think any of these people are remotely intelligent or skilled (with specific exceptions). At least I know to cover the back,wtf people, why did it take this NYPD squad until 2x19 to figure out that little trick? (Of course, in a world in which the entire elite FBI team all crowds into one tiny room for more efficient getting-blowed-up, that kind of skill development is pretty exceptional.) As I mentioned before, competence is my squee, and you're killing me here, Smalls!

(I wonder if writers could do a better job of portraying law enforcement by somehow — hear me out — spending some amount of time with actual law enforcement officers somehow … nah, that's crazy talk.)

Old soul: Speaking of only-in-fiction: Alexis. Given her character history, particularly a childlike primary caregiver/parent and an irresponsible-and-absent mother, with a formerly itinerant paternal grandmother and unknown paternal grandfather to boot, hypermaturity makes perfect sense. The way they've written Alexis, though, is something else: namely, the child who is wise beyond her years. US television adores this trope. Alexis has not just the maturity but the apparent experience and wisdom of a fifty-year-old woman, and that's a bit much. All that said, though, I do really like her character, and the actress absolutely sells it. I'd like to know Alexis in real life.

Father of the year: I'm not so sure I'd want to know Castle in real life. He's fun and funny and damned attractive, but his immaturity would be offputting. Every now and then, though, he acts as a real father to Alexis, and I adore those moments. (Which is weird, because that sort of thing usually does very little for me.) He wants to be the cool dad, but he'll still call the other parents when Alexis's friend gets drunk. It's not every episode, but he regularly shows that he can be an adult and do what's right for his daughter. He knows her life and her friends. He regularly plays games with her — whether that's laser tag, movie-style fencing, or poker. The way he consistently does the right thing by Alexis really works for me.

TL;DR: Fun show. Would watch again. Looking forward to seasons three and four.

Originally posted at Dreamwidth | Comment | comment count unavailable comments
Amy- ninja extraordinaire, bad monkey: chance of asskickingninjamonkey73 on July 17th, 2011 02:30 pm (UTC)
Yours points make me smile. In order:

Like a BOSS! I love how the boss she is, but there are times when she's telling the boys what the next steps are where I feel like, if I were them, I'd be a bit off-put. Dude, I know to canvas the building and pull phone records. It's sort of what I do... But this actually feeds into your point about procedurals for the stupid.

Since I can no longer remember what EXACTLY happens in season 3, I'll just use the blanket statement: there's much more of Beckett's characterization in season 3.

I didn't feel like she was being punished for her sexuality, but I was shipping them by the time the Demming business occurred, so it was more of a they-consistently-have-bad-timing thing. To me, she dumped Demming not because she thought dating him would make Castle stop following her, so much as because she'd decided she wanted to see where things with Castle would lead. Which is also the one and done thing, and is a revisited theme in the S3 finale, but you're a long way from there...

I certainly get where the slash comes from, and I heart them so very much. It did feel a bit like Jenny was a beard, but then Esposito has his thing in S3, too, that I will not spoil. I don't 'ship Ryan/Esposito, but I certainly friendship them hardcore. ;)

CAPTAIN! *sigh*

I'm very forgiving of procedural exposition, but I was raised in a Murder She Wrote household (and a cast of thousands of procedurals we all watched). I'm used to being told weekly how to be a (bad) cop. Just about every episode, I think "Duh!", but I'm enjoying the rest so much, and I'm so numb to it from 30+ years of it, that I don't linger on it. If they'd just present it as her divying up the next steps and not saying it like they wouldn't know what to do if she didn't say "Talk to the neighbors."

I don't find Alexis overly wise beyond her years, but I was precocious and had an immature father... I agree that this is someone I want to know, and by God, I love Molly Quinn as a straightman to Fillion.

Castle is kind of like a more roguish, whoring version of my Dad (and to some extent, my husband). I won't get into the psychological implications of that, but suffice it to say, I sort of have a kink for this personality type. So... There's that. The father moments are always awesome- you know she got to be that great kid somehow, so it's nice to see the parenting moments that lead to the complete Alexis package.

I'm glad you guys are enjoying it! It's been a while since I've been this excited about a show (even including BSG). I'd say it rivals my obsession with Voyager (which I have to say, DID NOT STAND THE TEST OF TIME- that 'ship has sailed). I come for the relationships- friends/partners/coworkers. Regardless of how awkward the police work is (there's a back door?!), the case resolution is almost always enjoyable.

I can't wait for you to watch S3! I felt it was a lot better in a lot of ways, and it definitely got into the characters much more. Even Martha! You don't need to 'ship them. I'm just glad that eventually I'll have someone other than Al and Kim to talk about new episodes with! :)

Edited at 2011-07-17 02:33 pm (UTC)
mabfan (Michael A. Burstein)mabfan on July 18th, 2011 01:40 pm (UTC)
Writer Lee Lofland, who is a former police officer, has a lot of fun breaking down the flaws in police procedure on the show. I highly recommended checking out his blog posts on Castle at http://www.leelofland.com/wordpress/?cat=36 . But keep in mind that the first posts you'll see are for the end of season 3.