The world is full of two kinds of people: those who love Nathan Fillion, and those who haven’t been exposed to him yet.
I am one of the former, having been a fan of his since Serenity came out in the theater, and my friend lent me the Firefly DVDs. Fillion’s brand of shenanigans and outright wackiness is right up my alley, and I can safely say that I would watch pretty much anything he’s in. (Including the fantastic and not at all vulgar PG Porn: Nailing Your Wife. If you haven’t seen it, you should.)
Last year, my wife and I found Castle, really liked it as a series, and made it one of those shows that we fit into our schedule and stayed more-or-less current on. For Jennifer, she watches because Nathan Fillion makes a lot of funny faces. She could care less about the procedural of the week, and only a few of the characters. But she loves her some Faces of Fillion.
I agree with her on almost all counts (I do still really enjoy the procedural of the week, though), but my primary draw is Richard Castle, the author.
Sure, the portrayal of an NYT bestselling author is hyperexaggerated and entirely unrealistic. No one–not even the wealthiest, most glamorous authors–lives like Castle does. Nonetheless, that’s what I watch for. I want love his job, and I think some of my favorite scenes happen when he’s discussing his work or just sitting in his office writing away on his laptop.
Sure, his relationship with his mother and his daughter is great, and I think it’s pretty nifty when the show cuts away from the grisly murder to humanize the characters.
But what really sets Castle apart from CSI: Miami (outside of Nathan Fillion outclassing David Caruso in every way) is that Richard Castle is a writer.
Or Is He? (Cue Eerie Music)
Over the course of Season 3, Castle is decidedly less writery than in the first two seasons. The storylines are more formulaic, more traditionally procedural, and deal far less with his career and family.
And let’s face it: without his career and family, Castle is just another procedural. A well-done procedural, but just another procedural nonetheless.
Season 1 of Castle was fantastic. It was fresh and new, and did new things with the genre. Season 2 upped its game, and it was thoroughly enjoyable because the series began to really find its legs, find its sense of humor. But then during Season 3, something changed.
We stopped caring. There was just something off about the third season, and try as I might, nothing stuck out to me. Sure, I liked the third season, and I made sure I stayed caught up on new episodes, but it wasn’t the shiny, new episode of Faces of Fillion it had once been.
Then Jennifer figured it out: at some point during Season 3, Rick Castle went from being a writer to being a cop who just happens to notice irony.
With that in mind, I reevaluated the whole season. Sure, there were episodes that dealt with his work as a writer, and those turned out to be my favorites. (The finale was pretty good, too, because it dealt with Kate’s mom’s murder and had some genuinely human moments in it.) But overall, the third season is unfortunately more generic than the other two.
It could be for any number of reasons, but I really hope that it’s not because the network has leaned on the writers to dumb it down, to make it more mainstream-accessible.
Because seriously, if Castle weren’t accessible enough for mainstream audiences pre-S3, something’s wrong. (And if that’s the case, what hope does any unique or experimental series have for success on a major network? Where does that leave them?)
Season 4 airs this fall, and we’ll likely stay caught up on Castle. We’ll just have to wait and see if this issue is addressed, or if it’s just the direction the series is going. With the Heat Wave movie under production (within the series, that is), and the release of the Derek Storm graphic novel (both IRL and in-series), there are some really good opportunities for writery goodness to be had.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
Do you have a favorite series that started strong and then veered away from its most attractive quality? Did it ever get back on track? Share your thoughts in the comments!