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I wasn't really sure if I'd be interested in this show, but I wanted to check it out because it stars Nathan Fillion, of whom I'm a fan from various other things. But the show turned out to have a lot more charm than I anticipated, in terms of plot and all of the characters. It's kinda quirky, and fairly amusing, and the characters really grow on you. Fillion plays a mystery novelist named Richard 'Rick' Castle, who begins working with the 12th precinct of the NYPD, in an unofficial capacity. He's a fun character, because he's such a geek about so many things, often getting totally giddy about the bizarre twists that cases sometimes take, as well as frequently coming up with his own (even more bizarre) theories to explain the murders he and the police investigate. (And I think that it's nice- and all too rare- for the media to present geek characters who don't look like the usual, stereotypical idea of what geeks are supposed to look like.) And while he's very amusing, he does prove helpful in the investigations. The way this arrangement begins, in the pilot, is that someone copycats a few murders from his books, so he helps the police solve the case. Mostly this means working with the much more serious Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). She's a fan of Castle's books, but doesn't like him, personally, at first. He doesn't take much seriously, and has a very flirtatious personality. Which of course means he tries to flirt with her, though she doesn't seem interested. There are also a pair of detectives who work with Beckett, named Javier Esposito and Kevin Ryan. They seem both competent and friendly, and get on well enough with Beckett as well as with Castle. (They have a sort of male camaraderie with Castle which may slightly irritate/amuse Beckett, while their relationship with Beckett herself is a mix of friendship and professional respect.) There's also a medical examiner named Lanie Parish who provides info on cases, and is friendly with Castle. (I feel like it was said that they'd known each other before he started working with the police, but I could be misremembering that.) We also occasionally see Beckett's boss, Captain Roy Montgomery.
Anyway, they catch the copycat killer by the end of the first episode, but the show's premise continues because Castle had recently decided to kill off Derek Storm, the protagonist of his long-running and popular series of detective novels. Now he decides to create a new character, Nikki Heat, whom he bases on Beckett. So he'll be sticking around to work with her as "research" for his new books, much to her chagrin. (He manages to arrange this because he's friends with the Mayor, who is only seen in a few episodes, though Castle's friendship with him is alluded to occasionally.) Castle and Beckett do become more friendly as the series progresses, but she still finds him kind of exasperating, and resists the relationship becoming more than professional. Meanwhile, there's another plot thread that is touched on occasionally, which is that Beckett's mother was murdered years ago, and the case was never solved. Beckett wants to leave that alone, but Castle wants to try to solve the case. (Rereading that sentence years after I first wrote it sounds really ironic, though, because as the series progresses, Beckett becomes the one who's obsessed with solving her mother's murder.)
I also need to mention that Castle has two ex-wives. His first, Meredith, is a flighty actress who lives in Los Angeles. The two of them have a teenage daughter named Alexis (played by Molly C. Quinn), who lives with Castle in New York. Castle's mother, a stage actress named Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan), also lives with them. (We won't learn much about Castle's absent father until season 5). Castle's second ex-wife, Gina, is also his publisher. (But both of his ex-wives have only appeared in a few episodes.) Anyway, my favorite part of the show (at least early on) was probably Castle's relationship with his daughter and his mother. I especially wish the show had more scenes with Alexis, who is quite smart, witty, charming, and in some ways more mature than her father (or her grandmother, for that matter). And the show has probably the best father-daughter relationship I've seen since Veronica Mars (though it's also kinda like the mother-daughter relationship from Gilmore Girls, with just a hint of Absolutely Fabulous). But throughout the series, the friendship between Castle and Beckett progresses, and it becomes clear that their feelings could go deeper than friendship, in spite of obstacles such as timing (each is usually dating someone else when the other is available), their apparent inability to tell each other how they feel, and perhaps most importantly, the emotional wall Beckett built up after her mother's murder. Nevertheless, the relationship between Castle and Beckett is perhaps the most compelling aspect of the show, for many fans. But there are any number of reasons the show is fun. The interesting cases, the interesting characters and how they relate to one another, the humor, the sly allusions to Fillion's former Firefly role, etc.
Well, I don't think I did much editing of this review, after the show first began, until season five. And now I don't really know how to separate the plotlines of the first four seasons, so I'll mention a few things that happened, but probably not in proper order. Um... Beckett started dating a surgeon named Josh in season 2, and they didn't break up til the first episode of season 4. So he was one of the obstacles I mentioned, but for the most part we rarely saw him. And Castle and Beckett have both dated other people, whom I've already forgotten. Meanwhile, Ryan was dating someone named Jenny, whom we're mostly aware of because of phone calls or him talking about her. Though we did eventually see her, a few times, and they got engaged. They married about halfway into season 4. And Esposito started dating Lanie in season 3, which they thought they were doing in secret, but everyone knew about it. They broke up in season 4, though it seemed for awhile like they might get back together (or not). And Alexis started dating a boy named Ashley in season 3, but they broke up in season 4. I should also mention that while most episodes are stand-alone stories of the week (which tend to be reasonably interesting and entertaining, as weekly murder mysteries go), there are some recurring mysteries, such as one involving a serial killer called 3XK, who was first seen in season 3. But the biggest over-arching mystery is the murder of Beckett's mother. At the end of season three, certain aspects of an old conspiracy were revealed, which led (spoiler) to the death of Captain Montgomery. I'm not going to spoil anything about that conspiracy, however. But after the captain's death, Beckett and the others all thought the matter was over... until at the very end of the season finale, when Beckett was shot by a sniper at Montgomery's funeral.
So, season four opens with Beckett rushed to the hospital and everyone worrying about whether she'd live or die. She does live, and then the show flashes forward a few months to her returning to duty after her period of recovery. She finds there is a new captain in the precinct, Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald), who is much more "by the book" than Montgomery had been, which means Beckett, Castle, Ryan, and Esposito will have to be more careful about how they handle cases (especially Castle, whom Gates doesn't want involved in police business at all). They also can't let her know if they do anything related to investigating the case of Beckett's shooting. And Beckett broke up with Josh sometime during her recovery period (during which time she didn't talk to Castle or anyone). Also, Beckett occasionally talks to a psychiatrist, Dr. Carver Burke (Michael Dorn). Oh, and there's some guy who was a friend of Montgomery's, to whom the captain had sent some documents that he can use to ensure Beckett is safe as long as she doesn't investigate her shooting or her mother's murder any further. He tells this to Castle, who doesn't want Beckett to know about it. He just wants her to leave the case alone for now, though it looks like he'll continue to secretly investigate it himself. Meanwhile, they go back to regular cases each week. But by the end of the season, Beckett learns the truth, and leaps back into investigating her mother's death, which nearly leads to her own death.
In season five, Beckett and Castle are in a relationship, which they have to hide from everyone (especially Captain Gates), because it would be a violation of policy for coworkers to date, or whatever. And it would be the excuse Gates needed to finally get rid of Castle. (But their relationship will eventually become common knowledge, without any negative repercussions.) Also this season, we occasionally see an NYPD "video tech" woman provide some help with investigations; she'll become more important over the next few seasons. (It's not until season 6 that we learn her name is Tory Ellis.) Meanwhile, Beckett finally learns who was really behind her mother's murder (but she can't do anything about it; and I'm not going to spoil anything about the case). And Alexis begins attending Columbia University. At one point, she and a friend are kidnapped, and during the search, Castle meets his own father for the first time. The season ends with Beckett being offered a new job in Washington D.C., as an agent of the Attorney General's office, which would be a great career move but could jeopardize her relationship with Castle. But he ends up proposing to her....
The season starts with Beckett working at her new job, with her new partner, Rachel McCord (Lisa Edelstein). Beckett and Castle are now engaged, but the long-distance relationship is a strain. Eventually Beckett loses her job, and moves back to New York. She doesn't immediately get her old job back, but it doesn't take long for that to happen. Meanwhile, Alexis dates a guy named Pi, whom Castle can't stand. (He's a nice guy, but Alexis eventually realizes they're not right for each other, and she breaks up with him by the end of the season.) Also this season, Jenny and Ryan have a baby, whom they name Sarah Grace. In the season's penultimate episode, the man behind the murder of Beckett's mother is finally brought to justice. And in the season finale, Castle and Beckett are supposed to get married... but after overcoming a bunch of obstacles, just when it looks like it's about to happen... a cliffhanger prevents the wedding....
Last season ended with Castle going missing. This season he's finally found, after an absence of two months, and he has no memory of that time. So that's a mystery he and Beckett will investigate off and on, and they eventually get some answers, but as of the end of the season there are still things that haven't been explained. (Castle also begins seeing Dr. Burke, who helps him remember details of his missing time.) Meanwhile, they go back to their regular weekly cases. And after awhile, they finally do get married. A bit later, Castle is forced to stop working with the police, so he gets a P.I. license and starts his own one-man detective agency. This allows him to investigate the same cases as Beckett, but it also makes them rivals. However, it's not long before Castle is allowed to go back to working with the police, at which point he seems to abandon his P.I. business. And Beckett decides to take the Captain's exam. In the season finale, it turns out she aced the exam, and could probably get command of her own precinct within a few years. However, there are some people who want her to run for the state Senate, instead. So that's something she'll have to think about, between seasons....
When the season begins, it seems Beckett has decided not to run for the Senate. In fact, the season premiere is supposed to be her first day as the new captain of her precinct, since Gates had been promoted to Deputy Chief. (Which is convenient, because it means Beckett doesn't have to work somewhere new, which would have meant no more Ryan, Esposito, or Lanie.) But since she's not a detective anymore, Castle wouldn't have an excuse to work cases with the police anymore. So, he plans to start doing more work as a P.I. And he's had his office remodeled... so it's now wicked cool. Much to his surprise, he discovers that Alexis has been working some cases for him, and she's pretty good. However, the season begins with Beckett learning that most of the team she had worked with in the Attorney General's office had been killed, including Rachel McCord. The only survivor is a hacker named Vikram Singh, who begins investigating the incident with Beckett. (He also begins working at her precinct, apparently doing the job Tory used to do. We don't see any more of her, and I don't recall if that was explained or not.) The object of Beckett and Vikram's secret investigation is a clandestine project called LokSat. I don't want to say too much about that, but since anyone she cares about could be put in danger if they knew what she was doing, she has to keep her investigation secret from everyone. And she separates from Castle, though it's pretty clear that she doesn't intend to end their marriage. (I think it was at this point that Castle got a gadget similar to Amazon Echo, with a voice feature named Lucy. It's like Echo's "Alexa," but I presume that name was too similar to Alexis. Lucy is voiced by Aubrey Plaza.) Meanwhile, Castle is determined to find out what's going on with Beckett, and to win her back. So he tries to insinuate himself into her cases at the NYPD, by playing detective. (Sometimes he may have actual P.I. cases that intersect with NYPD cases, but even when he doesn't have an actual client, that doesn't stop him from getting involved.) Alexis continues to help with that (which makes me wonder when she finds time for school). They also receive occasional help from a British cop-turned-private security specialist named Hayley Shipton (played by Toks Olagundoye, whom I know from The Neighbors). Also this season, Ryan and Esposito both take the Sergeant's Exam. It will be a few episodes before we learn the results: only Esposito passed, which makes Ryan somewhat jealous. (Though there's a waiting list, so it's unclear when Espo will actually receive his promotion.) And there's an incident I don't want to spoil, which leads to further resentment between the two of them, which takes a couple more episodes to be resolved. In the fall finale, Castle and Hayley finally figure out what Beckett and Vikram have been up to, and Castle confronts Beckett about it. In spite of Castle's deeply hurt feelings, they finally reconcile. They agree to investigate LokSat together, while still pretending to be separated.
In the second half of the season, there are of course regular NYPD cases, in addition to the search for LokSat. There's also an episode where Castle is invited to compete with another detective, Kendall Frost (Summer Glau), for a chance to join the Greatest Detectives Society, which is run by Mason Wood (Gerald McRaney). And Castle learns more about his missing two months. And Hayley spends a lot of time working with Alexis at Castle's detective agency. And Jenny and Ryan have their second baby, Nicholas Javier. Eventually, Beckett and Castle learn that a defense attorney named Caleb Brown (Kristoffer Polaha, whom I knew from Life Unexpected) was involved with LokSat. They manage to get him to join them in helping take LokSat down. (Incidentally, I'm fairly sure when the name "LokSat" was first learned, it was understood to be an organization, but sometime thereafter Castle and Beckett and Vikram started talking about it as if it was a person, the head of the organization. I don't know exactly when or why that happened, but it always confused me. And in the finale, when they finally meet the head of the organization, he himself says it's the code name for his organization.)
Anyway, LokSat is finally defeated, in what made for a decent season finale. But sometime before that episode aired, it was learned that Stana Katic wouldn't be returning for season nine. And I kind of thought I wouldn't want to watch the show without her, because what would be the point? A bit later, shortly before the finale aired, it was revealed that the show had been cancelled, which didn't disappoint me. I do think it means the writers and everyone behind the show probably had to rush to tack on a scene that allows the episode to serve as a series finale, as well. And I thought that was okay. I mean, I was satisfied with it. And anyway, eight seasons is a good run for pretty much any show. Although I really would love to see a spin-off with Alexis and Hayley working as private eyes together (without Castle, at least as a regular, though I wouldn't be averse to infrequent guest appearances). That would be awesome. Alas, I very much doubt it'll happen....