Saying Goodbye to Castle

*SPOILERS! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS ABOUT THE CONCLUSION OF CASTLE SEASON 8 AND THE FINALE AND THE SHOW OVER ALL, I HAVE WARNED YOU, DON’T SAY I DIDN’T!*

It’s hard to start what was originally was going to be a reflective piece on the entirety of Castle, a show with a novel concept that evolved in to a light entertainment rom-com, without being absolutely totally annoyed at the way the show ended, or was possibly forced to end. I have spent the past few days being rather pissed about the ending because abrupt endings of TV shows utterly frustrate me, especially when a show has been going for eight years and deserved a lot more.

It was a great idea. An overly confident rock star writer – with less addictions than a Hank Moody and more hubris than a Eton graduate who’s just waltzed in to the Cabinet – helps the NYPD solve murders that were originally copycatting his work but his fantastical imagination roots out the tougher and more elaborate of New York’s murders. All the while his writing well is topped up by new muse-cum-romantic chase, Detective Katherine Beckett. The two together spend a great deal of “will they/won’t they” time solving crime with the double acts of police colleagues Ryan and Esposito and Castle’s mother and Daughter, Martha and Alexis, whilst getting to the root of a long closed cold case that forms an overall story ark.

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Quite honestly, it was excellent casting to have the rather boyish Nathan Fillion and the incredibly brilliant Stana Katic play the lead roles. There’s something of a underlying maturity beneath the seemingly flirtatious chemistry between them that makes them more believable. For all his faults, Castle is a protective but great father and a patient man. Beckett is a loyal and humble person who keeps her own personal torture buried deep. Together they just work and it’s great writing.

However, there in lies the problem with Castle and, if we’re being honest, most American light entertainment… It doesn’t know when to stop.

In an ideal world, Castle would have ended at season seven. It sounds weird to say it but there’s a definite lifespan when it comes to a show which will never be adhered to thanks to advertising money, and lets not forget that Castle has been axed mostly because they couldn’t afford to make it with Stana Katic or narratively finish it without her. Practically all of Castle’s story arcs were completed around season 6. Season seven should have been the ending, the wind down and the triumphant send off. It wasn’t.

Instead, we had a hastily crafted thirty seconds of marital bliss stuck on to the end of a cliff hanger that didn’t need to happen. The series was cancelled and a backup ending was filmed, just in case it happened. The original ending would have left the show dangling on a thread of a, yet again, close to death having just been shot partnership, ready to come back in season nine presumably without Beckett. My argument is why do we need that drama? We don’t. It should have been an easy decision to make given they had to hastily add the new ending on to the show in an editing suite, or had two versions ready to broadcast, but cut the cliffhanger!

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Because there was a moment in the show it could have happened and the hastily made ending would have seamlessly been the actual ending and we would all have been very happy. Instead, we have, effectively, a wasted two minutes of time to heighten tension for something that isn’t going to happen. I might even have taken a montage over the original cliffhanger. Which is why, sadly, the show has ended up this way. It had gone too far.

After season six, two plot lines had been introduced. Firstly, the disappearance of Castle from his own wedding and secondly, the introduction of a big faceless CIA baddy who has been orchestrating all of the cover ups of Beckett’s mother’s death to the manipulation of every pawn behind it for… What reason. Self protection? I actually am no longer sure as it became about secrets and conspiracies rather than honouring the legacy of a woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and had her murder shuffled under the rug to protect the rich privileged. I mean “LokSat”? For fuck’s sake, who in the writers meeting came up with that and thought “fucking ‘ey, we’ve nailed it!”

As a fan of the X-Files (which is very key here given the background of the writers and producers of Castle), that show jumped its own little green alien self several times towards the end of its run. Conspiracy theories became bloated, stars became bored, casts began to change and the real story of a skeptic and a believer coming together to find something real in themselves and in life, eventually crashed in to the Roswell bin. There were moments in the recent revival where that was still evident, that the anchor that bound the series initially became a more literal anchor, sinking it in to murky waters. But its other 4 recent episodes were brilliant without a hint of aliens, Governments or rich white blokes trying to run the world.

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Castle by the end had turned in to this and once they had a very satisfying conclusion to both Beckett’s mother’s death and Castle’s family history, they could have just done something else entirely. But they chose to make that storyline, that conspiracy (which was entertaining and more about the danger of corruption controlling providence), a bigger and deeper, less believable and arguably destructive hole.

The show was still fun and there were still ideas. I mean there has been forty odd episodes since the end of season six so there must have been some life left in it that we didn’t need this plot. I’m not suggesting alternatives but I’m certainly suggesting that the well wasn’t dry enough to not be brave with a new direction and instead keep the show stuck to its former self, which surely must have impacted ratings and new viewers.

I’m sure the ratings however could have left us with this cliffhanger and then a one off finale. I don’t understand why more networks don’t go down this route especially if things get cancelled at short notice after a long run, because when you make something a TV event, it’s going to draw people and money. And it will give the fans what they want – closure.

It makes me sad because, for all the in-jokes to previous works, all the slightly quixotic deductions, the extravagant cases and the cameos, Castle was an enjoyable romp about a writer with an overactive imagination who changed for the better. We lived through Rick Castle’s exuberance and Beckett’s cynicism. We laughed at their highs and cried with their lows because they as characters were human and, regardless of everything else around them, were relatable.

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So whilst we leave Castle and Beckett in domestic bliss with several children (I realise that’s a contradiction in terms), presumably cathertered up the nines with the amount of bullet damage they’ve received, try to remember what brought us viewers to this point: boyish charm, inspiring women, quick quips, clever writing, good mysteries and, above all, several families all coming together and growing as one.

I’ve often referred to it as my guilty pleasure for TV but I honestly have no shame in admitting that this series was great fun. From the moments of genius clarity in solving a plot to the tear jerking farewell to writer Stephen J Cannell and it’s perfect use of macabre humour, Castle was a relief in a time filled with CSI’s and action romps. It found its place and stuck to its guns, a little too much in the end, and gave us eight years of entertaining television and for that I thank everyone involved.

Maybe now it’s over, we’ll find out who really has been writing all those Richard Castle books.

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