In a perfect world, we would all watch every show with merit from the beginning, but at TV Blend, we know how difficult it is to invest in a new show that could very well get cancelled. Who wants to invest in Animal Practice for a month before NBC sends word down the line that show has been cancelled? So we wait and we wait, and then eight months may go by, and then a whole TV season, and then two, and so on and so forth until we may have completely missed out on a worthwhile series.
While there are shows that are easier to invest in if they are watched from Day 1, luckily there are plenty of shows with the ease of plot or the writing finesse to help people to jump into any episode and get involved with a new series. To determine whether a show falls in to the former or latter camp, TV Blend writer Jessica Rawden has vowed to watch episodes of shows she’s never seen before and analyze those shows in different areas to let you, the reader, know how quickly you could become a fan. This week Jessica is tackling Castle’s Season 5 Episode 5 murder mystery, “Probable Cause.”
1. Quality Of Story
In many ways, Castle is a standard procedural featuring a group of police officers and one consultant, who helps the police team to solve crimes. In ABC’s series, Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) is the team’s affiliate, as well as a murder mystery writer with a unique perspective on cases. So far so good.
This week’s episode, “Probable Cause” was a wacky mystery, featuring red herring clues and putting Castle himself under pressure as a suspect. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t as jaw-droppingly weird as an episode of Bones, nor was it anything new for a quirky procedural. For instance, at one time or another, several of The Mentalist team members have been framed for a crime, and in this sort of situation, it’s always up to the team to catch a killer. Thus, “Probable Cause” was definitely an interesting episode to jump into, but the quality of story was somewhat middling.
2. Quality Of Characters
One thing Castle does really well is reiterate the personalities and relationships of the characters at the beginning of the episode. Within the first five minutes, I knew who was dating whom. I also met the entire team, learned about Castle’s college-aged daughter, and found out the man’s day job as a popular mystery writer. The ease the writers seemed to have with pushing out that information while still building rapport and getting to the bulk of the mystery was impressive.
More impressive was the dialogue between Castle and his partner, Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic). Beckett and Castle are clearly fleshed out characters with personality and pizzaz. Less impressive were the characterizations of everyone else involved in the detective unit. There were two dudes who provided research and otherwise joked around for the rest of the episode. There was Castle’s boring daughter, who didn't do much—at least in the episode I encountered. The bottom line: Castle and Beckett were great and the rest of the characters were not; luckily, this was mostly corrected through pithy dialogue.
3. Likelihood Of Staying On Air
Despite being in its fifth season, Castle is the type of show that has grown more popular from year to year. The show averaged over 10 million total viewers an episode during Season 1 and 2, over 11 million total viewers in Season 3, and more than 12 million last season. According to TV By The Numbers, Castle did 11.95 million total viewers last night, which means the show is holding steady.
Unlike some procedurals that blow their wad with plotlines in the first few seasons, Castle seems to be taking things pretty slowly, bringing in recurring serial killers and setting up a serious romance between two of the characters, which I’m guessing was teased in prior seasons. Between feeling fresh in Season 5 and “Probable Cause’s” ratings, Castle seems very likely to be renewed on ABC.
4. Necessary Investment Level
If every episode is like “Probable Cause,” Castle is not the type of show that needs repeat viewing to pick up on subtle clues and nuances. In fact, it may not even be the type of show you’ll want to tune in each week for. That’s perfectly alright, as the writing sets up a self-contained mystery with only a little mention of our character’s personal lives.
One of the good things about Castle is that it’s a very simple show to follow. It’s not stupid. It doesn’t talk down to its fans, but it’s not Parenthood. The average viewer--even one prone to multi-tasking--will be able to keep up with the mystery and get something out of the show.
The Good, The Bad, And Whether You Should Watch
Fillion’s character truly is the backbone of Andrew W. Marlowe’s program, and he makes the whole enterprise work, with a little help from the partially strong and partially fragile Detective Beckett. The bad news is, without our two leads, the strength of the mystery and the ensemble cast just isn’t there.
Castle is a show a viewer can invest in easily. Five minutes in to my viewing, the show had relayed every ounce of important information I needed to continue forward with the watching the series in the future. Is Castle a show for everyone? I certainly wouldn’t suggest it for anyone who is not a fan of crime dramas, and I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone who wants to truly play along with the mystery and attempt to figure out whodunit. However, I would suggest the series to anyone who loves Fillion or who wants a mystery without much baggage.
There are plenty of pros and cons to ABC's Castle. My one exposure may have not made me a lifelong fan, but in the future, I will certainly jump in, again.