How do you like your crime dramas? Littered with mangled corpses, shot in perpetual twilight and populated by characters even darker than the cinematography? Or light-hearted and upbeat, where the camera prefers to linger on the photogenic faces of the living rather than the bodies of the recently deceased?
Well, if the likes of BBC1’s sun-soaked Death in Paradise and the much-missed Due South are more your thing, then you’ll love Castle. The hit US show returns for a second series on Channel 5 tonight at 10pm. (Die-hard fans might like to know the fourth season kicks off next Wednesday on digital channel Alibi.)
Castle follows in the expensively suited-and-booted footsteps of crime writer Richard Castle, who’s shadowing NYPD detective Kate Beckett as research for his new series of bestsellers featuring savvy female cop Nikki Heat.
However unlikely the premise (of course no novelist would ever get as deeply involved in solving cases as Castle does!), the show works. And it’s Kate and Castle’s relationship that is its warm, beating heart, as they wisecrack at each other like a modern-day Bogart and Bacall.
He’s the shallow celeb with a rock-star lifestyle and a little black book that’s bulging at the seams, she’s the hard-nosed cop who’s built a wall around her feelings since the (unsolved) murder of her mother ten years before.
But there’s something about Kate Beckett – despite (or perhaps because of) her apparent lack of interest in him – that intrigues Castle. And for all her complaining about having him around, Beckett (a huge fan of his crime stories, though she tries to hide that fact from him) isn’t quite as immune to his devilish charm as she pretends to be…
So all those crime scenes are really just an excuse for the pair to trade barbs, while Beckett’s colleagues and Castle’s family look on, just as fascinated by the will-they-won’t-they of it all as we are, watching at home.
Firefly’s Nathan Fillion brings his trademark magnetism to the role of the exasperating writer, who proves capable of surprising depth when a case hits home, while for a former Bond girl, Stana Katic is remarkably convincing as the kind of woman who reaches for her gun before her make-up in the morning.
Together they make a compelling partnership, not only when they’re exchanging banter but in more tender moments – usually as Castle tiptoes around Beckett’s raw emotions about her mother’s death. In these scenes, Katic’s great strength – playing vulnerable without being weak – comes to the fore, while Fillion lends an uncharacteristic gentleness to Castle that hints at the high regard he has for the detective whose hard-boiled veneer threatens to crack.
All in all, Castle’s a witty, character-driven crime series with all the polish you’d expect of a sharp US TV drama. But if you’re not convinced yet, here’s a selection of quotes from the first series that might compel you to tune in:
Beckett (on Castle): “His fans love him almost as much as he loves himself.”
Beckett: “Call me a muse again and I will break both your legs, OK?”
Beckett: “That’s the difference between a novel and the real world, Castle. The cop doesn’t get to decide how the story ends.”
Castle: “Why can’t you just admit I was right?”
Castle: “I’m a wiseass, not a jackass.”
Castle (on the Nikki Heat novel cover art): “She’s not naked. She’s holding a gun… strategically.”
Beckett: “If I give you an order, I expect you to obey it.”
Castle: “Then you don’t know me very well.”
Castle: “Promise not to hate me.”
Beckett: “I already hate you.”
Castle (excitedly): “My first gun battle!”
Beckett (firmly): “Your last gun battle.”
Will you be watching Castle for the first time tonight? Are you already a fan of Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic’s show? Leave a comment and let us know.