It’s summer, and I’m going back through some old favorite TV shows. Since Castle ended, and I wasn’t impressed by season 8, I figured I’d start there. I have to say, season 1 is amazing. And as I’m going through it, I’m trying to figure out what happened. What’s different between 1 and 8. Why did 8 become such a flop, and 1 was so spectacular.
First, Castle the character is better. He morphs over the course of the seasons to be goofier, who launches into the patently absurd. Yes, he’s a believer of the absurd, or at least a hopeful believer, but what made him so good in the early seasons was that he was smart, and knew what made for an excellent story when it came to crime.
Story is number two. He was in it for the stories. He wanted to see what made these crimes tick, how the people could conceive of these crimes. And they were a bit convoluted in the beginning, full of interesting reversals. Castle provoked Beckett into thinking, more than once, that they had the wrong person due to the story not adding up. The focus on story was evident from how many of the episodes ended with him at his laptop, writing away, or interludes where he had been writing.
Family is the next step, particularly with Alexis. Yes, Martha has some interesting tidbits here and there, but the dynamic between Castle and Alexis is amazing. The moment in Hedge Fund Homeboys where he explains to her that she can tell him anything and he’s okay with it, so long as it’s the truth is wonderful. He is a great father to her, despite his bad boy charms and troublemaking. And she follows up with a tearful moment where she talks about how she jumped the turnstile. And, of course, the tender moment where he pulls out a picture of him holding her hand when she was a little girl.
I’m sure there are more, but these are what are standing out at the moment. I think this is important because I’ve seen a lot of television and book series become long in the tooth both because they forgot what made them great, or because they never allowed for growth. The secret of keeping a series fresh and interesting is somewhere in all this. I know it’s tough, especially as the genres become formulaic, rely on tropes, and inevitable clichés, but there’s something in these that I can use for my own writing. I’m sure there will be plenty of red herrings, too.