Castle The Show Needs to Take Lessons From Its Comic Book Spinoff

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Between the premiere of season four of Castle and the upcoming release of Deadly Storm, based on the not-real book series starring Derrick Storm written by the fictional writer Richard Castle, played by Nathan Fillion in the television show, it seems like Castle is becoming something of an industry, especially when added to the three Nikki Heat books available which are supposedly written by Castle based on Detective Kate Beckett in the television show.

So, basically, there exists a series of real fictional mysteries based on a fictional series of mysteries inside a television show that is based on a fictional character in the television show. Books within a show, so to speak.

The Heat books feature Rook, who is loosely based on the Castle character in the show. Deadly Storm is part of the fake series starring Derrick Storm, a private detective that also seems somewhat close to the Richard Castle character. Or, at least, his fantasy.

So it’s a comic book based on a not-real book written by a fictional writer in a television show.

But the reader doesn’t have to remember any of that to enjoy Deadly Storm. The graphic novel is a good action-packed private detective story all on its own. So good, in fact, that ABC should grab the two writers from the comic and put them on scripts for the television show. I say that after watching the frustrating season four premiere on Monday night, which neither succeeded as police procedural or as a romance.

Deadly Storm, Page One, copyright Marvel Comics

Deadly Storm, written by Brian Michael Bendis and Kelly Sue DeConnick, and drawn by Lan Medina, features private investigator Storm, who is pulled into an increasingly complex mystery after accepting a job that seems nothing more than spying on a cheating husband. His life quickly spirals out of control as he gets involved with the CIA, is arrested on suspicion of murder, and gets shot multiple times. It’s an involving, fast-paced mystery with some great dialogue. Storm’s method of solving crimes, blundering around and annoying people until one of them does something, reminded me of the late Robert B. Parker’s Spenser, a personal favorite.

The story had one flaw. I know when I read hard-boiled detective stories, there’s going to be a femme fatale and the story isn’t going to be about her or any other women. The story is going to be about the detective. That’s fine, I enjoy male protagonists a great deal. But sometimes these stories cross the line into making the woman props. This one crossed the line for me when the third gorgeous woman appearing in the book basically draped herself around Storm. All the women in this one are beautiful, and all save one have some personal interest in Storm. Storm is good-looking but he’s not that good-looking. The only beautiful woman who doesn’t fall for our hero slugs him on their first meeting, so you know she likely totally wants him as well. Of all the woman, the CIA agent that “handles” Storm is the most three-dimensional. We’ll see if she returns in the next book.

Bendis writes excellent female leads, such as Jessica Jones in Marvel’s Alias, so I can only guess that he and DeConnick wrote a deliberate homage to detective noir of years past.

Now if the television show could just get Bendis and DeConnick to help with the dialogue and character interaction on Castle, I’d be a very happy viewer. As it was, the premiere was wince-inducing.

The show’s strong point has never been the police procedure. (See the fabulous The Graveyard Shift blog for the full breakdown.) The mysteries are fun but often have huge plot holes in them. All that is forgivable because the two leads, Castle and Beckett, played by Stania Katic, have such nice chemistry. Castle works best as a light-hearted romantic comedy of sorts, with the sexual tension just beneath the surface but never consummated because that seems death to shows built on foreplay.

Last year’s season finale ended with Beckett being shot after investigating a seemingly vast criminal conspiracy to cover up her mother’s murder. As Beckett lays bleeding in his arms, Castle confesses he loves her. Though the conspiracy theory also had a number of plot holes, I’d had hopes for the premiere.

Warning: Spoilers hereafter for the premiere.

The show begins with Beckett fighting for her life, which I think is a waste of screen time. Anyone with a half a clue knows the lead of the show will survive. Then the show uses a bad narrative trick as Beckett says she remembers nothing from the shooting, which includes (of course) Castle’s declaration of love.

The story moves ahead three months as Kate comes back on duty to a hard-edged new boss and an angry Castle, who’s incensed that Kate didn’t call him in the three months she spent rehabilitating. Time is then split between the murder of the week and Beckett covertly chasing leads about her shooting and her mother’s unsolved murder, to little success.

Katic does an excellent job looking lost and overwhelming by the thought of never solving her mother’s murder. Unfortunately, Beckett tells Castle she can’t commit to anyone until her mother’s murder is solved because she’s too emotionally dead inside. It’s at this point that I knew she remembered Castle saying he loved her. This “I know but I won’t tell you” does neither character any justice.

The other problem is that Castle becomes the one responsible for all of Beckett’s emotional health. He’s even the one who helps her get over PTSD related to her shooting. What Beckett does for him, other than looking like Stania Katic, I have no idea. Nor do I know why Castle blames himself for Beckett being shot, since they were investigating her mother’s case together. This is not a way to get me to root for these two to be together. She certainly doesn’t seem like much of a partner right now.

As the episode ends, the conspiracy is still out there, Beckett still won’t confess she does care for Castle, and Castle is keeping a big secret from her. None of these ring true and it made for a lack-luster and disappointing episode for a show that was a favorite for me last year.

Next week, however, may improve. The pair seem to be investigating a murder involving superheroes. Now, that’s the kind of quirky comedy the show does best.

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