Monday, April 16, 2012

Let's all calm down about Castle.

Castle fans have been in a bit of a tizzy the past few weeks, and on and off all season, really. On the one hand, I get it: Castle and Beckett have been keeping secrets from each other, and now they're mad at each other, and if you're someone who really wants them to be together, that can be hard to watch. I get that.

But on the other hand . . . really? Of all the shows and characters whose fates I worry about, Castle has always been at the bottom of the list, because it's never been uncertain. Creator/showrunner Andrew Marlowe has said from the beginning that Castle and Beckett will get together. He's said from the beginning that this show is primarily a love story. He's said from the beginning that he has a plan. So can't we all calm down and enjoy the ride?

In fact, the plan, at least so far, will feel pretty familiar to romance readers. Back around episode 107, I remember thinking "Wait, is this show actually a Regency romance pretending to be a procedural?" (Yes, that was when he bought her a dress for a ball.) One of these days, I will get around to actually writing out those structural parallels, but suffice it to say that it's followed the standard romance novel outline so far.* That means we're now at the Big Misunderstanding That Threatens To Tear Them Apart Forever. It happens. It's normal. What comes next is always good. I promise.

In a recent interview with Marisa Roffman,** Marlowe confirmed his plan and made an interesting point about fans:
But I know there are certain promises we have to make to keep them engaged. And then moving forward, we’ve always tried to honor the characters and what their relationships are. And you can’t listen too closely to the fan base because what they say they want isn’t necessarily what they want. And I think that our characters declare what they want more loudly than our fan base does. And as long as we’re honoring them and not violating who they are, we feel like we’re doing a good job. And it’s less anxiety-ridden for us here because we know where we’re going. So if you know how the game ends, you’re not as worried when your team is down by 20 points.
I think the highlighted sentences (emphasis mine) are very true. Shippers often claim to want characters to get together immediately, and then stay together happily forever, but that doesn't make for very good TV. TV needs conflict. It needs plot. And good writers realize that what fans think they want isn't necessarily what they actually want. Fans are fans because they fell in love with the characters, with the dynamic, and staying true to that is more important than rushing to a certain relationship point (or other plot point) because some percentage of fans, the ones who happen to be most vocal on the Internet, tell you that's what they want. And to the second point, yes, the characters are absolutely declaring what they want, and it seems like fans sometimes get so worked up about things that they shortchange the important character developments that are actually happening because they're afraid to let themselves believe in the characters that drew them in in the first place.

And more generally, there's something I've been thinking about in connection to several shows recently: If you're watching a show because you're hoping to see a particular outcome, you're doing it wrong. If you're investing dozens of hours of your life into something because you're hoping for one moment to occur at some point in the future, that just doesn't seem like a fulfilling use of your time. Even if the thing you want eventually happens, it won't happen exactly the way you've been thinking, and the more you think about that one moment, the more likely you are to be disappointed, no matter what happens. And even if you aren't, you'll have spent all this time just thinking about one future thing instead enjoying the show you're actually watching.

So, a suggestion for Castle fans who are worrying: Watch the show that is on the television and try to stop comparing it to the one that only exists in your head. Keep calm. Trust Marlowe. Enjoy the ride. Everything will be fine. And to fans of all shows: if you're not having fun, just stop watching.

* In case it's unclear, I'm not saying this is a bad thing. The story is classic because it works, and overlaying it with a procedural is clever. If you want to have an argument about whether romance novels are all evil or bad or whatever, well, you're wrong, but we can do that in a different post.

** Marisa does the best reporting on Bones, Castle, and Fringe out there. If you like those shows, you should be reading her stuff.

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