Sack Castle and Save Yourself
ABC’s mishandling of Castle presents fans with a dilemma. Should we watch the remaining episodes of Season Eight to soak up the Caskett goodness while it lasts, or should we quit Castle now? At this moment the network is considering whether or not to renew the series for a doomed ninth season or to end it with some measure of dignity on May 16. The latter likely preserves Kate Beckett’s life and the show’s legacy, while the former crushes them both. ABC has spoiled my affection for Castle by unloading its backstage sewage in my lap. Fortunately, no one can plunk me down in front of a screen, tie me to a chair, and force me to watch Castle. The decision to watch is all mine.
Talk of contract negotiations between ABC and its stars reminds fans that the bottom line matters more to networks than lines in a script. The remaining cast members of Castle care about their ongoing employment and they should. As a fan, I play a different part in this economic exchange. My role is to consume, not to balance budgets or ensure that employees receive paychecks. These are the cold hard facts of the television business.
ABC spent eight years marketing and selling me a product based upon a kick-ass police detective and a ruggedly handsome mystery writer. That pairing, coupled with at least seven seasons of excellent writing, earned my loyalty. Now ABC is threatening to replace the version of Castle they taught me to love with a cheap imitation. ABC has changed the terms of its relationship with me, and I will respond in kind.
I stopped watching Castle the moment I read that Stana Katic and Tamala Jones would not return for a potential Season Nine. If ABC makes the right choice to preserve the Caskett pairing and cancel Castle now, I can easily go back and watch the episodes accumulating in my DVR. I will begin with the aptly titled “Backstabber,” proceed to “Dead Again” and move all the way through “Crossfire” with the knowledge that Kate survives.
Armed with this strategy, I can preserve the thin fiction that all ended well for Kate and Rick should the network decide to hobble into Season Nine with one half of its dynamic duo. Knowing Kate Beckett dies and watching it happen are two different things. If I want to see beloved main characters die, I will watch all of Firefly and Serenity for the seventeenth time, revisit Buffy, or join my husband for a Walking Dead marathon. Castle has never been that kind of show. And no, the death of Roy Montgomery does not undercut my argument. As much as Captain Montgomery mattered to the fabric of the 12th Precinct, he was never as central a figure as Kate Beckett has been in Castle.
Former Castle showrunners understood Beckett’s significance. When responding to a question in a 2015 interview about whether or not writers would kill off Kate Beckett, Andrew Marlowe noted, “I think for us that’s off the table. For us we’ve been telling a love story for the last seven years.” Sounding like an oracle, Terri Edda Miller then said, “I think that would be a huge betrayal of our fans.” And it is.
Network executives and actors who want viewers to fall in love with their shows can hardly blame them when they do. I played my part. I fell in love with Castle. Parting with Rick and Kate hardly counts as a tragedy, but the choice to stop watching makes me sad. If it didn’t, Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion would not have done their jobs so well. ABC can dither all it wants, but the fans and the network know the truth; when it comes to Castle’s fate, fans have the real power.
Preserve your memories of Castle while you still can. Stop watching now.