Before we get started, you can find the script in question over here.
This is a revised first draft of the Pilot episode for the pilot of the show that would become Castle. Clocking in at a solid 66 pages (including title) it's got 6 Acts (14/14/11/8/10/9) and hot damn is it a lot of fun.
If this is the measure by which a show gets picked up into Pilot then man, I've got some work to do.
Written by Andrew W. Marlowe and dated February 29th, 2008, what struck me about this script was just how clean everything was. Sure there were a few typos here and there but everything else was incredibly polished.
Now, yes, I doubt that this is, in truth an actual 'First Draft' -- the dialogue, the comedy, the timing is just far too spot on for it to be anything less than a 4th or 5th pass. But then again, whatever lands on the Producer's desk is pretty much a first draft to them... so why not run with it? Essentially -- I think, tho' I may be wrong here -- what we're looking at is one of the purest forms of the script that got the show picked up proper.
And yeah, hot damn.
There isn't a whole lot of physical description allotted to the characters, but we learn everything we need to know about them within a few pages of their introduction mostly from how they act around other people.
We're specifically told that Nick Castle is the Man-Child playboy/rockstar writer and that Beckett's the hardass workaholic Detective with a chip on her shoulder (and murdered mommy issues thanks to a bit of dialogue from Esposito).
But the dialogue is really what shines here. The little nips and ripostes, the playful way these characters interact, it draws you in.
As far as the leads go, it's The Fox and The Hound. Oil and Water. A classic team up. Think something in the vein of '48 hours' or if you'd prefer something more recent, something like 'Rush Hour'.
On the flip side, I think one of the things that struck me about this script was just how long it took to get Castle and Beckett together. The whole first Act, 14 pages, is spent setting up the murder and developing Nick Castle and his relationships. There's a bit about Beckett, just enough to let you in on the fact that she's a hard-nosed cop, but bare minimum really.
Interestingly enough, and yes, I'm jumping around a bit here, the crux of this show -- the 'premise', if you will -- is explicitly stated by Nick Castle near the end of Act Two (pg 27), just before he finishes deducing Beckett's life story (based almost entirely off her looks, sartorial and otherwise).
Castle: I'm here for the story.
Beckett: The story?
C: Why those people? Why those murders? Why my books?
B: Sometimes there is no story. Sometimes the guy's just a psychopath.
C: There's always a story, always a chain of events that makes everything make sense.
And right there we also have our "promise". Even though sometimes murders are random and make no sense in real life... they will on this show.
There will always be a story, there will always be a way to make it all make sense. When it doesn't make sense, you just don't know enough of the story yet.
It's all rather brilliant, really. Subtle -- or a hammer on the head, I guess, if you're specifically looking for it -- but effective.
Finally, the best scene for me, the one that actually made me grin and realize just how much I'd been sucked into the script came about three quarters of the way into the script (pg. 40).
The case appears to be closed, the 'criminal' caught but Castle can't let it go. It doesn't make sense -- it's too simple, it's not how the story would end. So after a fun scene of him playing poker with other famous writers (including Stephen King) he ends up back at Beckett's desk, sifting through her files. She catches him and he sort of 'roguish charms' his way out of there by giving her a signed copy of his book and sauntering out -- only for her to realize that he's just made off with a bunch of her files.
There's something about this scene, about his escape -- as he "bounds down the steps, his arm waving" for a Taxi that just felt so true to his character, so true to the motivations set up for him in this script... I couldn't stop grinning. So much so that I literally stopped and took notice of that fact.
And then I wondered if this same thing happened to those folks who ended up green-lighting a pilot.
It must have.
All-in-All, this is a fantastic pilot script and I have absolutely no questions in my mind as to why it got picked up to series. The main characters are both understandable and likeable and the balance of comedy to intrigue (with a hint of drama) was spot on.
Not a bad place to get started, if you ask me.