The upcoming Castle episode, "The Blue Butterfly," has it all: style, mystery and an atmospheric saxophone playing throughout. Sure, the film-noir style is just a gimmick on a show like Castle, but rarely has a gimmick succeeded so well.
I'll admit right now that I am rarely a fan of episodes like this. Most of the time, the "special" theme only distracts from a show's normal storyline, leaving behind the always-unpleasant reminder that TV isn't real.
It's on this front that Castle
succeeds with "The Blue Butterfly." Even though it's crazy, the 1940s-flashbacks never feel superfluous -- they're just necessary pieces of a complicated crime-solving puzzle.
The setup of "The Blue Butterfly" is surprisingly elegant. While investigating a murder, Castle happens across an old diary. Since the prose is written in the most stereotypical tough-guy, film-noir style ever, Castle just has to read it. As he does, a world from 1947 -- in which all of our favorite Castle
characters play a part -- unfolds.
Back in the day, a private detective named Joe got a job hunting down a woman named Vera. He found her -- on the arm of a notorious gangster, Tom Dempsey (masterfully played by guest star Mark Pellegrino). When the detective and the dame inevitably fell in love, they planned to escape their lives using Dempsey's fabulous Blue Butterfly necklace for funding.
What makes this film-noir theme work is how it is integrated into the overall plot. Not only do Castle and -- surprisingly -- Beckett enjoy the story, but the mystery from the 1940s relates directly to their present-day case. Instead of a gimmick, the imaginative flashbacks are an integral part to the murder investigation. There really is no way Castle and Beckett could solve their case without clues from the past.
It doesn't hurt that everyone on Castle
is totally committed to their roles, and there are obvious differences between the show's regular characters and their film-noir alter egos. Some of the differences are hilarious -- just try not to laugh when Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas affect Irish and Cuban accents, respectively, for their 1947 roles. Some are just plain surprising -- Tamala Jones can sing! Some, like Susan Sullivan's brash secretary, are just what you'd expect.What did Tamala Jones have to say about her singing debut in "The Blue Butterfly?" Check out our exclusive interview here
And then we have Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic.
So perfect in their respective roles as Castle and Beckett, it's almost unnerving to see their subtle shifting into the new parts of Joe and Vera. Joe has some of Castle's confidence, without his king-of-the-world swagger. Vera, meanwhile, is every inch a 1940s film-noir dame, right down to the tough-girl speech mixed with wide-eyed fear at her hard, mean world.
Plus, Joe and Vera fall in love pretty much at first sight, so you know they are not
Castle and Beckett.
"The Blue Butterfly" isn't perfect. The mystery is a lot of fun to watch, but you probably shouldn't think too hard about some of the "clues" that lead to its eventual solution. And some of the film-noir touches do feel a little unsettling to those used to the normal characters and stories of Castle
But these are minor problems. Overall, "The Blue Butterfly" makes good on its debt to the film-noir genre while still giving us the Castle
"The Blue Butterfly" will air on Monday, February 6 at 10pm on ABC.(Image courtesy of ABC)