When I first heard that Castle was going to do a tribute to film noir episode, I was a little worried about how it would turn out. Two mysteries from two different time periods don’t always work.
I shouldn’t have worried.
While not my favorite episode of the season, it was a blast from start to finish.
Our story begins when the gang is called to a murder inside an old, deserted bar. The bar had its heyday during the 1940’s when it was owned by a crime boss. The victim is a treasure hunter who thinks he may have stumbled on a great find – the Blue Butterfly. And just what is the Blue Butterfly? It’s a necklace the crime boss’ woman wore made out of rare blue diamonds and worth a million dollars.
One of the pieces of evidence the crew finds is a diary from a PI in 1947. Castle thinks it may be the key to solving the murder, so he takes it home and reads it. As he does, we get flashbacks complete with costumes, sets, hairstyles, and our main characters filling in for the characters in this 65 years old story. Probably the biggest surprises to me here were Susan Sullivan as the PI’s secretary and Molly Quinn as the woman who hires the PI to find her sister. Their only involvement in the episode was in the flashbacks, and their characters were quite different from Castle’s mother and daughter. But they seemed to be having fun just like everyone else.
The PI (Castle) is hired to find a woman named Vera (Beckett). When he does track her down, she’s on the arm of a notorious crime boss who owns the bar with the beautiful necklace on her neck. It’s love at first sight for both of them, which means the PI gets a beating from the crime boss’s henchmen (Esposito and Ryan). And the singer in this bar? Lanie of course. I haven’t read confirmation anywhere, but I’m guessing that was her real voice. She can sing.
The PI and Vera decide to run away and sell the necklace to start over. But somewhere along the way, they both wind up shot and the necklace goes missing. Just like all good noir mysteries.
Back in the present, Castle and Beckett are hot on the trail of the necklace and the killer. There’s the real treasure hunter that the victim contacted for help. There’s the former bookie who was financing him. And there’s his estranged wife who left him over his obsession with finding a treasure.
But the big shock comes when they learn that the gun that committed the present day murder was the same one used in the unsolved murders from 1947.
Eventually, Castle and Beckett are able to piece together both mysteries. In 1947, the woman who hired the PI was actually trying to get revenge on Vera. Honestly, I didn’t quite understand this part. Was she trying to get Vera away from the mob boss’s goons to kill her? And how did she know that the PI would be able to do that? Frankly, this part seemed a bit convoluted to me, but it was the perfect noir twist. However, what we eventually learn is that the actual dead bodies from 1947 were the Client and the bartender. One got shot accidentally, the other in self-defense. Then the PI and Vera burned the corpses to avoid their identities becoming known, changed their names, and lived happily ever after. Not such a noir ending after all.
And the necklace? Turns out they decided they didn’t want it, so they hit it in a lose brink outside the bar. The present day murder victim found it, but was killed by…the PI and Vera’s present day home help/nurse. His exact job was a little unclear, probably because he only had two lines before he was revealed as the killer. He was the grandson of the PI’s secretary from 1947 and he was trying to track down that necklace. He hadn’t intended to kill anyone, just steal the necklace after the treasure hunter found it.
To wind things down, Beckett decides not to prosecute the elderly couple for the deaths in 1947 because it sounds like self-defense and because she’s a softy. I think that has more to do with it than anything. The necklace is recovered from the killer’s apartment, but it turns out the diamonds are fakes. That’s right, all this crime and drama has been over imitation jewelry worth hardly anything. And with that noir twist, the episode ends.
There was a lot of story to this episode, but they managed to get most of it in without leaving too many loose ends. The biggest for me being why the PI was hired to find Vera in the first place. And once again, the killer was someone who looked like an extra until he was revealed as our villain. It’s a cheat, but it never feels like one to me because they are always able to explain it so it feels like the only logical end to the story. I also wish they had found a way to work Penny Johnson Jerald into the flashbacks; that would have been a blast.
But I just loved the noir parts. The dialog was cheesy and cliched; the acting was a bit over the top. And that means it was pitch perfect as an homage to the genre.
Of course, another reason for the episode was to have Castle and Beckett kiss and go off to live happily ever after via their 1947 flashback selves.
All told it was a fun episode with several great laughs and decent twists, mainly in the 1947 story.
It was nice to have a light episode this week because next week starts what looks like the big, dramatic February sweeps two parter they love to do each year. Look for that with a cliffhanger ending next Monday.
In the meantime, come visit me at my normal home where I am talking about the books I read in January.