Although imperfect, episode 4.14 “The Blue Butterfly” (original air date: February 6, 2012) will no doubt rank as a favorite episode of one of Castle, a series I’ve enjoyed immensely since its premiere in 2009.
The TV Series, Castle, features the ongoing adventures of best-selling author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) as he shadows one NYPD precinct’s detectives and helps investigate murders in the Big Apple. The series began with Castle considered a suspect in a string of murders patterned after the fictional ones inhis books. His connections with the mayor allow him to help solve the series of murder alongside Det. Kate Beckett (Stana Katic), who later becomes the inspiration for a new character in Castle’s books.
“The Blue Butterfly” episode was an homage to film noir blending modern crime investigation with flashbacks to 1947 and a bygone era in New York City. During the investigation into the death of a would-be treasure hunter, Richard Castle finds a journal, written by private investigator Joe Flynn. Castle flashes back to the 1940s when Flynn was involved in a case that may have ties to the current murder Beckett and her team are investigating. Each time he reads the journal, we see the era come to life with the show’s principal characters playing roles in the story the journal unfolds. The episode was directed by Chuck Bowman and written by Terence Paul Winter.
In 1947, Flynn (played by Castle) is approached by a young woman (Castle’s daughter) who wants the PI to find her sister, Vera. We see Castle’s mom (the always great Susan Sullivan) as the PI’s faithful, wisecracking secretary. And it’s a pleasure to see these two actresses utilized in roles beyond sounding boards for Castle’s ideas about a case.
The search for Vera leads Flynn to The Penny Baker Club ruled by notorious mob boss Tom Dempsey. There, we see medical examiner Dr. Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones) shine as chanteuse Betsy Sinclair, Detectives Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Esposito (Jon Huertas) as an Irish and Cuban—replete with accents—thugs in Dempsey’s employ, and Dempsey’s moll Vera, played of course by Beckett. Flynn’s instant attraction for Vera and vice versa mirrors that of Castle and Beckett and gets Flynn beat up by Dempsey’s thugs. Then we get our first glimpes of the episode’s centerpiece, the Blue Butterfly.
Like the Maltese Falcon, the butterfly appears to be what everyone is after and a motive for murder. In fact the show’s 40s flashbacks capture the flair of a Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler story perfectly. Sure film noir, PI cliches abound, but the show has so much fun with them. Plus, we actually get two murders here. Are they by the same killer 65 years apart? The modern day victim had clues to the Blue Butterfly’s whereabouts, and in 1947, we have the—burnt beyond recognition—bodies of Flynn and Vera, perhaps the last two people to possess the cursed necklace.
When Flynn’s journal entries end abruptly, Castle and Beckett must find other sources for clues. Tracking down witnesses to the events of 1947 is not an easy one, but when they finally do, the couple look far too young! However, the dual role of Demspey and his modern day grandson being played by the same actor was a clever scene ender leading into commerical. What is the guy immortal?
This was a fine episode of Castle with the usual unexpected twists—some obvious, others not so much—that allowed the actors a change of pace in taking on new roles. But this story was larger that the confines of an hour show, shortened further by commercials. It should have been two hours! Still this is definitely one of the show’s best. Check out some behind the scenes clips of this episode and others on the official site.
What are some of your favorite Castle episodes?