Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Castle: "Swan Song"

By Michael Seese

This was perhaps the most inventive episode of Castle. Last week, I said the show was "funny, funny, funny, funny, funny, funny, funny." "Swan Song" gave us a more subtle form of humor. Most of the comedy came from the players as they "acted" in front of the cameras. In essence, this episode took the form of one long "look." Castle's mugging; Beckett's alternating stewing and disbelief; Esposito's macho "Cops" impersonation; Ryan's thinking man's officer; Captain Gates's fawning; and Lanie's cleavage.

Building on that (the looks, rather than the cleavage), I loved the scene where Gates said, "Everyone here is more than accommodating," and the camera showed a squad room full of dour faces. I busted my gut at that.

If I may dig up last week's review again, in addition to lines and looks (my standard two citations) I added references. In "Swan Song," most of the prime lines were references.

- Castle: "Pure speculation would be Swan purchasing thermonuclear technology and having a scientist make him an amplifier that went all the way to 12." I suspect that was an homage to This Is Spinal Tap.

- Castle: "And they weren't about to let him play George Michael to their Andrew Ridgeley."
- Esposito: "Andrew who?"
- Castle: "Exactly. So they pick up a guitar, and [of course] Wham!

- Castle: "Detective Beckett is not an unfriendly person. She's just got walls. Let's call them layers. Layers upon layers of ... well... walls." Clearly, that's a reference to the Pink Floyd album... Never mind; I'm stretching.

- Zeke: "We're finally about to hit it big, and he wants to Pete Best me? For some roadie?"
- Castle: "You know, Pete Best was a drummer. I think Stu Sutcliffe would have been a more apt comparison."

Trivia Aside 1: The tale of Stuart Sutcliffe really is an appropriate analogy. If you don't know it, I won't bore you with the whole story. The short version is that Sutcliffe was recruited by John Lennon to play bass for the early Beatles, even though he was an artist, and not a musician. He travelled to Hamburg with them. Despite the fact that they logged several hundred gigs from August to December of 1960 and April to July of 1961 -- often lasting eight hours each -- when he left the band he still couldn't play worth a darn (like Zeke). And yet, Outliers author Malcolm Gladwell cites Hamburg as where the Beatles put in their "10,000 hours" on the way to mastery.

Trivia Aside 2: In Hamburg, the Beatles adopted stage names. Sutcliffe's was Stu De Stijl; Jack White borrowed that surname as the title for the White Stripes' second album.

Trivia Aside #3: Paul McCartney took the stage name Paul Ramon, which is where the Ramones got their name.

I thought the sing along at the end made for a great conclusion. And Beckett tricking the camera crew into a closet served us a definitive final chord.

Four other things I found noteworthy:

1. Unlike most episodes, in this one we actually got to see the victim alive, albeit on video.
2. When the show went to the first commercial break, the Castle theme was more rock-and-roll than the usual ear-piercing guitar riff.
3. Ryan and Esposito bickering as they drove to Silva's (Butterfly's father) house was so well choreographed.
4. I smiled at the reference to a musician buying drugs as the "Monday morning crossword." I got it...did you?

And two picky complaints:

1. At times it seemed as though there were three cameras running, based on the quick cuts from character to character.
2. "Holy Shemp" is an up-and-coming band, and yet each member travels in his own plushly appointed motor coach? Nope. Sorry. 

At this rate, we may soon be caught up!

Feel free to share your thoughts, and especially any otherwise uncovered musical references.

Oh, and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving, my friends. 

Was this a Swan Song for Castle? Click to tweet.


  1. I enjoyed the bit at 26:30 where Castle says 'fade to black' then mouths the Castle theme (then of course the show fades to black for a commercial break.) Self-referential fun.

    It was interesting that they used C. Thomas Howell to play John Campbell (the cult leader.) I think they may be setting-up a plot line for a future episode.

  2. At first I didn't recognize him. But I like your idea.

    1. And I guess we should be bummed that guys younger than us can now play creepy old men.

  3. I'll have to check out this show. Haven't heard of it before I came across your blog.

    1. It's a cop show, with an author as the main character. What could be better?

      Thanks for stopping by.