Castle: Swan Song – A Good Cop/Bad Cop Review

Castle: Swan Song

Last night’s episode was, well, bizarre. And not in a good way.

The shaky-cam filming style combined with the characters over-acting and hamming it up for the cameras was downright horrible. This was definitely the worst episode of Castle to date. In fact, had this been the first episode I’d seen I would never tune in again. Of course, there were a few funny moments. Unfortunately, the bad outweighed the good this week.

But that’s my opinion. Let’s see what Melanie has to say about what we saw last night.

Melanie Atkins

Tonight’s episode, about the death of a legendary rock and roll singer, was told documentary style like The Office and Community—a first for Castle. Nathan and Stana said in interviews that looking into the camera was hard to do, because as actors, they usually spend so much time trying not to look at it. Their characters had other ideas, of course. Rick preened for the camera, while Kate did her best to avoid it. Ryan didn’t seem too thrilled about the attention either, but like Rick, Lanie craved the spotlight… as did Esposito, who turned out to be the biggest ham of all—and pretty good singer. I thought the episode would be funnier than it was, but I did enjoy parts of it.

I wanted more romance, of course. They gave us a few tidbits, such as Rick telling one of the cameramen when talking about Kate, “I just want you to see what I see,” meaning strong, independent, capable Detective Beckett. Or at least that’s what I got out of that line. And later, when Rick and Kate were talking privately and he hooked a lock of hair behind her ear, she smiled, leaned into his touch, and put her hand over his… before noticing the camera and jerking away. Uncomfortable, much?

Then near the end of the show, Captain Gates told the whole precinct she would review the entire tape for its appropriateness… and that sent Kate into a tailspin. She was afraid Gates would see the aforementioned scene between her and Rick—an understandable fear considering she believes her boss wouldn’t approve of their relationship, especially a PDA in the precinct.

Didn’t turn out that way, since she and Rick cornered the filmmaker and convinced him to “lose” that piece of tape, but it was a close call.

Otherwise, this was just a weird episode. I laughed in spots and enjoyed Esposito’s singing and hamming it up, but don’t really enjoy the documentary style as a rule so this one didn’t really grab me. The case bored me, and I simply could not fathom why in the world Lanie would check for antibodies for polio, measles, etc, in the victim’s blood. Too odd, even for TV. I mean, please!

I can understand the producers wanting to try something new with this documentary style, and I don’t fault them for it. I’ll just be glad to get back to regular Castle episodes. Next week’s show involves a murdered priest, and the promo for it had ominous overtones. Very scary. Then comes the Christmas show, titled Secret Santa — their first holiday show ever. I can’t wait for that one. A very Castle Christmas. Teehee!

Lee Lofland

As I said above, there wasn’t much to like about this episode. And, of course, Lanie did the show no favors. However, I have to come to the actor’s defense this week, because the writers truly stuck her with horrible material. I know, that’s the trouble each and every week, but this time was far worse than before. She’s an information dump for writers who are too lazy to write necessary information into the script. A fiction writer (books) would most likely be rejected by agents and editors if he/she tried this move. Believable make-believe, it’s not.

So let’s started, and there’s no better place than…

– The film crew was standing in the middle of a bloody crime scene, contaminating and destroying the evidence. Wouldn’t happen, not in a million years, no matter how many “official letters” they possessed.

– Lanie and her use of lividity to determine the time of death. Well, here’s some information about lividity, and what it is. After reading, you be the judge. Ask yourself, could Lanie pinpoint the time of death within two hours, long after lividity is fixed?

When the heart stops beating, gravity pulls blood to the lowest point in the body. Blood pooling in those low areas stain the surrounding tissue giving the appearance of bruising. This staining of tissue is called livor mortis, or lividity. For example, a victim lying flat on his back when he dies exhibits lividity on his back, buttocks, and the back of his legs. The same is true on the front of the body, if the victim is found lying face down.

The staining of tissue normally begins within the first two hours after death. The process reaches it’s full peak in eight to twelve hours. Once lividity becomes fixed it is basically no longer useful for determining a time of death, other than to say the death most likely occurred “over twelve hours ago.” Lividity alone cannot be used to pinpoint an exact time of death.

If the victim is moved during the first six hours after death the purplish discoloration can shift, causing the new, lowest portion of the body to exhibit lividity.

After a period of six to eight hours after death, lividity becomes totally fixed. Moving the body after eight hours will not change the patterns of discoloration. Therefore, investigators know a body found lying face down with lividity on the back, has been moved.

Rookie officers have often confused lividity with bruising caused by fighting.

Remember, ambient air temperature is always a factor in determining the TOD (time of death). A hot climate can accelerate lividity, while a colder air temperature can slow it down considerably.

– Esposito, speaking about a murder suspect, stated that a preliminary test indicated that the blood found on his clothes was indeed his and not the blood of the murder victim. Well, there is no preliminary blood test (presumptive test) to determine the origin of blood. There are tests, however, to determine whether or not blood is human (Sirchie Fingerprint Laboratories offers such testing material).

– Lanie, and how she stated this while maintaining a poker face is beyond me, said the victim had no polio vaccine antibodies in his system. And, she went on to say that there were no other immunization vaccines present in his system. This, to say the least, was RIDICULOUS! There’s no way she’d have tested for any of those things. Why would she, unless maybe the victim presented with signs and symptoms of polio. This was the absolute wackiest thing Lanie has said over the years. Again, the writers used her to get this information before the viewers, and that’s lazy writing on their part.

The show wasn’t all negative. When Esposito heard gunshots and screaming coming from inside a locked apartment, he kicked in the door. Police officers may enter without a warrant if they truly believe someone’s life is in jeopardy (exigent circumstances). The same is true if they honestly believe that evidence in a crime would be lost or destroyed if they didn’t act immediately to seize it.

– It was a pleasant surprise to see C. Thomas Howell make an appearance last night as the cult leader. For those of you who don’t know, Howell plays the part of Dewey on Southland, the most realistic police show on TV (TNT).

– One final thing that bugged me…the roadie supposedly taught Swan (the murder victim) how to play guitar. In fact, Swan had stated that the roadie (sorry, I don’t remember his name) was a far better guitarist than he could ever be. So, when it was discovered that the bass player was the killer, the band replaced him with the roadie. It’s not likely that a dynamite lead guitar player would ever replace a bass guitar player. They’re two different instruments that are each played differently. Sure, it’s possible, just not likely. That would be sort of like Team USA replacing a shot putter with a swimmer. They’re both on the same Olympic team, so why not?

What do you guys think? Was it a bad episode that’s far beneath what this show is capable of producing? Or, did you love it in spite of the obvious flaws?

*ABC photo

23 replies
  1. Janet
    Janet says:

    The whole cult thing didn’t work. What self-respecting, overcontrolling, micromanaging, hypervigilant cult leader would let his young people learn guitar, much less teach each other guitar? Guitar is the instrument of the people, an instrument of revolutions and protest. And any music he did let them learn wouldn’t translate well from cult to rock. Where would they have heard the greats? I’m just sayin’, that one was a stretch.

  2. Dave in St. Louis
    Dave in St. Louis says:

    Since we’re back to the bass vs lead thing again, let me again say that there are many musicians who can play both I referenced McCartney up top, but let me add some more here.

    Larry Knetchel was an accomplished pianist and bass player for the Wrecking Crew (the prominent LA session musician ensemble of the 60s and 70s), but is probably best known for his lead guitar work on the song Guitar Man by Bread. Staying with the Crew, Carole Kaye, was most famous for her bass work, but played guitar as well (most prominently on the Righteous Brothers version of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling). Finally, Glen Campbell, yet another member of the Crew, used many of the Crew on his early solo albums and borrowed Carole Kaye’s bass to play a prominent bit on the song Wichita Lineman.

    And there are many, many more.

  3. P.I. Barrington
    P.I. Barrington says:

    Regarding the bass player/guitarist boo-boo the bass guitar and the lead guitar perform two different functions entirely. You are correct that this would not happen unless the roadie played both instruments. The bass guitar assists percussion and gives a foundation for guitars (rhythm and lead).
    About lividity doesn’t NCIS use liver probes to determine TOD?
    Just my humble two cents.

  4. cherylkay
    cherylkay says:

    Good thing I watch for the characters and not the plot line – which was especially weak this episode. Gwise is right – Supernatural did the mockumentary much better.

  5. Gwise
    Gwise says:

    The problem here was technical: it didn’t FEEL like a true mockumentary style. The director/producers seem to have gone out of their way to capture all the right camera angles very conveniently for us, which is just weird because the whole point of a mockumentary is to provide LESS information to create a sense of reality (a la CLOVERFIELD). Even the color theme of the ep is conveniently consistent with the rest of the show, which would not happen with handhelds. Further, none of camera guys accidentally show up on screen, even when running/panning/standing in front of mirrors, etc.

    Compare that to some of the good mockumentary episodes from other TV shows (I remember SUPERNATURAL did a great one – way back before it started sucking, and obviously, any episode from Lee’s favourite, Southland) and it just feels like a usual Castle episode with some extremely shoddy and truly annoying camera work.

    Further, the story/plot wasn’t “different” enough to justify the change. Remember that one where Castle was stuck inside a bank robbery? Now THAT could’ve been done this way and would’ve been better for it.

  6. Maryann Mercer
    Maryann Mercer says:

    All I could think of was that Stephen Cannell must be spinning in his grave…
    I’m not a fan of the staged docudrama as a rule. I don’t like the unsteady camera shots and the furtive looks the characters give the cameraman. And I too thought NO way when someone high up on the NYC schmooze ladder okayed the presence of a film crew…wouldn’t that jeopardize any further action as far as prosecution went? Poor Lainie…and even poorer Esposito. I keep getting the one-note character from him…boastful and arrogant these days. I know he’s always been the more aggressive of the two but his “talk” with Ryan in the car was horrid. Give the man some reason to stop being so over the top gung-ho, please.

    This episode reminded me of some of the idiotic experiments made during the writers’ strike. We didn’t get to know that much about the victim, they seemed desparate for suspects (Butterfly’s father for heaven’s sake?) and I would have rather seen a rerun.

  7. Pat Brown
    Pat Brown says:

    I knew the minute I heard Lanie announced the absence of any antibodies which proved the victim had never been inoculated that Lee was going to have a cow.

    It truly was a horrible episode.

  8. Ryss
    Ryss says:

    I’m also in the camp of the haters this week and I think the last episode was the worst of Castle to date, too.

    I can easily forgive this one thanks to “The Final Frontier” episode the week before though. That was pretty good. But I still think that the first two seasons are the best. Not exactly sure why though.

  9. Michael Bracken
    Michael Bracken says:

    How, exactly, did the bass player hit the victim with the guitar? There wasn’t enough space inside the trailer to swing the guitar overhand (would have hit the ceiling) or to the left or right (would have hit the cabinets/windows/walls). Perhaps he put the guitar on the floor and pounded the victim’s head against it…?

  10. Pat Marinelli
    Pat Marinelli says:

    O…kaay. I must be the weird one. I thought this episode was entertaining, funny, and different. I actually watched it twice before I came to read the blog because other than the film crew being on the crime scene which I knew was no-no, I missed any police procedural mistakes as I was that wrapped up in how the characters were handling the film crew being around. Gates was priceless. We’ve never seen that much or that side of her in any episode. I expected Castle to play to the camera and Beckett to ignor it as much as possbile. Didn’t expect Lanie to want to appear on camera much less be that sexy. Ryan and Esp were priceless also…and who expected Esp to sing? Not me.

    Love the touch-the face scene and when Beckett locked the camera guys in the closet. All and all, I was entertained which is why I watch Castle in the first place. As a writer, I want to know the procedural mistakes, this I’m here.

  11. Patti Phillips
    Patti Phillips says:

    I watch the show week after week because I’m a big Nate Fillion fan, not because of the iffy police work. The relationship between Ryan and Esposito has been fun to watch as well. BUT, even I did not care for this episode. Worst yet, over the run of the show. Thank goodness for a new episode next week to help me erase the visual memory of this one.

  12. Valerie Hansen
    Valerie Hansen says:

    Whew! I thought it was just me. Glad to see my taste in “Castle” hasn’t faltered. I hated this newest episode. Didn’t realize why I couldn’t get into it until I read one of the above comments. The film crew did get between me and the story. Interesting but not nearly as enjoyable as usual.


  13. Melanie Atkins
    Melanie Atkins says:

    I agree with all of you. Not the best episode. Next week’s show should be much better. I forgot to mention that it’s the “Meet the Parents” episode when they have dinner at the loft with Martha and Jim (Kate’s dad)… and it apparently doesn’t go well. Can’t wait to see that. lol

  14. secondflore
    secondflore says:

    I’ve been reading your reviews for a while and went straight to your site (all the way from Paris, France^) after watching this episode.
    I agree that it probably was the weakest ever (though the whole season is starting fairly well), and I think I understood something about the whole series.
    The pleasure in watching Castle not only comes from the fine writing & the characters. As viewers (if I may speak for others), we love the show because of the strong power of identification that the team built over the years. We emotionnally invest in it – be it fun, or romance, or fear. The camera crew here was like a wall between us viewers and the characters. Any personal projection was thus blocked.
    As a result, this was not a real Castle episode but just a show running, in front of us and not “with” us. Just an average cop show with a weak plot (and bad acting, yes – let’s just say they tried something, and failed…).
    Thanks for your reviews !

  15. Carol Ann Erhardt
    Carol Ann Erhardt says:

    All I can say is ugh. I love Castle, but this is the first episode I didn’t like. It was too over the top and downright ridiculous…not even counting Lanie’s stuff. I agree with Liberty in that the only scene I laughed at was when Beckett led the camera man into the closet, stuck out her tongue and locked him in. Sure hope they don’t do anything like this again.

  16. Dave in St. Louis
    Dave in St. Louis says:

    A switch to bass would not be unprecedented. For example, Paul McCartney played rhythm guitar until Stu Sutcliffe, who Castle referenced on screen, left the Beatles and Paul took up the bass at that point. Swan could well have decided to take up bass in favor of the roadie or the roadie could have played bass as a springboard. All we truly know is that the current bassist was not up to playing the new bass lines.

  17. Sally Carpenter
    Sally Carpenter says:

    I liked this episode quite a bit, mostly for watching the cops preen for the camera. Castle loves it as he’s an old pro with the press. And Lanie certainly dressed for the camera. By now I don’t pay much attention to the forensics because I know it’s all wrong.
    The cult thing didn’t work for me. A person who lived in a cult for years wouldn’t suddenly adapt to the outside. If the victim didn’t want the cult leader to find him, he wouldn’t take on a high profile gig in a successful rock band (and I didn’t think much of the song the band played).
    Do bassists play “power chords?” A bass is plucked, not strummed, so they only play one note at a time. Also, the sheet music was mostly written in single notes, not chords.
    BTW, the 2013 Castle wall calendars are out! I saw them at Staples last week. Each month has a full-color pix of the gang from season four, including three pictures from the “Blue Butterfly” episode. The producers must be ramping up the merchandise this year. Who says crime doesn’t pay?

  18. Liberty S
    Liberty S says:

    This was definitely not the best episode ever–the one a couple weeks ago where Castle is the main suspect is probably the best of the season so far.

    And despite the gaffes in procedure, I enjoyed this episode. Castle, Espo, & Lanie hamming it up for the cameras were hilarious, just as much as they were painful (for the characters, not so much the viewers). I figured going in that this would be one where we’d have to suspend our disbelief. I wasn’t disappointed in that matter.

    Best part of the episode besides Castle & Kate’s PDA was the very end when Kate locked the camera guy in the closet.

  19. t
    t says:

    Appears there are a lot of “haters” around the net today, because that’s whay people who appropriately nay-say about Castle are called.

    In general, as Stana said, it’s a different show this season. In reality, I’d never have watched if this were the first season.

    But yeah, this ep was just wierd, even by Castle standards, kind of cute, but boring at the same time. At about 20 minutes, I could hardly wait for it to be over. But I watched. Something redeaming had to happen. But nope, it didn’t.

  20. Nancy D.
    Nancy D. says:

    The Esposito/Ryan competition was more annoying than funny. The last thing I clearly remember is saying, “Seriously?” when Lanie started talking about antibodies. When I woke up, it was well after midnight. I may keep this episode around – sometimes I can’t sleep.

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