Tue
Oct 12 2010 9:10am

Castle’s “Punked”: A Love Letter to the Steampunk Community

Castle

The latest episode of Castle has gone steampunk, and it has done so with all of the elegance, charm, respectfulness, and accuracy that I have come to expect from the show. The episode, titled “Punked,” has clearly been the result of careful research and dedicated writing.

You may recall my review of NCIS: LA’s “steampunk episode” last year, and the scathing review I gave it (and for good reason, I might add). At the end of that review, I issued a challenge for someone to produce a real “steampunk episode” and cited Castle as one of the only programs I felt had the ability to do it right. I have been told by Castle creator and executive producer Andrew Marlowe that “Punked” was their answer to that challenge, and let me say that they have more than exceeded my wildest expectations. Castle’s “Punked” was everything that the NCIS: LA episode was not, and it should go down in television history as the first real “steampunk episode” of a mainstream TV show.

“Punked” opens with a rather majestic montage featuring mounted police officers riding through Central Park. While this intro may have been a coincidence, I suspect it was intentional. And while it is only a brief moment in the entire episode, the sight of uniforms and the sound of the horses’ hooves brings to mind 19th century cavalry: a wonderful mood-setting introduction to a steampunk show.

After a brief but very enjoyable scene of character development and metaplot between Richard Castle, his daughter, and his mother, we are presented with the evening’s murder. A young Wall Street broker has been shot and killed by a 200 year old lead ball, and then stripped down to his (extremely expensive and comfortable) boxer shorts. Naturally, Castle suspects a “time-traveling killer” and proceeds to theorize about “time ripples” and the possibility that time travel causes rust (which is presented with all Nathan Fillion’s usual charm). Detective Beckett (Stana Katic) promptly retorts “on your brain” with such beautiful timing that I feel it demands a mention.

In the course of the investigation, Castle and Beckett are led to a steampunk club that the murder victim belonged to. Every inch of the scene is wonderful, and comes complete with a club president who rides a penny-farthing with exhaust pipes. Both the principle supporting characters and the extras are dressed in completely believable steampunk outfits. The club has just the vintage Victorian feel one would expect to attract steampunk clientele (indeed, speaking personally I wish the club really did exist in New York City; I’d join in a heartbeat). The characters display a lovely blend of eccentricity, jovial humor and artistic romanticism. It is subtly but accurately pointed out that the members of the steampunk community are intelligent, respectable, educated people who, though a bit geeky and certainly eccentric, are well-spoken and good-hearted. During the scene, Castle explains steampunk to Beckett, describing it as “a subculture that embraces the simplicity and romance of the past and at the same time couples it with the hope and promise and sheer supercoolness of futuristic design,” a definition I think we can all be happy with.

The plot of “Punked” progresses with all of the usual pacing, twists, and turns one can expect in a Castle episode, punctuated by the show’s characteristic witty banter, reflective conversations, and “oh!” moments. I could go on and on about the quality of acting and writing, the cinematography, and the whole list of wonderful non-steampunk things in the episode, but as any viewer of Castle knows, by now all of these qualities are pretty much standard for what is without question one of the best television programs on air. What's more, the episode title is a a fantastic double entendre that, as the astute viewer will see by the end of the episode, is more than just a play on the word “steampunk.”

In short, “Punked” was perhaps the best first TV introduction to the mainstream world that the steampunk community could have hoped for. The general public can likewise watch with confidence that what they are being shown is an accurate and well-researched portrayal of the next big subculture that they, their friends or their kids will soon want to begin exploring.

And on a personal note, speaking as a writer myself, I have a deep respect for any story (be it book, film or television program) that can make its use of language, characters, plot, and setting all fit together with the precision and efficiency of a well-oiled and distinctly artistic machine. Castle has long had the ability to do this, and “Punked” is one of the finest examples I have yet seen. A lot of time and effort went into this episode, and my hat is off to everyone who contributed to make this the mainstream portrayal that steampunk fans have been waiting for.


G. D. Falksen is immensely grateful to Castle executive producer Andrew Marlowe and associate producer Noreen O’Toole for giving him the opportunity to preview “Punked” and write this review.  More information at G. D. can be found on his Twitter and Facebook.

30 comments
YouDont NeedToKnow
1. necrosage2005
Why write about it when you can watch at the lollowing link:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/184337/castle-punked

I love the show, and its not just because of Nathan Fillion, either.
John Massey
2. subwoofer
I love this show too. At first, when Castle came on, I was sweating bullets because it was in a tough time slot and after Firefly died as it did, I was not sure- other than a few Brown Coats out there- if anyone would identify with Nathan Fillion.

Much to my relief, people do "get him". Fillion is an awesome actor, and he has awesome writers to back him up. I love the way that they incorporated Fillion's "Mal costume" into one episode.

In this "Punked" episode, I was really impressed by the authenticity of the geekiness of the Club. The doorman- asking Jules Vern questions, and Castle earning his geek-cred by answering them. Beckett just flashes her badge and hollers-"NYPD lemme in". And then, as Castle hugs his daughter with the modified arm thingy, which he is still figuring out, almost crushing her- it was perfect, hat and all. Then Beckett sees him in it. LOL. I just love the way this show is going.

And I haven't even talked about Esposito and his fun with the man-mountain, then the bum, then the fleeing suspect...

Good times:)

Woof™.
Ashe Armstrong
3. AsheSaoirse
I concur with all sentiments above me. Last night's episode was spectacular and I was utterly thrilled that the members of the club were not abusing goggle privileges. Castle's explanation of steampunk was simple and utterly accurate. The whole thing was brilliant, as you expect from the show. I posted on my facebook, while watching, "could the writers for Castle be any smarter or cooler?" And it's a sentiment I hold to. All the little nerd jokes they slip in or make blatant. The way they write the characters, the dialogue (oh the dialogue), it easily became a favorite show. And hey, Nathan Fillion joins me weekly and what's not to love about that?

PS- To Woof, that episode was entitled Vampire Weekend and much like this episode, it was written beautifully.
John Massey
4. subwoofer
@Ashe- thank you:)

I plan on streaming that episode later. I am also hoping for some of the other cast members from Firefly to do cameos, it would be perfect.

I am a long time Fillion fan as he is a hometown boy doing good out there in the big world of Hollywood.

This particular episode, I am not even sure about the best scene- Castle walking in- gun in hand- with his daughter making out with her new boyfriend, Castle being scared outta his wits by that big man-mountain in the interrogation room or Castle honking off the police officer at the firing range and the contraption they both came up with to try to hit the target. It was a brilliant show. And there was a Delorian in there too! And a Steampunk club- like how I'd imagine one to be. And it was real in the sense that it was something I want to join out of sheer coolness!

Woof™.
Darin Calhoun
5. Darin Calhoun
I love "Castle" and I love Steampunk now I get to enjoy them both in one show. Oh, and G. D. Falksen, you rock too.
Darin Calhoun
6. Beth C.
I watched the episode last night and loved it. They approached steampunk with a lot of respect, but it was also obvious they were having great fun with it. It was a relief to see they didn't take the high-and-mighty approach.

Also, the time travel jokes were fantastic. I was a happy geek. I squealed out loud when the DeLorean appeared.
Darin Calhoun
7. Ana A.
A fabulous review indeed, G.D.! Your sentiments echo mine, and it's wonderful to see such a fun portrayal of the subculture we all adore so much.

After driving 14 hours from a fabulous weekend in New York City (complete with wonderful company! ;D), we rushed to the couch to catch the episode just as it started up. It was the first time I have seen the show, and now I want to go back and start from the beginning!
Darin Calhoun
8. VictoriaWoodhull
Thanks for writing this terrific review. I love the Castle show and hoped they would do the subject matter proud. (I had been nervous on this score--you never know with Hollywood) I am so happy and relieved it turned out well.
I hope-hope-hope this inspires more interest in all things Steampunk.
And when is someone going to open a Steampunk Club like that one? I can't wait.
Darin Calhoun
9. PhoenixFalls
Oh, I'd definitely say the sound of galloping horses as evocative of the past at the opening was intentional -- the espresso machine whistled like a train later in the episode too. It's all in the details (and I love a show with an eye for detail!).

Just watched this episode on my DVR and love, love, love it!
Darin Calhoun
10. Kallen
It was the first Castle episode I've been home in time to catch in a long time, and I had no idea it was going to be Steampunk. I was thrilled to death at the first mention of time travel, and it only got better from there. Watching Nathan Fillion in anything, I always feel like he's one of
those actors who's also as big a fan as his fans are. His utter delight in the steampunk club ("Can I try that!?") just made me want to hug him! :) Definitely a great way to end a Monday!
Darin Calhoun
11. Dakkar
On the whole, I agree with Mr. Falksen's evaluation and enjoyed the episode, though a couple of elements did ring less than positive for me- namely the unintentional (I'm sure) impression that steampunk is a "rich kid's" game and a closed society, and the less subtle bias the show's writers seem to have towards law-abiding gun owners and collectors (though that might be more in the line of setting up the story's early red herring). I also found "Lord Henry's" adoption of a Victorian persona to match his found clothing to be a stretch, but hey, it's network detective television, and not Mad Men.
Ashe Armstrong
12. AsheSaoirse
@Woof, wholeheardedly agree with your second post, sir. I was snickering the entire time he burst in on Alexis. And when he asked to ride the bike I was quite tickled.
Darin Calhoun
13. Bethany S.
I missed this last night even though I was waiting to see who I would recognize from 'The League of Steam'. Watching it on Hulu though I was very happy to see what was there and see 3 people that I see every year at the LOJ ball in LA.
Teresa Jusino
16. TeresaJusino
Castle is SUCH an amazing show. Every time they do some kind of "theme" episode, they handle it with such care. That writing staff they've got over there is great. Go Andrew Marlowe!

Also, Nathan Fillion is the cat's freaking pajamas, as is Stana Katic.
Melissa Shumake
17. cherie_2137
i love castle SO much, and waited to read this post until after i was able to watch the episode this evening (even though i was sure it was spoiler free, i want uninterrupted viewing pleasure). and pleasure it was.
Darin Calhoun
18. Japes
Great way to intro steampunk to the masses. Actually my first viewing of Castle since Fillion was a brown coat. Awesome and a mockup of the OUTATIME DeLorean ...Great fashion at the club...a true pleasure to watch.Thanks Mr.Falksen for the facebook lead or else I would have missed it...and would Nathan Filion's steam suit be a silent salute to you? seeing as your facebook pic has a similar steam arm...
Darin Calhoun
19. J.J. Featherstone
Thanks GD! I always thought to myself… hmm I should checkout Castle. I rarely watch TV due to time constraints so it' HULU or Netflix for me. At any rate… I finally watched Castle due to this review and of course the episode content. WOW that was really great and to see guys like The League of STEAM in there was awesome. I'm sure may of those props had to be Brute Force as well. Thanks much for giving me something new to watch!
Wayne Wilson
21. stylusmobilus
@leighdb

You work some miracles with Team WoT. Keep wishing, (keep enjoying your Leightime) and it may just happen.

Steampunk Awesomeness.

Wayne
Wayne Wilson
22. stylusmobilus
@Necrosage

Don't happen to have a link that us colonials can use to watch it eh? I tried and was denied due to my lack of US citizenship or location. Waah.

Wayne
Darin Calhoun
23. Giselle62
I was pleased with the episode---as a punk in the 80's I found the portrayal of our sub-culture always a bit "off" (I remember that Quincy show!)
Old movies and shows with beatniks and hippie characters never seemed to hit the nail on the head. After reading recently the backlash against the Beats, it was amazing how they were portrayed in the media. (There are some hilarious episodes of "Dragnet" with LSD-swilling hippies, now on youtube.)
The "Castle" episode was sweet. I may watch it more now, even though I find the jokes lame sometimes.
YouDont NeedToKnow
25. necrosage2005
@22. http://abc.go.com/watch/castle/SH559040/VD5590758/punked. If that doesn't work, then I'm sorry, but you're either going to have to wait for it to reach your stations or steal it online somehow.
Debbi Chambers
26. dchambers59
My brother and his girlfriend are members of the steampunk community in Vancouver. All the pictures I've seen of them? Yeah, the episode was pretty much spot on. Geeky goodness!!!
Darin Calhoun
28. Japes
You can catch Punked on www.ctv.ca go to video
John Massey
29. subwoofer
"Unless time travel causes rust..."

"On your brain."

"...maybe the killer came through the time ripple naked and needed his clothes..."

LOL

Woof™.
Darin Calhoun
30. starlitegirl
*Runs off to watch the episode on Tivo*
Darin Calhoun
32. James Leighton
No offence but whats so cool about steampunk, I mean it looks cool when poeple steampunk stuff but i dont see anything to get this excited about please explian.

peace out
Darin Calhoun
33. Gino D'Hollander
Hi there,
I haven't heard from 'Steampunk' till a few months ago, but now I'm fascinated by it. I watched the episode of Castle, "punked" and I nearly grew an intant badass moustache. The steampunk arm that Richard wears in this episode, can I find it somewhere? Thnx for your help.

PS: Indeed, they should REALLY organize SP-clubs.

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