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Featured TV on DVD Review: Castle: Season Five

September 8th, 2013

Castle: Season Five - Buy from Amazon

I've had a chance to review every season of Castle and so far I've loved every season. However, as it is with every show, the good times can't last forever. Is Season Five the season where quality starts to slip?

The Show

As usual, let's start with a brief recap. Richard Castle is a murder mystery writer. In the first episode, he begins to follow Detective Kate Beckett. They meet when a serial killer is using Castle's writings in his murders, then he continues to use her as inspiration for a number of books. However, in reality, he's in love with her. The feelings are mutual, but it takes a while before either one will admit it. That's the main plot thread in the show, at least as far as personal relationships go. There is another main thread that is related to a major mystery. Kate Beckett's mother was murdered a long time ago; her death was the reason Beckett became a cop. We learned she was murdered to help cover up a conspiracy, one that Captain Roy Montgomery was involved in. (He had nothing to do with the murder and in the end sacrificed himself to protect Beckett.) During season four, Beckett came closer to figuring out who is behind the conspiracy, but Castle tried to prevent her from learning the truth. It was part of a deal he made. He would stop Beckett from looking into her mother's death and the people behind the conspiracy wouldn't kill her. At the end of Season Four, it was clear that deal was off.

Season Five begins with the aftermath of season four. Detective Kate Beckett is furious that she can't continue the investigation. She's even more pissed that Richard Castle would be part of the deal to stop her, even if it was in order to protect her. Fortunately, she quickly realizes he was only doing it to save her life, and while she's not happy he was treating her like a child, she is still in love with him and they begin to date. Unfortunately, the NYPD have regulations about co-workers dating, so they have to keep it on the down low, so that Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) doesn't use their relationship to get rid of Castle. That doesn't last and soon just about everyone knows, everyone but Gates. Of course, the relationship is good for the season, as it allows the show to grow. The murder of Beckett's mother does come up again, but it is not as strong a focus this time around.

There are also many episodes that are more or less stand-alone episodes, most of them are amazing. In fact, there's not a single episode this season that isn't great. The closest you get to a bad episode is an episode like The Fast and the Furriest, which is a little goofy. It is about cryptozoologists and the search for Big Foot, which Richard Castle of course believes in wholeheartedly and without reservation. I don't think there's a paranormal conspiracy he doesn't think is real, including Santa.(To be fair, he's mostly joking about that one.) Usually once a season there is an episode where the mystery is a little out there. They've had ones about alien abductions, Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind, so an episode about Big Foot isn't out of the ordinary. It is goofier than 90% of the episode this season, but still very entertaining and has good replay value, which is rare for a police procedural.

Other fun episodes include The Final Frontier, which is set at a fan convention, SuperNovaCon. There's a murder at the Nebula 9 reenactment, which Beckett and Castle get to investigate. Surprisingly, Castle wasn't a fan of the short-lived Sci-fi show. Even more surprisingly, Beckett was a really, really huge fan. There's a B-plot involving Alexis, who goes to the convention in Cosplay, which Castle thinks is a little too fan servicey, if you get my meaning. Finally, it features Armin Shimerman as a high tech sci-fi prop manufacturer. And of course, since the mystery has a sci-fi fanboy theme to it, they make more than a few jokes about Firefly jokes. The Lives of Others is another episode that is fun. Castle is housebound after a skiing accident and he uses his new binoculars to spy in on the apartments across the street. Of course its Castle, so his imagination gets way, way, way out of hand and soon he has a Rear Window-like theory about one of his neighbors.

While all episodes are entertaining, there are some highlight episodes that are strong because of their emotional impact. Probable Cause marks the return of Jerry Tyson, a.k.a., the Triple X Killer. The murder mystery is excellent, arguably one of the best of the show's entire run, and it packs an emotional punch. Likewise, Hunt is another emotional episode. At the beginning of the episode, Alexis is kidnapped, along with a fellow college student, Sara El-Masri (Sara El-Masri). Turns out Sara is the daughter of an Egyptian business tycoon, one with enemies, and Alexis was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Castle is extra motivated to solve this crime and get Alexis back, but the case turns out more complicated than it looked at first.

There are lots of fun guest spots this season, including Kelly Hu, Gina Torres, Michael Dorn, and Ioan Gruffudd. It's one of the benefits of the genre. Each week there's a different mystery, with a different guest cast to go with it.

Of the 24 episodes in season five, there are three or four that are merely great, but not amazing. There are four or five that one could argue are in the top ten for the show's five-year run. That's fantastic. No wonder the show rose into the top 20 in the ratings for the year.

The Extras

Extras are spread throughout the DVD starting with four deleted scenes on the first disc. Disc two has an audio commentary track for The Final Frontier, plus another deleted scene. Disc three has an audio commentary track for Target, and three more deleted scenes. Disc four has audio commentary tracks on Hunt and The Lives of Others, plus three more deleted scenes. The final disc has a trio of featurettes, including Martha’s Master Class, which features Susan Sullivan, in character, talking about her acting class. You Home is Your Castle is a look at set design in the show. While, Lot Cops has Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever taking tactical training to look like real cops. In total, these three featurettes have a running time of close to 45 minutes. There is also one deleted scene and six minutes of outtakes. That's a good collection of extras.

The Verdict

Castle continues to improve and Season Five is the best season to date. It is clearly Pick of the Week material, no doubt about it.

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Filed under: Video Review, Michael Dorn, Nathan Fillion, Ioan Gruffudd, Kelly Hu, Jon Huertas, Stana Katic, Michael Mosley, Molly Quinn, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Gina Torres, Armin Shimerman