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Featured TV on DVD Review: Castle: Season Four

September 8th, 2012

Castle: Season Four - Buy from Amazon

Castle: Season Four will be one of the easiest reviews I've ever done, as it is one of only two network shows I actually watched every episode of last season. That's probably a pretty good indication of my opinion of the show. Obviously I enjoy it enough to watch it each week, but how is the replay value? And are there enough extras to lift it to the purchase level?

The Show

Let's start with a brief recap of the show in general. Richard Castle murder mystery writer, who uses his connection with the mayor (the mayor's a fan) to follow a police detective, Kate Beckett, to use as his inspiration for his new series of books. Over the first three seasons, their relationship evolves from Beckett thinking he's an immature pain in the ass, to begrudgingly accepting him as a partner in solving crimes, to eventually developing some feelings for him. That's the main emotional thread to the show. However, the main plot thread to the show involves Kate Beckett and the death of her mother. Her mother's murder was never solved and this lead to her obsession with becoming a cop. Before Castle came along, she had finally put that case behind her and moved on with her life. However, Castle did some poking, which uncovered some evidence missed the first time around, and this case continued to bubble up.

At the end of season three, we get a huge reveal. Kate Beckett's mother was murdered as part of a huge conspiracy, which included Captain Roy Montgomery, although his involvement was minor. He sacrificed his life in order to stop the attempts on Beckett's life. However, at his funeral, there was an assassination attempt on Beckett's life. Season Four begins with Beckett being rushed into the emergency room. Obviously, she doesn't die, but the aftermath colors the rest of the season, this includes little things (like when she investigates a serial sniper and has PTSD attack) and big things (her relationship with Castle takes a beating for reasons I can't go into, even in spoiler text). As well as big things, like Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) replacing Montgomery as Beckett's boss, and she is not a fan of Castle. Also, Montgomery's plan to keep Beckett safe is not as secure as he hoped, and it evolves to include Castle trying to keep Beckett from investigating her mother's murder anymore.

Many episodes touch on these threads, even if it is just a little bit, like minor relationship changes, so it is hard to go into details on the individual episodes. I could point out the highlight episodes, but nearly all of them are highlight episodes. Some of these, like Heroes and Villains, Demons, Cuffed, Heartbreak Hotel, Headhunters, and Undead Again have great humor mixed in with the mystery. (And in the case of Headhunters, it has a guest appearance by Adam Baldwin.) Other highlights include Cops & Robbers, which has Richard and Martha (Susan Sullivan) as hostages in a bank that is being robbed. It's great to see Richard and his mother together, plus it is a great mystery. Kill Shot has an emotional impact, which I can't get into. The Blue Butterfly features Castle trying to solve a cold case from the 1940s, and while he's reading the evidence, he imagines him and the rest of the characters in the 1940s. It's a gimmick, but it works. Pandora / Linchpin is the two-parter for the season and deals with a potential world-changing terrorist attack. Not every episode was amazing. Head Case was a bit of a miss, as was The Limey. At least they were misses compared to the average for the season. They are still better than most episodes of most police procedural shows and even those episodes have high replay value.

Like I said, I watched every episode this season, and I wasn't alone. Season Four of Castle was its best in terms of ratings. While network ratings continue to drop on average, the show rose in total viewers and shot up eight spots to 22nd place for the year. It is the best season in the show's run in terms of quality. It is right up there with NCIS as the best police procedural on TV at the moment, and arguably it is now a little bit better. (The overall chemistry in each show is equally great, the writing is a little more varied here, while the overall story arc is stronger on this show, while most of NCIS are stand-alone episodes.)

The Extras

Extras are spread throughout the DVD starting with an audio commentary on Rise, the season premiere. Disc two has an audio commentary track on Cuffed, while disc three has an audio commentary track on The Blue Butterfly, both of which are highlight episodes. Disc three also has a deleted scene for Dial M for Mayor. Disc four has just two deleted scenes, one for Linchpin and the other for A Dance With Death. Disc five starts with Castle Goes Radio, a multi-part look at at Nathan Fillion and Molly Quinn being part of the The Thrilling Adventure Hour. We get to see the rehearsal, there's a commercial, and two episodes. It's a lot of fun. Submerged is an 18-minute featurette on the stunts. Bowman, Bowman, & Castle looks at Chuck and Rob Bowman, father and son. The son directed the pilot and is an execute producer, while his father directed The Blue Butterfly. Finally, there are five more deleted scenes and four minutes of outtakes.

The Verdict

Castle keeps getting better and Season Four was a clear contender for Pick of the Week even before I knew what extras were on the DVD. Since the extras were better than average, it's got that title nearly locked down.

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