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Featured TV on DVD Review: Castle: Season Three

October 7th, 2011

Castle: Season Three - Buy from Amazon

I joke about how many Police Procedural shows there are on TV and while there are some long time franchises that appear to be fading away, there are some new ones that are going strong. Castle is one of the few such shows still getting good ratings. Season four has already begun, but the season three DVD arrived a little late. Was it worth the wait? Is the show still getting better, or has the quality leveled off. Are the extras enough to be make the DVD worth picking up?

The Show

Let's start with a brief recap. Richard Castle is a best-selling murder mystery writer, who kills off his major character, and almost immediately suffers from writers block. He meets Detective Kate Beckett, who is investigating a series of murders based on Richard Castle's books. Castle decides to use Beckett as his inspiration for his next books and thanks to connections with the mayor, he gets to follow Beckett around on the job. Most episodes are bottle episodes, that is to say they are mostly self-contained, but there is one ongoing storyline in the series, the death of Beckett's mother. There are a couple episodes that deal with that crime this season, including the season finale, neither of which I will discuss due to spoilers. The other continuing storyline in the season is romance, as nearly every supporting character has a long term relationship that comes into play this season, including Alexis having her first serious boyfriend, Detective Javier Esposito and Dr. Lanie Parish starting a secret romance, and more.

As for the individual episodes, the season starts with Castle and Beckett, estranged. Castle left New York City with his ex-wife / publisher, to rekindle their relationship, which left Beckett feeling on the outside. They meet up again when Castle is found at a crime scene, a couple of them in fact, and by the end of the episode, they are back as partners. (That's not really a spoiler. If that didn't happen, there would be no show.) Other early episodes deal with the death of a psychic, who may have predicted her death. Beckett's former partner turned Bounty Hunter returns when they are investigating the death of a bail bondsman, who is found with a mysterious coded message in his hand. Punked is one of the weaker episodes this season, but the Steampunk club looked cool. (It's still worth watching, more than once, as are all episodes from this season.)

A serial killer returns in 3XK, which is an episode with some really good twists in it. Close Encounters of the Murderous Kind is classic Castle. It involves a murder that allows Castle to go way off the deep end with conspiracy theories involving alien abduction. Last Call involves the bar where Castle wrote his first novel, and that was the location of a prohibition era speakeasy. Nikki Heat is one of the best episodes of the season. It has Laura Prepon in a guest role as Natalie Rhodes, the actress chosen to play Nikki Heat in the movie. She shows up in order to get to know the inspiration for Nikki Heat, Detective Beckett. It's a really fun episode. Knockdown is an excellent episode, but it is full of spoilers, so that's all I'm going to say.

Likewise, the two-part Setup / Countdown is an excellent mystery that deals with crimes that are a lot larger than the show normally deals with, but difficult to discuss without spoilers. (On a side note, the ending is both a little anti-climactic, but really fits with the tone of the show.) Martha, Castle's mom, gets to shine a little more than usual in One Life to Lose, which is set on the soap opera she was part of for a short time. By a strange coincidence, Slice of Death is the second police procedural I've reviewed recently that featured Beth Behrs, who is in 2 Broke Girls, which is arguably my favorite new show of the 2011-2012 season. (New Girl is the main competition for best freshman, at least in my opinion.) Even stranger, in both shows, she's in the opening teaser and discovers the body. In To Love and Die in L.A., Beckett and Castle go to L.A. to track down the man that killed a friend of Beckett, and they get to visit the movie set of Nikki Heat and see the movie versions of Espisito and Ryan. (Unfortunately, Laura Prepon doesn't make a return appearance.)

That brings us to Knockout, which I won't even discuss for fear of giving too much away. I will say that it is an awesome way to end the season, and after seeing the surprise twist, it does make you look back at a few earlier episodes and wonder if there was some foreshadowing going on. (Specifically Law & Murder, but that's all I'm going to say.)

The first season of Castle was very good with only minor complaints that some of the supporting characters were not as well defined as I would like. The second season the chemistry of the supporting characters improved, and by season three, the show is competing with NCIS for the best police procedural on TV. Even the weakest episodes of the season have strong replay value, while the best combine the mystery, the humor, and the emotional sides perfectly.

The Extras

The extras are better this time around with a wide selection of special features. Over on disc one, there is an audio commentary track on A Deadly Affair, plus an extended scene from that episode. Disc two has audio commentary for 3XK plus four deleted / extended scenes. There's no audio commentary track on disc three, but there are four more deleted / extended scenes. There's just the two deleted / extended scenes on disc four. The final disc has more deleted / extended scenes, outtakes, a music video, plus a trio of featurettes. The first is a 22-minute featurette on the writing of murder mysteries from the perspective of real life writers. The second is Castle Goes to Hollywood, which is about To Love and Die in L.A. Finally there's a 3-minute featurette on the murder boards.

The Verdict

Season three is arguably the best season of Castle so far, while the extras are also an improvement from the last season. It is easily worth picking up, and a contender for Pick of the Week.

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