ABC’s Castle is one of the breeziest and most ingratiating of all the network procedurals, and its fifth season has turned out to be its strongest one yet. A terrific collection of baffling mysteries, some plotted with a comic bent and others done in utter seriousness, Castle has also managed this season to walk a wonderfully fine line between plot and personal relationships now that the powers-that-be have involved its two leading players in a serious romance. The infamous Moonlighting curse has not affected this show one whit as the interpersonal relationships continue as strongly as ever, and the show is now so invested in its characters that their well being becomes the focus of quite a few of the episodes ultimately making for incredibly gripping viewing.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 17 Hrs. 12 Min.
Package Includes: DVDAmray case in a slipcover
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/10/2013
MSRP: $ 45.99
Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) had quit the NYPD at the end of season four having found that the man behind the murders of her mother and several others who had threatened to out his underhanded dealings is Senator William Bracken (Jack Coleman), a wily adversary who is able to use the power of his office to subvert all of Beckett’s investigations. Unlike the absurdly super powered master criminal who’s been thwarting the geniuses on Bones for two seasons, however, the writers have left squirm room for Beckett and her associates to ultimately bring him down though he pops up in a later season episode as a possible victim rather than the perpetrator forcing Beckett ironically to be his protector. Naturally, Beckett thinks better of her resignation, and on returning to the precinct, she finds boss Captain Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald), a hard-nosed cop who demands to be called “sir,” willing to take her back but with a closer scrutiny on her activities. That’s going to make life difficult for her and writer Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), who stills show up to help investigate crimes thanks to the mayor’s order, since they have have decided to keep their new-found romance a secret for the time being. Castle continues trying to get into the good graces of the irritable (and very irritating) Gates, her attitude unduly silly in light of the number of cases he’s helped close over four years and the amount of camaraderie and trust he’s built up in the department over that time though in fairness, her mean-spirited façade does begin to soften during the second half of the season. Otherwise, though, it’s business as usual at work with Detectives Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) also part of the team and at home with Castle’s actress mother (Susan Sullivan) and precocious daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn), now a freshman at Columbia and in the season’s most harrowing two-part episode, the victim of an abduction which forces her father to attempt to pull off something like the plot of Taken to retrieve his daughter.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
While most weeks feature closed-ended mysteries that conclude by the end of the hour, the writers this year included a number of very unusual and highly entertaining capers for the detectives to investigate: Castle being framed for murder with no one seemingly able to help him, a funny Comic-Con/Star Trek-inspired caper with a murder on the deck of a starship, a reality crew for a Housewives-type show that begins following the detectives around as they begin “acting” for the camera, Detective Ryan’s going undercover to reunite with an old Irish mob that he was a part of in a previous operation seven years earlier, Beckett and Castle reliving four years of past events while technicians try to defuse a bomb Beckett is standing on (a decent-enough plot for a clip show), and two episodes that emphasize Castle’s man-child persona as he gets drawn into investigations that suggest he might be the victim of a murder similar to those in The Ring and another involving Bigfoot. The series reaches a highpoint with its 100th episode in an homage to Rear Window that is filled with fun and surprises. The season’s two-parter mentioned earlier involving the abduction of Alexis and Castle’s frantic attempts to locate and save her offers star Nathan Fillion his richest opportunities to show us his depths as an actor. With so much of his performance so light and airy generally, the serious life-or-death moments he faces here show us the actor has it all at his command: adept comedy timing and serious acting chops, clearly his best-ever performance.
The cast plays together continually with a joyously delicious sense of fun which makes the episodes, even with the most ghastly of crimes, a pleasure to watch. Fillion and Katic have a palpable chemistry that makes the show sexy and involving from week to week, and Dever and Huertas banter back and forth delightfully with an ease and precise timing which five years of performing together has brought them. Susan Sullivan’s character has less to do this season than she had in season four, but she has mellowed enough now to make her an unobjectionable part of the ensemble. Molly Quinn continues to play Alexis as wise beyond her years, a big help when dealing with a father who’s oftentimes more juvenile in spirit than she, but she and Fillion also share a close bond that makes them a father-daughter combination that’s really believable.
Here are the twenty-four episodes contained on five discs in the season five box set. The names in parentheses are the participants in that episode’s audio commentary:
1 – After the Storm (director Jonathan Frakes, costumer Luke Reichle, star Nathan Fillion)
2 – Cloudy with a Chance of Murder
3 – Secret’s Safe with Me
4 – Murder He Wrote
5 – Probable Cause
6 – The Final Frontier
7 – Swan Song
8 – After Hours
9 – Secret Santa
10 – Significant Others
11 – Under the Influence
12 – Death Gone Crazy
13 – Recoil
14 – Reality Star Struck
15 – Target (writer David Amann, director Bill Roe, stars Susan Sullivan and Molly Quinn)
16 – Hunt (writer Andrew Marlowe, director Rob Bowman, stars Nathan Fillion and Molly Quinn)
17 – Scared to Death
18 – The Wild Rover
19 – The Lives of Others (100th episode and the best of the season) (writers Andrew Marlowe and Terri Miller, editor Marta Evry, composer Robert Duncan)
20 – The Fast and the Furriest
21 – Still
22 – The Squad and the Quail
23 – The Human Factor
24 – Watershed
The program is broadcast on ABC at 720p in 1:78:1, and these downconverted 480p transfers look on the whole very good. The program has a very warm color palette, and the DVD conveys this quite well with close-ups and medium shots especially registering at near-HD quality when upconverted. Otherwise, sharpness is generally well done with occasional nods to soft-focused glamour close-ups, and color saturation is well above average while flesh tones remain realistic and appealing. Black levels are generally excellent. Only the New York City flyovers, some blinds in the precinct, and an occasional patterned shirt reveal some slight aliasing and moiré patterns. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track makes a better than average use of its surround opportunities. Music is always the most immersive element in the show, and the sound designers make sure that ambient sounds get placed around the soundfield in almost every episode. Of course, the show’s primary element is dialogue, and it’s well recorded and accurately placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentaries: there are four included in this year’s box set (see above list of episodes for participants). As has been the case in previous seasons, none are particularly illuminating though it’s obvious there is a mutual love-fest going on among these longtime cast and crew members reflected in their continual complimentary comments. The commentary for the 100th episode “The Lives of Others” is perhaps the most entertaining.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Twelve Deleted Scenes: spread over the five discs contained in the set.
Martha’s Master Class (7:51, SD): Castle’s mother Martha Rodgers (Susan Sullivan in character) explains how she coached actors preparing for an elaborate practical joke in an episode.
Your Home Is Your Castle (22:28, SD): interior designer Vern Yip tours the sets for Beckett’s loft (supposedly situated in Tribeca) and Castle’s penthouse (on the show in Soho) located at the Raleigh Studio in Los Angeles.
Lot Cops (12:15): co-stars Seamus Dever and Jon Huertas goofily attend a tactical seminar at the TASK training facility in Los Angeles to hone their skills as TV detectives.
Bloopers (6:16, SD)
Promo Trailers (SD): Revenge, ABC dramas on DVD, Once Upon a Time.
A clever and entertaining detective series stressing the camaraderie of its squad and the now-evolving love relationship between its two leading characters as much as the murders being investigated, Castle in its fifth year had its strongest season yet with only a few minor caveats. Highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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