Castle: The Complete Eighth and Final Season DVD Review

Lots of problems with the show's final season 3 Stars

Unquestionably the most popular crime procedural ABC has fronted in many years, the final season of Castle unfortunately got too caught up in its unsatisfying on-going mystery arcs taking time away from the single episode crime stories and the always fun character interactions that have been the series’ hallmarks.

Castle (2009–2016)
Released: N/A
Rated: TV-14
Runtime: 43 min
Director: N/A
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Cast: Nathan Fillion, Stana Katic, Susan Sullivan, Jon Huertas
Writer(s): Andrew W. Marlowe
Plot: After a serial killer imitates the plots of his novels, successful mystery novelist Richard "Rick" Castle receives permission from the Mayor of New York City to tag along with an NYPD homicide investigation team for research purposes.
IMDB rating: 8.2
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: TVPG=TV-PG
Run Time: 15 Hr. 46 Min.
Package Includes: DVD
Case Type: Amaray case with leaves in a slipcover
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Region: 1
Release Date: 08/23/2016
MSRP: $45.99

The Production: 3/5

How disappointing that the eighth and final season of ABC’s Castle went out with a whimper instead of a bang. Despite ridiculously over-the-top action sequences (hordes of armed mercenaries shooting up New York City streets spraying bullets in every direction and yet managing somehow to miss our heroes hiding behind scant cover), a very unsatisfactory season-long arc that strained credibility continuously, and several episodes where the mysteries simply didn’t hold water or were explained away too conveniently for reasonable audience responses, the series even at its lowest ebb managed to hold a large, faithful group of fans who kept it afloat during its final two rather desperate seasons, but it was clear that the time had come to end the show and let memories of the entertaining earlier seasons remain reasonably untarnished.

Season eight’s major problems revolved around its mishandling of two long running storylines. Carried over from the previous season was the continuing conundrum of mystery writer Richard Castle’s (Nathan Fillion) two-month disappearance which began at the end of season six. In season eight, it became clear that Castle’s disappearance was connected to the season’s other long-running narrative arc: Captain Kate Beckett’s (Stana Katic) investigation into LockSat, a shady CIA analyst connected to the dirty politician Senator William Bracken (Jack Coleman) who had been instrumental in the murder of Beckett’s mother many years ago. The hunt for the identity of LockSat intrudes on almost every episode of this final season, even to the point of Beckett’s separating from Castle for almost half the season in a ludicrously nonsensical effort not to put him in danger (when the identity is finally revealed in the series finale episode, it’s quite a disappointment. Yes, as in The Mentalist’s revelation of Red John’s identity, it involves characters with whom the main characters have been in contact during the season, characters who could have taken Castle and Beckett and all of their friends and family out at any time without any elaborate scheme to bring them down). The intrusion into the regular procedurally-driven episodes of the show always seemed to make those cases seem less important and almost like filler for those whose primary interest was in uncovering the identity of this shadowy super killer. (And let’s don’t even begin to discuss the coda in the finale episode inserted at the last minute when it was revealed days before the finale aired that Castle would not be returning for a ninth season.)

As for the regular mysteries this season, there were a few standouts. Dual puzzle rooms where four men are housed in one and three female significant others are housed in the other made for a diverting episode even if the perpetrator was more obvious than usual for the show. A trio of episodes revolved around Rick Castle’s childlike enthusiasm for and belief in the supernatural as he trails after Aladdin’s lamp, a curious man who keeps coming back from the dead (three different resurrections), and the Antichrist, all making for spritely viewing. The return of rough and tumble Ethan Slaughter played by Adam Baldwin made for perhaps the season’s most enjoyably comic and exciting episode. And, of course, there was the usual assortment of murders this season involving an impaled college student, a Russian mobster, a snake wrangler, a theater janitor, a bicoastal serial killer, a police trainee, and a number of shows involving murdered performers.

Because of Castle and Beckett’s complete preoccupation with the LockSat investigation, two new cast members were added to the team of series regulars: former MI-5 agent Hayley Shipton (Toks Olagundoye) who along with Castle’s daughter Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) kept Richard Castle Investigations private eye firm afloat and former FBI computer analyst Vikram Singh (Sunkrish Bala) who used his hacking skills to gain much needed information on LockSat and his criminal activities. Otherwise, the detective duo of Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) continued to be reliably amusing (there was a fun spat between the pair that played out over three or four episodes early in the season), and both medical examiners Lanie (Tamala Jones) and Pearlmutter (Ayre Gross) showed their mettle during the season. There was unfortunately less for Castle’s mother (Susan Sullivan) to do this year.

Here are the twenty-two episodes contained on five discs in the season eight set. Names in parentheses refer to that episode’s audio commentary participants:

1 – XY

2 – XX

3 – PhDead

4 – What Lies Beneath

5 – The Nose

6 – Cool Boys (actors Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin)

7 – The Last Seduction

8 – Mr. & Mrs. Castle

9 – Tone Death

10 – Witness for the Prosecution

11 – Dead Red

12 – The Blame Game

13 – And Justice for All

14 – The G.D.S.

15 – Fidelis Ad Mortem

16 – Heartbreaker (writer Barry O’Brien, actors Seamus Dever, Jon Huertas)

17 – Death Wish

18 – Backstabber

19 – Dead Again

20 – Much Ado About Murder

21 – Hell to Pay

22 – Crossfire

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The program is broadcast on ABC at 720p in 1:78:1, and these downconverted 480p transfers look on the whole extremely good being anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. The program continues to have 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 very 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 and sometimes even stunning. Only the slightest bit of line twitter and aliasing was noticeable in a few shots. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.

Audio: 4.5/5

The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track makes a better than average use of its surround opportunities. Robert Duncan’s music is always an 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. The LFE channel gets a strong workout in several episodes where massive firepower or explosions are present.

Special Features: 2.5/5

Audio Commentaries: as ingratiating as all of the participants are in the two episodes which have accompanying commentaries (see above list), neither one constitutes a major achievement. The speakers give hearty praise to all of the cast and crew throughout and offer little in the way of behind-the-scenes glimpses into the show’s production. Fillion and Baldwin get so caught up in watching “Cool Boys” that they stop talking for minutes at a time.

Deleted Scenes (1:18): three very brief deleted scenes appear on two of the five discs in the set.

The Great Escape (10:43): Nathan Fillion, Molly Quinn, Tamala Jones, Toks Olagundoye, and Jon Huertas are locked in a specially prepared room and given clues to finding their way out within their one hour time limit.

Gag Reel (6:27)

Overall: 3/5

Unquestionably the most popular crime procedural ABC has fronted in many years, the final season of Castle unfortunately got too caught up in its unsatisfying on-going mystery arcs taking time away from the single episode crime stories and the always fun character interactions that have been the series’ hallmarks. The standard definition transfers look about as good as DVD material can look, and fans will undoubtedly want to add this to their other seven seasons of the show despite the serious lapses in this final season.

Published by

Matt Hough

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10 Comments

  1. Castle was my favorite show for a couple of years.  When the series ended I looked at the shows from the last season and realized that IMHO the best episode of the season was not as good as the worst episode of Season 2 (and probably several other seasons).

    I know that tv executives are aware of the Moonlighting curse, but I suspect that in recent years, TV shows that have been bitten by this curse have been bitten primarily because they were going to extraordinary lengths to not be bitten.  I really think this show could have had continued success simply by going back to the tried and true formula that kept it going for the first five or six seasons — even if there were too many episodes in which the killer was unmasked, said that the cops could never prove anything, until Becket let him/her know that the smoking gun with dna, fingerprints, etc had been found in the dumpster behind the killer's apartment.

  2. The first five seasons of "Castle" were outstanding.And in Sesson 6 and the first half of Season 7 it appeared that the producers of the show were successfully negotiating the fine line of avoiding the "Moonlighting curse".  But for some reason the show abruptly changed course at that point as artificial wedges were inserted between Castle and Kate's relationship. (undoubtedly due to contract negotiations with Stana Katic who had actually threatened to quit after the 7th season.)  It seemed to me that the entire first half of Season 8 was an experiment to see if the show could be molded into more of a private eye series focusing on Castle and his daughter.   That was the real reason for the Castle and Kate LockSat imposed "separation".  The experiment was a resounding failure as ratings fell like a rock.   After a 4 week hiatus the series started to regain its footing as the couple "secretly" reconciled and the ratings stabilized and even started back up a bit.   This really put ABC in a quandry.   The ratings were borderline for a renewal, but it was obvious the fans would reject the show without Katic and the ABC execs were (evidently) unhappy with her new contract.  This led to the "trial balloon" of announcing her departure before making a final decision on the fate of the series.   The overwhelmingly negative public outcry sealed the show's fate.I own the first 7 seasons of "Castle", but will not be purchasing the last season.  The last five minutes of the last episode of Season 7 constituted a far better coda for the series than the whole of season 8.

  3. The first five seasons of "Castle" were outstanding.

    And in Sesson 6 and the first half of Season 7 it appeared that the producers of the show were successfully negotiating the fine line of avoiding the "Moonlighting curse".  But for some reason the show abruptly changed course at that point as artificial wedges were inserted between Castle and Kate's relationship. (undoubtedly due to contract negotiations with Stana Katic who had actually threatened to quit after the 7th season.)

    It seemed to me that the entire first half of Season 8 was an experiment to see if the show could be molded into more of a private eye series focusing on Castle and his daughter.   That was the real reason for the Castle and Kate LockSat imposed "separation".  The experiment was a resounding failure as ratings fell like a rock.   After a 4 week hiatus the series started to regain its footing as the couple "secretly" reconciled and the ratings stabilized and even started back up a bit.   This really put ABC in a quandry.   The ratings were borderline for a renewal, but it was obvious the fans would reject the show without Katic and the ABC execs were (evidently) unhappy with her new contract.  This led to the "trial balloon" of announcing her departure before making a final decision on the fate of the series.   The overwhelmingly negative public outcry sealed the show's fate.

    I own the first 7 seasons of "Castle", but will not be purchasing the last season.  The last five minutes of the last episode of Season 7 constituted a far better coda for the series than the whole of season 8.

    Yours really is an excellent summarization of what went wrong with season eight and the audience's reaction to ABC's various "trial balloons" in a feverish attempt to keep the series viable.

  4. The relationship between the lead characters was, I think, the driving force of the series. (I'm reminded of how many episodes had poorly structured or resolved mysteries and yet still came across as fun.) The last season, and to an extent the previous one, separates the characters as much as possible and the show consequently lost the one thing that made it special.

    Regarding the Moonlighting curse, I was dreading what would happen after the characters consummated their relationship, but it wasn't as bad as I feared. It wasn't as good as it had been before, but they did find a year or two of different ways to look at their relationship and still being somewhat in the spirit of the show.

    There are lots of rumors to the effect of the stars applying pressure to work together as little as possible, which if true, certainly gave the producers a difficult obstacle to overcome. I had hoped for the finale (even if they didn't know it was a series finale, they knew it was Ms. Katic's last show) that the separation rule would be suspended; but after a charming first scene together, they just revert to the standard 7th and 8th season "OK, I'll go this way and you go that way" plan and remain separated for virtually the entire story. Sadly missed opportunity.

  5. This was one of my very favorite shows of the past several years.  That said, the final two seasons went seriously off the rails in the story arcs.  As if the final season and an unsatisfactory final episode weren't enough, we were treated to the news that stars Fillion and Katic hated each other.Buzz KILL!  Ruins the entire series for me.

  6. I enjoyed the procedural shows much better than the ones concerning Becket's mother or Castle's disappearance.  That's my preference for just about any police procedural I've followed.  I don't get this driving need of the writers to have these long arcs that take away from the original intent of the show.The episode where they guy keeps coming back to life was funny.  I could just see Lanie thinking "Would you just stay dead, you're making me look bad."

  7. Procedurals would also be more interesting if they'd stop trying to interject interpersonal relationships with people who are not recurring for their characters.   When I am at work, "life at home" isn't really the hot topic of any work day.  Sure, life intervenes and we get to know names of spouses, partners and children, but we don't have them thrown in our faces for an hour at a time.  Most such relationships on procedurals seem forced and tenuous. It's the rare show that strikes a balance.

  8. Have you noticed the a TV show about a group of people at work, much more often than not, shows people who are like family for each other.  It is very idealized, and something I've never experienced.  I've had work friends but out of all the work friends I've had, I've only kept in touch with one.

  9. Tv drama has for years moved way over to the personal background of action show protagonists, sometimes ad nauseam, as has been related here. Did anyone really know or care about Ben Casey's, Elliott Ness', or McGarret's (Hawaii 5O) personal life? The only old time example  of a police drama that delved a little into personal life was Naked City (with Adam Flint's occasional romancing his girlfriend, Livvy), and it did it in a very limited way. As I understand, the new age for police dramas began with Hill Street Blues, both in the personal life and story arc aspects.

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