Paramount // 2008 // 983 Minutes // Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // December 3rd, 2009
7,636 Missing Persons
6 Unsolved Serial Killings
Terrorism. Conspiracy. Revenge. Murder. Sabotage. Magic. Kidnapping. Mathematics and one near-death experience for a major character. You'll find it all on Numb3rs: The Fifth Season on DVD.
Don and Charlie are brothers. Don (Rob Morrow, Northern Exposure) is a senior agent with the Los Angeles bureau of the FBI. Charlie (David Krumholtz, The Santa Clause 2) is a genius math professor at a local university. Together they take on some of the toughest crimes in the city while still squabbling like the siblings they are. This high-tech cop show uses a variety of interesting camera angles and digital techniques to incorporate Charlie's theoretical world with Don's world of violence and human emotion. And it's as much about family as it is about the crimes. That's what makes the show so very watchable week after week.
As we roll into a fifth season, Papa Eppes (Judd Hirsch, Taxi) is still on hand to offer wisdom and love to his two boys who begin and end the season quite conflicted. Charlie's girlfriend Amita (Navi Rawat) takes on an even bigger role and Larry (Peter MacNicol, 24) resumes his role as Charlie's mentor and best friend.
On the FBI side, the boys remain the same. David (Alimi Ballard) and Colby (Dylan Bruno) each get more screen time as boss Don takes a few steps back. The female side of the team makes another change as Megan (Diane Farr, Rescue Me) leaves the city to reevaluate her life choices (a popular theme this season). Don's on and off again girlfriend Liz (Aya Sumika) comes and goes as part of the team and rough-around-the-edges Nikki Betancourt (Sophina Brown) becomes a regular.
There are 23 episodes in the season. They are:
* "High Exposure"
* "The Decoy Effect"
* "Jack of All Trades"
* "Scan Man"
* "Magic Show"
* "Charlie Don't Surf"
* "Thirty-Six Hours"
* "Conspiracy Theory"
* "Arrow of Time"
* "Trouble in Chinatown"
* "Guilt Trip"
* "Cover Me"
* "First Law"
* "12:01 Am"
* "Animal Rites"
* "The Fifth Man"
* "Greatest Hits"
* "Angels and Devils"
Numb3rs ended its fourth season with the requisite cliffhanger, which really wasn't much of a draw. The storyline involved Charlie getting his clearance taken away, which meant he couldn't work for the FBI any longer. Seeing as how that's the entire premise of the show, it wasn't much of a cliffhanger at all. But the plot does set in motion a season of self-realization that will lead nicely into the series finale, which is currently being written. At the time of this writing, CBS has cut Numb3rs' sixth season down to 16 episodes, and they've been given the word to wrap it up. And I can't believe I'm going to say this, but it's just as well.
Numb3rs has been a favorite of mine since the first episode, but Season Five is an uneven mix of really big highs ("Thirty-Six Hours") and really low lows ("Sneakerhead").
As I was never a big fan of the Megan character or Terry before her, I was happy to see another woman move into the FBI bullpen. Former LAPD officer, Nikki comes on too strong in her first few episodes, but she soon settles in to an easy camaraderie with the boys. Five seasons in and it's the first time since the series began they had a supporting FBI team that worked in every combo. Colby, David, Liz, and Nikki all get their fair share of screen time as Don goes on a personal search for the meaning of life. Don's return to Judaism is something rarely seen on TV and the writers do a great job of integrating his religious education with the procedural storylines.
Pivotal episodes this season include "Arrow of Time," which has Buck Winters, the spree killer from last season, returning to haunt Don. Henry Winkler steals the show as a veteran FBI agent out to nail a conman in "Jack of All Trades." Smallville's John Glover returns for the creepy "Trouble in Chinatown," and Buffy the Vampire Slayer star James Marsters plays an egocentric drug dealer who murders a woman in front of Don and then gets away with it in "Guilt Trip."
The most incredible episode of the season is "Thirty-Six Hours." This is one of those cases where life and art collide very much like the two trains in the episode. About a month before this episode was due to air, but long after it was filmed, a commuter train and a freight train collided outside of Los Angeles. It was a horrendous tragedy and as horrible as it was for me to see on TV, the cast and crew of Numb3rs must have gone into shock. The real life train wreck was almost a mirror image of the episode they already had in the can. The episode was postponed from fourth place to eighth (which accounts for some of the character continuity issues), and it was aired with a disclaimer and condolences for all those involved.
Even without the real-life tie-in, this episode is a startling depiction of how tough it is for rescue workers in a disaster scenario. It's a complete change of pace for the series and one of the best episodes in the show's five-year run.
The other significant episode is "Disturbed." This is number 100, and the writers used every opportunity to pay homage to all that had gone before. If you're a Numb3rs fan, you'll get a kick out of the winks and trivia scattered throughout this episode.
The last few episodes of the season become life threatening for two of Charlie's loved ones, and both events send him down new paths that roll into Season Six. It's a strong end to an uneven season.
Looking at the DVD itself, CBS always does a fine job with the presentation. The box art, the navigation screens, and the graphics are all in line with the feel of the show. I appreciate that they include the episode synopsis on the back of the snapcases where they're easy to read. The audio and video quality are excellent.
The special features include three commentaries including one each with David Krumholtz and Rob Morrow. There are bloopers, deleted scenes, a seasonal featurette and a special on the 100th episode celebration. They're all fun for Numb3rs fans.
Like any series, Numb3rs always has a range of hits and misses in every season. This season, however, had more than its share of misses. Some of this seems to come from a desire to do something different -- an admirable trait -- but it doesn't always work.
Here are some of the biggest offenders of the season.
"Charlie Don't Surf" -- an attempt to get the boys into a different environment when they're asked to investigate the death of a family friend. Put them back in the office, please.
"Magic Show" -- sooner or later, every TV show does an episode about a magic act gone wrong. Cliché and slow moving. Watch me make this episode disappear.
"Sneakerhead" -- drama and angst set in the world of rare sneaker collectors! Yes, it's as dumb as it sounds.
"12:01" -- another clichéd plot devise, this time the old last minute death penalty reprieve played off against a ridiculous side story that involves Charlie and Larry coaching a basketball team.
Even at its worst, Numb3rs is one of the best shows on TV today. It has all the action and layers of a good procedural mixed with the emotional impact of a family drama. Always artfully directed, with dozens of surprise "zero to sixty" moments and solid guest performers, this box set is worth owning despite the major missteps this time around.
This court finds Numbers: The Fifth Season to be guilty of trying too hard, but the case is dismissed due to the defendant's prior spotless record.
Review content copyright © 2009 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 983 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site