No, Appellate Judge Mac McEntire won't let you read his Derrick Storm/Nikki Heat fan fiction.
Our reviews of Castle: The Complete First Season (published September 22nd, 2009), Castle: The Complete Second Season (published September 27th, 2010), Castle: The Complete Third Season (published September 29th, 2011), and Castle: The Complete Fourth Season (published September 17th, 2012) are also available.
Caught in the act.
Sexual tension on an ongoing, weekly series—it's one of the great conundrums of entertainment. There's the Moonlighting syndrome, where viewers lose interest after romantic tension is broken. Conversely, there's Who's The Boss? syndrome, in which the tension goes on for so long that viewers bail before the couple finally gets together.
Castle and Beckett are a couple now as Castle: The Complete Fifth Season begins. Yes, this does change the overall nature of the show. Is it for good, taking these likable characters in new directions; or is it for ill, draining them of what made them likable to begin with?
Facts of the Case
NYPD detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic, The Double) and bestselling mystery novelist Castle (Nathan Fillion, Serenity) work together to solve murder cases. They're assisted on the job by detectives Esposito (Jon Huertas, Generation Kill) and Ryan (Seamus Deaver, Ready or Not) and sassy M.E. Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones, Blue Streak). Castle has moral support/annoyance at home from his wise-beyond-her-years daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn, Hansel and Gretel Get Baked) and his mother Martha (Susan Sullivan, Falcon Crest).
As is tradition, every good mystery tale has to start with a "hook," a big attention-getter to get viewers drawn into the case. Castle continues to follow this to the letter:
• "After the Storm"
• "Cloudy with a Chance of Murder"
• "Secret's Safe With Me"
• "Murder He Wrote"
• "Probable Cause"
• "The Final Frontier"
• "Swan Song"
• "After Hours"
• "Secret Santa"
• "Significant Others"
• "Under the Influence"
• "Death Gone Crazy"
• "Reality Star Struck"
• "Scared to Death"
• "The Wild Rover"
• "The Lives of Others"
• "The Fast and the Furriest"
• "The Squab and the Quail"
• "The Human Factor"
Castle: "Want to hold my hand?"
That's right, they're a couple now. Oh, stop yelling "spoiler" at me; everybody knows already. The big question is how much this changes this show. In some ways, a lot, but in other ways, not so much. The season-long arc is all about keeping their romance a secret from Captain Gates (Penny Johnson-Gerald, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) from learning about it, because otherwise the captain might end their crime-fightin' partnership. Beyond that, the relationship stuff mostly boils down to Castle and Beckett learning more about each other, in this new context. The good news is that they are actually enjoying being in a relationship. Too often, TV writers only know how to write getting characters together or splitting them up, ignoring or skipping the joy and, dare I say, complications of being in a relationship. Castle, for the most part, works around these limitations and explores what happens after the first big kiss.
This season is at its best when seeing the characters in a new light, just as they're now seeing each other in a new light. We get this in "Murder He Wrote," which takes Castle and Beckett away from New York and the other characters. They're in a new environment literally, in the Hamptons, and figuratively, in that they're exploring the uncharted territory of this new relationship. Other episodes are interspersed with moments of cutesy romantic comedy bits where the two sneak little flirtations with each other while on the job. One ends on an ambiguous note with Beckett asking herself, "Where is this going?" Then, change is in the air once more in the season finale, when the two of them face the question of their future together. Romance fans, however, will get the most out of "Still," which has a powerful, gut-punch ending that reestablishes just how much these two characters feel for each other. I am not a fan of TV clip shows, so it's a big deal for me to praise this one, because "Still" works excellently.
Every season of Castle has done a big, cinematic two-parter, and this time around we get an international spy caper centered on Alexis's abduction. Yes, it's a little similar to the movie Taken, but the show smartly makes a joke early on to point that out. The big twist at the end of the first half, if you've been lucky enough not to have it spoiled already, is a huge shocker. Then, in the second half, we get a look at Castle's past—first with some of the unsavory types he used to hang out with before he met up with Beckett, and then with a mysterious figure from his past. The reveals come just as fast as the action does, and it's one of the most exciting tales the show has crafted yet.
We get fewer theme episodes than last season, and this time they're a mix. The sci-fi goofiness of a murder at a convention is played up for maximum cosplay fun. An episode spoofing horror, in this case The Ring feels like we've been here before, as previous seasons gave us haunted house, vampire, and even zombie-themed tales. Similarly, the writers keep going back to the reality TV well, satirizing sleazy prime time for all its worth. Each time they do this, I think, "Seriously? Reality shows again, Castle?" The rest of the season is the show's bread-and-butter quirky mysteries solved by likable characters delivering whip-smart clever dialogue. It's true that the new lack of sexual tension means that the dialogue loses a little bit of its spark, but not nearly enough to ruin the show.
The cast makes for one huge check in the positive column. Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic have these characters down to a science by now, so that they can handle their roles seamlessly whether the scene is ridiculously comedic or deadly serious. The same could be said for Deaver, Huertas, Quinn and Sullivan, all of whom get moments to shine throughout the season, adding a lot of humor and warmth to any given scene. Jack Coleman (Heroes) appears in a recurring role as a slimy politician, and curmudgeonly medical examiner Perlmutter (Ayre Gross, The Experts) makes multiple appearances this time around, for an extra dose of world-weary sarcasm.
As with previous releases, the video and audio are stellar, with clean and clear colors and skin tones, with rich depth of detail. A handful of episodes get commentaries with producers, directors, and cast. One featurette looks at the construction of the sets and some of the smaller details found in them. The other featurettes are really just comedy sketches, with the actors horsing around and spoofing their images. We also get outtakes and a number of deleted scenes. The set also comes with three trading cards. Two of these are promotional, for the Season Three and Season Four collectible sets and for the collectible card game. The third is a card that is playable in the game itself.
There are those who won't like that Castle has changed. Change is inevitable, though, and I for one would rather have the writers move the characters forward instead of making them stagnant. They've done that this season, and, despite a few missteps, Castle remains as fun and entertaining as ever.
I don't know where you're going either, but for now, you're not guilty.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: ABC Studios
Review content copyright © 2013 Mac McEntire; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.