Judge David Johnson solved the Case of the Missing Brownies with his graphing calculator.
Our reviews of Numb3rs: The First Season (published May 30th, 2006), Numb3rs: The Second Season (published November 1st, 2006), Numb3rs: The Fifth Season (published December 3rd, 2009), and Numb3rs: The Third Season (published September 26th, 2007) are also available.
Math is exciting!
One of CBS' 500 crime procedurals comes to a close, as these number-crunching crime-fighters fill out 16 final episodes trapping bad guys with algorithms.
Facts of the Case
FBI big cheese Don Eppes (Rob Morrow, Northern Exposure) is like Chief Brown. He's brave and smart, but when he runs into a tough case he goes home and consults his version of Encyclopedia Brown, brilliant mathematician brother Charlie (David Krumholtz, Addams Family Values), who always seems to manage to crack the case using a whiteboard.
Meanwhile, Eppes has a standard-issue detachment of FBI hard-asses, who are deployed in the field to run down Charlie's leads and crack some skulls.
In a sea of procedurals, Numb3rs (ach, I hate writing titles that incorporate numbers into the letters) sets it itself apart. The primary gimmick, surprisingly, works pretty well. You'd be amazed at how many mysteries the writers can drum up that can be solved by mathematics. But they succeed, more or less, crafting scenarios which implement the show's angle enough that it doesn't look ridiculous. Granted, "solving mysteries with math" sounds moronic and sort of boring, but thanks to some accommodating scripting, a cool visual style and some interesting, well-portrayed characters, the show plugs along.
Morrow and Krumholtz make up the engine of the series. Since this is my first exposure to the show, I'm unaware of their characters' development, but in the final season they've got a solid chemistry together. Also, it's nice to have The Brilliant Scientist not being a quirky, socially inept weirdo, nor the Tough FBI Alpha Male written to be a smart-ass jerk who makes fun of intellectuals. Charlie and Don genuinely love each other and respect what they bring to the job. Judd Hirsch plays their father and he's a nice addition that grounds them as an engaging family unit.
So the character stuff works—how about the mysteries? They're not bad, ranging from rudimentary (a scratch-off ticket heist) to flat-out bizarre (UFO attacks!). It's a varied slate of whodunits, and the utilization of the Big Theory of the Day blends in nicely. When Charlie or whoever breaks down the science of his deduction, the show shifts into a CGI-generated sequence as the expert details the high-falootin' concepts of the week. I'm not sure how much is real math and how much is just TV hot air, but it looked plausible.
The final episode ends quietly, dropping a few big changes, but not exiting with some neck-snapping twist or dumb-ass plot contrivances. Fans should enjoy how Numb3rs wraps up its run; it struck me as understated and classy.
Lastly, this season featured a huge amount of recognizable faces in guest star roles. It probably has the highest That Guy count I've ever seen. My favorite: Tony Hale of Arrested Development fame playing a quirky geneticist in a couple of episodes.
The shows receive good-quality, though softly-detailed 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfers, 5.1 audio mixes, select episode commentaries, featurettes on the making of the final season, the women of Numb3rs and the digital cinematography and, finally, a production photo gallery.
I'm not one for procedurals, but Numb3rs makes the most of its gimmick.
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