Castle: The Complete Fifth Season (DVD)

I can’t wait to show you my Nikki Heat/Derrick Storm fan fiction.

Castle: “Want to hold my hand?”
Beckett: “Castle, I’m not scared.”
Castle: “I’m not asking for you!”

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?

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”
The hook: After a whirlwind first night together, Castle and Beckett are interrupted (heh) with new info about the conspiracy behind Beckett’s mother’s murder.
The book: There’s not a lot of time for romance as more layers of the conspiracy are peeled back, and, like most conspiracies, it goes deeper and farther than it initially appeared. This leads to a new, tense, status quo between Beckett and some very powerful, very evil people.

• “Cloudy with a Chance of Murder”
The hook: A TV weathergirl is found dead and a strange loner is found with her cell phone.
The book: Castle and Beckett try to keep their relationship secret from everyone else, while the case involves a creepy stalker, personal conflicts at the news station, and a pro athlete.

• “Secret’s Safe With Me”
The hook: A young woman bleeding to death writes the word “lie” in her own blood.
The book: The case involves the seemingly random contents of a storage locker under auction, so the show can do its own take on Storage Wars.

• “Murder He Wrote”
The hook: Castle and Beckett head to the Hamptons for a romantic weekend, so of course they come across a murder victim beside Castle’s pool.
The book: No longer in the city, Castle and Beckett try to solve a case that’s outside their jurisdiction. Meanwhile, Ryan and Esposito try to deduce who Beckett’s new boyfriend is.

• “Probable Cause”
The hook: A young woman is found hanging from their ceiling, a strange symbol carved on her forehead.
The book: All signs point to a serial killer at work. Then, things get more mysterious when Castle’s fingerprints are found on the crime scene. Now, he’s being considered as a suspect. Who’s really to blame?

• “The Final Frontier”
The hook: A dead body found at a sci-fi convention—this is no cosplay.
The book: The sci-fi references fly with fire throughout the investigation, as Beckett reveals her inner nerdishness. Appropriately, this one was directed by Jonathan Frakes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

• “Swan Song”
The hook: A musician is found dead during the filming of his own rock documentary.
The book: Gimmick episode! We spend the entire episode looking through the eyes of the documentary cameras. Castle loves the attention, while Beckett worries the filmmakers will compromise the investigation.

• “After Hours”
The hook: A priest is murdered, and it appears a professional did the job.
The book: The mob is after the only witness to the case, who is on the run with Castle and Beckett throughout the night in a bad part of town, pursued by hired killers.

• “Secret Santa”
The hook: A guy dressed in a Santa suit falls from the sky. This is no sleigh accident—he’s been shot.
The book: Christmas episode! This Santa has a history that may or may not involve illegally gained cash. Meanwhile, Castle and company fret over their holiday plans.

• “Significant Others”
The hook: A woman is stabbed in the neck as she sits inside her parked car.
The book: The victim is high-priced divorce attorney, so of course all kinds of folks have motives. Meanwhile, Castle’s ex-wife shows up for a visit, complicating everyone’s lives.

• “Under the Influence”
The hook: A DJ is murdered during a glitzy music industry party.
The book: A tough street kid is at the center of the case, and Esposito hopes to befriend him to help find killer.

• “Death Gone Crazy”
The hook: A pornographer is found in a woman’s bathroom, strangled with a bra.
The book: Among the talk of sleaze and sex tapes, Esposito falls for the victim’s sexy female bodyguard.

• “Recoil”
The hook: A homeless guy burning a fire in a barrel discovers a body in said barrel.
The book: What appears to be a dead transient at first leads to way, way higher up all the way to the conspirators involved in Beckett’s mother’s murder. Could this finally be her chance at justice?

• “Reality Star Struck”
The hook: A reality TV star known for her backstabbing ways is found literally stabbed in the back.
The book: It’s no surprise that there are all kinds of personality conflicts behind the scenes on a Real Housewives type of reality show. Also, it’s Valentine’s Day, but there will be trouble if Captain Gates learns Castle and Beckett are a couple.

• “Target”
The hook: A college student is murdered with a custom-made gun. His apartment is filled with weapons.
The book: Part one of this season’s two-parter. The case takes an intense turn when first it’s discovered this is a kidnapping as well as a murder, and then even more intense when Castle learns Alexis is one of the girls who was abducted.

• “Hunt”
The hook: Castle parts ways with the NYPD and takes the law into his own hands, far outside the cops’ jurisdiction, to save Alexis.
The book: There are more twists and turns, in the kidnapping case as well as surprise revelations about Castle’s past.

• “Scared to Death”
The hook: A terrified woman calls 911 and screams, “It’s going to kill me!”
The book: It’s a classic locked-door mystery, with no forced entry and no apparent cause of death. Did watching a scary DVD literally scare her to death?

• “The Wild Rover”
The hook: A well-known cupcake expert is found dead and half-buried in his own cake batter. (Castle: “Death by chocolate!”)
The book: One of the suspects is a female bar owner, who, it turns out, as a history with Ryan. She has no idea he’s a cop, or that he’s married.

• “The Lives of Others”
The hook: An IRS auditor is killed, and the murderer used high-tech gear to mask his face from security cameras.
The book: Castle is stuck at home in a wheelchair after hurting his leg while skiing. Before you can say “Miss Lonely Heart,” the show does its own spin on Rear Window as he spies on his neighbors with binoculars, etc.

• “The Fast and the Furriest”
The hook: A body is dropped off in front of the hospital, her face horribly mangled.
The book: The evidence points to an animal, not human. Could killer apes be loose in the streets of New York? Stranger things have happened (on this show, at least).

• “Still”
The hook: While in pursuit of a suspect, Beckett steps on a trigger bomb, and now can’t step off of it until it’s defused.
The book: Castle stays by Beckett’s side throughout and, to keep her calm, they reminisce about how far their relationship has come, complete with flashbacks. Freakin’ clip shows.

• “The Squab and the Quail”
The hook: A classy venture capitalist chokes and dies on his squab dinner. Poison!
The book: Castle’s got the jealousy fits when Beckett is assigned bodyguard duties for a handsome billionaire.

• “The Human Factor”
The hook: A seemingly ordinary man in taken out with appears to be a car bomb.
The book: Things get political when Homeland Security takes over the investigation, but Beckett and the cops continue to investigate on their own.

• “Watershed”
The hook: Blood starts coming out of someone’s morning shower. There’s a dead body in the building’s water.
The book: There’s almost no time for investigating with all this drama going on. Beckett is offered a high-stakes job with the feds in Washington D.C., and this has Castle considering taking their relationship to the next level.

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.

The Verdict

I don’t know where you’re going either, but for now, you’re not guilty.

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