“If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a hundred times…sociopaths always underestimate the resilience of the werewolf.”

I am going to go ahead and start with a general spoiler warning. At this point in the show’s run I don’t think you’re waiting to watch Season Five and it’s going to be impossible to discuss what happens without giving some things away so let’s just go ahead and consider ourselves warned. I said during my Season Four review I would tune in to Season Five if only to see how things ended up shaking out. And I have to say for the most part I’m extremely impressed.

Season Four ended up playing out on the small screen while a real life tragedy was being dealt with off-screen, and that is the death of Lee Thompson Young who played Detective Barry Frost. I mentioned that the Season Four finale made it clear the writers didn’t have a clear idea for how to deal with Young’s death and the loss of his character for the show. So Season Five has to blend a lot of things, first and foremost Young’s loss but also the lives of the remaining quintet of characters.

Coming into Season Five we know that Frost’s departure has to be dealt with, and we know that he has to die in order for it to make any kind of logistical sense at all. Frost couldn’t simply leave a letter saying he needed to go away and find a new job or something like that. That would have been a disservice to the character of Frost and the actor who played him. So Frost is killed and my absolute favorite thing about Season Five is that loss resonates through almost every single episode, providing the season-long arc and mythology building I’ve been looking for since Season One. It is so easy for shows to have a character die and it’s just too hard to talk about them or to try to work them into the show anymore after they’ve left. So that person simply vanishes and becomes a taboo topic. However Rizzoli & Isles handles Frost’s death deftly, the effects of which are felt by all of the characters throughout the season. It is rare for there to be an episode where Frost’s absence is not noticed at the very least if not outright commented on. Smartest thing the writers did this season is used Frost’s death as a springboard for each and every character to experience a period of personal growth. His death prompts Korsak (Bruce McGill, Wolf Lake) to wonder what his next step is as he enters his third act of life. Frankie (Jordan Bridges, Crew 2 Crew) decides to see if he could start training himself to fill the void Frost left, entering night classes. Angela (Lorraine Bracco, The Sopranos) decides her entire life (aside from living with Maura rent free, natch) needs an overhaul so she dumps Cavanaugh (Brian Goodman, What Doesn’t Kill You) and quits her job at the cafe.

Maura (Sasha Alexander, NCIS) decides to embrace the chance at a new relationship and then there’s Jane (Angie Harmon, Chuck). Jane’s pregnancy is a hot topic this season and while Jane acknowledges and mourns Frost she makes a point to say she’s handling things in her own way. And by the end of the season she has more tragedies to deal with than Frost’s death. This season is left on a somewhat calm note, and I’m not sure whether or not that is due to the writers not being sure of a renewal. Or if it was determined that this season already had so much emotion attached to it that to have a high-adrenaline cliffhanger like there is mid-season occur again as the finale would be too much. Whatever the decision is the end result is Season Five feels more cohesive than any season which has come before.

That’s not to say there aren’t some things which bothered me about the season. Tommy Rizzoli (Colin Egglesfeld, The Client List) ended Season Four having lost his girlfriend and son due to his falling off the wagon and back into alcohol addiction. Tommy is shown exactly one time this season, for us to learn he is back in AA and to react to the news of Jane’s pregnancy. That’s all well and good and I understand he’s off doing his own thing however my issue is how heavily involved in his life Angela Rizzoli has been until this season. Especially considering everything that happens and how Angela fixates on her children’s lives it is very anomalous for her to not even mention her grandson TJ once. And speaking of Angela at times she can be a bit of a bully this season. I know it’s in her nature to push and to be over-involved and maybe it’s just that the other emotional aspects of the season made that tendency grate a bit more for me, I don’t know, but it felt off-putting.

In terms of technical specs we have the network typical 1.78:1 anamorphic video transfer and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The black levels occasionally go darker than they absolutely need to be, and the main issue I notice with the audio is during the first episode we go into after learning Frost has died. There is a kind of happy music playing which is consistent to the show yet completely inappropriate for the scene, in fact it jarred me to hear it. It was a weird misstep for an otherwise solid soundscape. The video is much smoother than before, lacking the compression artifacting it’s been guilty of in other seasons. Overall a pretty solid set of technical offerings.

There are only a few special features but they are in keeping with other seasons’ releases. We have a behind-the-scenes featurette which deals with doing a bridge jumping stunt, some deleted scenes and then the other feature is a gag reel.

THE VERDICT

Season Five of Rizzoli & Isles finally brings together all the elements which make it a great show and blends them into the most cohesive offering yet. It’s such a shame it happens after a real-life tragedy but Young’s death is not overlooked in any way and this season is a fitting tribute to him, ensuring his legacy will endure. Not guilty.

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