Monday, July 8, 2013

TV on DVD Review: Castle - Season 4

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun mysteries as well as time for real character growth
Cons: None for another strong season
The Bottom Line
Fun mysteries and
Strong writing continue to
Make Castle so great

"That is a Surprisingly Reasonable and Grounded Theory." "Yeah. I'm a Bit Disappointed in Myself."

This summer, I've been on a huge Castle kick, rewatching the show from the beginning.  I even got my roommate hooked on this fun mix of mystery served with a dose of humor.  And while season 4 was a bit more dramatic than we'd seen before, I still find it a great season of the show.

As usual, this season starts with the aftermath of the season three finale.  While Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) is recovering from the shot that almost killed her (come on, did you really think she was going to die in the season 3 cliffhanger?), she tells author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion) to stop shadowing her to allow her to recover.  What she doesn't tell him is that she remembers everything from when she was shot, including his declaration of love.  Meanwhile, Castle is holding a secret of his own, a pack he's made with a mystery man to keep Beckett away from working on her mother's murder in order to keep the sniper from going after her a second time.

When Castle does come back to the precinct, he finds a new captain in charge.  Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) is much more by the book than Montgomery ever was, and she barely tolerates having Castle advising the 12th precinct as much as he does.

But all this is background.  The show is still mainly about solving the case of the week with some quips and a laugh or two along the way.  Over the course of the season, a vigilante comic hero comes to life and starts killing people.  Castle and Beckett wake up cuffed together in a room with little memory of how they got there.  In a fun episode, Castle sets out to solve a decades old murder, with the cast taking part in the 1940 set flashbacks.  The February sweeps two parter brings Castle's old female CIA contact back into his life (guest star Jennifer Beals).  They solve a murder set on the set of "A Night of Death," an obvious send up of their lead in Dancing with the Stars.  A serial killer dresses his victims like famous storybook characters.  And there's even a case with a zombie killer.  As you can see, there is plenty of fun to be had.

What about the supporting cast?  Well, Detective Esposito (Jon Huertas) and medical examiner Lanie (Tamala Jones) continue to give their relationship a try while Detective Ryan (Seamus Deaver) ties the knot with long time girlfriend Jenny (guest star Juliana Dever and Seamus Deaver's real life wife).  Castle's daughter Alexis (Molly C. Quinn) tries to decide what college to attend when she starts to have doubts about first choice Stanford and starts an internship with Lanie.  And Castle's mom Martha (Susan Sullivan)?  She gets heavily involved in a case when she and Castle are held hostage in a bank robbery.  (And that episode is one of my favorites because it takes a cliched set up and puts a perfect Castle spin on it that blows all the others out of the water.)

As you can see, a lot happens over the course of these 23 episodes.  And most of the episodes are still in the light mystery genre we've come to expect from the show.  Fans will still find plenty of laughs and smiles as the season unfolds.

But there is definitely a darker tone to things overall this year, and that's appropriate as Beckett deals with the aftermath of being shot.  There is an especially powerful episode where the gang must track down a sniper, and Esposito must help Beckett work through her trauma.  The secrets that Beckett and Castle are keeping from each other come out in some surprising ways, and the writers play that brilliantly, making the character reactions completely believable.  Some of those scenes are pure genius.

Of course, all the writing in the world would be pointless if the acting were bad, but the actors rise to the occasion.  There isn't a bad performance in the bunch, as the actors obviously know their characters after 3 years bringing them to life every day.  Even Penny Johnson Jerald jumps into the mix perfectly.  This season is a wonderful mix of perfect writing and acting.

Plus there's a guest star that Firefly fans have been clamoring for since the show started.

The 23 episodes of the show are compiled on 5 discs in their native full surround and wide screen.  There are three audio commentaries on 3 episodes from the first half of the season.  Other extras include an in depth look at creating a key stunt from the two parter as well as one on the 1940's episode and the usual deleted scenes and blooper reel.

Fans of Castle will love season 4, and if you enjoy light hearted mysteries with great characters, this show is certainly for you.  I recommend starting at the beginning, but you'll be here before you know it.  It's really that much fun.

Season 4 Episodes:
1. Rise
2. Heroes and Villains
3. Head Case
4. Kick the Ballistics
5. Eye of the Beholder
6. Demons
7. Cops & Robbers
8. Heartbreak Hotel
9. Kill Shot
10. Cuffed
11. Til Death Do Us Part
12. Dial M for Mayor
13. An Embarrassment of B!tches
14. The Blue Butterfly
15. Pandora
16. Linchpin
17. Once Upon a Crime
18. A Dance with Death
19. 47 Seconds
20. The Limey
21. Headhunters
22. Undead Again
23. Always

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