Monday, September 15, 2014

TV on DVD Review: Castle - Season Six



Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun mystery with deeper characters
Cons: For some Pi, for most the cliffhanger
The Bottom Line:
More great mysteries
And characters keep growing
Show still going strong




"When We Do This, Let's Not Do the Dead Body in the Middle of the Aisle."

There seems to be this superstition about a show going downhill when you get the main characters together, and many shows fight against it for far longer than they should.  But ultimately, it is all about how you handle the characters as a couple, and the sixth season of Castle proves just how great it can be.

The season picks up at the season five cliffhanger.  Author Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), unaware that Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) has decided to take a job with the FBI in DC, proposed to her.  In typical Castle fashion, the response was equally parts funny and touching.  The result is that we get a season of Castle and Beckett planning a wedding.  (Really, did you expect her to say no?  The whole premise of this show is about their relationship.)  However, Beckett also takes the job with the FBI, and we spend a few episodes with that before things get back to normal.

Normal, of course, being Castle following Beckett around helping her solve murders in New York City and getting ideas for his Nikki Heat books.  Over the course of the season, they solve such mysteries as a former TV star, a case the FBI is interested in.  There’s a case where their prime suspect claims to be from the future.  Someone is killing the doppelgangers of the members of the precinct.  There’s a murder at Castle’s high school (well, one of his high schools).  And Who do they believe when multiple people confess to a murder knowing details only the killer would know.

Nathan Fillion decided as the season began that he wanted to work fewer hours, a move I can understand since being the lead in a show and pretty much in every scene can make for a very exhausting schedule.  As a result, Detectives Javier Esposito (Jon Huertas) and Kevin Ryan (Seamus Dever) get more screen time, even getting some sub-plots in various episodes while they took more of an active role in solving the cases.  Honestly, I appreciated seeing more of them and watching how their characters developed.  They are actually featured in one of the best episodes of the season, which finds them trapped in a burning building as Ryan’s wife (played by Seamus’s real life wife Juliana Dever) goes into labor.  This didn’t hold true for Captain Gates (Penny Johnson), who was still around in her usual number of episodes this season.  She doesn’t seem to get quite the same amount of development she did last season, but when they give her moments to shine, she really does.  Medical examiner Lanie (Tamala Jones) is still around like she’s always been and provides some great moments as well.

Unfortunately, Fillion’s reduced schedule meant a bit less screen time for Castle’s mother Martha (Susan Sullivan) and daughter Alexis (Molly Quinn).  Alexis in particular was missing in much of the second half of the season.  I’m wondering if, like her character, Molly Quinn is in college.

The episodes themselves continue to entertain.  The mysteries are rather formulaic but decent, and really they are just an excuse to visit the characters each week.  We get the usual assortment of quips and one liners as the characters solve the mystery of the week; that humor is one reason I have always enjoyed this show.  There are the darker episodes, most noticeably surrounding one particular ongoing story, but they always surround them with some of the lighter episodes of the year.

But as I hinted at earlier, Castle and Beckett’s relationship is still at the heart of the show.  However, now that they are engaged, the writers have given the characters more depth than ever before.  It is truly remarkable watching them interact with each other in their private moments.  Castle is showing remarkable maturity when the situation calls for it, and Beckett is showing a vulnerability I never would have expected from her.  In fact, some of these scenes are my favorites from the season and one in particular could land in the top 5 overall for me.  (That first kiss between them as a couple will always be number one.)

This added depth is no problem for the actors at all.  By this point, they know the characters and are able to put everything they have into the performances.  Everyone in the main cast is top notch again this year.

Not to say that this season doesn’t have some issues.  Many (probably most) fans hated Pi, the new boyfriend that comes home with Alexis from her trip over the summer.  His fruitarian ways are designed to annoy Castle.  Frankly, I found him a fun foil for Castle, but many fans hated his guts, wanting to see him become the victim of a killer in an episode.  As you are watching, just keep in mind that he is only a guest star, not a new main character.

Then there’s the season finale.  It sets up a problem that is supposed to be fun but seems out of character for Beckett.  When that is resolved, we then get a cliffhanger.  Again, I’m not as annoyed as some fans are (I was actually kind of expecting it).  However, if they don’t resolve it correctly come the season seven premier, I will be revising my opinion of the show runners.

On the other hand, a long running story was successfully wrapped up this season.  I’m glad to see them know when they had dragged it out long enough.  I was thrilled with how they resolved it and think they made the right call.

There were 23 total episodes in season 6, and all of them are collected in this set in their native wide screen and full surround.  Extras include commentaries on four of the episodes, including one from the point of view of the characters Ryan and Esposito.  There are also deleted scenes, bloopers, a day in the life featurette, and one where cast and crew talk about their favorite parts of the show, which includes a never before seen scene from season 4.

While there are some flaws for some fans, I found season six of Castle to still be very entertaining.  Even if you don’t like the elements I named, they are easy enough to skip over so you can still enjoy the new highs and lows for the characters in this set.  After six years, the show is still fun and entertaining, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Season Six Episodes:
1. Valkyrie
2. Dreamworld
3. Need to Know
4. Number One Fan
5. Time Will Tell
6. Get a Clue
7. Like Father, Like Daughter
8. A Murder is Forever
9. Disciple
10. The Good, the Bad, and the Baby
11. Under Fire
12. Deep Cover
13. Limelight
14. Dressed to Kill
15. Smells Like Teen Spirit
16. Room 147
17. In the Belly of the Beast
18. The Way of the Ninja
19. The Greater Good
20. That 70’s Show
21. Law & Boarder
22. Veritas
23. For Better or Worse

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