The Fifth Season
For those who aren't familiar with the series, Homicide revolves around the Baltimore Police Department Homicide Unit. The television series was adapted from David Simon's novel Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and through the eyes of producers Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana, Henry Bromell, and Paul Attanasio, we get one hell of a show. It's a very dramatic series that touches upon the daily lives of the homicide unit, their cases, and their daily interactions. The fifth season of Homicide: Life on the Street continues to bring the same high-paced drama found in the previous seasons. In this season, there are some new characters introduced, old ones revisited, and some downright interesting stories.
Homicide is a really strong as a series. All of the episodes build upon each other. This provides a great opportunity for the characters to develop. While in the earlier seasons the characters were all laid out pretty well, the fifth season shows that these characters have many more faces, some that we may not even like. They're depicted very well through the stories that trickle throughout this season. The first major story picks up from the end of the fourth season. In the fourth season finale, one of the detectives suffers a very tragic accident that leaves him incapacitated. This story covers the recovery of Frank Pembleton, a once strong relentless detective. It is a very intense story, simply because in the earlier seasons, Pembleton was presented in a manner that made him you really care about him. Watching him in a weakened state, fighting to become the man he once was is a truly dramatic experience. This was my absolute favorite story of the season, simply because I've come to know and love his role.
Another great story in this season revolves around the detective who was introduced in the beginning of season four. Prior to Mike Kellerman (Reed Diamond) joining the homicide unit, he was an investigating detective for the arson unit. In season five his past is unraveled, which reveals that Kellerman may not be as good of a detective as he appears to be. He quickly loses the trust and respect from his friends and colleagues at the Baltimore Police Department, as well as the entire city of Baltimore. This story proves to be interesting because it really gives a Kellerman's character a chance to develop and reveal some entertaining looks into his past. There's also another wonderful look into the life of detective Tim Bayliss (Kyle Secor). This story explains his darkest secret, his shame, and his motivation for enforcing the law. We also get to take a look into the early life of my favorite character, John Munch (Richard Belzer). It's a sad story that reveals the love of his life. But not all the stories are dramatic insights, as there is one story that is a bit comical. The department's crime scene cameraman, J.H. Brodie (Max Perlich) gets evicted from his apartment. Of course, the friendly detectives of the homicide unit are more than willing to offer him a place to stay. But working with someone is always a much different experience than living with them. It's pretty comical to watch Brodie get tossed from place to place.
The biggest story that runs throughout the fifth season covers the passion of the homicide unit. They have linked many murders to a single drug dealer, Luther Mahoney. Despite a joint effort between narcotics and homicide, the detectives repeatedly fail to catch Mahoney. It's a troubling time for the case detectives, because they know who the bad guy is, but they just can't get to him. There's also another troubling story for the homicide unit. Another one of their own suffers a severe casualty. In the beginning of the third season, they lost a good detective. Now in the fifth season, another's life ends, which really sends a tidal of wave emotions through the homicide unit.
The fifth season had some truly gripping stories trickle throughout the season that really helped promote the show's characters. While in earlier seasons I became passionate about them, this season simply strengthens those passions. The cast of Homicide continues to provide a wonderful balance of characters. There's also a new introduction to the cast. Dr. Julianna Cox (Michelle Forbes) joins the Baltimore Police Department as the chief medical examiner. Her role brings an interesting aspect of forensics to the series. As well, she is a very strong character and easily fits in with the rough nature of Homicide. The character of Dr. Cox is used to replace Megan Russert (Isabella Hofmann), who took an extended leave of absence.
Besides the great developing stories throughout the season and the superb advancements upon the series in terms of character development, there are some interesting episodes. For instance, the season opens with a very strong two part episode. When a man with a gun holds a middle school hostage, it sends an uproar of emotions through the homicide department and the entire city of Baltimore. There's also a very good episode that really gives the assistant state attorney, Ed Danvers (Zeljko Ivanek) a chance to pour out his emotions in "Blood Wedding". The episode "The Documentary" deviates the show from its normal format. Brodie makes a documentary about the homicide unit, which uncovers a few lies, a few wrongdoings, and some other things that are better left unsaid. In the episode "WU's on First?", a reporter is troubled with her conscience to do the right thing. She wants to make the ethical decision, but she must consider at what costs. The episode "Have a Conscience" ties into the interesting story that revolves around Luther Mahoney. A Korean shopkeeper is murder and his family doesn't deal with it very well. Three episodes later in "Valentine's Day", the story is concluded. Some say that revenge is a dish best served cold, but others like to serve it with a fiery inferno from hell. The season also concludes with a very gripping two part episode that changes the lives of the homicide unit forever.
Despite that this season had some very entertaining stories and continued to develop the existing and new characters well, it wasn't gripping beyond words. In comparison to the extreme drama seen in season three, the fifth season feels much more like the fourth, providing a very strong season, just not the series' best. If you've enjoyed any of the previous DVD releases of Homicide, this fifth season release should please you. However, if you're new to the series, I strongly urge you to start with an earlier season, specifically season three. This is mainly because, jumping into the fifth season without experiencing season three (or four) will leave you missing invaluable insights into the characters of this series. Overall, the fifth season provides some solid entertainment, but to really enjoy it, you should really be sure to check out the earlier seasons first.
1. Hostage (Part 1)
2. Hostage (Part 2)
3. Prison Riot
4. Bad Medicine
5. M.E., Myself and I
6. White Lies
7. The Heart of Saturday Night
8. The True Test
10. Blood Wedding
11. The Documentary
13. Have a Conscience
15. WU's on First?
16. Valentine's Day
18. Double Blind
21. Partners and Other Strangers (Part 1)
22. Partners and Other Strangers (Part 2)
This DVD release is presented in its original television aspect of 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. The entire series was filmed using 16mm handheld cameras to give a documentary facade. The picture suffers from a high amount of grain, which is somewhat expected for earlier television series. However, this look gives the show a rough feeling that truly captures the show's dramatic ambience. In comparison to previous season releases, the quality is slightly better.
The audio in this feature is presented in English 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo surround. The dialogue is very crisp and clean with only a slightly noticeable hiss. There are no subtitles presented with this feature, nor is it closed caption enabled.
The previous DVD releases of Homicide never had a lot of extras, but they had more than this release. For instance, on each disc there was a song listing for the soundtrack of each episode. However, this extra is not present in the fifth season release. The only extras that we get are a cast & crew biographies, a featurette and an audio commentary. The cast & crew biographies aren't anything special, because you can easily find the same information on the internet. However, the other two extras are great for the fans. The featurette, "Inside Homicide" is an interview with James Yoshimura, one of the show's writers and David Simon, the author of the book that this series was based upon. The other major extra is an audio commentary for the episode "The Documentary" with writers James Yoshimura and Eric Overmyer. These extras are great for the fans and will most likely only be good for a one time viewing.
This season DVD release of Homicide continues to provide the same gripping drama as the previous seasons. It does a wonderful job unfolding and further developing the personalities of the cast, both new and old. I really enjoyed sitting through this season, but I didn't find it nearly as good as the third season. Still, this season is full of some great dramatic moments. It's a wonderfully developing series that should entertain any fan of crime on television.
Be sure to check out DVD Talk's other reviews in the Homicide: Life on the Street series.