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Castle: Season 7
There really is no simpler pleasure than a fun, good natured detective show. And a big reason that Castle, starring Stana Katic as hard charging detective Kate Beckett, and Nathan Fillion as fun loving mystery writer Richard Castle, has lasted for seven seasons is because it is so willing to have fun. And it doesn't hurt that its stars are incredibly personable and welcoming.
Each season of Castle has an overarching master story that ties it together. In the past, it has been the search for the mysterious murderer of Beckett's mother. For season seven, it's the mysterious kidnapping and prolonged disappearance of Castle himself, on the very day of his wedding to Beckett. That mystery gets resolved (mostly) in episode 20, but it reverberates all throughout the season in its consequences, and juicy hints to what might have happened abound.
All of the familiar characters are still around: Esposito and Ryan (Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever) are still the loveable, constantly joshing junior detectives working for Beckett. Lanie (Tamala Jones) still works as the medical examiner, and Captain Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) still throws stern looks around, while hiding a heart of gold. And of course, Castle's mother Martha and daughter Alexis (Susan Sullivan and Molly C. Quinn) are still there to buck up our hero when he's down in the dumps, and urge him to greater efforts when he's stumped. There have been a few cast changes as the seasons wore on, but this is largely the same group that we started with. That kind of consistency is appealing to fans.
The episodes were a mixed bag, but still the large majority were well written and enjoyable. There were a few, however, that made me wonder whether Castle was in danger of jumping the shark. For example, Castle generally likes to toy around with the idea that there might be some realm of the supernatural that impinges on human existence, but always provides a solid, worldly explanation for strange events. In season seven, though, they stretch this commitment to realism to near the breaking point. For instance, episode 7.3 Clear and Present featured a high tech invisibility suit, which rendered its wearer invisible to someone less than a foot away. While this has been a plot point in many a fine science fiction and fantasy story, in a semi-realistic cop show, it strains credulity. Then there was episode 7.6 The Time of Our Lives which was a clear It's a Wonderful Life homage, wherein Castle gets transported to an alternate universe where he never fell in love with Beckett, and must figure out how to use an ancient South American artifact to return to his own world. Again, going just a little too far into goofy land to really be enjoyed.
These were exceptions, though, and there were quite a few very enjoyable episodes. 7.10 Bad Santa in which a mob connected doctor is murdered by someone wearing a Santa suit was quite clever, as was 7.13 I Witness in which Castle believes he witnessed a murder but can't prove it. The mystery of where Castle was is resolved in 7.20, which is a tight episode, with Michael Dorn playing his psychologist. The final episode, 7.23, is also quite creepy, and brings back memories for Castle of a murder he witnessed as a boy.
Overall, this is a solid season, with the usual handful of duds that you can't avoid when you're shooting 23 episodes a year. All of our favorite characters are back, the sense of fun remains, the mysteries are pretty good, even if they do slide into goofiness from time to time. Castle is a fun show, and a joy to watch. Highly recommended.
The video is 1.78:1 widescreen enhanced, and looks quite good. Bright colors and sharp contrast highlight the great production design of the show, and nary a defect or problem can be seen.
Audio is Dolby digital 5.1 channel, and is also high quality, as one would expect from a release from a major television studio. The audio is crisp, the dialogue is always clear, and no hiss or other problem can be detected. English, Spanish and French subtitles are included, but no alternate language tracks.
There are a few extras included. There is a commentary for Driven, episode 7.1, with director Rob Bowman, actors Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever, and writer David Amann. These guys are comfortable around each other, and tell lots of stories, mixed with lots of joking around. This is fun.
There is also a commentary on Reckoning, episode 7.15, with Nathan Fillion and Michael Mosley (who plays serial killer 3XK), director Rob Bowman and writer Andrew Marlowe. This also has a lot of interesting tidbits about the shoot, production design, and how the story was developed. Also fun.
There are also a couple of sections of deleted scenes, and a goofy web commercial for one of Castle's books that's featured in one episode.
Unlike a lot of shows, where the sexual tension between the two leads is vital to success, Castle has managed to keep its quality high, even after Castle and Beckett became romantically involved. The producers have managed to transition to a different energy for the show that still works quite well. It's still a fun atmosphere, and an enjoyable show. Let's hope they keep going with such verve.