Tired of farming out their shows to other publishers, the cable network Showtime jumps into the Blu-ray waters with the release of the first season of Dexter.
They've done a good job with their first release putting out a
show that looks and sounds very good.
The only area where the set falters a bit is in the extra
where several items that were included on the SD DVD release are
only through Blu-ray Live. Even so, this
is a great show the looks wonderful and is worth checking out.
Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under) is a blood
splatter analyst for the Miami Police Department. He
examines murder scenes and determines
where the victim and perpetrator where standing and their movements
the drops of blood that are left. Dexter
has a secret though; he's a serial killer.
Adopted when he was three, as a young child Dexter exhibited
all the early signs of a psychopath. He
had trouble relating to other people's feelings or even feeling
himself, and killed small animals. His
adopted father, Harry (James Remar), was a Miami police officer and recognized
wrong with Dexter. Rather than trying to
change Dexter's personality, something that probably wasn't possible,
to channel his son's anti-social (to say the least) tendencies. He shows him how to blend in with other
people, how to fake being normal so that no one will suspect what he
is. Harry also instills a moral code in
the immoral child. He convinces him that
he has to resist his urges to kill and only let loose on people who
it: murderers who are beyond the
law. Harry also trains Dexter in
criminal investigative procedure so that he'll know how to kill without
evidence and to stay off of the police's radar.
Living by the 'Code of Harry' as he calls it has served
Dexter well over the years. He's killed
many murderers and the police don't even know that they have a serial
working in their midst. Things get a bit
complicated for Dexter as the season opens however.
There's another serial killer working in Miami, dubbed the Ice
Truck Killer, who picks up prostitutes and kills them by draining their
before dismembering their bodies and arranging them in public places. The Ice Truck killer isn't only vicious, he
knows Dexter's secret and lets the investigator know by breaking into
apartment and leaving a Barbie doll, dismembered as if last victim was,
Dexter's freezer. Dexter doesn't freak
out by that, like most people would. He's oddly comforted by the notion
there's someone who understands him out there.
Thus stars an odd game, where the killer leaves clues and
Dexter to figure out, often involving body parts.
I can only imagine the pitch for this show "it's about a
soulless serial killer, but with heart!"
However they did it, I'm glad that Showtime took a risk with
show. It's hard to have a killer as the
protagonist, much less a likable one, but the writers have created a
that does just that. A lot of the credit
goes to Hall who does a magnificent job as Dexter.
He's able to be nice and charming while also
portraying an underlying sense of confusion.
He doesn't get the 'normal' world or why people do the things
do, but he's bright enough to know that he has to fake it.
When his mask is off however, he's every bit
a ruthless serial killer, and that's what makes the series so enticing.
The subplots are nearly as interesting as the parts
involving Dexter and the Ice Truck Killer.
Dexter's adopted sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) is on the
working the Ice Truck Killer case and Dexter wants to help her out
helping her too much of course.
Part of acting normal is having a relationship, and Dexter
has purposefully selected Rita (Julie Benz who plays her role to
be his girlfriend because she's "damaged".
She was married to an abusive drug addict who used to violently
and so she no longer cares for sex, something that's fine with Dexter
whenever he does have a sexual relationship with a woman they soon
that he's empty inside and leave. Rita
however is afraid that she'll loose Dexter if she doesn't start
him. That misunderstanding and how the
various characters handle the problem adds a lot of heart to the show
it more than just a voyeuristic guilty pleasure.
The Blu-ray Disc:
The 12 episodes that make up the first season of Dexter come
on three Blu-ray discs contained in a slightly larger than single-width
case. A page in the middle holds two
discs (one on each side of the page so they aren't overlapping) while
is attached to the right side.
Presented with a 1.78:1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded image, this
set looks very good and is a definite improvement over the SD DVD set
didn't look bad to begin with.) There is
a lot of detail in the picture, and many times the image just leaps off
screen, especially in the bright exterior scenes. The
colors are outstanding, reproducing the
lush greens of the Miami
setting as well as the deep red blood splatters that Dexter analyses
care. Some of the darker scenes do have
a bit of grain in them, but this was a minor concern.
The show comes with a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack that works
well for the show. Being mainly dialog
based, there aren't a lot of fancy audio effects but the show does
sound to the rears, mainly background music.
There are also some unexpected sound effects positioned nicely
the room a doorbell ringing behind you for example, that are spare but
Here's the one area where I was a little disappointed.
Most of the extras that were related to the
show and available on the SD DVD set are included, but they have to be
via Blu-ray live. First off the early
adopters who don't have a Blu-ray live enabled player are just plain
as are the people who don't have their house networked.
Also, I have to wonder how long the content
will be available. I have DVDs that are
going on ten years old that I still enjoy.
In a decade is Showtime still going to be hosting these on-line
extras? I don't think so.
In any case there are some bonus material on the discs
themselves. There are two audio
commentaries. "Return to
Sender" has the comments of actors Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas,
Velez and Erik King, and "Born Free" is discussed by producers Sara
Colleton, Clyde Phillips and Daniel Cerone.
The first has the cast joking around more than actually
show, but the latter commentary was interesting and talked about
book and getting the show on the air. I
was a bit disappointed that Michael C. Hall wasn't involved with either
commentary tracks, but there it is.
As for Blu-ray Live bonus material, these include The
Academy of Blood - A Killer Course, Witnessed in Blood - A True Murder
Investigation, Michael C. Hall Podcast, First episode of Dexter, Season 3, and
the first two episodes of United
States of Tara.
When I first heard of Dexter I assumed that it was a 'race
to the bottom' exploitation show. I
couldn't have been more wrong. It's an
interesting and entertaining show that is tightly written and well
produced. Filled with a wonderful cast the
slightly addictive, it's hard to stop watching after just two or three
episodes. Add to that the wonderful
image and effective sound, and you've got a winner.
images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not
the image quality on the disc.