The first season of Dexter was a unique, quirky show that had a serial killer who worked for the police as the protagonist. It was very good, though it did sort of feel like a one-trick pony. After the novelty of having a murderer as a sympathetic character wears off, what's left? Quite a lot as it turns out. Dexter Season Two, which is now being released on Blu-ray, is even better than the first season with a tighter story, more subplots and some twists. The Blu-ray disc looks and sounds just as good as the first season did, making this a great set to pick up.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for the first season.
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 based on the drops of blood that are left. Dexter has a secret though; he's a serial killer.
Adopted when he was three after he saw his mother butchered with a chainsaw and then left trapped with her body for days, Dexter exhibited all the early signs of a psychopath. He had trouble relating to other people's feelings or even feeling anything himself, and killed small animals. His adopted father, Harry (James Remar), was a Miami police officer and recognized what was wrong with Dexter. Rather than trying to change Dexter's personality, something that probably wasn't possible, Harry decides 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 really 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 deserve it: murderers who are beyond the law. Harry also trains Dexter in criminal investigative procedure so that he'll know how to kill without leaving 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 killer working in their midst. That changes when a pair of treasure hunters discover the area in the
Dexter didn't leave much evidence for the feds and his coworkers to find, but that doesn't mean there are no clues. Dexter has more problems than just the task force however. Sgt. Doakes (Erik King) is convinced that the oddly distant Dexter is hiding something, especially after he is found at the Ice Truck Killer's hideout (at the end of last season.) Doakes has started to tail Dexter, and with a constant shadow it's impossible for him to kill anyone.
Another wrinkle in Dexter's life has to do with his girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz). She becomes convinced that Dexter is a drug user like her ex-husband. After all he disappears for hours at a time and is very secretive. She insists that he enter a 12-step program, something he's initially reluctant to do with good reason. Sharing and opening up just a little could be very dangerous for Dexter, and going to the meetings turns out to be the biggest threat to that the killer has ever faced.
The first season of Dexter was very good, but there were some flaws. The Ice Truck Killer knew so much about Dexter and his private life that it was hard to swallow it some times. This season the show really hits its stride. The writers have the characters all figured out and the overriding story for the season is tightly scripted. Small throw-away lines in one episode become very important three or four installments later. The whole season holds together very well, with one event logically leading to another, sometimes with unexpected results.
They show also doesn't ignore what happened in the first season. Dexter's sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter, who is married to star Michael C. Hall) is having a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that her fiancée was a serial killer and tried to murder her. She's moved in with Dexter and is terrified to be alone, something that's both realistic and creates some more than minor difficulties.
These various subplots all intertwine nicely, giving the show some nail-biting suspense moments and a lot of momentum. Sitting down to watch this season for the first time, I raced through the episodes hardly noticing the time flying by. It's a show you don't want to turn off.
Esme Pasquale, a female super-star in the ranks of law enforcement
who's personal life starts to unravel. I've known a lot of tough
women in my day and when they run into trouble, yes they can fall
apart, but never publically. The way she would act in front of
the officers who were subordanant to her was very hard to swallow, no
matter how much pain she was experiancing. This isn't a large
part of the show however and doesn't ruin the season.
The Blu-ray Disc:The 12 episodes that make up the second 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 the third is attached to the right side.
Presented with a 1.78:1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded image, this set looks very good, just as good as season one. There is a lot of detail in the picture, and many times the image just leaps off the 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 with great 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 throw some sound to the rears, mainly background music. There are also some unexpected sound effects positioned nicely around the room a doorbell ringing behind you for example, that are spare but work nicely.
As with the first season, the extras are a bit anemic. Most of the extras that are 'included' have to be accessed via Blu-ray Live. First off the early adopters who don't have a Blu-ray Live enabled player are just plain screwed, 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. The Blu-ray Live downloadable features include episodes of another Showtime program The United States of Tara, some podcasts from star Michael C. Hall, a series of Dark Avenger shorts, and the featurette Blood Fountains.
In any case there are some bonus materials on the discs themselves. Well, one item. A short trivia game Tools of the Trade. *Yawn*. I was disappointed that the first season only had a couple of commentary tracks, but this set doesn't even have that. A real disappointment.
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, as this second season proves. It's an interesting and entertaining show that is tightly written and well produced. Filled with a wonderful cast the show is slightly addictive, it's hard to stop watching after just two or three episodes. This second season is markedly better than the first one, and that's saying a lot. Add to that the wonderful image and effective sound, and you've got a winner. Highly Recommended.
Note: The images in this review are not from the Blu-ray disc and do not necessarily represent the image quality on the disc.