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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Dexter - The Complete Second Season
Dexter - The Complete Second Season
Paramount // Unrated // August 19, 2008
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted August 12, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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In 10 Words or Less
The return of the good-guy serial killer

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Serial killer stories, dark comedy
Likes: Michael C. Hall, forensics
Dislikes: Miami
Hates: Blood

The Story So Far...
Adapted from Jeff Lindsay's novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the Showtime series "Dexter" follows Dexter Morgan, a forensic scientist who also happens to be a soulless serial killer who preys upon murderers. A fascinating story about how and why a person would become a monster, the show is beautifully shot, tinged with black comedy and led by an outstanding performance by Michael C. Hall ("Six Feet Under"), making it an incredible series. The first season was released on DVD in August of 2007. DVDTalk has a review here.

The Show
The first season of "Dexter" was all about the hunt, as the friendly, neighborhood sociopath tracked down The Ice Truck Killer, who teased him with clues and hints about a shared connection. This season, the game has changed, and it's Dexter in the crosshairs, as the FBI, led by Special Agent Lundy (Keith Carradine), has come to town following the discovery of Dex' many victims hidden under the water. The ramifications of season one's finale and the police pressure looking for "The Bay Harbor Butcher" begins to wear on him and he finds himself losing control.

That lack of control makes Dexter increasingly sloppy and lands him in trouble with his girlfriend Rita, forcing him to pretend he's a drug addict (when his addiction is actually much, much deadlier.) That leads to meet Lila, a fellow haunted soul, he runs across at a support group for his addiction. She leads him down a very dark path that brings out the worst in him, and puts his secret life in peril, as well as the life he's been building with Rita. The use of the addiction metaphor for Dexter's loss of control is well done, and an excellent way to approach the serial killer concept from a new angle.

Dexter's not the only one struggling this season, as his sister Deb has a hard time getting over what happened in season one, which creates problems not only for her, but the people around her, especially Dex, as he gains a new roommate, which puts a cramp on his lifestyle. Pascal, his boss at the station is having trouble as well, as her tumultuous personal life spills over to the office, in more ways than one. The office "politics" that were rampant in season one are more focused this time around, as suspicion swirls, relationships strain and there's plenty of pain and suffering to go around.

Unlike the first season, this run doesn't have the handy momentum generators that Dexter's kills provided, which makes things move a bit slowly at times, but the noir-like inner monologues and gorgeously filmed settings remain in place and Hall remains one of the finest serial killers in the history of television and film, displaying the switch between normalness and madness with immense ease. It's quite disconcerting to see Dexter as essentially a family man, and then a feral animal, as his past is further revealed to him, changing who he thought he was and the code he lives by.

The already-wonderful cast got a bump from a change this season, as the addition of Carradine to the line-up gave Dexter a perfect foil, as he brings the perfect blend of gravitas and humor to a key role. After watching him here, and remembering his guest spot on "Criminal Minds", it's clear someone really needs to get him a regular series starring role ASAP. The same can't be said for Jaime Murray, whose role as Lila sticks to the stereotype of the manipulative psycho bitch. As she sticks around longer and longer, one hopes she'd have some tricks in her hosebag, but you just end up disappointed.

Lila's not the only problem spot this season though. The flashbacks to young Dexter, including a few with Hall as the teen nutjob, are a bit overwrought, and there are some plotholes that are exceedingly large, and a few too many coincidences for a show that's been pretty tightly plotted to this point. The ending also is a bit of a let-down that seems to be a result of the storyline working itself into a corner. But despite these issues, the series remains compulsively watchable and incredibly entertaining, better than the vast majority of what's on TV.

The DVDs
The 12 episodes from the second season of "Dexter" are spread over four DVDs, with three episodes on Disc One, four on the next two, and one on the final platter. The discs are packed in a pair of slip-cased, clear, dual-hubbed ThinPaks, with episode descriptions on the inside of the covers. The animated, anamorphic widescreen menus, which are a huge step up stylistically from the previous season set, offer a choice to play all the episodes, select individual shows or adjust languages. Audio options include English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 tracks and a Spanish 1.0 mix, while there are no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.

The Quality
The video quality on these anamorphic widescreen episodes is just as fantastic as it was on the previous set, with the bright Miami vistas and dark crime scenes both looking terrific, with nice, appropriate color, an extremely high level of detail and not a spot of obvious dirt, damage or compression artifacts. Watching the opening titles is such a visual feast, I can't help but keep it running on every episode.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is impressive, but certainly not bombastic, effectively delivering the show's dialogue from the center channel, with atmospheric effects and musical enhancement taking advantage of the surround speakers. It's utterly clear and appropriate sound for the series.

The Extras
What an utter disappointment. After getting two audio commentaries last time, there are none. The only extras you can watch on your DVD player are two episodes of Showtimes Irish mob drama "Brotherhood," some text biographies and a decent full-frame manual photo gallery. I didn't want to watch that New England crap the first time around, and I certainly have no interest in it now, and if I did, I'd just buy the DVDs for that show.

Pop the disc in your DVD-ROM drive and you're supposed to be able to check out other extras, like a podcast with Hall, an interview with him, and, joy of joys, episodes from "The Tudors" and "Californication," but, like the first season, these features don't work on my computer and they don't seem to work on a Mac either. Thanks, Showtime.

If the other crap isn't insult enough, there's a bonus feature option that says "Dexter Season 3 Sneak Peek!," but all it is is a screen that tells you to buy the DVDs for "Brotherhood" Season Two, which has the actual sneak peek. Fargin iceholes.

The Bottom Line
In watching this series, what strikes one most is how complete the world of "Dexter" is, with characters and stories that are fully realized and believable, raising the show above the status of the common cop show, to create something very special that's taken the next step to a new level. But while the DVDs look and sound fantastic, the extras are once again focused on promoting other Showtime products, instead of enhancing this series. As a result, this set is really best for those who either never saw the show or missed a few episodes, while the fans will want to give it a look-see for the meager extras available.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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