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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Dexter: The Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
Dexter: The Fourth Season (Blu-ray)
Showtime // Unrated // August 17, 2010 // Region A
List Price: $64.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 28, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
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The Show:

Warning:  This review contains spoilers for the first three seasons.
After watching the first couple of episodes from Dexter Season 4, I thought the show had run its course and started to repeat itself.  Don't get me wrong, it was still interesting, but the Miami PD chasing another serial killer?  Been there, done that.  I should have given the creators more credit though.  They managed to pull some pretty startling surprises over the course of the season and it soon became apparent that this wasn't just a retread of earlier story lines.  Just as engrossing as always, this fourth set is just as good as the earlier seasons.

Series Background:
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 decided to channel his son's anti-social (to say the least) tendencies.  He showed him how to blend in with other people, how to fake being normal so that no one would suspect what he really is.  Harry also instilled a moral code in the immoral child.  He convinced 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 trained Dexter in criminal investigative procedure so that he would know how to kill without leaving evidence and to stay off of the police's radar.
It worked well.  Dexter appears to be a normal, if somewhat quiet guy.  Not event those closest to him, his step-sister Debra (Hall's real-life wife Jennifer Carpenter), his wife Rita (Julie Benz), or his co-workers commanding officer Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez), Detective Angel Batista (David Zayas), and lab tech Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee), suspect that Dexter loves to kill people and cut up their bodies.
The Season:
With Dexter married now married and living with his wife, her two kids, and their baby together, Harrison, live has become complicated.  Not only is Harrison not sleeping through the night, but Rita wants Dexter to come home right after work and spend time with her and the kids.  That makes it a bit hard for Dex to carry on his extracurricular activities, namely chopping killers into little bits.

Things get interesting when FBI Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine), last seen in season two, arrives in town.  He's retired now but still working on a case:  the Trinity Killer.  He's discovered a pattern of three murders: young woman bleeding to death in a bathtub, a mother of two falls to her death in an apparent suicide, and a bludgeoning of a man outside of a bar.  This pattern has been repeated taken place over a series of days all over the country for the last 15 years.  Lundy has returned to Miami since he heard about the death of a young woman in a bathtub.  Just about everyone in Homicide thinks he's crazy, and his bosses at the FBI thought the same thing.  Even when a woman jumps from an abandoned building just as Lundy predicted.  Debra is convinced though, and not just because Lundy is an old flame.  She starts looking into the "Trinity Killer" case, and the more she discovers the more she's convinced that he's on to something.  Of course her boss doesn't want her wasting time chasing phantoms.  There's a guy robbing tourists and when one of them is killed, that becomes homicide's top priority.
Dexter is convinced that the Trinity Killer is real too.  But he wants this guy for himself and isn't pleased that he has to race his sister to the murderer.  He's able to stay one step ahead, but he discovers something that makes things more difficult and causes him to change his plans.

I don't want to give away any of the shocks or surprises in this season, so I'll have to keep the synopsis rather brief.  Suffice to say that this season isn't just Dexter and the police looking for a serial killer, there's a lot more there.  (Not the least of these is the interesting subplot about Rita wanting Dexter to open up to her more, something that he's incapable of doing.)
As was mentioned earlier, this season starts off with a rather familiar tone to those who have seen the first three seasons, and there are a lot of parallels that can be drawn.  The area where the program shines however is how they take a fairly limited premise, a Miami based serial killer, and come up with new ways to examine his life and problems.  The season-long story shows Dexter evolving in his thinking.  The way he considers Rita has dramatically changed since the first season.  At first she was just cover, someone to divert attention away from Dexter so that he won't look like a loner.  By the time this set of shows ends, she's much more than that.
The regular case did a great job, as always, and this season also sees a few new reoccurring characters.  Courtney Ford played an ambitious reporter, Christine Hill, who starts dating Debra's partner.  She plays the role wonderfully, and viewers will be guessing all season as to what her real motivations are.  Is she really in love with the cop, or is she just trying to get information for her paper?

Last season featured Jimmy Smits as the season-long villain and it must have been hard to find someone to fill that slot.  I was a little surprised that John Lithgow was selected, after all he's probably best known for his comedy series 3rd Rock from the Sun, and though he did a great job as a small town preacher in Footloose, I wasn't sure how he'd fare in his role here.  I was very impressed with his performance.  He's able to play a down to Earth family man well, while also giving just a hint of what's underneath.  This role has a wide range, and Lithgow does a great job throughout.
The Blu-ray Disc:

The 12 episodes that make up the fourth season of Dexter come on three Blu-ray discs contained in a 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 earlier seasons, fans of the show are going to be disappointed with the very, very meager bonuses.  This time all of the extras that are 'included' have to be accessed via Blu-ray Live, so if you don't have a profile 2.0 player or if it's not hooked up to the Internet, you're screwed.  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 three other Showtime programs, Californation (2 episodes), The Tudors (two episodes), and Episodes (the first episode only.)  With a show this good that has a substantial following, there really should be more bonus content.  It's a real disappointment, but not very surprising.
Final Thoughts:
I was a little worried that Dexter had jumped the shark after watching the first couple of episodes, but that wasn't the case at all.  The season tells a nicely plotted suspenseful story that has some nice twists and turns.  A great program on a great set of Blu-ray discs, this comes 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.
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