One of Showtime’s breakout hits, Dexter helped propel the network into more homes and put it on the map as a premium cable network that had plenty of great content to offer. With recent offerings like Californication and past hits like Weeds and The L Word, Showtime has long since proved its worth as something worth the attention of those seeking quality and smartly written television. So why is it I’m just now getting around to watching the network? After delving fully into Californication (both seasons), Paramount and Showtime saw fit to re-release their other breakout hit, Dexter on Blu-ray. Bully for me, it gave me the opportunity to check out more what this network had to offer.
Dexter is a crime drama about Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a man who leads a double life as an incredibly likeable forensics expert for the Miami Police Department and as an emotionless vigilante serial killer. Taught by his foster father to harness his lust for blood and killing, Dexter lives by his own strict moral code – he only kills murderers who can’t otherwise be brought to justice. Dexter is a killer who grapples with fitting into society while, at the same time, he struggles with his inability to feel emotion. The irony of Dexter’s life is that he works closely as a blood splatter analyst with the very people who hunt his kind – the homicide departments.
I’ve had several people tout the brilliance of this series over the years, but I’d been so swamped with TV shows to watch that I never made an effort to check this one out. It’d been creeping up on my list, however, and by the time Paramount opted to put this new Blu-ray set out, I was prime for some TV watching. In fact, I’ve just spent the past week watching two seasons of Dexter (and will be starting on the third shortly after I finish up this review). I can easily say that this first season of Dexter was some of the most engaging and exciting television I’ve watched in a long time.
Granted, this first season is pretty predictable. Either I’ve simply watched too many movies and/or television shows in the past few years or we’ve stumbled into a region of complete predictability with writing in general, but I sadly called everyone of the plot twists in Dexter about halfway into this first season. That didn’t make it any less enjoyable to watch, surprisingly; it was engaging and I found myself anticipating the finale like I had with few shows before it. The series got me caught up in a crime/drama like I hadn’t experienced since 24 and, really, watching it is just the major fun of it all. The way you get wrapped up in the anticipation and excitement of the series is really quite invigorating to find in a series in this day and age; hell, I had trouble going to sleep after watching the finale, even though there was nothing to be giddy about anymore. My heart was still racing from the whole buildup to it and it was only compounded by the fact I went to bed the night before having watched the second to last episode, only to not find myself in a situation to actually watch the finale a full 24 hours later. Excruciating wait, that was.
Equally as exciting as getting into the mind of a serial killer was seeing the people he surrounded himself with. Dexter’s sister, Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) was especially entertaining and seeing her relationship development and merge with the main plot of this first season was a terrific twist on the usual dull supporting character plotlines (unfortunately, season two fell prey to some rather disappointing elements in that area). On top of that you had the rest of the Miami police force that kept things entertaining, especially Angel Batista (David Zayas) who quickly became one of my favorite secondary characters to root for in the series. Of course there is the Julie Benz character that has a relationship with Dexter, who was just about the only familiar face I had to connect with while watching this show (unfortunately I hadn’t seen Oz which a few of the cast members here seem to have come from; it was only Benz stint on Angel that had me recognizing her).
There was a lot to like about this first season that I’m glossing over; the entire mystery killer in Miami that had Dexter so fascinated was perhaps one of the most brilliantly crafted stories and it really only began to unravel when the mystery itself did. Even then, the entire series is just like a less zany American Psycho (there’s even a Patrick Bateman reference thrown in for good measure!) and that’s part of where my enjoyment of it stemmed from. There’s also the odd sense of understanding that comes over the viewer as they relate to what Dexter does, which, again, gets more focus on the second season…although that had ill effects on my enjoyment of that particular season. But that’s for another review.
With the series now three years old, it’s a tiny bit late to come running down the halls shouting “What a great show!”, but I still feel I should do it. This first season comes Highly Recommended and even though the series early premise of an emotionless killer with no feelings for…well, anything, kind of comes apart in the end of the season, you begin to notice that Dexter’s return to humanity may be completely intentional, even if it does feel a bit sloppy at times. I’m still not certain if what we got early on in the series could have ever been sustained, after all a guy acting happy on the outside and completely empty on the inside can only go so far, so it’s not real surprise that he began to show signs of humanity shortly into the season.
Overall Dexter – The First Season is really one of the better experiences I’ve had with watching a new television show in a long time. It’s as unique as premises go for a television landscape filled with cop drama’s, but between the series dramatic and blood oozing moments, you have some genuinely humorous dialogue that comes from the cast of the series as well as Dexter’s ongoing mental monologue. If you haven’t done so yet, check this one out—it’s well worth your time.
So what kind of goodies did Paramount bring with this Blu-ray release of Dexter’s first season? Well aside from the season itself…nothing, really. The season, spread across three discs and stuffed inside a single width case comes with nothing more than a firmware upgrade notice and grey washed discs and a plain white backdrop behind the discs with a description of the episodes on each disc as well as their content. Sadly there’s nothing new here and, in fact, if you don’t have a BD-Live connected player there is even less here than the DVD release, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
If ever there was a sequence to view in high-definition, it’s this series intro sequence. Comprised almost exclusively of extreme close-up shots, the amount of detail present in each of the frames as we see fingers up close, stubble being shaved away and fruit sliced and squeezed is simply breathtaking. I may have a new “show off” piece when it comes to high-definition clarity and what the Blu-ray format is capable of, as the 1080p AVC encoded video transfer for every one of these twelve episodes is simply flawless. Beautiful video through and through, we see plenty of gorgeous exterior shots as well as a smattering of gruesome dismemberments. Every frame of the season boasts plenty of detail and you’ll be hard pressed to take flaw with any of this season’s video content. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix is slightly less impressive, simply because it’s such a dialogue driven show that there aren’t many opportunities for the surrounds to get worked here, but there were a few instances where they kicked in for some of Dexter’s murder scenes. Also included is a Spanish DD2.0 track, as well as English subtitles. Sadly there are no subtitles for when some of the title characters speak Spanish; I’ve no idea what they’re saying so those scenes don’t mean a whole lot to me.
And now…the extras! Disc two houses “Return to Sender” Commentary with Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayes, Lauren Velez & Eric King, while disc three has an additional Commentary on “Born Free” with Producers Sara Colleton, Clyde Philips and Daniel Cerone. Both tracks are definitely worth checking out, especially since that’s all I was able to check out. The BD-Live portion promises The Academy of Blood – A Killer Curse, 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. Unfortunately none of these were available for my viewing as of my writing of this review, so I can’t really comment on any of those. Although all of the above extras, sans the bonus episodes (and why Season 3? Why not season 2?), are available on the previous DVD release, so I’m not entirely certain why they weren’t here to begin with, even if they’d be in standard definition.
In any case the extras are weak, but it’s this first season that’s really going to be worth the price of admission. This set still comes Recommended.
Dexter – The Complete First Season arrives on Blu-ray on January 6th.