Blu-ray review: DEXTER: The first season.

Showtime/Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: January 6, 2009
MSRP: $54.98

Stars: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King, Lauren Vélez

Dexter Morgan appears to be the sort of person you meet everyday. He has a job (as a blood splatter analyst for the Miami P.D.) and a girlfriend. He is polite and even brings donuts for his co-workers.

The only thing that really set him apart from everyone else is that he is a cold-blooded serial killer.

Early in his life, Dexter survived a traumatic event, one he can not remember. His foster father, Harry, a former policeman, sees in his son all of the tell-tale signs of a sociopath. Harry channels Dexter’s homicidal urges into good, teaching him to kill only those who deserve it. He also helps Dexter to blend with other folk, teaching him how to emulate the human emotions he doesn’t actually feel so that he doesn’t draw attention to his extracurricular activities.

Had this not been coming from a very successful (both commercially as well as critically) series of novels, I don’t think it would have made it past the pitching stage. But all of the things that made the novels captivating have been brought to life on the series: the characters, the storylines and the fascinating mix of humanity and cold-bloodedness.

For all his claims of having no emotions, Dexter is full of them. I think it is more a matter of Dexter being confused with the emotions he does have. As the season progresses, we see him come to terms with many of these feelings. It is sort of like watching a small child figure things out.

Dexter puts on a performance for everyone around him, he seems to be a nice guy, thoughtful and polite. The only person that gets a bad vibe from him is Sgt Doakes (Erik King). Doakes is a former Special Ops turned cop. He is as hard-edged as they come and is certain that there is something very wrong with Dexter.

The only real question I have is why in a building full of cops, all supposedly
with a keen insight to the human soul, is Doakes the only one who gets the creep
from me?

Part of what makes the series work is his relationship with Rita (Julie Benz). Rita is a divorced mother of two who was violently abused (sexually and physically) by her drug addict ex-husband. As a result of this, she is, as Dexter puts it, just as damaged as I am.” She has no interest in sex, which suits Dexter just fine. He tells us that whenever he has sex with a woman, she sees the emptiness inside and leave.

Dexter initially spends time with her because it helps his cover as a normal person. But they slowly come to terms with each other and real feelings develop. These scenes are outstanding and really allow us to see that Dex is not as cold-blooded as he thinks he is. Watching these two very damaged people stumble around each other is both facinating and, at times, brutally awkward. Each one seems to stuggle to give the other what they think is wanted. As time goes on, each provides the other with some of what they need: Dexter gives Rita some much needed confidence and strength, and Rita helps Dexter evolve and start to tap into long dormant emotions. As I said, despite his claims to the contrary, Dexter does have emotions. They are simply buried deep within and he has little to no understanding of them.

The acting is uniformly good, but Michael Hall and Julie Benz both deserve special praise. Each does an amazing job with their respective roles and, in my opinion, deserved Emmy nominations for their work in the first season.

Video:
Dexter is offered up with a 1.78.1 1080p AVC MPEG-4 image. The DVD release looked pretty damn good, but this is certainly a step up. Miami really pops here, with the sun, lush greenery and even the blood that is offered up every episode…all of these are overflowing with a level of vibrancy that is not seen too often.

Prior to watching this set, I never really noticed just how good the cinematography on Dexter is. They do an excellent job of utilizing the city of Miami. Kudos to the crew behind the scenes!

Audio:
Dexter really does not offer up anything that would make use of the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD that is provided. The music is mixed nicely, but you don’t need a digital track to notice that. There are some little things here and there that pop out (doorbells, cars and whatnot) but the overall mix is pretty standard.

Extras:
Does Paramount/Showtime not like us? This show has become a definite hit for Showtime, yet precious little goodies are offered to their devoted audience. What is up with that? With the price of this release, we should have been given more bang for our buck! That Michael Hall and Julie Benz are nowhere to be found is absurd.

Using Blu-ray live, you can access Academy of Blood, an extra that came with the DVD release, as well as the first two episodes of Untied States of Tara. Some folks will not be set up to use B-RL and will get hosed. Why not just include it on the discs?

There are two commentary tracks here. Return to Sender features Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, Lauren Velez and Erik King, while Born Free has producers Sara Colleton, Clyde Phillips and Daniel Cerone. The actor’s track is more friendly banter; while the commentary for Born Free features more discussion about adapting the successful book and making the show happen.

Season one of Dexter is every bit as good as I remembered. It is a series ignores all conventional rules of television and gives us strong characters, fresh stories with the vivid city of Miami as the setting.

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy, you won’t regret it. Dexter is one of the best shows on television today and is well worth the price.

Order season one of Dexter on Blu-ray.

Jeremy Lynch
For more reviews from myself, and the rest of the Crimespree crew, check out the index of reviews.