Dexter: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray) (2006)
“I’m sorry, doc. Actions have consequences. And this is yours.”- Dexter (Michael C. Hall)
Stars: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz
Other Stars: Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King, Lauren Vélez
Director: Adam Davidson, Keith Gordon, Michael Cuesta, Robert Lieberman, Steve Shill
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (graphic violence, language, adult themes)
Run Time: 10h:2m:00s
Release Date: 2009-01-06
DVD ReviewI wasn't sure what to make of the premise of Showtime's Dexter. Shows with killers as protagonists tend to raise some alarm bells with me. That premise here is exceptionally clever: Dexter was adopted at a young age, with no memories of his earliest childhood. His adoptive father, an experienced Miami cop, soon concludes that the dead animals scattered around the yard aren’t just the signs of a damaged young boy, but the mark of a sociopath. He sees in Dexter a good person with destructive urges. Rather than freak out, he spends years training Dexter to master his craft… to be the perfect, untraceable serial killer, and to kill only the most heinous criminals, and only ones who have escaped justice. As the series opens, Dexter is living successfully as a blood-spatter expert for the Miami PD. He has a girlfriend (Julie Benz) with issues of her own, at least to the point that she doesn’t necessarily catch on to Dexter’s deep-down weirdness. Thanks to his father’s training, he’s very good at faking his way through life, even though he doesn’t always understand day-to-day life and the things people do to get by. Remarkably, though perhaps not surprisingly, Six Feet Under's Michael C. Hall makes for a charming mass killer.
The set-up has a lot of potential for conflict, and the first season begins with an added twist: Dexter has a nemesis. In the same way that he has a genius for killing, so does the "Ice Truck Killer," a mystery murderer who challenges the police department, and then Dexter personally. Dex relishes the challenge, to the point of being disappointed when the police discover, thy think, the killer. In many ways, Dexter and his "friend" share a relationship far more intimate than the one that he shares with his girlfriend. There's danger all around, from his cop friends, from his sister—all of his relationships are lies, and while he's generally several steps ahead of the threats, there's always danger. And, in perverse, Hitchcockian fashion, we're usually rooting for him to get away to kill again.
I have some vague moral reservations about the show. I’m not sure that I like the implication that it’s OK to kill people as long as they're demonstrably bad. Dexter’s victims tend to be particularly odious: a serial hit-and-run driver who has escaped justice several times; a wealthy coyote who delivers Cuban immigrants to Miami only to kill them when they can’t pay. The very nastiness of the bad guys is probably designed to circumvent any serious thought about our protagonist. Still, the series wisely avoids taking anything beyond a matter-of-fact approach to Dexter’s proclivities. He’s just a guy making the best of what he’s been given. It parallels a lot of modern, pop-vampire stories: Dex just can't help himself, but at least he only takes the blood of bad guys.
The show's not always brilliant, though it builds well as it goes on. Talented actors (including a virtual cast reunion of another addictive pay-cable series, Oz) are over-written from the beginning, with cartoonish obnoxiousness. As the series progresses along with the murder mystery, though, the lead ensemble characters develop levels of depth and subtlety. They become more interesting, and the show becomes nothing less than thoroughly addictive.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||2.35:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: The cinematography is beautiful, and the high-def transfer is generally equal to it. The bright, revealing Miami sun shows off fine detail, from the stubble on Michael C. Hall's face to the persistent south Florida sweat, and it all comes through clearly on this transfer. Additionally, the colors are rendered flawlessly, particulary the blood red that shows up so frequently. There are moments, though, where noise becomes noticeable and things look a bit more standard-grade. It's a shame, because it's otherwise an absolutely great TV-transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The show is particularly dialogue heavy, so the lossless transfer has relatively little work to do. Still, it's doubtless a bit better than you might have gotten from the cable version, and generally rich and full.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
2 Feature/Episode commentaries by
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: The disc advertises a series of BD-Live features which are, at the time of this review, still listed as "coming soon." To be included are The Academy of Blood: A Killer Course, Witnessed in Blood: A True Murder Investigation, a Michael C. Hall Podcast, as well as the Season Two premiere episode. BD-Live features require a BD-2.0 compatible player as well as an internet connection to download the relevant features. I can't comment on those features, except to express disappointment that they weren't ready for the disc's release. I'm not convinced that the BD-Live thing is anything more than an excuse to cheap out on extras, and the lack of promised features here doesn't reassure me.
The only on-disc extras are two commentary tracks, one with actors Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, Lauren Velez, and Eric King on one of my favorite episodes, Return to Sender. The other involves producers Sara Colleton, Clyde Phillips, and Daniel Cerrone. The actor commentary is lightweight, if pleasant, while the producer commentary on the season finale provides a bit of background detail that may interest fans.
Extras Grade: C+
Final CommentsQuirky and bloody, with a first-rate cast and stunning camera-work, Showtime's Dexter is nothing if not addictive. This high-def transfer is absolutely beautiful, and Michael C. Hall is a thoroughly charming sociopathic killer. Fans of the show won't be disappointed with the release. Newcomers who aren't turned off by the idea of an heroic serial murderer will likely stick around until the last episode.
Ross Johnson 2009-01-12