Dexter: The Second Season (Blu-ray)
Directed by Tony Goldwyn et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 636 minutes
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 57.99
Release Date: May 5, 2009
Review Date: April 28, 2009
Everyone’s favorite next door neighbor serial killer Dexter Morgan returns in the second season of Showtime’s hit series Dexter. The Peabody Award-winning and Emmy-nominated series has only gotten better in its second season as tension is ratcheted up to the maximum in twelve episodes that display a surprising amount of heart (not just eviscerated ones) and which bring viewers to the edges of their seats. This is one show that definitely did not fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump.
At the end of season one, vigilante killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) has saved his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) by killing her boy friend who turned out to be another serial murderer known as the Ice Truck Killer. We also learn that Dexter and the killer were in actuality brothers which makes shedding memories of him and his crimes a little harder on Dexter than he might have thought, hard enough that as season two starts, Dexter has something of a mental block against continuing his one man war against criminals who get away with murder. On other fronts, things seem equally problematic. Girl friend Rita (Julie Benz) mistakenly believes Dexter is a drug addict and insists he enroll in a drug program, and Rita‘s mother (JoBeth Williams) is also disapproving of their relationship. He joins a counseling program to placate her, but his sponsor turns out to be a somewhat unbalanced woman herself, Lila (Jaime Murray), who causes many tempests during the season. And as if things couldn’t get any worse for Dexter, some treasure hunters stumble on his packaged corpses on the ocean floor thus bringing in the FBI’s top serial killer specialist, Agent Lundy (Keith Carradine), to hunt for the newly named Bay Harbor Butcher. Even in his own department, Sergeant Doakes (Erik King), who’s never liked him, begins his own campaign to get to the bottom of who this weirdo Dexter is.
With so many nemeses to contend with this season, it’s a wonder Dexter gets any killing done at all, but for those who are concerned that his scalpels and blades will be rusting away, fear not. There’s plenty of murder and mayhem to satisfy fans of the original season’s bloodlust. The plots of the second season take so many unexpected turns, however, that the serial killing is almost an afterthought in the wake of Dexter’s continual struggle to stay a step or two ahead of all of the people who are tracking him, each for his own personal reasons. It’s an amazing season of thrills and surprises that even those who might have been on the fence about continuing with the show after season one owe themselves to check out. The second season is one of the wildest rides ever on a paycable drama series, and there is constant doubt up until the season’s last scene over how Dexter will manage (if he does) to elude his pursuers.
Michael C. Hall is giving a career-defining performance as Dexter Morgan. As wonderful as he was as David Fisher on HBO’s Six Feet Under, he far surpasses that performance here with Dexter’s shadings and complexity. His on-screen charisma blazes to the fore in every episode, and one literally can’t take his eyes off him even while Dexter is doing the most ghastly things. Dexter’s friend at work Angel Batista is also given a wonderfully ingratiating portrayal by David Zayas, and all of the scenes in which they perform together are gems. Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter’s sister Deb was rather a foul-mouthed pill in season one, but she’s a bit easier to take in season two. Perhaps the pairing with Keith Carradine was all it took to tone down some of her more annoying mannerisms, but the two of them this season make for an interesting personal and professional team. Lauren Velez brings solidarity and understanding to the role of the demoted Lieutenant LaGuerta while Jaime Murray’s expert psycho Lila makes her the woman you love to hate. Julie Benz’s Rita occupies the fringes of the show rather nicely until she‘s needed as a major target. Erik King makes a terrific thorn in Hall’s side as the relentless Sgt. Doakes.
Here is the rundown of the season’s twelve superlative episodes:
1 - It’s Alive!
2 - Waiting to Exhale
3 - An Inconvenient Life
4 - See-Through
5 - The Dark Defender
6 - Dex, Lies, and Videotape
7 - That Night, a Forest Grew
8 - Morning Comes
9 - Resistance Is Futile
10 - There’s Something About Harry
11 - Left Turn Ahead
12 - The British Invasion
The program is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Though the Showtime telecast is in 1080i resolution, these 1080p transfers evidence a notable reduction in contrast from the levels in the network broadcast to a much more pleasing level of balance. Sharpness is usually very good, but there are a few soft, less than detailed shots. Color is routinely solid with very realistic flesh tones much different from the overly hot look of the Showtime broadcasts. Blacks are very good indeed with better than average shadow detail. Only in some low light levels does grain seem to increase to distracting levels, but this only happens rarely. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track is beautifully recorded with a particularly effective use of Daniel Licht’s background score often in the front channels but occasionally wrapping into the rear surrounds. Though there is some use of the surrounds for ambient effects and directionalized dialogue, the surrounds might have been used to a slightly better effect in several notable instances.
Unless one has BD-Live, the only extra present in the set is “Tools of the Trade,” a grab and place game taking Dexter’s cutting tools and placing them in appropriate places in his case. Once successfully completed, the disc then offers up explanations of each of the tools.
The BD-Live offerings include two episodes of The United States of Tara which can be downloaded for viewing. The press release states that the first two episodes of the new series Nurse Jackie will also be available for download, but they were not present for selection during the review period.
There are 13 video downloads available featuring brief character sketches for selected villains from Season Two (under "Blood Fountain" and "Dark Defender") as well as podcasts with all of the leading actors on the series answering a set of selected questions on their experiences of making the show.
One of the best produced dramatic thrillers currently on television, Dexter had a magnificent second season, and this Blu-ray package even without a sterling set of bonus features brings the thrills and surprises into the homes of those who haven’t yet seen it or who want to relive it again. Highly recommended!