Dexter: The Second Season (US - DVD R1)
Screw that Chris Nolan movie, Gabe's got the real Dark Knight right here...
Well I thought I was on to something there for a minute watching Dexter season one for the first time to prepare myself for this season two review. I admit Batman is on my mind a lot (probably an unhealthy amount of time), but the sheer volume of Batman to Dexter parallels are hard to ignore. Batman was permanently emotionally scarred after seeing his parents killed; Dexter was permanently emotionally scarred after seeing his mother killed. Batman has (in many instances of the character) based his moral code on the teachings of his father, just as Dexter does (his step father). Both characters are secret vigilantes that wear their humanity as a mask, and have trouble understanding the concept of ‘fitting in’. Both characters are detectives that work outside of the law to protect us from the worst criminals, and both do their work by a moral code.
Imagine how stupid I felt when I did a quick Google search and discovered that these similarities were widely acknowledged by fans. Then I started watching season two, and the fifth episode, titled The Dark Avenger, goes right out and makes the superhero comparisons bright as freaking day. Damn.
Like just about every superhero movie sequel, season two of Dexter starts with the hero losing his powers, and his secret identity is in danger of being revealed. The first episode features a cornucopia of calamity visited upon our heroic villain. Dexter’s still being shadowed by Detective Doakes, he finds himself unable to commit the terrible deed of murder physically and emotionally, his girlfriend’s ex has been killed in prison, his sister is suffering terrible emotional damage and compulsively exercising, and worst of all, his body stash has been uncovered. Things don’t get much better after that. Dexter’s past becomes even dirtier then it was before, the people around him start to fall apart, and, just like every second act ever, there’s another girl in his life.
Season one featured a villain comparable to the Joker or the Riddler—a mirror into what the hero could become who liked playing games with the hero more then committing actual crimes. Season two features very different brands of villain—a whole bunch of really smart cops and feds, which I suppose would make Doakes Dexter’s Harvey Bullock. By setting up Dexter to be caught on the first episode everything everyone around him in the precinct says becomes suspicious. This puts us on edge, but has the unfortunate effect of becoming the entire season’s theme. Like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, Dexter spends a lot of time covering up his secret identity, though interestingly enough Dexter is the one cop show on television where the audience actually roots against the cops solving the case.
Very few serialized TV series can bring a smirk of satisfaction to my face with every cliff hanger ending. For the most part I enjoyed everywhere the second season took me, with a few minor complaints about the lack of earth shattering surprises. Basically Dexter is taken to all the places second season heroes are always taken, but he’s taken there deftly, and though the surprises didn’t leave me shivering on the floor, they were as satisfying and addictive as fine food. I could do with out the confusing girlfriend stuff, but the writers take it to good places, it usually feels realistic (Dexter himself even acknowledges the silliness of a love triangle).
There are three major characters introduced in this series of episodes, and two of them are welcome additions. Keith Carradine is always a plus, and Special Agent Lundy is a massively enjoyable antagonist, while Dexter’s would-be mother-in-law Gail (JoBeth William) is loveably hateable. Lila (Jamie Murray) is another issue. I understand that I’m supposed to be suspicious of her, but I really wanted her to be the type of other woman I might go for in Dexter’s position. I like Rita, and despite her looks, I didn’t like Lila, and was exhausted by her every appearance from the beginning (meaning that the writers show their hand a little too soon). I was however, very happy with the way the character changed Dexter’s dynamics with his sister, and I appreciate where the character was taken by the last episode.
Overall I think I enjoyed season one a little bit more then season two, but it’s very close. Besides the on-going theme of covering up his lies, Dexter begins to deal with his murdering as an addiction, first as a cover up, but later with genuine progress. The wheels are spinning a bit, but there writers obviously had an overall season arc in mind from the beginning.
Perhaps I’ve just become accustom to high definition television sets, because despite some bright colours and sharp details this transfer is a bit iffy. The brightness of the colours causes some blooming during the outdoor, daylight scenes (Miami is a sunny place, after all). On the opposite end of the spectrum, the neon lighting of dark eateries and the red light district often produces unfortunate blocking. The rest of the colour palette is natural, but generally pretty noisy. But the details are still very effective, and there weren’t any points in the season where I was unable to tell what was going on.
Dexter has some of the best music on television. Daniel Licht’s various cues and scores are wonderfully eclectic, from standard thriller and drama stuff to Western tinted hero moments. This Dolby Digital 5.1 track ensures warmth and high fidelity in the musical track, and the surround tracks are actually quite lively. The only thing missing is the pump of the LFE track. Sound effects are natural and move throughout the various channels occasionally, though overall the 5.1 track is pretty close to the 2.0 track. Dialogue is clear and centred, but I did notice a few minor cases of high gate on some outdoor scenes, causing hiss and sound effects to increase when actors are speaking.
The final disc of this four disc set features the final fifty minute episode, and then two episodes of some other Showtime series called The Brotherhood. I appreciate Showtimes’ capitalistic tendencies, and I like to be introduced to new things, especially things I can’t see any other way (I don’t have the money for Showtime), but I was kind of hoping for some extras pertaining to the series, like a few audio commentaries or at least some fluffy featurettes and interviews. The Brotherhood is interesting enough, but not what I was looking for. The only Dexter related extras are some bios and some photos. The ‘season three sneak peek’ will only take you to a screen asking you to buy another DVD.
I love the manipulative nature of Dexter. I love the fact that it really makes me root for the ‘villain’ when I should be upset for the situation his actions throw the ‘heroes’ into. Season two is a tiny step down overall from season one, but the last three or four episodes on this set are some of the finest dramatic television I’ve seen. I’ve looked into the plots of the later books in the series and hope to God that the producers keep the show on track and as far away from that material as possible. A serial killer killing serial killers isn’t an original idea, but this series has the wherewithal to explore the most interesting aspects of the idea with genuine grace and undeniable attraction.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 19th August 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby 2.0 Surround English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Two Episodes of The Brotherhood, Bios, Photo Gallery, Weblinks
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Keith Carradine, Jaimie Murray
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama and Thriller
Length: 636 minutes
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