Dexter: The First Season (US - BD RA)
Gabe takes a good look at his favourite serial killer's first TV adventures in HD
When I threw all my deepest thoughts into my review of Dexter season two (yes, those were my deepest thoughts) on DVD, I did it because I never imagined I’d be forced to look back at season one so soon after. I talked a lot about the superior first season in that review, and haven’t developed very many new ideas on the subject, so this brief series review will repeat many of my old thoughts.
Dexter embraces all the right tropes, rejects all the wrong tropes, and (especially important) it doesn’t seem to think it’s one of the best shows on TV. A serial killer that only kills other serial killers isn’t an original idea, and neither is the concept of a likeable vigilante, and I’m pretty sure we already have enough cop shows on the dial. In fact, most of the first season’s plot line, which is based (apparently) pretty strictly on Jeff Lindsay’s novel (‘Darkly Dreaming Dexter’), falls under the ‘not so innovative’ category (the obvious Batman angle comes up in season two).
But the show doesn’t spend all its time dealing with the dark and disturbing elements, the producers find a good mix, and often the proceedings are best when they’re at their lightest. When he’s pretending to be a good person Michael C. Hall’s Dexter is one of the most charming characters in recent memory, and some of the series’ best moments come out of those not so rare glimpses of genuine love in Dexter’s face. Of course, the show isn’t above manipulatively shoving Dexter’s evil deeds in the audience’s face a scene later, nor is it above relatively mawkish soap opera antics.
Besides great writing and acting, Dexter happens to be a good looking show, and does the impossible by shooting Miami in a stylistic way without mimicking the vastly inferior, but definitively shiny CSI: Miami. The outdoors are shot brightly and colourfully without pressing the saturation too far, while indoors are shot with a noir-ish control of light. Occasionally the coloured lighting even go entirely abstract, like the splash of red that overtakes Dexter’s face when facts dawn upon him.
Both original DVD releases were a disappointment in the video department. There’s only so much you can do with standard definition, but there’s also no real excuse for such a grainy, noisy and blocky presentation (especially for anyone that’s seen any HBO DVD releases). This Blu-ray release isn’t perfect, but it makes up for several of the previous releases’ shortcomings, and if you have a Blu-ray player (and a few extra bucks) it’s actually worth a repurchase. The colours are consistently clean, clear of blocking, and are ultimately much brighter than those of the DVDs. Details are noticeably inconsistent, mostly pertaining to handheld cameras vs. standing cameras, or wide shots vs. close-ups, but there are plenty of itty bitty elements it was easy to miss the first time. Edge-enhancement is also a small problem, but not a continuous one.
Despite a few minor hisses the DVD releases did not disappoint in the realms of surround audio, so there wasn’t too much room for improvement on this Blu-ray re-release. The new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is a step up in overall volume, depth, and all other things that come with a lack of compression. Dexter’s sound mix is quite theatrical, often playing with the dynamics between silence and noise. There’s plenty of fine details and hyper-realistic exclamation points to explore in the mix, but the basic blend of dialogue, music and effects isn’t forgotten either. Despite a special focus on the emotions expressed between actors without words, Dexter himself narrates his own adventures in a strange past and present tense, and with his audience in mind. In TrueHD Dexter’s voice booms over the rest of the track, but not in an overwhelming fashion, just loud enough to let us know it’s an important element. And like I said last time, Dexter has some great original music. Rolfe Kent’s opening theme, and Daniel Licht’s score have never sounded more eerily menacing than, and the new track offers more warmth and spatial broadness than ever before.
I’m actually not usually particularly concerned with extra features by the time I’m done with a season of a television series, but Showtime’s Dexter releases are kind of mean spirited in their lack of non-advertisement extras. This collection holds one real extra, a commentary track (which is the best kind of extra for a TV release anyway), and a BD-Live collection of ads for season three, along with other Showtime originals.
The single commentary track, which features the show’s three executive producers, is pushed all the way back to the final episode, but the commentators are good enough to clue us in on all the steps it takes to get to a final season episode. There’s a bit of blank space, and a bit of repetition in what the participants talk about, but it’s an informative track, especially for those of us that haven’t read ‘Darkly Dreaming Dexter’.
It’s the mix of all these components, familiar and unfamiliar, welcoming and unwelcoming, that makes Dexter so damn good. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll curl up in fear, you’ll well up with anger. If you haven’t gotten around to the show yet you’re in for a treat with this hi-def release, which is as close to perfect as I’ve seen the show look and sound. Now then, let’s have season two on Blu-ray.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 6th January 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Surround Spanish
Subtitles: English HoH, French, and Spanish
Extras: Producer Commentary, Weblink Extras
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Keith Carradine, Jaimie Murray
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama and Thriller
Length: 576 minutes
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