I’ve been waiting patiently for this day to arrive, and now the wait is finally over. Showtime’s ‘Dexter,’ one of the finest crime drama productions ever to grace the small screen, has made the transition to Blu-ray. If you’ve never seen the show you really don’t know what you’re missing out on, and if you’re a huge fan of the series like I am, now you can pawn the DVDs in your collection and see the program the way it was meant to be seen — in glorious high-definition.
Based on a series of novels by author Jeff Lindsay, ‘Dexter’ tells the story of Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a blood splatter analyst for the Miami-Dade Police Department. Dexter is likable, good-looking, and one of the most charismatic presences in the Florida panhandle. The interesting twist to the series, though, is that Dexter holds a very dark and sinister secret. Well, it’s actually more of “hobby” really. You see, Dexter’s favorite pastime is murder, and he is a master of his art.
It all started after a tragic and grisly event took place during his youth, and afterwards Dexter was never quite the same. As he was growing up, his foster father, Officer Harry Morgan (James Remar), began noticing that there was something off about him. Using his police profiling skills, Harry was able to pick up on Dexter's killer instincts and piece together what he was destined to become. It was a hard choice, but the only solution was to train his son to channel his sadistic desires and use them for good. Thus the infamous “Code of Harry” was born -- where Dexter learned how to spot and rid the world of others like him, cover his tracks, and mask the monster lurking beneath his everyman veneer.
Most of the twelve episodes included in the first season have a self-contained story, where, in his spare time, Dexter investigates the dirty deeds of those who've managed to fall through the cracks of the court systems. He meticulously studies and stalks his prey, and when the timing is right, he delivers (and relishes) his own brand of vigilante justice. There's also an ongoing story arc taken from Lindsay's first Dexter novel, 'Darkly Dreaming Dexter,' involving a serial killer eventually dubbed the "Ice Truck Killer." The whole department is involved in the case, but Dexter takes particular interest, fascinated by his (or her) work. Between Dexter's private escapades and the mystery murderer striking every now and then, the show is full of flavor, with excitement waiting around every corner. Nothing seems to drag or enter the realm of the farfetched.
It’s also easy to see why Michael C. Hall has received Golden Globe nominations three years in a row for his portrayal of Dexter -- he nails the part magnificently. At times we see him as an emotionless, cold, calculated killer, and in other instances we get to see him struggling to fit in among society. Of course, nobody can really condone his horrific actions, but as the story unfolds we gain a feeling of understanding and sympathy for why he does the things he does. He’s really an antagonist in sheep’s clothing, so he becomes a character we care about and root for when things are stacked up against him.
The supporting characters are a another key element that elevates ‘Dexter’ to a new level of fine television. There’s Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), Dexter’s tough-talking sister, who desperately wants to trade in her undercover hooker clothing from vice for a badge in homicide. Then we have Rita (Julie Benz), Dexter’s girlfriend who, like Dexter, has been left fractured by a tragic event in her own life, making her the ideal match for our hero. ‘Oz’ veterans Lauren Velez and David Zayas star as Lt. Maria Laguerta and Detective Angel Batista respectively, while Sergeant James Doakes (Erik King) is the only cop on the entire force that senses something disturbing about one of their CSI guys. Last but certainly not least is Masuka (C.S. Lee), the other (albeit more perverted) lab technician, whose performance in this first season is so great that his role was subsequently expanded in later installments.
‘Dexter’ is one of the few shows in existence that literally has everything. Drama, mystery, horror, dark humor, and even a bit of romance—it’s all there in black and white… with buckets and buckets of red.
('Dexter: The Complete First Season' includes all twelve blood-soaked episodes including "Dexter," "Crocodile," "Popping Cherry," "Let's Give the Boy a Hand," "Love American Style," "Return to Sender," "Circle of Friends," "Shrink Wrap," "Father Knows Best," "Seeing Red," "Truth Be Told," and "Born Free.")
I own the first season of ‘Dexter’ on DVD -- also presented in widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio -- and I thought that the picture quality was pretty good. After reveling in the 1080p (MPEG-4/AVC) transfer here on this Blu-ray set, however, I can only compare the experience to having my house caught up in a twister and settling down in the wonderful and colorful land of Oz. I don’t think we’re in Canada anymore, Murdock. (No, none of my dogs are named “Toto.”)
For starters, black levels are very strong, and at the other end of the spectrum, whites are bleach-white in a sterile hospital sort of way. All the colors in between -- from the lush greens of grass and tree foliage to the blood-red crimsons splattered all over crime scenes -- really pop off the screen. Detail is exceptional, especially facial detailing, with no noticeable edge enhancement, and the picture often has that three-dimensional feel to it. The overhead views of the Miami cityscape simply blow the DVD out of the harbor.
While the picture, being filmed in HD, is stunning on most accounts, there are a few minor issues that bring the rating down half a peg. In the darker scenes, there are occasional instances of mild grain and noise. It’s nothing overly distracting, similar to a few of the night shots in ’Band Of Brothers.’. Also, when the camera panned in during a couple of scenes, I picked up on a slight jerky-motion effect, which I couldn't identify as a flaw in the transfer or just a quirk in the original source material that’s accentuated on Blu-ray.
Paramount delivers ‘Dexter’ with an English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, as well as a stereo track in Spanish. Compared to the Dolby Digital 5.1 option found on the DVD, the lossless track is crisper and cleaner, and I noticed a significant boost from the rear channels. The music of ‘Dexter’ really suits the show well, pleasantly filling the room with plenty of hard-driving bass. Subtle sound effects -- the motor of Dexter’s boat and the creeks and squeaks of a rat infested hospital basement for example -- were very impressive.
My only real complaint is that early on, Dexter’s narration seemed slightly muffled coming through the center speaker. I really noticed this in the premiere episode on the first disc. It’s weird since in the later episodes I didn’t notice this issue at all, it just suddenly fixed itself at some point. Still, it wasn’t annoying or anything, just something worth mentioning here. There are also optional English subtitles.
Aside from an all-new and attractive menu screen swirling in blood that outshines the DVD menu in every possible way, the only other standard bonuses are a couple of commentaries ported over from the DVDs.
’Dexter’ is one of the most original and captivating shows I’ve seen on television. It has one of the greatest ensemble casts in the history of TV, fantastic writing that never has any lulls, and a premise that’s completely outside the box. Nearly every fiber of my being wanted to call this one a “must-own,” but the reviewer in me decided to pull back the reins just a little. The MIA bonus features are a disappointment, and the series is pretty graphic--which is bound to be a turnoff for some viewers. If the sight of blood makes you squeamish, then this isn’t a show for you. Otherwise, ‘Dexter’ comes with my highest recommendations. I can’t wait for the second season’s arrival on Blu-ray.