"Am I a good person doing 'bad' things?... Or a bad person doing 'good' things?"
I've said it before in my review of 'Dexter: The Complete First Season,' and I'll say it again now that I've recently had the pleasure of revisiting season two on Blu-ray. There are no "ifs," "ands," or "buts," about it, 'Dexter' remains one of the finest crime dramas to come along in the entire history of television. Thanks to a stellar cast, engaging storytelling, and devilishly twisted premise -- like a fine wine this hit Showtime series just seems to get better and better with age. And when we're talking 'Dexter,' red wine is the only way to go.
Following the exhilarating events from last season, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), the Miami-Dade PD's blood-spatter analyst who moonlights as a vigilante executioner, is having a hard time regaining his murderous mojo. It has been over a month since his showdown with the infamous Ice Truck Killer, and desperate to resume his favorite pastime, Dexter finally sets his sights on his next target with disastrous results. As Dexter wonders if he'll ever be able to slip back into the killing groove, things take a terrible turn for the worse when treasure divers stumble upon a mass watery grave which sparks the high-profile investigation of a new serial killer labeled the Bay Harbor Butcher. Between the relentless Sergeant James Doakes (Erik King) hot on his trail, Dexter's dumpsite now under the intense scrutiny of the FBI, and a new flame cranking up the heat on the home front, it's only a matter of time before Dexter's entire universe spontaneously combusts.
This season mirrors the first as most episodes feature an independent story where Dexter stalks a slippery criminal to snuff out their miserable existence, as well as a continual plot arc revolving around the manhunt for a notorious serial killer. Except this time, it's actually Dexter who is the one under the microscope of the entire force. Plus being a case of such extreme magnitude, renowned Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine) and his team from the FBI even hops on the bandwagon to ensure that the Bay Harbor Butcher is swiftly brought to justice. Then, when we factor in Doakes' ruthless determination to uncover the skeletons in Dexter's closet, we can feel the noose tightening around his neck right from the get-go. The clever writing keeps stacking the odds against Dexter in such a brilliant way that the intensity brought forth in the first season is increased here tenfold.
Besides Lundy, one other major new character is introduced when Dexter's rocky relationship with Rita (Julie Benz) hits an even bumpier patch. As the result of a little white lie to backpedal over his tracks and stay in the good graces of his girlfriend, Dexter meets the alluring Lila (Jaime Murray). At first, Lila seems to be a kindred spirit and perhaps even the perfect soul mate, but as their affair carries on, Dexter begins to see Lila's true colors and her devilish presence only adds fuel to the catastrophic inferno all around our dark hero.
Of course, the entire series rests firmly on the shoulders of Michael C. Hall, who brings author Jeff Lindsay's character to life with masterful precision. The way he's able to flip a switch to portray a heartless, emotionless killer and a broken man struggling to mask the monster lurking within can be truly bone-chilling. There isn't a single moment where he doesn't bring his A-game, and I can't say the same for most actors out there today.
('Dexter: The Complete Second Season' includes all twelve blood-drenched episodes including "It's Alive!" "Waiting To Exhale," "An Inconvenient Lie," "See-Through," "The Dark Defender," "Dex, Lies and Videotape," "That Night, A Forest Grew," "Morning Comes," "Resistance Is Futile," "There's Something About Harry," "Left Turn Ahead," and "The British Invasion.")
'Dexter: The Complete Second Season' arrives on three BD-50 discs utilizing a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (1.78:1 aspect ratio) and the results are just as beautifully stunning as the first season.
The series has some of the most vibrant color schemes in existence, with lush greenery, bold crimsons, and an entire palette in between that really shines in high-definition. Black levels are deep and inky, while whites remain clinically-clean. Skin tones are lifelike as well, and the textures of flesh, oil paintings, and even things as trivial as the plaster walls of the police station never fail to impress. Depth is also strong, and the image often has a very pleasing three-dimensional "pop" that is a marvel in itself.
Although I didn't encounter any of the motion judder I experienced during the pilot episode of the first season, season two still has a few minor blips that are enough to restrain me from giving it a perfect score. It doesn't happen very often, but night scenes periodically have a small amount of digital noise to them, however on the plus side the picture quality isn't hindered by any pesky DNR. The other issue is that there are moments of slight artifacting, too. Aside from those very minor nitpicks, though, the first two seasons of 'Dexter' truly dazzles on Blu-ray.
The U.S. editions of 'Dexter: The Complete Second Season' on Blu-ray are reported to be region-locked and therefore won't play in all PlayStation 3 and standalone players.
'Dexter' also sounds just as fantastic as it looks on Blu-ray. Paramount offers a pair of lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks in English and Spanish (with optional English subtitles) that simply outclasses the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 options of the DVDs in every possible way.
From the moment Rolfe Kent's main title theme music begins, 'Dexter' delights by having a powerful bass and strong dynamic range. After the opening credits sequence, dialogue is noticeably crisper than the DVDs, and Dexter's narration in particular didn't sound even a hair constrained like it did on occasion during the first season on Blu-ray. Surrounds are also highly active, filling the room with a wide array of sound effects from background prison chatter to clucking voodoo chickens. Without a doubt, this is a great mix that'll surely please even the most fussy of audiophiles.
Apparently Paramount didn't pay much heed to the complaints about the DVD's paltry supplements since they've included even less here on the Blu-rays. All we get is a couple of lame exclusives (see below), so we have a big fat goose egg for this section unfortunately.
Smart, funny, dripping with tension and highly original, 'Dexter' is a rare gem that continues to push the envelope and captivate our hearts in this phenomenal follow-up season. The Blu-rays for season two maintain the first-rate picture and sound from the initial release, but it's a shame Paramount dropped the ball in terms of the presentation of supplements. Despite this minor irritant, one of the best shows on television is still spectacular on Blu-ray and is easily highly recommended. Bring on season three.