Please note, this review contains spoilers about previous seasons, but there will be no major reveals concerning this season itself. For those unfamiliar with the show, it's best to start at square one, lest some of the best twists be ruined.
We've seen a great many things in the previous five seasons of Showtime's 'Dexter.' While each run of episodes has the same general outlay, what with stories of the week intermingled with episodes dedicated to advancing a year's lengthier tale, the end result has always been a little bit different. We've seen an emerging serial killer cope with his "dark passenger" as he killed his own brother. We've seen the hunter become the hunted. We've seen Dexter Morgan play the political game, before once again facing a deadlier foe, one who took Dex's wife from this Earth. Last time we left the Miami Homicide blood splatter analyst, he had taken down a cult of personality that was behind the torture and rape of numerous young women. For this sixth season of the hit show, the formula remains the same, even if the entire batch of episodes feels like an odd mesh of the first and fifth years.
In the time since we left Dexter and the start of this season, there have been some small changes to the characters we've come to know so well. LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) has been promoted to Captain, leaving an opening at Lieutenant, as well as leaving her husband, Sgt. Batista (David Zayas). Dexter's son Harrison is being babysat by Batista's younger sister Jamie (Aimee Garcia), and Masuka (C.S. Lee) is auditioning potential interns for a forensic position. That's about all that has changed, for better or worse.
Season six's primary story line may be a bit controversial, as the show delves into a topic that has only been lightly skimmed in a few subplots, turning a staple of many cultures of the area into a deadly obsession that will draw more than a few fans' ire. Our baddy this time around bases his killings on religion; particularly, the book of Revelations, bringing about end times. As this particular mystery unfolds, once again Dexter does what he can to dispatch the fiend before the cops get their man, and once again the showdown between serial killers of different folds becomes a personal affair. This time, though, Dexter has more to lose, as his personal life is once again thrown into the middle, with his one link to his deceased wife put into danger by the apocalyptic cult.
The 'Dexter' formula, tried and true, is on autopilot more than it has ever been before in this batch of episodes, and while it leads to some entertaining episodes, the plot twists are mind-numbingly awful and open the door to serious plot holes that can ruin one's enjoyment of the show if you don't just "accept it" and move forward. For a show that has proven time and time again that it can balance its action and intelligence, it seems the brains just aren't quite with it this time around. There are episodes that feel like we've seen them before, and the season finale is almost a direct riff on the final moments of season five, showing little to no originality, even if it sets up an interesting dynamic for season seven.
This season opens with a series of episodes that feature single appearance killers who meet the end of Dexter's blades and take a dip to the bottom of the ocean, and it isn't long until these kills seem to disappear entirely under the pressure of the main story arc. They're not spread gingerly or given time to flesh out amidst the bigger or more meaningful scenario, just banged out in rapid succession. Perhaps one can blame this on a subplot featuring Mos Def as Brother Sam, a former killer who Dexter spares so as to learn about religion from a truly reborn person, but this arc doesn't work all that well. Perhaps it has something to do with Def's inability to act, or the way the story is shoehorned in with little concern to how it fits in the big picture.
As always, characters all have their own arcs, and fans may find a couple of them rather frustrating. Deputy Chief Matthews (Geoff Pierson) changes for no apparent reason, Detective Quinn (Desmond Harrington) is made more incompetent by the episode, while LaGuerta thankfully disappears for the most part, coming back only to aggravate everyone pleased by the number of episodes that forget her entirely. Masuka, naturally, still thinks with his dick and nothing else. This season, Dexter's "sister" Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) takes on a much bigger role, for better or worse. The newfound focus on her character adds spice to a number of scenes, what with her limited and crude vocabulary, but by the end of the season, the direction her character is headed will possibly creep out fanatics or please those into some seriously icky perverse sexual inclinations that are, again, thrown in for no apparent reason with no logical build up or history in her character's entire arc so far.
It's the villains that make the show (just remember: the best seasons have featured the best baddies!), and the one-two punch of Edward James Olmos and Colin Hanks is an interesting mix. The characters evolve, making believability not so much an issue, as Hanks shows some solid range in his role that grows by the episode. Olmos, though, provides a much more natural and believable air as Professor Gellar, his every action seeping with intent and meaning. This season features a very awkward plot twist featuring these characters before the antes are upped, and this moment proved to be a great disconnect for me, since many scenes leading up to it no longer make as much sense. To counter the villains, Dexter (Michael C. Hall), as always, steals every damn scene, even in a show named after his character. It's the little things he does, the background acting, the way his internal monologue/narration dominates many a scene, it's hard to not still love the character.
This season of 'Dexter' features lots of religious iconography mixed into the bigger story, and some may question the way the show portrays the religious, with the positive examples of faith being dispatched summarily or forgotten entirely. That said, with each passing year featuring more and more people trying to make a name for themselves, pastors proclaiming doomsday included, it's not that unnatural an arc for this program, especially considering the hardcore faith-based cultures found in Miami. Those with knowledge of Christianity may find this season either intriguing or entirely offensive. Those who actually know what the word "tablo" means may find its excessive use as the show runs on annoying as all get out. This run has been called the worst season in the show so far, but after a string of damn-near perfection, this set of twelve episodes will remind us of how great the show has been in the past, and opens the door for what will either be a superb season seven, or one of the biggest cop-outs in television history. Which one, we'll find out come late September!
The Disc: Vital Stats
Paramount brings the sixth season of 'Dexter' to Blu-ray across three BD50 discs. Each menu acts the same, with the same options, no disc having features not available on the other discs. Packaging for this set is a standard thickness case with a flip-tray, with the internal liner art featuring an episode and supplement guide. There are no packaging variations or gimmicks for this release.
The newest season of 'Dexter' isn't a perfect, demo disc...but it's amazingly close. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode on each and every episode is an absolute killer. Detail levels are amazing, with faces regularly showing bountiful amounts of realism, with solid depth keeping the backdrop lifelike and beautiful. Clothing regularly looks phenomenal, and just the random settings, the silly little set decor jumps out at you with how sharp it looks...let's just say that grass, any grass, on any Blu-ray, should look like this. Facial hair on Dexter pops right off his face, with profile shots regularly having little nubs sticking out at all angles, and edges are routinely unaltered and very convincing. Skin tones are mostly consistent, and only occasionally sport an excess of heat that doesn't quite fit a scene. The issues for this release are minor, but add up over time. There's an occasional bit of crush in LaGuerta and Deb's hair, some very light grain spikes, a few buggy/jagged establishing shots (that may be using a cheaper/lower grade camera), and a few spots where skin looks a little smoothed over around the chin area in earlier episodes. Routinely stunning, this season of 'Dexter' is almost pure gold.
Presented with a lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track, 'Dexter: The Sixth Season' provides a thoroughly engrossing track that keeps you involved in the show. Rears get a nice amount of score presence, as well as an abundance of localized effects spread generously throughout the show, seemingly more frequently as the show rolls on. Crowded rooms and crime scenes aren't quite as busy as they look, but they get enough activity to be a little believable. Dynamics are always solid, dialogue warm and intelligible, and bass levels are, while infrequently used, appreciable, with a couple of sequences sporting a light bit of heft. This track is fantastic for the show it presents, and definitely will keep the viewer engaged. It isn't the kind of audio one would "demo," per se, but it's one that creeps up on you like a killer with a syringe full of animal tranquilizers.
All of the extras on this release are exclusive to the Blu-ray.
'Dexter: The Sixth Season' isn't quite as gripping as previous seasons. It's rather controversial; its themes can offend religious groups, its plot twists can disgust longtime fans. The show, even at this low point in the saga so far, is still must-see television, but if the show goes out with a whimper instead of a bang, it will be hard to avoid pointing to a particular point in this season as the moment a shark was jumped. This three disc Blu-ray set sports amazing presentation qualities, more than making up for the lack of quality disc based extras. For the first week asking price, this one's a no-brainer. Recommended.