By now we're all familiar with Dexter's dark passenger. As the show entered its seventh season it was easy to feel like it had run out of gas. The sixth season, with Colin Hanks running around as a deranged serial killer obsessed with the apocalypse, felt like the show was coasting. Besides the blood-boiling cliffhanger we were left with, the rest of the season gave the appearance the series was on its last legs. Honestly, how many serial killer nemeses can Dexter face down before we think, "Okay, the chances of Dexter confronting this many well-trained killers are slim. Even in Florida." So, it was nice, when the seventh season broke from the formula, although it did so in a rather mundane way.
The strength of a 'Dexter' season is directly proportional to the strength of that season's villain. That's why the fourth season with Trinity (John Lithgow) will go down as the best ever. Lithgow played such a marvelously evil villain. He offered the perfect juxtaposition for Dexter as a character. Dexter saw in Trinity what would've happened to him had Harry not taught him The Code. Season seven's main baddie isn't a serial killer per se, but he has probably killed lots of people. In an effort to pit Dexter against someone who isn't a serial killer, the show throws him up against an Eastern European gangster, named Issac Sirko, played by Ray Stevenson. The problem here is that most mafia bad guys are usually one note, and sadly for Stevenson, as much as I adored him in 'Rome,' he ends up following that well tread cliché. He's made up of grimaces, threats, and unlimited resources. He's soon thrown into the ring with Dexter to see which of them can outsmart the other.
So, with this season's villain ranking on the lower end of the villain pantheon, what makes this season worth watching? Answer: The tense and torrid relationship between Dexter (Michael C. Hall) and his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter). Over the first six seasons, 'Dexter' has been building relentlessly to a time when Deb finally realized what her brother has been up to. That time is now. At the end of season six Deb walked in on Dexter stabbing [Colin Hanks] with a sick satisfaction. She had finally seen the truth of what her brother really was.
Season seven starts with them at odds. Deb, in her new leadership role at the police department, now has a choice to make. Does she turn Dexter in, or does she try to fix him? Turning her own brother in is too harsh, even for her. She tries to corral him instead, but to no avail. Too many things are colliding and Deb can't keep track of Dexter's movements. She can't curtail his urges.
The most interesting aspect of this season is watching Deb slowly realize, with much trepidation, that what Dexter does is, somehow, necessary. It doesn't mean she likes it, or condones it, but she understands it. Watching the two of them battle each other throughout the season is the main reason to keep going with a show that seems to have lost a bit of luster.
A season of 'Dexter' wouldn't be complete without a dozen or so subplots circling around the Deb and Dexter drama. LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) finds herself following a string of clues that may inexorably lead her to Dexter. Quinn (Desmond Harrington) ever the gentleman, starts dating a stripper who just so happens to be involved with the main investigation of the season. Sgt. Angel Batista (David Zayas) continues to show off his detective skills as he closes in on Issac Sirko's shady business dealings.
Showtime has announced that the eighth season of the show will indeed be its last. Even though I've loved this show since the very first episode, it's time for it to end. The story has come full circle, and the two most important characters, Dexter and Deb, have reached critical mass. Watching the seventh season play out is enjoyable in its own right, but the promise it gives for season eight is exciting.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Blu-ray comes to us via CBS Home Video. They've packed the 12 episode season onto three 50GB discs. Each disc contains four episodes. The discs are packaged in a regular keepcase that includes a swinging arm to house two discs back-to-back. An UltraViolet Digital Copy code is also provided.
As is the usual case, the blistering South Florida visuals of 'Dexter' are presented with near flawlessness on Blu-ray. There's never really been a season of this show that hasn't looked top-notch in high-def. Season seven is no exception. This season has all the striking clarity and bold color that we've come to expect.
The Showtime broadcast, at least over my Comcast service, regularly encounters compression artifacts like blocking, aliasing, and banding. It's the nature of super compressed cable broadcasts. That's why, even if I watched the entire show during its original airing, I still like to watch it again on Blu-ray. It's an entirely different experience in quality.
'Dexter's sunbaked presentation has clearly defined details. The stubble on Dexter's permanent five o'clock shadow is one of many examples of how clear fine detail can be. Others include the pinstripes on Issac's tailored suits, Quinn's gaunt facial features, and the tiny droplets of blood that spurt forth from one of Dexter's dear friends.
Colors are strong and extremely vibrant. The neon glow of Miami cuts through the coastal blackness outside. Crimson red, like always, plays a huge part in the show. Blood ebbs and flows with a realistic dark red gleam. Skin tones are tan, but appear natural for inhabitants of the Sunshine State. Shadows are deep. With plenty of darker nighttime scenes, it's nice that shadows are so perfectly delineated. There were a few very rare occasions where I detected banding, but if you're not actively looking for it you won't find it. The seventh season release measures up in every way to the previous Blu-ray releases of 'Dexter.'
Also staying consistently good is the show's Dolby True HD 5.1 audio mix. Comparable to seasons past, the seventh season audio presentation is full of fun and nuance. It's one of the better lossless TV show mixes you'll hear this year.
Dexter's darkly comic inner monologue comes across clean and intelligible. His voice carries enough gravitas to make the case for some vocal LFE to be thrown in. LFE is a very strong presence in this season. Especially in the first few episodes where Deb and Dexter have to deal with a weirdo who traps his victims in makeshift mazes while heavy metal rock music blares in the background. It's a jarring change when the music blasts out of every channel, but it wholly recreates the feeling of confusion and chaos that the killer's victims are undergoing.
The show's now iconic theme song sounds as good as ever. The memorable soundtrack is perfectly placed throughout the soundstage and is given room to breathe during the more intense moments. Dialogue is always understandable. Rear channels offer as much ambience as you'd want; cars whiz by on busy Miami roads, hip-hop music pumps through the speakers at a strip club, and the interrogation room echoes when Angel and Deb yell at alleged criminals. In short, if you have been pleased by the other seasons in your collection, this one will indeed leave a smile on your face too.
The elephant in Showtime's room is always the complete and utter disregard for any special features that relate to the show. We've now gone seven seasons with a show that's extremely popular and haven't gotten any worthwhile making-of featurettes or anything else for that matter. It's a damn shame. Instead we're greeted with a few cross-promotional episodes to other Showtime shows. The pilot episode of Showtime's new show 'Ray Donovan' is included, along with standard-def episodes of 'The Borgias: Season Two' and 'House of Lies: Season One.'
It'll be sad to see the show go once the eighth season winds down, but it's had a great run. I felt that season seven suffered a tad in the villain department, but the odd sexual dynamic between Dexter and Deb more than made up for it. Their twisted relationship provides some strangely fascinating TV. With great audio and video, picking this up is a no-brainer for fans. Now, if only Showtime gave a rat's behind about creating worthwhile bonus content.