“Tonight’s the night, and it’s going to happen again and again. It has to happen…”
What is going to happen is that Dexter has finally come to Blu-ray. I can’t think of a better cable show to make the leap onto high definition. More than any current show, I think I’ve been looking forward to this release. Imagine what it would be like to visualize Dexter’s world in such wonderful detail. Imagine no longer. Dexter’s here, and he’s got something to show you.Man, has television come a long way in just over 50 years. There was once a pretty strict code that applied to television programs. Men and women, even when married, couldn’t be seen to have shared the same bed. Anything stronger than a “golly gee” was strictly forbidden. You couldn’t even show a woman’s belly button. And the good guys always had to win, while the bad guys got their comeuppance in the end. Alfred Hitchcock was one of the first to push those boundaries by telling mystery stories where the bad guys often appeared to get away with their evil deeds. Even Hitchcock wasn’t brazen enough to completely skirt these rules, and at the end of such immoral plays he would always add, in his spoken postscript, some terrible twist of fate that got the bad guys in the end. Those days seem long behind us now. We have mob bosses, crooked cops, and now a serial killer, not only getting away with their crimes but acting the hero, of sorts, for the show. Vic Mackey and Tony Soprano only helped pave the way. In Showtime’s groundbreaking series, Dexter, Morgan Dexter is a serial killer who happens to kill other killers. The series is based on two novels by Jeff Lindsay. Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter gave birth to the character and world of Dexter Morgan.
Dexter Morgan (Hall) is a forensic lab rat for the Miami-Dade Police. He really knows blood splatter. He should, because he moonlights as a killer. It seems that poor old Dex just can’t help himself. His parents were criminals, and he witnessed his mother’s brutal slashing by a chainsaw gang when he was just a young boy. He was adopted by Harry Morgan (Remar), a police officer. Harry saw the killer instinct in Dexter and taught him how to channel the urges for the sake of good. Dexter adopted Harry’s Code, which means he only kills others that he’s able to prove were killers themselves. Working for the police with his officer sister, Debra (Carpenter), Dexter is constantly just on the verge of getting caught. He has to adapt and evolve to avoid capture. Dexter’s also trying to have a relationship, mostly because he knows it helps him blend in. Buffy and Angel’s Darla, Julie Benz, plays Rita. Dexter doesn’t really feel anything, but he’s trying to act the way he sees others act in the same environment.
The first thing that makes Dexter work is its star Michael C. Hall. You might remember Hall from his days on Six Feet Under, where he played the conflicted and very gay funeral director. His deadpan style and somewhat offbeat timing make him perfect for these rather quirky characters. If you thought he was good as David Fisher, you’re simply going to love him as Dexter. It amazes me how different he looks and sounds. It was at first very difficult for me to actually identify him, he gets so completely immersed in character. You’ll find yourself rooting that Dexter doesn’t get caught, if for no other reason than you don’t want the show to end. The other actors and characters are also quite good. You’ll particularly like Erik King, who plays Doakes, the only detective in the squad who senses the evil in Dexter. He’s a great adversary for Dexter.
In the first season we’re just getting to know ol’ Dex. We learn about “the code” and we watch him deal out his own special brand of justice. He’s confident and sure of his mission. But as that season unfolds we see Dexter become conflicted and even worried about getting caught. He discovers a brother who he must contend with; at the same time it brings out feelings for Harry that make him question “the code”. Of course, Dexter deals with the situation without getting caught, or we couldn’t have a second season.
Dexter is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. It’s all good. The 1080p image is brought to you via a solid AVC/MPEG-4 codec. Have you ever wondered what blood red might look like in the brilliance of high definition? What if there was a lot of it? I don’t mean just gory slaughter scenes. I mean what if we had the chance to just examine it. Take some time and just take in the color. You won’t have to imagine after you’ve watched this HD presentation. You get pretty much a clean picture with nice bright colors. There’s a lot of dark stuff, so fortunately black levels are pretty solid. Detail is wonderful. This is a near perfect image that still manages to contain enough subtle blemish to make it quite realistic.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track doesn’t offer a lot of dazzle, but it does the job well enough. The dialog is always perfectly placed. The few musical cues come out just fine. About the best thing you can say for any soundtrack is that it disappears into the experience so that you don’t really think about it. This show is compelling enough that you won’t be asking yourself why the sub doesn’t seem to be pounding in your ears. That’s your heart.
Unfortunately all but a couple of Commentary Tracks require you to access them via BD-Live. They are not included on the disc itself. This was a major letdown for me.
Dexter is the kind of show that cries out for an HD presentation. This image beats the Showtime HD broadcasts in so many ways it’s almost like the original isn’t HD at all. Of course, that image differed depending on how you get it. I get DirecTV, and I found the original did not hold up as well in color or black levels. My broadcasts contained more than a little artifact noise. I’m a little creeped out by the marriage of Hall and Carpenter, who play brother and sister on the show. I know he’s adopted, but still. While most might not want to admit it, we’re all drawn to the dark nature of humanity. Horror films are an extension of that attraction. While Dexter isn’t really a horror film, you will get plenty of the blood and guts. You will also get some well crafted stories and a rather compelling performance out of Hall. With the release of these Blu-ray discs, pretty soon all of America will be “surfin’ the crimson wave”.