BluRay/DVD Reviews

DEXTER – THE SECOND SEASON

By • Aug 25th, 2008 •

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Red’s a tough color. Always has been for NTSC. And that would have been an obstacle for “Dexter” if not for High Definition. But now, thank god, it’s been licked. Because red’s the color of blood, and that’s a key element in the show’s palette. Even the title sequence is awash in it. So fear not, the Second Season disc set is rock-steady color-stable, and holds its own against even the best of today’s DVD releases.

As to the show, there again we have good news. Remember “Wanted Dead or Alive” with Steve McQueen? So the story goes, McQueen and his wife would watch each episode at home on their TV and take notes. “That’s a bad mannerism.” “Eliminate that facial movement.” Etc. Until, at the end of a season or two, the final draft of Steve McQueen’s celluloid persona emerged.

Well, something similar seems to have taken place with “Dexter.” The first season was quite popular, and concept had a lot to do with it. What a great idea – a serial killer satisfying his urges in a ‘good’ way. But there was something a little unpleasant about the main character…something a bit monotonous about the weekly promise of a fresh kill…something hokey about the flashbacks. Also it felt more than a little primitive technically.

But lo, many of those problems seem to have been solved. The camera department has gotten Michael Hall down as an object of rewarding aesthetic contemplation. He looks just great…all the time. The slimey edge to his make-up, or his lighting design, or the direction of his performance…whatever it was…is gone, and in its place is a character who’s warm and fun to watch. I like his cynical narration better than I did in Season One; he’s really deft, and funny. Sometime during the show’s hiatus, he moved up to a better class of serial killer.

In addition, the writers/producers must have really thought out the future of the series carefully, because several plot threads weave themselves effortlessly into Season Two – including Dexter’s ongoing relationship with his girlfriend, the suspicious office cop who thinks he’s guilty…of something, the two black staff members (Esme and Maria) who are dancing around each other over one’s promotion to top dog at the station, and the trajectory of his sister, who works on the force with him and was nearly killed by a serial murderer last season. These subplots are now sharing a lot of time with Hall for audience sympathy. The warring office hierarchy subplot feels a bit unrealistic – worrisome for a series whose basic premise earnestly needs our willing suspension of disbelief, and the relentless trailing of Dexter by the suspicious cop grows thin. But the other stories are fleshed out appropriately, and ironies and twists abound throughout, always fun even if occasionally a tad far-fetched.

Also, in the second season, Dexter faces new challenges – such as an FBI super-sleuth (Keith Carradine) in his midst, and the shame of ‘serial impotence syndrome.’ The audience is meant to worry about him when he goes through a temporary murder-slump, the way they would for an ace pitcher who’s suddenly having trouble getting it into the strike zone… How’s that for offbeat thinking? I like counterpoint. Works for me.

In the centrifugal force of TV seasonals, this is a good ride. I’m ready for Season Three…

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