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DVD Review: Dexter: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)
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Dexter: The Complete Second SeasonDexter
The Complete Second Season, Blu-ray Edition
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Erik King, Lauren Velez
Paramount Home Entertainment
Release date: May 9, 2009

One of the most original and entertaining shows on TV returned for a second season with vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C Hall). After following Dexter’s journey of self-discovery in the first season, this time around viewers watch Dexter struggle with new, complicated emotions as he tries to evolve as a person and a killer.

The second season of the hit Showtime series has some serious strengths and weaknesses. First and foremost, the plot goes to the obvious logical step in exploring Dexter’s world by seeing what would happen if Dexter’s crimes were discovered. When a group of scuba divers discover the bodies of Dexter’s victims, he must struggle with keeping up appearances while trying to cover tracks he never thought would be uncovered.

All the while, Sgt. Doakes (Erik King), who was simply suspicious of Dexter in the first season, is now convinced Dexter is hiding something, and stalks him everywhere. This makes Dexter’s usual nighttime activities impossible. The stress of controlling his impulses, avoiding suspicion, and coming to terms with having killed his own brother, Dexter’s internal turmoil is increased ten-fold.

The season’s downside is in the new characters. While the first season closely resembled that of the book, the second goes in a completely new direction. With the FBI investigating the “Bay Harbor Butcher” murders (a name Dexter hates), Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine) arrives to help crack the case. A stone-cold FBI profiler would have made a good nemesis for Dexter, more so than serious but emotionally tortured Doakes, but the idiosyncrasies they gave the character and the relationship he forms with Dexter’s sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) come off as extremely contrived and often as just plain awkward.

Then there’s Lila (Jaime Murray). Lila is a frustrating character. Everyone knows someone like Lila, at least the way she is when first introduced in the series: a smug know-it-all, someone who constantly likes to remind people how eccentric they are. Unfortunately, Dexter gets sucked in by her BS act for far too long, and in addition to causing havoc in his personal life, she causes havoc with the show, making some parts near unwatchable. We’re obviously supposed to hate her, but the writers did too good of a job perhaps.

Nevertheless, the second season delivers another compelling plot and manages to break the mold set by the first season. Too often great shows go down hill quickly when, after a terrific first season, the writers simply try to do the same thing again in season 2. Dexter as a show manages to evolve just as the character does, and as someone who has already seen Season 3 can attest to, continues to do so, introducting fresh ideas and taking risks. Even if some don’t work out that well, it’s refreshing to see.

Blu-ray Features

Of course, if you love the show it’s hard not to enjoy watching it in full 1080p high definition with an English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. And unlike most Blu-Rays, the series includes a Spanish language track also in 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. Most second language tracks get lesser treatment, but perhaps the frequent use of Spanish in the series led producers to go the extra mile with this one.

One of the biggest drawbacks to the first season’s bonus features was the need to download all the video content before you could watch it. Sure, it shows up a cool aspect of Blu-Ray capability, but to have everything require it just ridiculous. It would seem Showtime learned from the mistake… at least a little, the second time around and instead downloading everything, the videos stream to your system instead. While this is much faster, it still requires a decent Internet connection and still doesn’t make much sense considering some of the bonus content is very short and all of it is in standard definition.

Bonus content for season two includes short video interviews with several cast members, including Michael C. Hall, three extremely short video shot like promos for the Dark Defender comic series, two episodes of Showtimes’ The United States of Tara and a “game” which lets you use your remote control to pick out items you would find in Dexter’s tool bag. Again I found this frustratingly lacking in good content. The game is incredibly lame as there are only 7 tools to choose from and the five correct ones are very obvious. After picking the correct ones you get a quick “did you know?” about each item. That’s it. At least the first season had an episode of a future season of Dexter on it, not just some other Showtime show they are trying to cross-promote. Seriously Showtime, have you never heard of deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes looks, or even audio commentary? Additionally, the videos for the cast interviews are very short, not properly sized for display with HDTVs, and stretch out to the point where the tops of many people’s heads are cut off and will likely frustrate people watching.

I love Dexter. It is probably my favorite show on TV today and I love watching it in high definition, but for the second time in a row Showtime really dropped the ball with the Blu-Ray release. I would buy this set regardless, but nowadays people can download high definition episodes off iTunes if they want. You have to give them a good reason to want to buy the whole disc set and for a show with a fan base like this, you’d think they’d put more effort into giving them quality bonus content.

Final Score:
Show Quality: A-
Picture Quality: A+ for the show, C for the Bonus Material
Sounds Quality: A+
Bonus Features: D

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