Dexter: The Second Season

(2006) *** 1/2 Unrated
636 min. Showtime. Director: Tony Goldwyn. Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, James Remar.

/content/films/3405/2.jpgIn the second season of Dexter, the series' writers (led by executive producer Daniel Cerone) continue to find fresh ways to complicate their protagonist's already complicated life. Effectively forced to kill a family member in Season One, Miami-Dade PD blood-spatter analyst and secret vigilante serial killer Dexter Morgan is still reeling over a month later when an even more troubling challenge emerges: his colleagues become alerted to the dump site containing his victim's remains. Dexter will have to use his wiles and his access to remain a step ahead of his ever-suspicious colleague Sergeant James Doakes (Erik King) and an investigation led by FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine).

Meanwhile, Dexter's relationship with single mother Rita (Julie Benz) hits a rough patch, leading Dexter to wonder if what he needs in a partner isn't a wholesome balance, but someone with a dark side equal to his own. Enter Lila (Jaime Murray), an artist who quickly pegs Dexter as a dark soul; Dexter soon learns that Lila is also adept at keepings secrets and feeding her appetites by hook or by crook. With his mojo rattled in all aspects of his life, Dexter is seriously on edge. And the only thing more satisfying than watching Dexter on edge is watching him triumph over adversity, step by step, over the course of a season of shows. Though each episode has enough self-containment to be satisfying, each season has a novelistic feel born of ongoing and gradually intensifying character arcs. The writers do a fine job of serving the rest of the regular cast (Lauren Velez, David Zayas, and C.S. Lee) while keeping a focus on Dexter's relationships with his dead foster father Harry (James Remar), who counsels Dexter in fantasy and flashback, and Dexter's stepsister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), who's also on the police force.

/content/films/3405/1.jpgWhile continuing to use up inspiration from Jeff Lindsay's Dexter novels, the series here establishes what looks to be an ongoing tradition of prominent guest stars bedeviling Dexter over season-long arcs. This time, it's Carradine, whose sharp FBI agent gives Dexter a run for his money while also striking up a May-December romance with Deb. The screws tighten to an almost unbearable tension by season's end, when Dexter must answer the threats posed by Lundy, Doakes, and Lila without hurting anyone he loves—and preferably without losing his life or liberty. Spoiler alert: the former at least is safe, paving the way for a Season Four that winningly pits the dry, sly Michael C. Hall against Jimmy Smits.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 5/5/2009

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

Paramount makes good to its commitment to Dexter on Blu-ray with Dexter: The Second Season, which puts all twelve Season Two episodes onto three discs. The picture quality is excellent: sharply defined and right in line with the series' surreality of light, shadow and vibrant color. These disc capture the sweltering, sultry feel of the series' Miami in often three-dimensional detail. The HD source is, of course, clean and clear—and a noticeable step up from DVD.

The set's bonus features take a step down from the first-season set: no commentary tracks here. The only bonus features have been shunted to BD-Live status. So if your player is hooked up to the internet, you're good to get the featurette "Blood Fountains," the Dark Defender Series, podcasts, and the first two episodes of Showtime series The United States of Tara.

Despite the slim extras, the show's the thing, and Paramount delivers it in high-definition glory that should have fans plenty happy. That sais, one hopes Paramount may stamp a few more extras onto the BD discs of future seasons, the third of which is already scheduled for release in August 2009.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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