Dexter: The Complete Second Season – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Psychopathic killers definitely seem to be all the rage lately. Just look at the Oscar-winning turn by Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurgh in No Country for Old Men or the popularity of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight, but on the small-screen one serial killer seems to stands severed head and shoulders above the rest – Michael C. Hall’s Dexter Morgan. For those that have never seen our favorite TV maniac on Showtime’s Dexter, the series revolves around the serial killer and how his impulses and obsession effect the lives of the day to day people in his life; the only catch is, Dexter is actually the hero of this show. After a solid first season, the second season of takes us to even darker places, and in a season full of blood twists and turns, not everyone is able to get away clean.

It’s probably right to say that Dexter isn’t a show for everyone. When your main character is a cold-blooded killer, it could be a tough sell for viewers that want their heroes a little more straight-laced. Then again, if any actor was going to turn you to the dark side, it would Michael C. Hall. Hall as Dexter Morgan is charming, charismatic and even has an odd child-like quality to him. He’s also got a set of rules that he lives by that kind of makes him more a vigilante than a serial killer, as he only kills those who have murdered and plan to murder again. Trained by his police officer stepfather Harry (James Remar), Dexter strikes at those above the law, but not out of the reach of his. Then again, the line between vigilante and homicidal lunatic is a fine one and its an area that gets explored and crossed countless times on this show.

The real thrust of the series comes when Dexter’s extracurricular activities start to entangle with his every day life, especially when his habits conflict with his job as a forensic specialist at the local Police Department or when it complicates his relationship with his girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz). Both of these complications hit full throttle in this second year with two major story lines, first at his dumping ground, where he disposed of his homicidal prey in the past, is discovered by authorities, and second when Dexter becomes involved with a dark woman with problems of her own, throwing his relationships into chaos.

What’s to love about the first storyline this season is that it also manages to highlight one of the biggest strengths of Dexter as a show. Much like The Shield, which handles the story lines of Michael Chiklis’ run and gun Detective Vic Mackey as well as juggles a solid Police Procedural storyline each episode, Dexter uses a very similar formula; intertwining each installment with our favorite killer’s escapades and some solid Cop work by the series’ supporting cast. Characters such as Detective Angel Batista (David Zayas) and Dexter’s sister Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) are honestly just as interesting as the title character most episodes, and when they lead the charge to bring a killer to justice who unbeknownst to them happens to be Dexter, the show hits strides its never had before.

The other major storyline wrapping around this season has Morgan falling for Jaime Murray’s Lila, a woman with her own issues and desires who actually seems to be Dexter’s soul mate on the surface, but who deep down may have a darker soul than Morgan himself. The entire subplot is fascinating, as Hall’s character tries desperately to get a hold of his impulses through his relationship with Lila, but with results he doesn’t expect. This season has Dexter having to make some really hard choices, and many of them have to do with him coming to realizations about who he really is and why he needs certain people around him to keep him stable, even if he has to let his beasts out every so often.

Dexter: The Complete Second Season isn’t a huge step up from the initial year of the show, but its still very entertaining and makes for a good continuation of that story. Nearly each and every character here has a fantastic arc, and we’re set up brilliantly for a third season, which is just around the corner. With so many great shows reaching their end, its nice to see a series just really getting out of the gate, and hopefully we’ll still be disgusted and held captive by this show for years to come.

While not unwatchable, the show doesn’t look great on this set, especially if you’ve got a higher end TV and are used to the quality of prints associated with HBO’s programming. The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is nice, but with a show this good its tough to see it looking kind of grainy.

Episodes from other Showtime Originals, such as Brotherhood, Tudors, and Californication – While I get the inclusion of Californication episodes, the installments from the The Tudors and Brotherhood are all from Season 2 of those shows, which seems to be a poor way to break new viewers into those shows. In addition, the only episodes that you can actually access from this disc which aren’t on the internet are the Brotherhood episodes.

Featurettes – There is an interview with the cast and a podcast with Michael C. Hall, but each of these actually have to be accessed online through your DVD-Rom and not actually on this set.

The show in this second season is great, but not actually putting many special features on this disc set itself is a bit on the cheapie side from Showtime, and coupled with the fact that the series already doesn’t visually look that great on these discs doesn’t really help.

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Showtime presents Dexter: The Complete Second Season. Starring Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, C.S. Lee, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Vélez, David Zayas, James Remar, Erik King. Running time: 636 minutes. Released on DVD: August 19, 2008. Available at Amazon.com.

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