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"Dexter-The First Season"
Wayne Klein
Studio: Paramount/Showtime Home Video
Genre: TV-Series
Special Features: Commentary on "Return to Sender", "Born Free", "Witnessed In Blood: A True Murder Investgiation"< "The Academy of Blood-A Killer Course", two episodes of "Brotherhood", Previews

Showtime has a winner with "Dexter" its unusual series about a serial killer who preys on other criminals. He's a vigilante with more than a chip on his shoulder. Dexter's step dad a police officer early on recognized that the boy was different. He knew what Dexter was and channeled the boy's desire to kill in a positive way getting him involved in police work (Dexter is a forensics expert) and directing him to kill those criminals who are evil. Dexter is essentially Batman without a conscience (not that Bats has all that much) who is driven by his compulsion to commit crime but for the RIGHT reason. Dexter struggles with who he is and what he does recognizing that he is different and far from normal. He's surrounded by family and friends (a sister and a girlfriend among others) who have no clue as to what really goes on his head much less how he fills his free time. ***

Dexter wouldn't work if not for actor Michael C. Hall from "Six Feet Under". He perfectly captures both the compulsion and conflict that drives Dexter to go after the predators in our society. It's a complex performance hidden under an often impassive mask that we get little peaks of now and again. The show is based on a novel entitled Darkly Dream Dexter and while much of what we see in the novel is translated to the screen, there's also quite a bit of expansion on Dexter's character and his actions that make this a fascinating series. There's an element of black humor at work here as well (how could there NOT be with a quirky premise like this?) and the series glides on that humor like a well oiled track. ---

Image & Sound:

Unlike some other Showtime series, "Dexter" looks terrific in its DVD presentation. Colors are bold and accurate but, more importantly, unlike "The 'L' Word", the image is remarkably crisp with terrific detail for a standard DVD. ***

The 5.1 Surround format is nicely used with the rear speakers primarily for ambient effects. While the mix could be more aggressive, it's not bad. Dialogue comes through with clarity and the music sounds bold and powerful when it does make the circuit around the surround speakers. ---

Special Features:

The one area that this set needs to show improvement in are the extras. We get two audio commentary tracks (none with Hall) on "Return to Sender" and "Born Free", it can't touch the classy HBO set "Rome" that had commentary tracks on every episode. We get two featurettes "Witnessed in Blood: A True Murder Investigation" that focuses on how what Dexter does in forensics helps solve crimes. "The Academy of Blood: A Killer Course" is mentioned as an extra but failed to make this set due to some sort of authoring goof. ***

We also get two bonus episodes of the Showtime series "Brotherhood". It's a nice perk if you haven't seen the series and might draw you in but the presentation is a bit odd; "Dexter" is presented in anamorphic widescreen while "Brotherhood" is not and it's letterboxed. Clearly Showtime is taking their cue from studios like Universal that would include episodes of other TV shows (or episodes from later seasons of a series) as extras on their TV on DVD sets. ---

Final Words:

"Dexter" is compelling and terrific television. Showtime does an outstanding job on the audio/video front but fails to deliver on the extras front with one extra entirely missing from the set and the use of two episodes of another Showtime series as a cross promotional effort at the expense of more commentary tracks/featurettes. "Dexter" is addicted and you'll feel the compulsion to watch every episode if the show ends up appealing to you. Just don't go out there and try any vigilante justice Dexter style-we already have enough wacky people in the world as it is.


Copyright @ Teakwood Productions 2000
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