It’s been 38 days since Dexter (Michael C. Hall) saved his sister Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) from the cold clutches of the Ice Truck Killer and despite the fact that he should feel like a hero, he just hasn’t been himself lately. Doakes (Erik King) has become more suspicious of him than ever, trailing him after work on a daily basis, giving Dexter little time to unleash his dark passenger. In an attempt to appear normal, he’s joined a bowling team (curiously named “Bowl Till You Bleed”) and has even begun giving into his carnal desires with Rita (Julie Benz). But all the effort put into hiding his deepest, darkest secrets is suddenly in vain when a handful of underwater explorers have uncovered the garbage-bagged remains of Dexter’s victims. Slowly, he becomes unraveled more than ever before, questioning his relationships and the code his father Harry (James Remar) instilled in him. Luckily, the new woman in his life, Lila (the gorgeous Jaime Murray), is a calming force, seeing through the veneer of his fake personality and accepting him for what he truly is. But is that a good thing?
After watching the first season of DEXTER last year, the big question running through my mind was, “How could they possibly top this?” And I was right, it was impossible but that doesn’t mean it isn’t impressive that the creative team behind the show managed to craft something as equally engaging and entertaining. I was a bit wary when it was announced that the writers wouldn’t even be basing the new season on any of the books (like season one was) but rather taking complete creative license and going in a different direction. Luckily, they’ve managed to keep the tone of the show and in some ways, improve on the faults of the first season (of which there were very few).
My biggest problem with season one was that Jennifer Carpenter and Erik King paled in comparison to the other astounding performances on the show (most notably, of course, Michael C. Hall). Their character flaws became increasingly more obnoxious over the course of the show, though their dialogue did improve drastically. I realize they’re written like that in the book but I also found them to be a bit tedious in the show. The second season, however, lets Carpenter shine, even though her story-arc is more of a subplot, and King really steps up his level of bad-assery, even though Doakes is still a bit ostentatious.
What I feel makes this show fall just short of perfection this season is that halfway through, I was able to pick out the major story beats without a hitch, leaving the last episode to be an almost perfunctory experience. It’s true, the first season gave away the identity of the Ice Truck Killer midway and the relationship between him and Dexter became more and more apparent as the final few episodes progressed towards the big reveal. But, the acting was still great, the scripts were fantastic and I enjoyed almost every second of it. The same goes for this season, I just wish certain plot points weren’t as obvious as others. These are all very minor complaints though, since every element of the show pales in comparison to the one reason I keep watching.
“Am I a good person doing bad things? Or a bad person doing good things?”
The moral dilemma of DEXTER is one the most complex and thought provoking interpretations I’ve seen of the ideology behind a black and white world. Throughout their lives, everyone will come across certain situations which call for a different approach to their proceedings. Should you lie to your girlfriend and tell her she looks great in her new dress or be honest? Should you throw that punch in self-defense or back down gracefully? DEXTER is the ultimate and extreme exploration in doing things, how HOT FUZZ puts it, “for the greater good.” The high point of season two is that Dexter actually feels guilt and fear and begins to develop a more human-like disposition in his journey to become “normal.” His moral standpoint (Harry’s code) becomes so skewed during the course of the season that the final few episodes act as a exercise in self-discovery, rather than being plot driven. That is, what I feel, makes DEXTER the most riveting show on television since THE X-FILES and TWIN PEAKS.
Two Second Season Episodes of Brotherhood (106:42): Since the first season of DEXTER came packaged with two episodes of BROTHERHOOD, I guess it’s only fitting that the second season would have them as well.
E-Bridge Technology Extras: Like last season’s box set, many of the bonus features can only be viewed using a computer with a working Internet connection. Upon placing the disc in your DVD-ROM drive, you can supposedly view the first two episodes from the second season of THE TUDORS and the first season of CALIFORNICATION, as well as a Michael C. Hall pod-cast and interview. At the time of this review, the feature didn’t work but I’m hoping it’s because Viacom hasn’t activated the site yet since it hasn’t officially hit a store shelf near you. What would have made more sense, though, is to have the actual DEXTER extras on the disc, with all of the other Showtime previews watchable through E-Bridge. You’re paying for DEXTER when you buy this set, not a glorified advertisement for something else.
Dexter Season 3 Sneak Peak: Imagine my surprise when I saw there was an option to see a sneak preview of the third season, only to have a screen pop up and read, “Do you love Dexter? Can’t wait for more? Watch the first episode of next season’s DEXTER, (Season 3) available on Showtime’s BROTHERHOOD, SEASON 2 DVD, in stores October 7, 2008.” Couldn’t they have at least put the trailer for the third season on the disc? Talk about dangling the carrot in front of the horse’s mouth. To make matters even worse though, is that the second season of BROTHERHOOD comes out a week after DEXTER’s season premiere. It wouldn’t be a “sneak preview” at that point, would it?
Considering that the only supplementals included in the set that have anything to do with the actual show can only be viewed on a computer, DEXTER: THE SECOND SEASON makes DEXTER: THE FIRST SEASON look almost Criterion-worthy. At least that had two featurettes, the first two chapters of the latest book and two commentary tracks. It’s the least Paramount could’ve done for the most riveting hour of television this decade.