After watching DEXTER: THE SECOND SEASON on DVD, I was hoping Paramount/CBS and Showtime would learn from their mistakes and actually put some thought into their special features in the future. It was such a shame to see absolutely nothing worth mentioning included in that box set, with the even bigger travesty being the unfulfilled promise of a third season preview in the set. But, at the end of the day, DEXTER is still one of the best shows on television. When your show is that good, I guess you don’t care whether you include extras for diehard fans or not, since you know they’ll buy it anyway.
Going back to DEXTER: THE FIRST SEASON, after not watching it since it first arrived on DVD, I was stunned at how poor the acting in the premiere episode was when compared to the rest of the series. Jennifer Carpenter’s performance has always left something to be desired, even though she does progressively get better as her character develops. But I really got the sense that the actors didn’t quite have their chemistry down pat from the get-go. Michael C. Hall’s turn as Dexter comes off a bit self-aware in the beginning, in the sense that he’s trying so hard to put up a front, that there’s absolutely no way Doakes would be the only one to catch onto him. After the first half of the episode, though, he puts his co-stars to shame and reminds us why he got all those Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Speaking of Doakes, one of the reasons I was interested in revisiting the first season for was to see if Erik King chewed the scenery as much as I remembered. I was pleasantly surprised to see that his performance was so much better than I recalled and I found it to be almost as good as Hall’s.
The rest of the show is flawless, a compliment that I don’t throw around too often. The writing is top-notch, the story is engrossing and the ensemble cast is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a television show or film. But, above all else, the moral dilemma is what really drives the show forward. Is Dexter doing the right thing by taking the law into his own hands? Dexter is a character that is free from the bonds of emotion and shows little remorse for his anti-social behaviors, yet, we, the audience, are able to completely empathize with and root for him. That’s the power of truly great entertainment: it challenges your concept of a “white and black world,” making you realize that there are shades of grey.
The 1080p transfer on the Blu-Ray release of DEXTER: THE FIRST SEASON is encoded with an AVC MPEG-4, beating out the 1080i presentation during its run on Showtime HD. The picture is crisp and the colors are vibrant for the most part. The season finale, “Born Free,” has a considerable amount of grain during indoor scenes and tends to look soft overall. Several other instances of these complaints occur throughout the season but only for seconds at a time. During these particular scenes, the standard definition release actually has a substantial edge on its Blu-ray counterpart. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless track adds a lot of clarity and depth to the dialogue and memorable score (most notably, the pieces by Daniel Licht and Rolfe Kent).
The biggest disappointment with the set lies in CBS/Paramount’s inability to put some thought into their bonus features for DEXTER and present them in a way that doesn’t make me want chuck my box set out the window. The commentary tracks, featured on “Return to Sender” and “Born Free,” are the only extras carried over from the standard definition release and put on the actual Blu-Ray. “The Academy Of Blood” and “Witnessed In Blood,” the two featurettes from the original box set, can only be accessed using B-D Live. Unfortunately, the page for DEXTER had not been activated at the time of this review, so I can’t comment on the efficiency of the page or whether the bonus materials have been re-edited. Also included on the set’s B-D Live component are a Michael C. Hall podcast (presumably the same one from the second season box set), the first episode of DEXTER: SEASON THREE (maybe it won’t be a tease this time around?) and the first two episodes of UNITED STATES OF TARA. There’s 3 50GB Blu-Rays included in the box set, so it’s absolutely inexcusable that they didn’t include the two featurettes on one of the discs (the bonus episodes of TARA and DEXTER are completely expendable, as is the podcast). DEXTER: THE FIRST SEASON Blu-Ray is something that I would only recommend to rabid fans or those who haven’t had a chance to pick up the original release. The picture and sound upgrade is nice, but for those who were hoping for something meatier in the extras department, or don’t have a Profile 2.0 player, it’s not worth the double-dip.
Show (reflected as official score): 5/5