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Dexter: The Fifth Season(TV) (2010)
Dexter is a crime drama about Dexter Morgan, a man who leads a double life as an incredibly likeable forensics expert for the Miami Police Department and as an emotionless vigilante serial killer. Taught by his foster father to harness his lust for blood and killing, Dexter lives by his own strict moral code - he only kills murderers who can't otherwise be brought to justice. Dexter is a killer who grapples with fitting into society while, at the same time, he struggles with his inability to feel emotion. The irony of Dexter's life is that he works closely as a blood splatter analyst with the very people who hunt his kind - the homicide department.
For more about Dexter: The Fifth Season and the Dexter: The Fifth Season Blu-ray release, see Dexter: The Fifth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 17, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, David Zayas, Julie Benz, James Remar, Yvonne Strahovski
Directors: John Dahl, Steve Shill, Keith Gordon, Marcos Siega, Ernest R. Dickerson, Romeo Tirone
» See full cast & crew
Dexter: The Fifth Season Blu-ray Review
"With Lumen, I'm someone different. In her eyes, I'm not a monster at all."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 17, 2011
Broadcast networks are teetering on the brink of irrelevancy. DVRs are rendering the broadcast business model ineffective, creative interference and dwindling support is sending talent scurrying for cable and premium networks, and original series from the likes of AMC, HBO, A&E and Showtime are stealing the acclaim once horded by the Big Four; shows like Dexter, one of the more consistently gripping, unpredictable and thrilling dramas on television, even five seasons in to what could have easily been an ill-advised single-season gimmick. (An ongoing series about Miami's friendly neighborhood serial killer? It's a miracle it's any good, much less still on the air.) Yet here we are. Michael C. Hall's guardian sociopath remains a fascinating protagonist, Dark Passenger and all. Current showrunner Chip Johannessen and his writers have delivered one of Dexter's most intelligently penned seasons to date (despite a seemingly shaky start, an untethered antihero and a relative unknown in the role of Dex's latest adversary). And Season Five? I find myself going into each successive season thinking this is when it all comes apart at the seams, and this time was no different. But Season Five is as fearless, intense and mesmerizing as the series' best, and left me all too hungry for the start of the sixth season this September.
Dexter's fourth season ended with a bloody bit of business that... was summarily spoiled for almost everyone who didn't see the final episode the week it aired. Between Facebook and Entertainment Weekly (your go-to sources for all things spoiler), the biggest shock of the season, not to mention the entire series, wasn't a shock for very long. And now, with Season Five hitting shelves (with the goods revealed on its back cover) and Season Six moving in for the kill, there's not much of a secret left to keep. I'll keep it just the same, for the few of you who have managed to avoid any Season Four details on your march through the series, but fair warning: it won't be too difficult to figure it out if you read much more.
Dexter (Michael C. Hall), racked with guilt after the Trinity Killer's parting gift shook him to his core, begins the slow process of piecing his life back together. All eyes are on Dex, though, and detective Quinn (Desmond Harrington) is more suspicious than ever, going so far as to press Lieutenant LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez) to take a closer look at the department's squeaky clean blood-spatter analyst. But while Dexter's life grinds to a halt, his work doesn't. At least not for long. As much as he tries to resist the call of his Dark Passenger, it's only a matter of time before he goes back to work. His target? Boyd Fowler (Shawn Hatosy), a degenerate who kidnaps, imprisons, rapes, tortures and kills young women. Unfortunately for Dexter, nothing goes according to plan. (Does it ever these days?) He manages to put a stop to Fowler's extracurricular activities... only to realize he did so in the presence of one of Fowler's intended victims, Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles). Dexter can't kill her; she's an innocent and that would violate Harry's code. He can't simply let her go; she's a witness, and that too would violate Harry's code. And he can't just abandon her; she's the key to finding Fowler's accomplices, one of whom is far deadlier and more dangerous than Boyd. With the stage set, Dexter has to deal with his guilt and rage, help Lumen suppress (and eventually indulge) her thirst for vengeance, thwart Quinn's investigation, dodge a shifty private investigator (Peter Weller), prevent his sister, detective Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), from catching Fowler's friends before he can lay them out on his table, and contend with Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller), a slippery motivational speaker who may or may not be the Big Bad Wolf he's looking for.
As TV trifectas go, Dexter's casting, performances and writing pay off more and more with each passing episode. Hall and his fellow series regulars grit their teeth and give their all, chewing their way through gristle and bone as if every episode could be their last (as it very well could be). Even lesser arcs -- Batista (David Zayas) and LaGuerta's tiresome romance, Quinn's initial jaunt through familiar Sergeant Doakes territory, and the trials and tribulations of Dexter's precocious tots, impressionable Cody (Preston Bailey) and sweet-girl-turned-angsty-teen Astor (Christina Robinson) -- grant the actors plenty of opportunities to steal the spotlight, however briefly. Harrington makes the most of a once thankless role, turning inward and scouring the depths of what might otherwise be a corrupt-cop cliché to emerge as a worthy in-house foe (armed with a late-season moral conundrum that nearly undoes Quinn and our darkly dreaming fallen angel). Hatosy, Miller and Weller are, in many ways, more unnerving nemeses than the killers of seasons past. Hatosy is off his rocker, Miller plays a mean game of psychological chicken, and Weller spits out scene after scene with the tenacity of a man with nothing to lose. Carpenter meanwhile, ever-underrated and ever-overlooked, continues to impress, peeling back layer after layer of Dexter's foul-mouthed sister, and continuing to evolve as the greatest threat to his house of cards. With little more than a gun and heavy plastic sheeting, she takes command of one of the most powerful scenes of the series, and she doesn't come out of nowhere to do so. Johannessen and his writers are much too clever for that. Yes, Carpenter comes on a bit strong at times, no argument here. But Deb's pathological veracity, her inability to do anything other than speak her mind and state her peace, is a fittingly simplistic counterweight to her brother's complex wolf-in-sheep's-clothes duality.
And Hall? Hall's performance is more absorbing than ever. For three uncharacteristically trying episodes, the Six Feet Under alum seems as lost at sea as poor Dexter. But it soon becomes oh-so-apparent that Hall has been in control of Morgan's reeling psyche from the outset. Dexter's road to recovery is long and arduous, and there are moments when the wounded child, the lovelorn son, the frightened father and the bloodthirsty killer pounce on one another, all but splintering into competing personas. But no matter the hesitation, hunt, kill, or act of mercy, Hall dissects Dexter with chilling precision, regardless of whether Dex is at violent odds with himself or coming to terms with his darkest desires. It helps that Dexter doesn't seek counsel with a serial killer. For the first time, he turns to a victim and, in the process, exhumes more of his humanity than Rita or Deb could ever help him unearth. John Lithgow's Trinity Killer is a tough act to follow, but Stiles' casting is nothing short of a coup, and Lumen is nothing short of a revelation. She's more than a surrogate, an apprentice or an innocent in need; she's more than wayward soul, a companion or, for that matter, a soul mate; and she's more than a path to redemption or a lesson in humility. Stiles exhales a victim's vulnerability and inhales a killer's compulsion, and walks a ragged edge between desperation and helplessness in doing so. Her scenes with Hall are extraordinary, indispensable really, and the bond they forge is the most spellbinding relationship the series has delivered to date. Better still, it brings out things in Dexter that, until now, were lying dormant. He's always shown hints of compassion and empathy, and we've even caught quick glimpses at the man within the monster. But it turns out Showtime's favorite ice-cold killer has a heart beating in his chest after all; it just took a jolt, a compression and a breath of fresh air to get it pumping again.
Dexter doesn't necessarily reinvent itself from season to season -- not entirely, anyway -- but it comes close enough. It would be a mistake to write off Season Five as a mere continuation of Season Four, and it would be an even greater mistake to write it off as just another round of don't get caught! Johannessen and his writers put Dexter in perpetual peril, sure, but it's all so captivating that it hardly registers as a formula. Threats loom on every horizon, obstacles litter his path and the consequences of his actions are closing in fast. Dexter even takes a turn as his own worst enemy, reacting when he should be planning, lunging ahead when he should prowl the shadows and succumbing to his impulses when Harry (James Remar) begs him to proceed with caution. At any given moment, it feels as if Johannessen is ready to rip back the curtain and reveal Dexter's true nature to his friends and family. That moment never comes, of course, but it feels like an inevitability rather than a possibility. Credit where credit's due: the cast and crew of Dexter have a firm handle on the series, its characters and its storylines. The writers make a few missteps along the way -- others will be bothered far more than I was -- and some of the supporting cast push too hard when they should let things develop a bit more naturally. But Season Five is Dexter at its most vicious, satisfying and poignant. If the quality of the fifth season's writing and performances are any indication, Season Six is about to make Dexter one of the must-see TV series this fall.
Dexter: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dexter: The Fifth Season boasts an excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation that's every bit as impressive as the series' previous releases. The image is rather noisy at times, especially when the lights are low and Dexter is on the prowl, but the grit-n-grain that comes out to play is a product of the original photography, not the encode itself. And, barring some subsequent softness, fine detail is exceedingly well-resolved and edge definition is (for the most part) razor sharp. Closeups are particularly striking and, more often than not, every pore, hair and shard of stubble is put on display for all to see. Skintones are gorgeous, even when baking in the heat of the unrelenting Miami, and contrast, while a tad uneven, is bold and satisfying. Yes, whites are overblown when the cameras wander outdoors at high noon and black levels are a touch too heavy on occasion, but again, it's all clearly a product of intention, nothing more. Colors are strong and aggressive, primaries pack punch, shadows are deep and ominous, and reds spatter across the screen with pointed intensity. Moreover, worrisome artifacting, banding, smearing, aliasing, ringing and other anomalies are kept to an absolute minimum, and some minor delineation deficiencies are the only oddities worth noting. So long as you know what to expect from an episode of Dexter, The Fifth Season's video presentation will be a real treat. Series fans will be thrilled.
Dexter: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
No surprises here either. The Fifth Season features yet another able-bodied Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track that handles the series' surreal, fluid soundscape with ease. Dexter has always been a show of slowburn action, and Season Five is no different. Fortunately, voices are clean, clear and perfectly intelligible, Dexter's omnipresent narration lords over the soundfield, and effects are crisp and pronounced. The rear speakers aren't aggressive, but they don't sit idly by when someone moves in for the kill. Ambience is particularly convincing, even though it's often joined by Daniel Licht's eerily atmospheric serial-killer melodies. The score seems to breathe and pulse with a life of its own and the experience is all the more immersive for it. Not to be outdone, the LFE channel delights in every gunshot, knife plunge and throaty engine Johannessen employs, and overall low-end support is firm and forceful. Apartments and other small spaces are notably front-heavy, no doubt. Regardless, The Fifth Season sounds as good as the four that have come before it, and Paramount's AV presentation is a terrific one.
Dexter: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Another 3-disc Dexter release, another batch of special features available solely via BD-Live. That's right, rather than include the fifth season's extras on the discs themselves, Paramount has once again tossed everything online. Not that there's much to speak of. Fans can sample two episodes of The Borgias, two episodes of Episodes (which is, in my humble opinion, hilarious), a selection of interviews with the cast and crew of Dexter and... not much else. Five seasons in, the barebones nature of the series' Blu-ray releases is no longer a surprise, but it's still disappointing.
Dexter: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
For those who didn't enjoy Season Four, The Fifth Season will be a mesmerizing return to form. For those who ate up every second of the Trinity Killer's reign, The Fifth Season will simply be a mesmerizing season of Dexter that ranks among its best. Hall is as potent as ever, newcomer Julia Stiles is a fantastic addition and Dexter's evolution as a man and monster remains one of the most fascinating character arcs on television. Paramount's Blu-ray release isn't quite as deadly as Dexter, but its excellent AV presentation rarely misses. Once again, it's the lack of extras that stands as the lone disappointment. Ah well, no matter. Dexter: The Fifth Season belongs on every series fan's shelves.
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