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Dexter: The Fourth Season(TV) (2009)
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 Fourth Season and the Dexter: The Fourth Season Blu-ray release, see Dexter: The Fourth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 15, 2010 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 Fourth Season Blu-ray Review
Showtime's critically acclaimed series strikes bloody gold yet again...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 15, 2010
If I were asked to describe the current crop of television series littering the broadcast landscape, "unconventional" and "innovative" wouldn't be among the words I would choose. "Derivative?" Perhaps. "Unoriginal?" Without a doubt. I'm sure I'd even trot out the term "lowest common denominator" at some point. But regardless of what adjectives bubbled up in my brain, I'd be sure to mention the rare shows that buck TV's all-too-underwhelming trends. Series like Dexter, an unpredictable breath of sadistically fresh air that continues to shock, surprise and thrill more and more with each passing episode. It could have all come crashing down after three episodes. It could have amounted to little more than a tiresome gimmick. It could have sputtered and stalled long before its second or third seasons were even conceived. Instead, it's proven itself to be one of the smartest and sharpest dramas on TV; a must-see mix of blood-n-brilliance that deserves whatever critical acclaim, nominations and awards come its way. Over the course of its fourth uncompromising season, Dexter continues to up the ante even further, delivering more devious killers, more complex psychological conundrums for our dark premium-cable avenger, and more jaw-dropping developments and gut-punch reveals than I care to risk spoiling.
A serial killer as a protagonist? Once upon a time, I remember balking at such a dicey, thinly veiled gimmick. But here I am, four seasons later, introducing everyone I know to my good friend, Dexter Morgan (played with wounded soullessness by Six Feet Under's Michael C. Hall). Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst by day, calculating killer by night, Dexter preys on those who circumvent the legal system, the untouchable wolves-in-sheep's-clothing his precious city fails to bring to justice. But a deeper desire drives Dexter; a need to come terms with his own humanity (or lack thereof). Initially, he thought starting a family with girlfriend-turned-wife Rita (Julie Benz) would satiate his appetite for normalcy, but her two children (Christina Robinson and Preston Bailey) and a new baby have only complicated matters, making it more difficult for Dexter to prowl the city unabated. His sister, MMPD detective Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter), isn't much help either, seeking Dexter's counsel on matters of the heart... a subject he has trouble grasping himself. And his adoptive father, Harry (James Remar)? A fading memory; a subconscious shade Dexter conjures up whenever he's struggling to maintain the balance between his two lives. Frustrated at his family's inability to help him reconnect with his humanity, Dexter turns to the only guides he can: veteran serial killers who've found ways to blend into society and mask their true natures.
His latest fascination is the Trinity Killer (a chillingly creepy John Lithgow), a meticulous, extremely cautious serial murderer that former FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine) has been tracking for the better part of his career. Active for more than thirty years, Trinity kills in threes, but has never been caught. (Aside from Lundy, few people even believe the various murders are connected.) But when Dexter closes in on Trinity, determined to snuff out one of the most prolific killers he's encountered, he makes a startling discovery. The Trinity Killer is actually Arthur Mitchell: school teacher, church deacon, community volunteer and, surprise, faithful husband and loving father. Trinity, as it turns out, has found a way to hide in plain sight. Postponing his plans, Dexter befriends Arthur and engages in a dangerous game of cat and... erm, cat in the hopes of learning everything he can from his newly declared serial sage. Of course, that means preventing his sister and co-workers from honing in on Trinity. Ignoring Harry's pleas and risking his own exposure, he tries to simultaneously save his marriage, learn to be a good father, hide his true identity from Arthur, stall his sister's case, prevent Trinity from killing again, and stay one step ahead of the police, his family and his prey. All in a day's work for our dearly devoted Dexter.
Having handed Jimmy Smits the meatiest role of his career in Dexter's third season (a role Smits tackled with masterful malice, I might add), series creator James Manos Jr. offers Lithgow a silver platter. The award-winning actor is no stranger to grand villainy -- Cliffhanger anyone? -- but his Trinity Killer is a darker beast entirely. Poised and composed one minute, splitting at the seams the next, Lithgow nearly steals the show from Hall, crafting one of the most unsettling, fully realized monsters to grace the small screen. The murders themselves are gruesome and unnerving, sure, but it's the hollow gleam in Lithgow's eye, the icy resolve that falls across his face, the menacing posture his looming frame embraces that makes each deed so frightening. He inhabits every inch of Trinity, sinking his teeth into his performance and into the very fabric of Dexter's psychological narrative. Suffice to say, by the time Lithgow and Trinity complete their gory masterpiece, it's clear that Hall and Dexter will never be the same again. (I say that with the utmost anticipation for the series' fifth season, scheduled to air on Showtime in September.)
Even so, Dexter is Hall's show and he mindfully keeps his head above Lithgow's waters. The key to the series' success has always been the evolution -- or deconstruction as it were -- of author Jeff Lindsay's well-intentioned serial killer and the elaborate ethical sensibilities his character clings to. But whereas Lindsay's Dexter has a bit too much Patrick Bateman flowing through his veins, Manos and Hall's Dexter is a more affective creature, a more hypnotic protagonist, a more complex anti-hero, a more... human serial killer. More than anything though, their Dexter is convinced that he is something he isn't: unredeemably evil. The product of self-fulfilling prophecy, his acts seem to stem from duty rather than compulsion. Yes, glimpses into Dexter's past reveal a genuinely depraved appetite, but his present course suggests the bulk of these sinister compulsions have been replaced with a need to find purpose. His greatest folly is declaring every monster a potential mentor; a habit that traces back to the loss of his mother and, later, his adoptive father. To his great credit, Hall handles Dexter's perpetual turmoil and fledgling moral compass with steady sincerity, rejecting any hint of camp or self-awareness. He approaches every scene and scenario with the utmost seriousness, and the series rises to meet his remarkably precise performance.
Manos overextends here and there -- Rita's nagging and subsequent brushes with indiscretion are somewhat annoying, Arthur's penchant for baring more than his soul is distracting, and a left-field, interdepartmental relationship serves little purpose -- but even his missteps are often more interesting than most series' highlights. If anything, Trinity is difficult to lock down for the vast majority of the season. (There are episodes that will leave series fans scratching their heads, wondering what breed of insanity Lithgow will channel next.) Rest assured though, it all comes together by season's end, and the Trinity Killer's every manic outburst and mood swing suddenly makes perfect sense. The Complete Fourth Season's toughest competition turns out to be previous seasons of Dexter. (The series' second and third seasons narrowly best season four.) Regardless, Manos, Hall and Lithgow are at the top of their games, and Dexter remains one of the must-see shows on television.
Dexter: The Fourth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Baked to a golden brown in the searing sun and stark shadows of DoP Romeo Tirone's evocative, hyperstylized photography, Dexter: The Complete Fourth Season sizzles on Blu-ray with a faithful, strangely satisfying 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation; one that's sure to please anyone familiar with the series' striking visuals and previous high definition releases. Colors are often overcooked and contrast is sometimes overbearing, but creator James Manos Jr. wouldn't have it any other way. Dexter's days are brimming with blown out whites, bleached primaries, and Miami pastels, his dreamscapes and delusions are awash with vibrant hues and diffuse imagery, and his nights are peppered with unrelenting darkness and gristly grit. And while it might sound as if it would amount to an inconsistent experience, there's a magnificent madness to Manos' intentions, and Paramount's exceedingly proficient presentation doesn't hinder it in the slightest. Detail is impressive as well, offering beautifully resolved fine textures, a slew of gorgeous closeups, crisp object definition (with little to no ringing), and a perfectly preserved veneer of grain. Soft shots appear throughout -- most notably when Dexter speaks with his long-deceased father -- but only those which Manos and Tirone deem fit. How precise is Paramount's technical transfer? I didn't notice any significant artifacting, smearing, banding or any other cause for concern, and noise, unruly as it becomes at times, is a product of the show' photography, not the studio's encoding efforts. All in all, Dexter's fourth season looks every bit as good as its first three. Series fans will be ecstatic.
Dexter: The Fourth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Blu-ray edition of Dexter: The Complete Fourth Season doesn't feature the most aggressive Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track I've had the pleasure of reviewing, but then again, neither does the series. Steeped in Hall's omnipresent narration and Daniel Licht's cyclical score, the sometimes front-heavy mix nevertheless draws listeners deep into Dexter's demented mind. Dialogue is warm and intelligible throughout, and lines are rarely buried in the madness that follows in Trinity's hammer-wielding wake. Pulpy kill-strikes tap the LFE channel to great effect, and blood spatters convincingly across the rear speakers; Trinity's van roars to life as Dexter gives chase, and the crowds at a bustling mall are spread neatly around the soundfield. Directionality is spot on (at least when Hall's narration isn't muffling the ambience that permeates Dexter's hunting grounds), dynamics are impressive (especially considering how reserved the series' sonics can be at times), pans are fairly transparent, and interior acoustics, while ever so tinny on occasion, are convincing. No matter how chaotic or quiet an episode becomes, Dexter's atmospheric mix remains immersive and involving, and will draw favorable comparisons to the lossless tracks available on the series' previous Blu-ray releases.
Dexter: The Fourth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Yet again, Dexter arrives on Blu-ray with a wholly underwhelming supplemental package; one that forces viewers to connect to BD-Live to access and download the fourth season's limited special features. While I wasn't able to peruse any of the online features (they're unavailable until the set's official release date), the list includes: Movie IQ functionality, two third season episodes of Californication, two fourth season episodes of The Tudors, and interviews with Michael C. Hall, Clyde Phillips, David Zayas, Jon Lithgow, C.S. Lee, Julie Benz, Lauren Velez, Jennifer Carpenter, and James Remar.
More disappointing though is the fact that The Complete Fourth Season doesn't offer a single audio commentary or production documentary, on or offline. At this point, I've lost all hope that Dexter will ever be shown any legitimate supplemental love.
Dexter: The Fourth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Four seasons in, Dexter is as compelling a series as ever. The Complete Fourth Season not only dissects and dismembers its mainstays, it introduces a variety of new characters, among them John Lithgow's volatile, disturbing Trinity Killer. Not every subplot is as fresh as the last, but genuine shock and surprise anyone who braves Dexter's latest hunt. I, for one, cannot wait for the series' fifth season to pick up where this season left off. No, Paramount's release of Dexter: The Complete Fourth Season isn't perfect. While it impresses with a fantastic video transfer and rousing TrueHD audio mix, it stumbles with yet another barebones supplemental package (features are available, albeit via BD-Live). But it still earns my unabashed recommendation.
Dexter: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with Dexter: The Fourth Season (6 bundles)
Dexter: The Fourth Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - August 17-23 - August 17, 2010
Ah, the slow weeks. A chance to give your wallet a much deserved reprieve from the weekly onslaught of Blu-ray purchases that feed your everlasting urge for high definition wonderment. A time to sit back and realize that those 16 sealed Blu-ray movie simply aren't ...
• Dexter Season 4 Blu-ray Announced - May 17, 2010
Paramount Home Entertainment has announced that it will bring Dexter: The Complete Fourth Season to Blu-ray on August 17. There is no information on special features at the moment. A pack containing the first four seasons of this Showtime series will also be released ...
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