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Dexter: The Sixth Season(TV) (2011)
Dexter Morgan returns, this time in pursuit of the Doomsday Killer.
For more about Dexter: The Sixth Season and the Dexter: The Sixth Season Blu-ray release, see Dexter: The Sixth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 17, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 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 Sixth Season Blu-ray Review
Terrific season finale cliffhanger. Most everything that comes before it? Not so much...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 17, 2012
Dexter has never been beholden to a gimmick. The show's premise may read like a gimmick -- a Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst is secretly a serial killer who stalks and kills... other serial killers! -- but, as anyone who's spent any quality time with the critically acclaimed Showtime series will attest, there's far, far more to darkly dreaming Dexter Morgan and his habit-forming amorality tale than a grisly TV hook. Or rather there has been for five riveting seasons. Dexter's sixth season is, by far, its worst, even though I have to admit it's difficult to pinpoint the exact reason. Why so difficult? Mainly because whatever it is seems to have infected everything and everyone involved, from America's most beloved (or perhaps only beloved) serial killer to his cases and kills, his foul-mouthed, duty-bound sister, his fellow officers in the MMPD, the series' newest crop of guest stars, the Big Bads of Season Six, the themes explored and, most distressingly, the writers' room itself.
I always thought my Dark Passenger was a need I had to fill. But what if I'm wrong? Maybe it's not a need but a calling. After all, I rid the world of evil people. If they didn't exist, neither would I. Is it possible I serve a... higher purpose?
When last we left Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), emotionless serial killer and part-time human being, he had found and summarily lost his soul mate (after losing his wife to a maniac's blade just one season earlier). Adrift, Dexter is left to deal with yet another crisis one year later; a potentially fascinating crisis of faith that goes nowhere fast. Or slow. Provoked by baby Harrison's admission to a Catholic preschool, a tableside chat with one of his victims and, more importantly, the emergence of a new rival with a flair for religious symbols and gruesome murders the police dub the Doomsday Killer (or DDK for short). The latest serial killer to land on Dexter's hit list, though, is actually two men: a meek religious man named Travis Marshall (Colin Hanks) and his chosen prophet, Professor Gellar (Edward James Olmos), a madman who believes he and his disciple can jumpstart the Apocalypse by carrying out a series of ritualistic murders. Dexter's search for DDK brings him to another religious man as well: Brother Sam (Mos Def), a reformed ex-convict who may or may not be working on the side of the angels.
The remaining Dexter denizens aren't given much to do. Dexter's sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) is promoted to lieutenant but spends most of the season trying to crawl out from beneath the thumb of her newly promoted captain, María LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez). LaGuerta and Deputy Chief Matthews (Geoff Pierson) are up to... something. Batista (David Zayas), now divorced, spends his time trying to get the recently dumped Quinn (Desmond Harrington) to snap out of his brokenhearted stupor. And poor Masuka (C. S. Lee), ever the pitch-perfect comic relief, is relegated to a silly plot involving an intern (Brea Grant) who uses her womanly ways to swipe old pieces of evidence and sell them online. There are also a few new additions to Miami's bloodiest, aside from Travis, Professor Gellar and Brother Sam. Batista's sister Jamie (Aimee Garcia) is tasked with babysitting Harrison while Dexter is out doing his worst, and a no-nonsense detective (Billy Brown) fills Deb's vacancy. There are even a few unexpected cameos from old familiar faces, some of whom Dexter wishes had stayed buried.
It's probably wise to mention I count Dexter among my favorite shows. (Exhibits A, B, C and D.) From the moment teasers for Season Six popped up online, backed by Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," the idea of Dexter confronting his own duality as sinner and saint was a tantalizing one. But the ensuing crisis of faith resembles something any upstart scriptwriter who took a Philosophy 101 course at his local community college could pound out in a couple of days. For the first time in its run, Dexter spells out. Every. Last. Plot point. And piece. Of evidence. Again. And again. And again. Religious iconography and Book of Revelation symbology are explained and explained ad nauseum, character motivations are repeated and repeated in case we forgot, and will-he-or-won't-he-get-caught tension is hashed, rehashed and rehashed again. Even an episode like "Nebraska," which offers a brief reprieve from the Doomsday Killers mundanity, is so off-the-wall that it seems tangential and out of sync with the rest of the season (and series for that matter).
But that isn't the sixth season's only disconcerting First. For the first time, I found myself one, two, sometimes six steps ahead of the series. Not midway through the season's twelve episodes either; almost from the get-go. For the first time, Dex began to irritate, Deb began to disinterest, Bautista ran aground, Masuka fell flat, Quinn lost his momentum, and the main villains amounted to a bore and, ironically, a gimmick. For the first time, I called almost every twist and turn well before the story jerked left or right. For the first time, I wasn't perched on the proverbial edge of my seat, wondering if this was the end of... well, anyone. I sat there, episode after episode, dumbfounded that it wasn't getting better. It was only getting worse.
Not that I wasn't taken by surprise every now and then. One early-season death caught me off guard; not because it came as much of a jolt, but because the Grim Reaper came calling for a name actor, what followed was a complete squandering of that particular subplot's narrative potential and, ultimately, proved to be almost entirely unnecessary. Cryptic enough? You'll know it when you see it. More spoiler-free stabs at mishandled storylines, you ask? How about the worst one of all; the plot twist that left my jaw unhinged, not necessarily because it was shocking (which it was for all the wrong reasons) but because it required the entire series to strap on a pair of water skis, veer towards a ramp, and jump a shark even Fonzie would have avoided. The offense in question? A character (who shall remain nameless) has a dramatic realization about their true feelings for another character, which, barring a miraculous redemption in Season Seven, will probably go down as the precise moment the Dexter writers lost their minds. If I sound upset, it's because I am. Much as I try to detach myself to a degree when writing a review, there are times when I have such a visceral response to a story development that I can't help but cry foul. As the disappointments piled up, each sucker punch struck harder and harder, solidifying my dissatisfaction with the sixth season and, eventually, bumping my disillusionment with the series to heights previously unknown.
And so we return to that eternal question: why? Why does Dexter's sixth season pale in comparison to its first five? Why doesn't any of it click? Why is it so many of the series' core elements fail to align? If I had to hazard a guess I'd say the writers, who've thoroughly demonstrated just how sharp and serrated they can be, are finally at their wits' end, running out of material, and scrambling to top the unholy angels and righteous demons of seasons past (the pre-Daddy Daycare Dexter and the Trinity Killer chief among them). Slipping on a showrunner's shoes, it doesn't require a tour of the writers' room to understand how hard it would be to keep a show like Dexter fresh, to keep an audience invested in a killer (even one desperate to become a real human boy), or to prevent a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing formula from growing stale season in and season out. It doesn't excuse a creative pileup, though, or make watching it unfold any easier to bear. And the showrunners and writers aren't the only ones out of sorts. Hall isn't as focused or deliberate in his method or madness, Carpenter is all over the place, James Remar (as Harry, Dexter's father) runs through the motions, Vélez is more one-note than ever, Olmos and Hanks never gel or intimidate (although Olmos is fantastic), Mos Def is wasted (especially since he brings such depth and righteous pathos to Brother Sam), and there's too much dead weight in the supporting cast this year (Garcia, Brown, Grant and others). It says a lot when Josh Cooke (fine an actor as he is), playing little more than a mild-mannered computer geek, steals scene after scene from the series' big guns.
Is it possible for a single mediocre season -- or rather an extreme reaction to an already divisive season -- to cause a show to fall so far from grace that it can't recover? Only time will tell. Regardless of how far Dexter plummeted from heaven, though, regardless of how far gone Season Six seemed to me at times, I knew full well I'd be tuning in to find out what Season Seven had in store. I'll be more gun-shy going in than I've ever been, that much is sure, but Dexter is still at the top of my must-see list this fall. I just don't know if I can take another beating like the one Dex and his Dark Passenger doled out this season. Not that it matters much I suppose. With a very real end in sight (Dexter's forthcoming seventh and eighth seasons will be its last), I doubt I could resist staying on board, even if the series hurtles off the rails.
Dexter: The Sixth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Dexter's latest outing may disappoint, but its 1080p/AVC-encoded most definitely does not. Like the five-season Blu-ray releases before it, The Sixth Season's presentation is a real killer, with bold splashes of color, vicious spatters of red, hot Miami primaries, warm but nicely saturated fleshtones, and generally deep, sinister black levels (although some nighttime scenes have a distinct washed out appearance). Contrast is a touch hot by design, sure, and noise often swarms the stark summer skies and dark corners of a kill house, but Dexter is as deadly in the light as it is in the shadows. Better still, detail rarely takes a hit, minus several soft shots that trace back to the series' original photography. Textures are typically razor sharp, edges are crisp and clean, and closeups fare wonderfully; jagged stubble, specks of blood, tattered plastic wrap, prison-yard scars, flecks of religious relic rust, grizzled brows and all. If you thought the show was gruesome before, just wait until you get a load of the Doomsday Killer victims in stomach-turning high definition. And the encode itself? There isn't any significant artifacting, banding, aliasing, crush or, really, any other anomaly that isn't attributable to the source. Simply put, Dexter looks great.
Dexter: The Sixth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Little has changed in regards to Dexter's newest DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, other than the sudden shift in Dexter's visions of his father, which lack the dreamlike soundscape and eerily immerssive qualities they once had. Dialogue is clear, neatly grounded, and carefully prioritized within the mix, and every hammer smash, knife plunge, gunshot, blood spray, disembowelment and other ghastly kill-sound is given the same horrific attention it's always been given. The series' score is ever at the forefront too, without overwhelming other elements in the show's already reasonably absorbing soundfield. Rear speaker activity is convincing (even if it isn't entirely arresting or aggressive), LFE output is strong and foreboding, and dynamics are more than equipped for the task at hand. All that said, even Season Six's sound design seems a bit disjointed at times, with Dexter's narration being one of the only elements that separate his inner thoughts from his literal encounters and experiences. And while none of that affects the technical quality of Dexter's latest lossless track, it does make it a bit less effective than those of previous seasons. Ultimately, though, series fans will still be more than pleased with the sixth season's AV presentation. I certainly was.
Dexter: The Sixth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Like previous seasons of Dexter released on Blu-ray, The Sixth Season doesn't include any special features, at least none that are housed on any of the set's three discs. Fans have to resort to accessing a cumbersome BD-Live hub and viewing online extras; a move even those with lingering affection for BD-Live content will find troubling and inconvenient. Ah well. As is par for the Dexter course, the Season Six BD-Live hub offers a series of interviews and a selection of episodes from other Showtime series: Californication, The Borgias and House of Lies (a brash, initially alienating new comedy starring Don Cheadle and Kristen Bell that starts off rough but quickly grows addicting).
Dexter: The Sixth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Dexter's sixth season is by far its most problematic and divisive. It isn't so much a troubling creative direction, though, as much as it is a sudden decline in quality, both on screen and in the writers' room. Is the show out of steam? Are the writers out of ideas? Or did I just overreact to a few bad decisions? I leave that to all of you to decide. I've said my peace. Fortunately, the Blu-ray release of The Sixth Season is every bit as good as those of previous seasons. Yes, it's as woefully short on supplemental material as ever, and yes, BD-Live isn't an ideal way to deliver what few extras are offered. But between this season's killer video presentation and bloody good DTS-HD Master Audio mix, Dexter fans don't have much to worry about. Other than Season Seven, that is. Here's hoping the series is back on track when Showtime's avenging angel returns on September 30th.
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