Dexter Morgan is a Miami Metro Police Department blood spatter analyst. Not what you'd call the most exciting of jobs, but Dexter leads a double life. When he's not helping the Miami Homicide division solve gruesome and grizzly murders, Dexter spends his time hunting and killing bad guys who slip through, or wiggle their way out of, the justice system. Whilst he'll happily charm his fellow officers with a tasty doughnut with chocolate sprinkles and freshly ground coffee, Dexter's mind is always off thinking about chopping up a victim and packaging their body parts in plastic bags ready for disposal in his "special place". I guess he's just your average psychotic killer who channels his behaviour into the scum of society.
The end of the first season saw Dexter kill his brother (for the uninitiated, serial murderers run in the family as his brother was known as the Ice Truck Killer) and Dexter now finds himself unable to kill again. He certainly wants to, and in fact needs to, but he is unnerved by feelings he can't understand that prevent him from despatching his latest victim. Trying to recover his killer instincts, Dexter decides he needs more of a challenge and sets his sights on a mountain-sized gangster called Little Chino. But with his nerves still on edge, Little Chino manages to escape from Dexter's lair. Unfortunately for Dexter, Chino is now ready and waiting for him and Dexter is going to have his work cut out trying to trap him.
But if Dexter didn't think his problems could get any worse, treasure hunting divers in the bay have just come across his special burial ground and Agent Lundy, a high-profile FBI agent, comes to Miami Metro PD to break the case of the city's newly discovered serial killer - the aptly named Bay Harbour Butcher. And with Sergeant James Doakes highly suspicious of Dexter, and trailing him where ever he goes, plus the Miami Metro Police Department is now spending all of its time and resources tracking down the newly christened Bay Harbour Butcher, could Dexter's murdering days be about to catch up with him?
The picture is wonderfully bright and colourful with a high level of detail throughout. The creepy (well, for someone who is not too keen on the sight of blood - or the thought of it) the opening credits of each episode look particularly impressive. With the many night time locations, the bright lights of downtown Miami and not forgetting the inviting beaches (and the not so inviting gang infested suburbs), the transfer is wonderfully rich with some solid black levels and massive range of colours.
It's certainly a cracking transfer and, given the location, I couldn't stop comparing it with the equally impressive CSI : Miami. Given that the first series of Dexter is also available on Blu-Ray in the US, the image quality of the standard DVD ensures that it's one of the best looking TV series currently out there on DVD - with the High-Definition version undoubtedly looking even more sumptuous that the version reviewed here. The image transfer certainly covers Dexter's humble television origins, so let's just hope his murdering ways aren't missed out for too long and a UK Blu-Ray release is planned.
Unusually for a television series, Dexter is presented with a 448Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Whilst this all sounds like a good thing, and something that's going to become more and more common in this digital and High-definition age, the actual soundtrack offers very little in the surround department. Never the less, the dialogue is clear and precise whilst the dramatic musical score is blended perfectly with the rest of the audio. Whilst there is some activity in the surround channels, its mainly used for ambient effects and reinforcing the engaging musical score. Not bad for a television series.
The menu is scored with a wonderful creepy tune and animated with clips from the series on a red background. There's even a nice bloody transition effect whenever a menu option is selected. Extras wise, they are all contained on their very own Bonus Disc. Unfortunately, this means that there's no Audio Commentary or Deleted Scenes and the main episode discs simply get on with the show and, unless you want spoilers galore, you really need to save the extras until you've finished watching the series.
The main extra is the six minute The Code of Harry featurette. With plenty of clips from the series, and interviews with the majority of the cast, including the all important Michael C. Hall, the featurette looks at the rules Dexter adheres to when choosing his victims. Whilst new viewers will find this of some interest, regulars won't discover anything new - although there is a bit of a tease of what's to come in season three. Next up is the five minute featurette Creating the Dexter Theme with Rolfe Kent. In it, and accompanied by the opening title sequence, Rolfe talks about how he came up with the wonderfully dark theme tune. Being a composer he reveals how he went about composing the tune and how he made certain notes hit certain points in the title sequence - only for the studio to change the titles. Music featurettes can be a little on the boring side, but this one is certainly worth a look.
Next up is the rather cheesy three minute featurette Interview with Jeff Lindsay, Author of Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Created for the UK version of the FX satellite television channel, the channel met up with Jeff Lindsay in London whilst he was there to talk about the new series of Dexter (which was unsurprisingly due to be shown exclusively on the channel). In it, he talks briefly about the ideas behind the book and then onto the series and what he thinks of Michael C. Hall. Given that the featurette is a mere three minutes long you're not going to get too much from this and it's probably only worthwhile watching if you're curious to know what the author looks like.
If the previous interview featurette smelt a bit like filler material then the rotten stench of it is unleashed in Dexter's Tool Kit. This is simply a collection of pictures showing a collection of tools used in the kitchen and operating theatre - with the occasional one giving a description of its "proper" food preparation or medical use (after all, they all have pretty much the same use). Continuing with the rather pointless features is the Victim Slide extra. Now, I guess by the word "slide" you'd be expecting just that, however, this is not the case as you are presented with five of Dexter's victims and, once selected, you get a brief clip of the show as he meets and greets his victim prior to their journey to the afterlife.
The padding material continues with the Dexter Trivia Game. Keep answering the questions about Dexter correctly then you'll get a nice surprise - not that it's hard to get them wrong as you can keep trying the same question over and over until you get it right. If you thought you couldn't fit anymore padding material onto one disc then think again as the Gallery is back with plenty of slides from the series. I'd count them and tell you how many there were, but I was losing the will to live after the first ten uninspiring slides. Next up are four rather bizarre, and confusing, Factoid features which are essentially the same four episodes from the series with added fact-titles. Quite what the point of all of this is beyond me, after all, why not simply add them to the original episodes on the other discs? The shameless padding is completed with Cast Biogs and Filmographies. Still, at least the series more than makes up for the rather poor collection on offer here. Let's just hope future releases include some worthy extras - such as audio commentaries and some proper behind-the-scenes footage of the makeup and body parts.
Just why is Dexter such addictive viewing? After all, this guy is a serial murderer - and a pretty effective one too. Sure, he only ensures that the bad guys and society's dross end up at the bottom of the bay, but it's surprisingly compulsive viewing. Based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay (I hope the FBI have checked him out!) and adapted for television by Emmy Award-winning screenwriter James Manos, the dialogue is as sharp as some of Dexter's surgical tools and, at times, it's so humorous you can't help laughing at some outlandish quip that you'd normally expect from someone like James Bond after he's dispatched a villain. So, does that help answer the question?
Given the subject matter Dexter really shouldn't have made it to the small screen (although I'm sure a big screen adaptation could have worked extremely well). Never the less, we do have a television series and it works remarkably well - even more so when you consider the amazing popularity of the series. Quite what has happened in TV land in the US is beyond me - especially when you consider the amount of "out there" series they have. With the likes of the, albeit now cancelled, Pushing Daises and the extremely popular Desperate Housewives you have to wonder just who these young executives and producers are out there taking chances. Unfortunately, I dare say that the credit crunch will now have a big effect on what new programming emerges from Dexter's shadow with only those series that "play it safe" making the airwaves. Still, I guess Dexter could always have a crack at a few bankers, or even a spin off show following a similar banker butchering theme!
It goes without saying that this DVD should be kept well away from children, but for mature teenagers or adults, Dexter is a fantastic series that will surely find itself amongst the holy grail of being called a "classic". Given the quality of the image transfer, plus the fact it has been recorded in high-definition, I just hope the programme's distributors find the time and effort to release Dexter in the UK on Blu-Ray. It's just a shame about the quality of those extras.
- The Code of Harry
- Interview with Dexter Composer Rolfe Kent
- Interview with Jeff Lindsay, Author of Darkly Dreaming Dexter
- Dexter's Tool Kit
- Victim Slides
- Dexter Trivia Game
- Stills Gallery
- Waiting to Exhale
- See Through
- Dex, Lies and Videotape
- Morning Comes
- Cast Biographies and Filmographies