This week, CBS Home Entertainment released season five of Showtime's hit series Dexter on DVD and Blu-Ray. Here's my look inside the DVD version.
After a spectacular fourth season (I don't know about you, but I have a really hard time watching John Lithgow in those 3rd Rock from the Sun reruns now), Dexter had a tough act to follow. While I don't dislike season five as much as some fans, I can see where their disappointment comes from - it's a worthwhile go, but the standard was set high and it didn't quite get there.
Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You) is the season's major guest star as Lumen Pierce, and you either love her or hate her. I didn't really embrace Lumen or her relationship with Dexter, but I appreciated what the writers were trying to say about his character through hers. Not to mention, I'm really glad the series didn't suddenly forget that Dex has three kids to worry about. So many other shows would ship them off somewhere never to be heard from again. Not Dexter.
The real revelation for me was Jonny Lee Miller (Eli Stone) as motivational guru Jordan Chase. If you saw Eli Stone, you know that Miller has plenty of charisma...and to see it used for evil instead of good really unsettled me. I loved to hate his character, and was glad to see him get his. He's helped out by some other equally underrated actors along the way: check out Chris Vance (Burn Notice, Fairly Legal, the upcoming Transporter series for Cinemax) as Chase's ruthless head of security and Scott Grimes (ER, American Dad) in an all-too-brief role.
I also enjoyed the subplot between Dex's sister Debra (the criminally overlooked Jennifer Carpenter) and her partner Joey Quinn (Desmond Harrington, one of my longtime favorite actors). I've been asking for more of Quinn, and I finally got that this year; his interactions with ex-cop Stan Liddy (Peter Weller) were delightfully creepy, and also allowed for another side of Quinn to emerge.
I wasn't so sure I wanted him involved with Deb, but although it was done in the most random way possible, it actually started to gel by season's end. I'm not sure that the romance will last, but I have to admit it solved two problems - Deb's laughably miserable love life and Quinn's lack of serious character development - in one stroke. I can't argue with that.
Is season five as great as season four? No, but it gets a harsher rap than it deserves. The mantra in Hollywood is always to make every outing bigger than the last, and I've always been of the belief that's misguided to a point. You don't need to keep going bigger and bigger. Sometimes it's enough to just tell another good story, and season five of Dexter is a good story.
For my detailed thoughts on the season, you can check out my archive of Dexter episode reviews from season five.
There's some cool box and case art for Dexter season five; it's just not too well organized. You'll get four discs inside two plastic cases, which in turn are within a cardboard slipcase. I would be fine with this if the episode titles and synopses weren't printed inside the cases, meaning that you have to remove the disc to read them. That's an unnecessary annoyance.
Specs-wise, you're treated to a 16:9 widescreen picture, with an English Dolby 5.1 Surround audio track that's perfect for scaring the bejesus out of yourself during a rewatch. You're not as well off if you're listening to it in other languages, though - the additional audio tracks are an English stereo, French stereo and a Spanish mono. There are only English captions, and those don't apply to all the special features, which seems a tad unfair to the hard-of-hearing fans.
At least the first two discs come with a forced promo for Showtime. The disc menus are nice and easy to navigate; there's episode selection but no scene selection.
There's one potential glitch: when I put disc one into my laptop, it didn't play any audio...at all. Not the episodes, not the promo, nothing. The other three worked fine, so I'm willing to say this is just a defective disc, but if you plan to take Dexter with you, I would check all four before you hit the road.
If you can afford it, I highly recommend that you purchase the Blu-Ray. While the picture and sound of the DVD are sharp, as I mentioned in my TV on Blu-Ray article, Dexter on Blu is something disturbingly fantastic. The blood is creepily bright and the sounds will make you cringe. It's absolutely worth the upgrade.
The Special Features
I've always been really disappointed by the special features on the Dexter sets. They're mostly promotion for Showtime's other series, and not enough about Dexter itself. That doesn't change here. The biggest chunk of bonuses is devoted to installments of The Borgias, Californication and Episodes.
The actual Dexter extras aren't even on the discs themselves - like previous years, they must be accessed online via "E-Bridge," which only makes me wonder how long we'll have access to them. I'm not really keen on the idea of special features that I paid for but don't permanently have. That said, you get a good selection of interviews (with Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Desmond Harrington, C.S. Lee, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, James Remar, Julia Stiles and showrunner Chip Johannessen).
There's also an entire featurette entitled Reflecting on Season Five: Julia Stiles. This sort of ruffles my feathers. I get that Stiles was the major guest star of season five, but to have the set's one featurette devoted to a guest star seems a bit much. It's great if you enjoyed Stiles' work, but I would have preferred something that focused on more than just her.
You will, however, be treated to a coupon for 15% off the Dexter board game, which I thoroughly enjoyed when I tested it a few months ago. If you've got friends who are Dexter fans, it's worth picking up.
The Bottom Line
While the set could be much better in the bonuses department, Dexter gets a pretty great transfer of a good season. This is a recommended buy on the strength of the show alone. Now let's see a set that has some extras worthy of this unique and fantastic show.