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DVD Review: Dexter – The First Season

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From the opening note's of Dexter's theme music, the viewer is made aware that they are in for a dark, yet somehow funny tale.  Starring Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) as the titular Dexter Morgan, the show focuses on Dexter, a blood-spatter expert who works for the Miami Police Department.  Beyond just working for the police though, Dexter happens to be a serial killer.

Don't worry though, Dexter only kills bad people – he has a code.  The code, created and instilled by adoptive father, Harry (James Remar), is what Dexter uses to avoid getting caught by the police.  Though more rules to the code may be uncovered in the future, the few cardinal rules that are explored in season one deal with the aforementioned only killing bad people, and fully planning the capture of the individual.  It is an intricate process, and Dexter is usually meticulous in his planning.

After introducing Dexter and explaining who he is, the season quickly introduces the "Ice Truck Killer," a serial killer who is exsanguinating hookers and cutting their bodies into pieces.  The killer also seems to know who, and what, Dexter is.  For his part, Dexter is fascinated with the killer both admiring and being disgusted by him.

The show is able to handle the darkness inside Dexter's soul with ease, quickly moving from some of Dexter's darker deeds to lighter moments.  Perhaps one reason for this is that however much Dexter might tell us in his voice over that he feels nothing, he is not being truthful.  Dexter's actions and attitudes, his reverence for Harry and his wanting to see justice done belie the notion. 

Numerous complications exist in Dexter's life, from trying to keep his sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), close without revealing who he is, to trying to have a "normal" life with his girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz).  Both of these women have numerous issues in their own lives and Dexter is constantly brought in (either by his choice or theirs) to help them out. 

The supporting cast of characters is deeper than just these two women.  The show also explores the lives of several detectives within the police department, as well as the politics of the department.  These additions help make the world Dexter lives in seem more real, and add a depth to the show that is beneficial. 

Much of the wit in the show seems to stem from the fact that Dexter is just this regular old, average guy, someone with all the trappings of a normal, ordinary life, he just happens to be a serial killer.  His love of blood spatter at murder scenes gives some of his "differences" away, but the show really works the dichotomy of average-Dexter versus killer-Dexter very well.

The mystery of the "Ice Truck Killer" is also a good hook for the 12-episode season.  Once the killer is revealed (and the audience ought to know who it is about two episodes before anyone on the show figures it out), the story becomes no less interesting.  Again here the show works the "two sides of the same coin" premise wonderfully, exploring the "good" serial killer, Dexter, with the "bad" serial killer, "Ice Truck."

The first season DVD also comes with a handful of special features.  There are a couple of featurettes, one on an actual case in which blood-spatter analysis played a crucial role, and two episodes of Showtime's Brotherhood TV series.  When used on a computer there are also downloads available, including an episode of The Tudors and two chapters of a new Dexter novel.  There are also audio commentaries for some episodes. 

Dexter's new season starts on Showtime September 30, but the Season One DVD set is available for purchase now, and it is a darkly good time. 

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.