L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Dexter: The Third Season [Blu-ray]

 

(Developed for Television by James Manos, Jr., 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Showtime Entertainment & John Goldwyn & Clyde Phillips Productions & The Colleton Company

Blu-ray: Paramount/CBS Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 10 hrs.

Chapters: 12

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case, w/ flip-page

Release date: August 18, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English Dolby TrueHD 5.1. Dub: Spanish Dolby 2.0.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH

 

Extras:

• BD-Live 2.0 features:

• Dexter by Design – Book Excerpts

• Interviews with Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Vélez, David Zayas

• First 2 Episodes of The Tudors, Season 3

• First 2 Episodes of United States of Tara, Season 1

 

 

The Film:

See also my Blu-ray reviews of Dexter Seasons One & Two

As we learned in Season One, by day Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a blood-spatter forensic analyst for the Miami Metro Police. By night, he "takes out the trash" as he refers to his decade long obsession as a vigilante serial killer. Dexter's fascination with the processes of death and killing began early but he's found a way to live with his peculiarities. In one of Dexter's many flashbacks we find him in a close-up discussion with his adoptive father, a straight-arrow Miami cop (James Remar), about the morality of killing domestic animals and how such a propensity could lead to targets higher up the food chain if not checked.

Dexter is quick to point out to us the downside to his special gifts: he truly is disconnected from feeling. His sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) is a competitive, foul-mouthed undercover vice cop when we first met her in Season One, but was promoted to
homicide detective as Dexter helps her with his "hunches" about her various investigations. With Debra, as with everyone else, he goes to some pains to keep the truth about himself secret. Nevertheless, Sgt. Doakes (Erik King) is certain something is up with Dexter and shadows him relentlessly after the close of Season One.

In Season Two Sgt. Doakes obsessively increases his surveillance of Dexter, certain he's up to something nefarious. Rita (Julie Benz) confronts Dexter about what him and her ex-husband, who did not survive prison. Dexter maneuvers with a false admission that he is an addict, which leads him to a 12-step program and the equally crazed Lila (Jaime Murray). Elsewhere, the accidental discovery of Dexter's private burial ground brings on the feds in the person of superstar Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine.)

Season Three finds Dexter back on his game. In the first episode, he stumbles upon an altercation between his intended victim and an unexpected visitor. His intended escapes, but the new guy turns on Dex who must kill him or be killed. This unnerving turn of events is made all the more problematic when it is learned that the man he killed is the brother of respected Assistant District Attorney Miguel Prado (the awesome Jimmy Smits). Not satisfied with this unsettling revelation, the season promotes the relationship: Dex finds and kills Freebo, his original intended victim, but Prado discovers Dexter with blood on his hands. Slowly, Dex permits Prado into his life with startling results. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Rita discovers she is pregnant – a situation that evolves into new considerations for Dex that will occupy him for the remainder of the season.

 

 


With Doakes gone, the season spends more time with Angel Batista (David Zayas), who is soon promoted to Sergeant, making him Debra's boss. More significant is the aftermath of his finding himself "busted" by an undercover cop posing as a hooker. Lt. Laguerta (Lauren Vélez) finds herself between an old friend, Prado, and the possibility of a new one – a crusading defense attorney (Anne Ramsay) out to discredit Prado.

Debra really comes into her own this season. In the first season she was the girl in distress at the hands of her boyfriend. In the second, she finds herself a better class of boyfriend, but is still disappointed. In this season, she finds love in an expected and compromising place. Her foul mouth, so completely opposite of her brother's unrevealing utterances, is in everyone's face. I can't imagine another actress who seems so utterly comfortable in the language.

I can't say for certain, not having watched every show on television, but Dexter may very well be the smartest comedy presently on air. It's not just the situations, which are the stuff of 18th century chamber comedies, but Dexter's incessant one-liners, followed by the faintest glimmer of a facial reaction to his own observations. These are not knee-slapping, roll on the floor moments - unlike every line said by and to forensic expert Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee) - but a relentless series of some the most droll writing you'll encounter this side of Oscar Wilde. To copy so much as a single one would be to cheat you of the moment of discovery – yet, the series is eminently rewatchable, mainly for the writing.

Dexter's trademark thinking out loud is invested with more texture this season with ever increasing appearances by his father in fantasized dialogues (replacing the flashbacks of the first seasons) about the dangers of letting others into his life. Harry warns Dexter, yes, but he is also supportive of Dex's strengths – strengths Dexter is not confident he has.

What makes Dexter as a series so seductive is that it manages to describe the process of personality deconstruction for the audience in the context of darkly humorous thriller. What I find so gratifying is that the writers appear to agree with my theory of personality development, which is that personality is something we come into the world with, and that life events, rather than shape the personality, are merely filtered by it. The appearance of growth or maturity is, therefore, the destiny of the personality if given the opportunity. Dexter, the series, takes its time to let us into the internal working of Dexter's mind as he himself comes to terms with what he is and what he can be.
 

 


 

Image: 9/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Do my eyes deceive, or is this season's Dexter better looking on Blu-ray than ever before – and by no small degree! Just about gone is that fine fuzz that I observed in Season One; nor is there any fringing or artifactual residue that I was aware of. Moral values may be ambiguous in this series, but they are nonetheless strongly and passionately articulated, just as is the
photography: The lighting in most scenes is highly stylized with a strong key light and competing subsidiary lights. At times there is nothing in the high values but your screen. Blacks, on the other hand, are strong. Skin tones, taking into account occasional filtration, is spot on. High contrast and eye-popping color saturation is the order of the day.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/8
As with the Season Two Blu-ray, the default Dolby TrueHD is solid and clear, though more understated than previously. As I wrote for the previous seasons: Starting with its moody, spicy rhythms over the credits Daniel Licht sets the stage for sex and blood. Whenever this noirish music is projected into the surrounds with its warm, pulsing caress, we know that sex and death are not far away. I say "sex" but that is usually implied rather than portrayed. The music provides a kind of transitional cover on the way to the latest homicide scene or Dexter's more graphic forensic work. Dialogue is perfectly staged and focused in the center, while Dexter's inner monologue is just enough larger to distinguish it from the rest, just as Harry's conversations are yet another acoustic space. This is a show whose effects are largely atmospheric and ambient. They seemed almost "invisible" until I turned off the surrounds
and discovered what I was missing.

 

 

 

Operations: 7
Menu operations are clearer than Paramount's previous Blu-ray editions of Dexter. Initial loading takes us directly to the main menu, which is simplicity itself. A Play All function with individual episodes, but no accessible chapters (even though there are chapters.)
 

Extras: 4
With each successive season, there have been fewer extra features on disc and an increasing number on BD Live. This trend has reached its ultimate conclusion with all the features now found on the Net. I didn't check them out, but they look promising. I'll give the score the benefit of the doubt and take off points for the inconvenience.
 

 

 

Bottom line: 9
If you can accept the notion of a killer as the "hero" of a continuing series and appreciate and perhaps take solace in the peculiar moral ambiguity that is the soul of Dexter, you are in for an amazing roller coaster ride, and a few admissions to the fun house and its distorting mirrors. Paramount's Blu-ray of Dexter Season Three appears to be even better than before in every way. Except for having to go off-disc for the extra features, what's not to like! Major Thumbs Up.

Leonard Norwitz
August 6th, 2009

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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