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Case Number 14259

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Dexter: The Second Season

Showtime Entertainment // 2008 // 636 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 13th, 2008

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All Rise...

He may not be a lovable serial killer, but Judge David Johnson is still fun at parties.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Dexter: The First Season (Blu-ray) (published January 19th, 2009), Dexter: The Fifth Season (Blu-ray) (published August 12th, 2011), Dexter: The Final Season (Blu-ray) (published December 13th, 2013), Dexter: The First Season (published August 27th, 2007), Dexter: The Fourth Season (Blu-ray) (published September 3rd, 2010), Dexter: The Second Season (Blu-ray) (published May 18th, 2009), Dexter: The Seventh Season (Blu-ray) (published May 8th, 2013), Dexter: The Sixth Season (Blu-ray) (published August 13th, 2012), and Dexter: The Third Season (Blu-ray) (published August 18th, 2009) are also available.

The Charge

"Am I a good person doing bad things? Or a bad person doing good things?"

Opening Statement

America's favorite serial killer (that's what the commercials tell me) returns for his follow-up season of dissecting and vivisecting the worst society has to offer.

Facts of the Case

When we last left Dexter (Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under), he had survived his showdown with the Ice Truck Killer, and unearthed the terrifying story of how he came to be a murderous psycho—an emotionless killing machine, taught by his father Harry (James Remar) to channel his dark urges and apply his touch of death to only those that deserve it. Season Two opens with his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) struggling to bounce back from her traumatic encounter with the Ice Truck Killer, hard-ass Sergeant Doakes (Erik King) tailing Dexter, and the shocking discovery of garbage bags filled with severed limbs at the bottom of the ocean.

Yes, Dexter's disposal ground has just been unearthed and the ensuing 12 episodes tell how the Miami police, along with the FBI, close in on the "Bay Harbor Butcher," forcing Dexter into a life on the (frantically) defensive. And then there's Lilah, the beautiful, mysterious, oft-topless woman that connects with Dexter unlike anyone has before—but at what cost?

The Evidence

As a huge fan of Jeff Lindsay's series of novels—the inspiration behind the series—I was hugely anticipating this second installment. The first season was excellent, nailing the characterization and the story of Lindsay's first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. Where would the showrunners take Dexter in Season 2? They wouldn't stick to the second novel, of which I am quite thankful because that book contains some of the most disturbing @#$% ever, and seeing it played out onscreen would have given me nightmares until I was 70. Nope, we're talking brand new territory. The good news: Season 2 is just as entertaining, with deeper character arcs, a more intricate storyline, big-ass twists, and one of the most unforgettable femme fatales in recent memory.

I don't want to get into specifics because revealing any spoilers would do a huge disservice to potential viewers. You need to go into this season clean and, preferably, already having seen the first season (which will be spoiled for you in the first episode, so do yourself a favor and watch it). Huge things happen in each episode and the writers have done an admirable job of evenly doling out the suspense throughout. Sure, in your heart, you'll know that Dexter will somehow come out on top, but more than once I'll bet that you, like me, asked yourself—"How is he going to get out of this one???" The walls close in tight and it's a joy to see Dexter, the usual picture of self-control and cold, emotionless action, grapple with a slew of newfound emotions: fear, guilt, anger.

And that is the main theme of this season: How does a soulless killer that prides himself on his emotional detachment deal with this wave of foreign sensations? The Code of Harry (don't get caught, kill only those that deserve it) will be tested and his relationships with his sister, friends, coworkers, and girlfriend (Julie Benz)—formerly facades employed to allow him to fit in with real life—will be revealed to be either empty or substantial. Essentially, Dexter takes a season-long journey of self-discovery and the ultimate answer he lands upon is the endgame.

This is ambitious stuff and these guys have nailed about 95% of it. Sometimes the narrative gets away from them, though, especially as it relates to the character of Lilah, a fantastic creation, but, in the end, a plot device. Side stories involving La Guerta's sleazy plan to get her Lieutenant job back; Deb's awkward, Oedipal romance; and Batista doing, well nothing of consequence, offer little dramatic counterweight to the power of Dexter's tale and Michael C. Hall's incredible performance. Still, I reckon you'll be too transfixed to be distracted. I devoured these episodes and only feel compelled to point out these minor criticisms because I'm a reviewer and we're supposed to be nitpicky dickheads.

Episodes look great in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the bright, sun-drenched colors of Miami rendered beautifully. A fine 5.1 surround audio mix supplements. Extras are lousy, though: Two episodes each of The Brotherhood, The Tudors, and Californication; a Michael C. Hall podcast and interview vie E-bridge technology; and, worst of all, a "preview" of Season Three that turns out to be just a blob of text that says the actual preview will be on the Brotherhood: Second Season disc.

Closing Statement

An immensely entertaining series continues its track record of coolness, with another batch of top-shelf performances and riveting storytelling. The dearth of extras is a downer, but don't let that deter you from a truly engaging experience.

The Verdict

Not Guilty. The accused—hacks it. It's a cut above the rest. The actors have serious chops. And I'm done.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 90
Audio: 90
Extras: 65
Acting: 95
Story: 95
Judgment: 94

Perp Profile

Studio: Showtime Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
• None
Running Time: 636 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Drama
• Television
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Showtime Series Episodes
• Interviews

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