Dexter: The Fifth Season

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Blood Loving, Psychopathic Serial- Killing Hero we call DEXTER #5 No Spoilers--Mystery-WO

Sep 2, 2011 (Updated Sep 2, 2011)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Compelling, interesting twists, dark humor

Cons:Contrived moments

The Bottom Line: No Spoilers in this review of the un-even but well-acted, exciting, funny, unique and quite bloody Dexter (Season 5).


Plot Details: This opinion reveals no details about the movie's plot.

Dexter The Complete Season 5 is a 4 DVD set that contains all 12 episodes of the 5th season of Showtime's  series.    If you don't know about this series, it's an extremely dark and comic drama that centers around the character of Dexter who works as a blood specialist for the Miami Police Department but is also a psychopathic serial killer. 

Dexter is also the hero, the one we root for and the one we hope doesn't caught.    How can that possibly be?  Well Dexter kills criminals-usually ones that are particularly sick and perverted or serial killers that murder innocent people.  Dexter ( is still a sick, psycho-killer, it's just he has a very strict code about killing people who deserve it.  He plays judge, jury and executioner all in one.  Oh, his sister, Debra  is a detective on the force and no one knows about his compulsion to kill.   He also talks to the ghost of his father (played by James Remar).  There are supporting characters, most of whom work in the Miami police department and interact as they investigate various very bloody homicides.

The Dexter series has a unique premise and many characters to involve us.  It continues to be very un-even and unfortunately not just because it is treading new ground.   There's a  target that Dexter needs to stop in each season  There are always complications, surprises and twists.  Some of the police procedural elements are very detailed and somewhat accurate at times and then suddenly they won't be accurate or even logical.   A character may wind up with blood on them and yet we never see them being treated by a hazardous material team.  I'm sure the reason is that such authentic details might slow down the pace of the show-but I wish it was there and dealt with.    A lot of liberties are taken with how a police department and its employees actually work and interact-which quite frankly is to be expected but a little more accuracy would benefit. 

  The series also relies on the sudden coincidence which can seem far-fetched at times.  Of course life is full of amazing coincidences too, but in Dexter you'll have several of these coincidences during each season which stretches credibility.  Still you probably won't mind this most of the time, even if makes you shake your head and mutter because the characters are always interesting and the over-all premise very unique.

Michael C. Hall plays Dexter.  His boyish, altar boy  looks haven't changed or aged much in the last 6 years.  It's believable just from the way he looks that he's the last person you would suspect of being a ruthless, methodical psychopathic serial killer.  His demeanor is quirky but he stays in complete control of his emotions which at times come off  a bit robotic.  His obsession with blood is certainly weird but it's played as if he is a shy, bookworm-ish nerd AND it's part of his job as well.  He is not gregarious, or ever comfortable in social situations, but usually comes across as somewhat humble. 

He's also not a Jekyll/Hyde type character, but a very careful methodical psychopath who sticks for the most part to a rigid code of ethics that is designed to minimize his risk at getting caught.  He calls the voice/darkness  inside of him ‘The Dark Passenger'.  Because Dexter  works inside the police department he has an early warning system should someone get too close to revealing overly revealing evidence and clues.  This happens and he must deal with these complications in a variety of ways but he is usually at least one step ahead.  We have learned several things about his past in previous seasons, particularly the first 3. In Season 4 and 5 however there aren't startling things about his past that are un-earthed.  This has not hurt the series thus far. 

I'm not going to spoil ANYTHING so you can read this review and not have anything important ruined for you, whether you are brand new to the series or you are about to watch Season 5.    I personally would never read about any Season of Dexter before watching it myself since I don't want any of the surprises and twists and turns revealed and too many people write carelessly-even ones  who claim they won't spoil major plot points.   Of course I'll discuss a few things but mostly I will elude without revealing any major plots points or twists so that this will really and truly be a spoiler free review you can read without worry. 
 
Other quibbles I have about the series (which I really enjoy by the way) are with some of the supporting characters.  In some seasons I've enjoyed many of the side stories of some of the supporting characters, and there have been some I did not like and felt they were more filler or perhaps created to give certain actors and characters a continuing presence in the series.   In some seasons some of the side stories are partially tied into the main Dexter, but other times they are not.  A bit of this is actually clever since it creates some red-herrings but it can also be overly superfluous.    I'm happy to say that everything fits together nicely for most of Season 5, we don't go flying off on tangents for long periods of time that are never connected back to the main story.    There are a couple of characters you will not like and may even annoy you.  I'll discuss this later.

One of the very best things about the series-and has been since it began are the excellent scenes that Dexter and his Police Detective sister Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) have together.  Carpenter is frighteningly skinny but her personality is brash, ambitious and as tough minded as they come.  Her character has been through a lot in the series but fights valiantly against being too cynical.  She's extremely emotional, speaks before she thinks at times and makes some very rash decisions.  This is a great balance to Dexter's calm, almost ice cold nerdish demeanor.  And the counterpoint is used in a variety of ways with the writing being particularly strong in their scenes together and the chemistry between the actors making us completely believe they are a very close brother and sister that have relied on each other to get them through some horrific and tragic past events.  Their relationship is the glue that holds this series together even when it lets you down in some of its details.  You anxiously look forward to their believable and authentic feeling interactions.  It's a pretty outstanding achievement on the part of the producers, writers and various directors that their dynamic has remained strong and solid throughout the life of the entire series.   Even if other elements of the series are unbelievable and too far-fetched for you to take seriously-Dexter and Deb are good reason to faithfully watch the series. 

If you haven't watched the series; you'll want to start with Season 1.  The events of each season progress into successive seasons.  Season 1, 2 and 4 are very good.  Season 3 is was a real mess but it was rarely boring.  It recover very nicely in Season 4, which many think is series' best.

Season 5 is excellent.  The first two episodes are a bit slow in terms of moving the series forward and giving Dexter a new ‘bad guy' to go after, but eventually things get going.  Julia Stiles joins the cast.  She's an excellent actress and plays a very interesting character.  Peter Weller also plays an important supporting character (basically a bad cop) and he's quite good, but his character is more of a stereotype and there are some ridiculous moments involving a surveillance he does and how he takes very good pictures from very, very far away.  The main ‘bad guy'  is not as strong as some others we've seen in the series, but other elements that have been set in motion so that this is not as serious a set-back as it could have been.   Other contrived moments and some scenes that should have been written more carefully may distract/annoy you but no more than usual and over-all Season 5 is quite good.

The series is so compelling because it makes you the viewer partly complicit.  You fee sympathy and actually cheer on the character of Dexter--a calculating psychopathic serial killer with a sense of droll humor.   His methodical preparation to identify his victims is always accompanied with an inner dialogue that you hear in a usually very darkly funny voice over and sometimes see in Dexter's conversations with the ghost of his father.  His observations about people are usually cut to the bone, take no prisoners accurate.  The series also loves it's gallows (sick) humor and one character in particularly absolutely delights in being as inappropriate as he possibly get away with.       How close Dexter comes to being caught and have his ‘secret' revealed never fails to build an intense degree of suspense that is constantly increased until an exciting climax and brief wrap-up (that also has a nice twist).  

One of the strengths of Season 5 is that things are different for Dexter.  He has some increased inner conflicts to deal with and for the first time has to drastically alter the way he normally operates which means we as the viewers are never sure what is going to happen.  We are in new territory because Dexter is outside of his own very twisted comfort zone.  He is being challenge constantly and as he continues to try to appear like a somewhat normal person, he has additional obstacles to deal with.

 Since I'm purposefully not revealing specific details  you may not quite understand what I'm writing about.  Sorry about that but series regulars will have a better idea of what I mean and those who've seen Series 5 should understand what I'm referring to.  

Season 5 begins right where Season 4 ends.   A couple of episodes are devoted to the consequences and changes that have taken place. Then things get going after Dexter comes across what looks like dried blood in a moving van. Soon after that we are introduced to the character of Lumen played by Julia Stiles.  Detective Quinn (Desmond Harrington), introduced I believe last season, has an expanded role that for the most part works very well and sets up a couple of believable conflicts that creates problems for both Debra Morgan AND Dexter.  

One of my least favorite regular series' characters is used in a much more believable and consistent manner this season.  I'm referring to  Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez)  who runs the Homicide Crime Unit.  In season 1 she had a full on puppy-love like crush for Dexter, at times getting down right giggly over him-which seemed unlikely for someone in her position.  She also makes some very odd, stupid decisions and then will suddenly maneuver and manipulate over and around the politics of her department as she sometimes clashes with her bosses.  Some of what she does should appear to be utterly obvious to several other characters-but they seem to have short memories and a lack of observation skills when it comes to LaGuerta.   It's okay that I'm never sure if we are supposed to intensely dislike her manipulations or if we are supposed to have sympathy for the position she is sometimes put in.  However her shifting tones, demeanor and some of her actions that shift and create conflict among many characters are usually created in a haphazard manner that is often very contrived.  She is the character the writers use to get them out of a corner but it's rarely done very well.    Sometimes the problems she causes are resolved but sometimes they just sort of go away or are later to revealed as being nothing important.   The actress, Lauren Velez  at times is expected to be a tough, logical boss and at other times to be a weak spineless ineffective and clueless administrator.   Her character is at times supposed to act like a teenager which is okay, except there are times when we are supposed to believe she's naïve, clueless, immature and petty when we've already seen her being ruthless, manipulative and quite savvy.  The writers have decided to mis-use this character throughout the series never deciding exactly what she is, what she stands for, or even how she reacts to certain things.   I'm not sure how Lauren Velez  can figure out how to play her with any degree of honesty because her very flawed character is not only inconsistent, but her entire demeanor and personality changes.  I suppose Velez  has to approach what the writers come up for her on a scene by scene basis.  It's remarkable she is able to do a pretty good job in the role, since she is forced at times to do and say things that seem utterly out of character for her to do.    In Season 5, the character is thankfully much more consistent and seems to resemble a fairly believable though not particularly likeable person.  I hope this continues in Season 6.  (I should note that in the book the series is based on, she is actually killed, so her continued existence in the series was not intended by the author of the books).

Two of the more interesting characters are used much less in Season 5.   In the case of the class clown that's not a bad thing. Masuka (C. S. Lee), is given several outrageous puns and dark gallows humor drenched goofiness as expected.  If this purposefully annoying character doesn't always amuse you, well he is used sparingly in Season 5 but effectively.   However in the case of Detective ‘Angel' Batista (David Zayas) it seems a bit of a loss for the series that his character arc has been forced into taking a more subservient and lesser role.  Zayas has really put a lot of heart and soul into his character and even when he's not given all that much to do, he figures out a way to do something that enriches the colorful, believable character he plays.  

In Season 5, since Dexter is not in his office or at his job very much, we see a lot less of Batista.   He serves primarily this year as a manipulator of Lt. LaGuerta's character and a solid almost dependable friend of  Detective Debra Morgan  (Dexter's sister).    We don't see him contribute ideas to investigations like he has in past seasons-instead most of that has now been absorbed into Detective's Morgan's character.  It's good she has gotten more confident and stronger as a Detective, but it should not come as a result of making Batista a lesser character suddenly.  It's a matter of either poor writing or Producers and directors who have re-written scripts and left a few good scenes out of the mix.

Several excellent directors continue to take on various episodes of the series and they include  John  (Red Rock West, Last Seduction) Dahl,  Keith Gordon, Ernest Dickerson and others.  Most have experience working on at least one crime thriller for the big screen.

Dexter is based on characters created in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay.   Most of the main characters of the series are based on characters introduced in that book, though a few changes have been made.  However, some of the characters in the book don't continue and so other  Dexter novels are not used to develop storylines in the series because a lot of changes were made in what happens during the first Season of the Showtime TV series that go in a different direction than the books do.   Reading the books is a different experience. 

DVD
The DVD reproduces the HD quality of the series flawlessly.  The bright sometimes candy colored locations make for some striking compositions which are represented without noticeable blemishes.
The Audio elements are strong and include a 16-bit Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack.   There may not be much going in the lower frequencies very often, but some of the background music  utilizes the sub-woofer.   Background noises are well distributed on front and read channels.  It's not meant to impress or overwhelm but is cleanly done. 

EXTRAS
As usual you don't get actual Dexter related extras on the discs themselves.   You get the first two episodes of the ShowTime series; The Borgias and the first two episodes of another series called EPISODES.   

You can access a few extras via something called  E-Bridge Technology.  I haven't done this but you are supposed to be able to access Episodes 1 and 2 of Season 4 of Californification and some Dexter related material that includes:  Interviews with Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, C.S. Lee, Lauren Belez, Julia Stiles, James Remar, Desmond Harrington, Chip Johannessen and David Zayas.  There's also a feature called:  Reflecting on Season 5 with Julia Stiles.

BOTTOM LINE:
Season 5 of Dexter is a solid continuation of this uneven but compelling, fascinating, suspenseful, unique series.  I thought the way the series continued Season 4 was very well done and the introduction of Julia Stile's character which winds up altering Dexter's methodology creates new unseen complex problems for Dexter.  Some of the supporting characters are underutilized but there are several solid scenes between Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter that are beautifully done.   In many ways, this is every bit as good as Season 4.  Highly recommended.

Note:  If you are new to the series, begin with Season 1...NOT here.

The 6th Season of  Dexter begins on Showtime, Sunday October 2nd.  I assume the Season 6 complete Series DVD will not available until August of 2012.

Add this to Talyseon's MYSTERY WRITE OFF


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening

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