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Dexter: The Fourth Season (2009)
DVD Released: 8/17/2010
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/14/2010
What makes a good television show? One would think that question would be easy to answer, but it's not. Actually, a more specific question would be, what makes for an enduring TV show? There are shows likeLost, which grab us with mystery and action, or shows like Parks and Recreation draw us in with quirky characters, but what enables a show to maintain quality? Honestly, I don't know the answer to that question, because one would assume that a show would have to change and grow in order to remain fresh. Dexter hasn't shown many signs of evolving over its first four seasons, but that hasn't diminished the show's quality. How does it do that?
Season Four of Dexter picks up not long after the conclusion ofSeason Three. Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), the serial killer who murders criminals who have escaped from justice, has married his girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz), and she has given birth their son, Harrison. The couple has moved into a new home with Rita's two children, Astor (Christina Robinson) and Cody (Preston Bailey), and Dexter attempts to adjust to being a father with a true domestic situation. This makes keeping his secret life a secret even harder. When a woman is found murdered in a bathtub, Dexter is called in to investigate the scene (he works as a blood-splatter expert for the Miami police). This killing brings retired FBI agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carrdine) (who appeared in Season Three) back to town, as the murder resembles the work of The Trinity Killer, a serial killer who he's been chasing for years. Dexter looks into this case and soon discovers the identity of this murderer. While his instincts tell him to kill the killer, Dexter finds himself fascinated by this monster.
When Dexter (which is based on a series of novels by Jeff Lindsay) burst onto the scene in 2006, it was a breath of fresh air. While the idea of a serial killer who hunts killers had been kicked around before, this show brought some new things to the table. First of all, as Dexter works for the police, he has the inside scoop on those who are getting away with crimes. Secondly, the show's dark material was balanced with a wicked sense of humor. Third, while Dexter considers himself to be "different" from other people, he does his best to blend in so that others won't suspect his secret. These ideas, combined with interesting characters and the Miami locations made for an addictive show.
However, if one closely examines Season Four of the show, one will find that the show is recycling ideas. With his pursuit of The Trinity Killer, Dexter fills a connection to another murderer, similar to his quest for The Ice Truck Killer in Season One. Detective Quinn (Desmond Harrington) begins to dislike and distrust Dexter, just as Sergeant Doakes had done in previous seasons. Agent Lundy comes back into the picture. Dexter's sister Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) who is a Detective in Dexter's department, has more relationship problems. The only real change comes in Dexter's new life at home, as he adjusts to being a live-in father and step-father. But, while this introduces new specific storylines, it simply continues earlier ideas of how Dexter works to fit in and understand human behavior as if he's an outsider. (Although, I do like the fact that Dexter continues to explore the idea that his father, Harry (James Remar) (who appears as part of Dexter's internal monologue), pushed him too far to shun relationships).
Season Four is also plagued by some unnecessary sub-plots. As noted above, Quinn keeps trying to square-off with Dexter and it always feels artificial, as if the show's creators feel that Dexter must have a nemesis within the department. Sergeant Batista (David Zayas) and Lieutenant Laguerta (Lauren Velez) begin a romantic relationship. This seems to be replacing the relationship with Laguerta had with Doakes. (Apparently, the writers miss Doakes.) This is nice for character development, but it does nothing for the show and it's annoying when the show cuts away from Dexter's story to this couple. Deborah's relationship issues are kept to a relative minimum, but there still annoying.
Despite all of these issues, when Dexter is good, it's very good. Dexter remains a great character, and his sly sense of humor combined with Michael C. Hall's droll performance make with very watchable. At the outset, the Trinity Killer storyline looks too much like prior seasons, but once a twist is introduced, it becomes very interesting. When we first met Dexter, he had established a good life for himself in which he could release his dark urges. He becomes most intriguing when he feels self-doubt and begins to re-examine his life and beliefs. We get a lot of this in the second half of the season and it really takes the show up a notch. At this point, I want to say "Damn you Entertainment Weekly!" The magazine spoiled the major plot twist which comes in the finale of Season Four. So, I wish that I could report what it was like to watch this and not know what was going to happen, but I can't. Even knowing the ending, the finale is still chilling and I can't wait to see what happens next...I just hope that I can watch the DVDs without knowing the ending.
Dexter: The Fourth Season must spend a fortune on brown shirts on DVD courtesy of Showtime Entertainment. The three-disc set contains all twelve episodes of the show's fourth season. The episodes have been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, and it shows no defects from the source material. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. However, this transfer suffers from major problems. Jagged lines appear constantly throughout the shows. Any horizontal line turns into a jagged blur on-screen. This isn't just an incidental or every now and then thing, it's nearly constant and it's distracting. Some shots look like YouTube! The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track (but be careful, 2.0 is the default track) which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are pretty good, most notably when sounds come from off-screen. The surround effects work well during action scenes, and there was one particular knock on a door which came from behind me and made me jump. Subwoofer effects are very subtle.
The only extras on the Dexter: The Fourth Season DVD set are cast biographies and a photo gallery.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2010.