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Dexter: The Final Season (2013)

Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/12/2013

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/7/2013

It's happened to all of us -- You begin watching a brand new television series and enjoy it. Then, without warning, the show is cancelled, or worse, moved to Friday night, where I don't even think DVRs work. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the long-running show which is winding down and presents its final season. So, which is worse, having a show yanked out from under you, or experiencing the end of an era. That may depend on how the show ends. Everyone wants to go out on top, and we hope that our favorite shows can end on a high note. Dexter is a show which has seen its share of ups and downs, but for the most part, it's been impressive. Can its final season bring everything to a successful conclusion?

(Editor's Note: It's impossible to discuss the events of Season 8 of Dexter without divulging secrets from Season 7. So, if you haven't watched Season 7, read with caution.) As a police lab worker who is also a serial killer, Dexter's (Michael C. Hall) life is always in turmoil. However, the conclusion of Season 7 saw things even crazier than usual. For decades, he'd been able to hide his murderous ways from his sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), who also happens to be a police detective. However, she caught Dexter in the act, and he spent a great deal of time attempting to convince her that it was OK. However, their boss, Lieutenant LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) put the pieces together and began to suspect who Dexter really was. She went to confront him, just as he was about to take one of his victims. Debra came upon this scene and shot and killed LaGuerta.

Season 8 begins several months later. For Dexter, life is about the same. He spends his days working in the lab as a blood analyst and he spends his nights with his son, Harrison (Jadon Wells). However, things aren't as good for Debra. She has left the police force, taking a job with Jacob Elway's (Sean Patrick Flanery) detective agency. But, she gets too deep into her cases and puts herself at risk. She has completely closed herself off from her old life and refuses to speak to Dexter, blaming him for her current state. Meanwhile, a new serial killer has hit Miami -- one who likes to take pieces of the victim's brain. Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling) is called in to consult on the case, as she's an expert on psychopaths. Dexter is not familiar with this woman, but she knows him and she's going to share many startling secrets with him. As Dexter works to find "The Brain Surgeon", deal with Dr. Vogel, and lure Debra back into her old life, a romantic figure from his past re-surfaces.

The only thing which is judged more harshly than a show's first season is its last season. Most shows are given something of a pass for their inaugural season, as they are new and trying to find their voice. But, when a long-running show knows that it's ending and has time to prepare for it, as opposed to a show which is suddenly cancelled, fans expect something good. For the most part, Dexter has been an excellent show, as the writer's have had the main character grow over the years and always find a way to put him in harm's way. Still, eight season is a long time and the series has had some bumps along the way (Season 2, I'm looking at you.) In any event, the track record was good enough for there to be a lot of pressure on the show to deliver a satisfying final season.

Well, it didn't. Again, Dexter is good for the most part, but the problems here are pretty glaring. Charlotte Rampling is a award-winning veteran actor and it's clear that her calm and cool demeanor is meant to play off of the frenzy Dexter goes into at times. But, she's actually too mellow here and an some of the scenes between them, even ones directed by Hall himself, go one far too long and simply drag. As with many things, Dexter is only as good as its villains, and the one for Season 8 is disappointing. I can't say who the character is, as it's a surprise twist, but following the likes of John Lithgow, Jimmy Smits, and Jonny Lee Miller, the actor portraying Dexter's nemesis in this season pales in comparison. Also, the villain is revealed far too late in the season, so the cat and mouse between he and Dexter takes place over the course of a just a few episodes. While this is going on, we get some side stories which truly go nowhere, the most curious of which is the one with the new person in Masuka's (C.S. Lee) life. (Was this the set-up for a spin-off?)

But, the worst part of Dexter: The Final Season was the final episode. Now, I'm no fool and I realize that Dexter is a very dark show. However, the finale was simply too nihilistic for its own good...or rather the audience's enjoyment. One could easily argue that the character's got what they deserved, but I think that's a cop-out. I wasn't expecting tap-dancing unicorns, but the ending is very unsatisfying and it raises some grim and confusing questions for the futures of some of the characters.

Season 8 of Dexter is not a complete failure -- the show didn't suddenly become awful. We still get the show's sly mixture of violence and humor and Debra's storyline allows Carpenter to move beyond her usual portrayal of the character. While the reveal of "The Brain Surgeon" is a bit lackluster, the death of one character is very shocking and unexpected. There are still plenty of shows out there far worse than Dexter, but given the unique qualities that the series brought to TV, I wanted a better exit.

Dexter: The Final Season raises the question "What do they eat in Argentina?" on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Showtime. The three-Disc set contains all 12 episodes of Season 8. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22 Mbps. I noted that the first few episodes were unusually grainy -- it really stood out. But, this settled down as the season progressed. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear, and it certainly shows no defects from the source materials. The colors look fine and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but the depth is only so-so, as things look flat in some shots. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The show's familiar score sounds good, and fills the speakers. Action sequences, most notably car chases, provide good stereo and surround effects. We really notice them when objects move across the screen. The subwoofer effects are fairly light, save for thunder in the last few shows.

The Dexter: The Final Season Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras, all of which are found on Disc 3. "From Cop to Killer" (3 minutes) explores the evolution of Debra's character from the beginning of the series until now. This includes comments from Carpenter and others. "Dexter - The End Begins" (3 minutes) is basically a long commercial for Season 8, completing with teasing bits from the cast and creative team. "Dexter with Scott Buck Executive Producer Episode 801" (2 minutes) has Buck giving an overview of the season premiere. "Dexter - EP #802 Directed by Michael C. Hall" (2 minutes) has the actor talking about what it was like to go behind the camera. Hall and Carpenter discuss one of Deb's turning points in "Dexter - Dissecting Episode 804 Scene 30" (2 minutes). Buck is back with another episode synopsis with "Dexter with Scott Buck Executive Producer Episode 804" (2 minutes).

Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long