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Featured TV on DVD Review: Dexter: Season Eight

November 9th, 2013

Dexter: Season Eight - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

This is the final season of Dexter, but instead of being excited, I'm more than a little worried. Season six and seven failed to live up to the standards set in previous seasons. As a result, I'm concerned the show will end on a low note instead of going out on a high. Were these concerns justified? Or was I being too pessimistic?

The Show

We are going to have to deal with a couple spoilers from the previous two seasons. At the end of season six, Debra witnesses Dexter killing the big bad for that season. Instead of turning him in, she agrees to cover for him, even after she learns he is a serial killer. María LaGuerta also gets wind that the Bay Harbor Butcher is still alive and begins to investigate. Of course, Dexter is the Bay Harbor Butcher and LaGuerta gets close enough that Dexter decides he has to kill her. Before he can, Debra shows up and in the end, it's Debra that kills LaGuerta. Like season six, season seven was mostly a bad season, but with a good finale. Unfortunately...

Season eight mostly wastes that good finale. The season starts six months later and there's almost no fallout as a result of María LaGuerta's death, certainly not for Dexter, whose life is much better for the death of LaGuerta. Debra, on the other hand, is a mess... for a few episodes. That's it. That's all the fallout that happens. The series basically hits a big reset button.

We do actually get some plot early on with the new Big Bad for the season, the Brain Surgeon Killer, who kills his victims, saws open the back of their heads, and scoops out some brains, probably for a souvenir. While the Miami PD are working on this case, Evelyn Vogel joins the case. She takes an immediate interest in Dexter, for reasons that are spoilers, but ones we can't avoid talking about. When Dexter was ten, his father, Harry, thought Dexter might be a psychopath, he went to Vogel for help. Instead of trying to prevent Dexter from becoming a killer, she helped Harry mold Dexter into what he became. She helped create Harry's Code. She also has a problem. The Brain Surgeon Killer left her a gift, the part of the brain he removed from his first victim. She thinks the Brain Surgeon Killer is one of her former patients and she asks Dexter to find them and stop them.

This could have been a really good part of the season, but there are too many false leads and it gets annoying before it really gets going. This really slows down the season's momentum early on.

There are a couple of major storylines that we need to talk about, but both are spoilers. First, we finally learn the identity of the Brain Surgeon Killer and he's Vogel's son. The connection seems forced and lacked enough foreshadowing. There are also too many clichés thrown into the mix with this revelation. The second main spoiler-filled storyline to deal with is the return of Hannah McKay. I think we are supposed to see Hannah's effect on Dexter as awakening some conscience in him, but it just seemed to make him dumber. There's a difference between learning empathy and doing things that put others at risk. The final main storyline involved Vince Masuka (C. S. Lee), who learned he has a daughter, Nikki (Dora Madison Burge). On the one hand, I like Masuka and having him get a bigger part was great. On the other hand, this was the final season and it isn't the right time introducing a new person and a new relationship into the mix. This, or Quinn and Jamie Batista relationship, would have made a good addition to any of the previous seasons. Here it is just taking up space while we should be looking to wrap up the series as a whole.

As for the ending... It's not good. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, the writers gave the series an ambiguous ending, which just doesn't work. I think most fans of the series were looking for some closure and not this.

The Extras

The only extra on the first disc is the pilot episode to Ray Donovan, while disc two has episode two. Episodes from an unrelated series isn't an extra, it's an ad. There are some extras on the third disc starting with From Cop to Killer, a three-minute featurette on the evolution of Debra's character. Dexter - The End Begins is a three-minute look at the final season. Next up are four two-minute featurettes on the first four episodes of the season. At first glance, there are a lot of extras on the three-disc set, but they are all very short. If each featurette was close to 15 minutes, then this would be a good selection of extras. As it is, they are almost insultingly short.

The technical presentation is very good, great for a TV show. The level of details is very strong with the colors of Miami vivid, as always. There are no compression issues or digital artifacts to talk about. The audio is also very good for a TV show. There's not a lot of activity in the surround sound speakers, but more than many TV shows have. Overall, it is a very good looking and sounding series.

The Blu-ray costs $6 or 15% more than the DVD, which is a great deal for a TV on DVD release.

The Verdict

Looking back, Dexter is a great series, but the final three seasons struggled to match the first five seasons. (And I should point out that I like season five more than most critics.) Unfortunately, for the most part, season eight wasn't as good a send off as the series deserved. There are more extras on the DVD or Blu-ray than in most seasons in the past, but it is still not enough to be a selling point.

On the other hand, there is a Complete Series Megaset coming out on DVD and Blu-ray this week as well. It's not what I would call a deal when it comes to the price, but at least there is a bonus disc with hours of extras.

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Filed under: Video Review, Jennifer Carpenter, Aimee Garcia, Michael C. Hall, Desmond Harrington, Charlotte Rampling, James Remar, Lauren Velez, Yvonne Strahovski