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Featured TV on DVD Review: Dexter: Season Five

August 15th, 2011

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

For four seasons, Dexter remained one of the best shows on TV. Dexter had really grown over the previous seasons and wasn't just a serial killer anymore; he was married and had a son of his own. However, the previous season ended with a really big twist and that left many fans breathlessly waiting for the next season. However, were they able to build on this twist? Or would the change upset the balance on the show?

The Show

First of all, I have to start with a really major spoiler for season four, so if you haven't seen that season, please turn away now. ...

In Season Four, Dexter met Arthur Mitchell, also known as The Trinity Killer. At first Dexter is just planning on making Arthur his latest victim, but that idea becomes a lot more complicated when he learns Arthur is also a family man and has been able to keep his serial killer side secret from everyone, including his family. Dexter instead decides to approach Arthur to see what he can learn from him. Unfortunately, this mentor relationship goes sour and in the end...


I can't discuss this season without mentioning this, so there's no point in graying out the text. Arthur kills Rita. Dexter not only finds the body, but he also sees his son in a pool of Rita's blood, which is very reminiscent of how Harry Morgan, his adoptive father, found him many, many years ago. This causes him to go into shock and when Debra arrives he says, "It was me." This of course sparks suspicion of both the FBI, who have taken over the Trinity Case, and Quinn, a fellow member of the Miami PD and someone who has had suspicions about Dexter in the past.


While that's the major spoiler for season four, there are still spoilers for season five. Be warned.

There are basically three major story threads in season five, two of which are set up in major spoiler territory. Firstly, Quinn decides to investigate Dexter over his odd behavior in the aftermath of last season's events. He even hires Stan Liddy, a disgraced cop, to help him find evidence. Secondly, Dexter has to try to adapt to life as a single dad, which is made harder as Astor (Christina Robinson) blames Dexter for what happened. (Sadly, this storyline doesn't have a very satisfying arc, as very early on Astor and Cody simply decide to live with their grandparents. It feels like the writers were just trying to reset the marriage storyline.)

The final storyline gets started a couple episodes in. While renting a van to move his stuff, Dexter notices a blood stain on floor on the rental truck. While looking into it, he meets Boyd Fowler, who is beyond a serial killer. He's part of gang that kidnaps women, gang rapes them, and films it. He then disposes of the bodies by putting them into barrels full of formaldehyde. (It's how they become known at The Barrel Girl Gang in the media.) He's the perfect Big Bad for the season... Except he's not. Dexter takes him out really fast, but in the process learns that he was watching over the gang's latest victim, Lumen Pierce, who sees Dexter kill Boyd and thinks he's going to kill her next, because she is a witness. But instead of killing her, or just letting her die as Harry Morgan suggests, he nurses her back to health. Not only does he nurse her back to health, he decides to help her get revenge on the men who abducted her in the first place.

It is a nice twist on the usual formula for the show. There's always a Big Bad for each season, but five seasons in and the show hasn't been reduced to repeating itself in that aspect. Here the Big Bad is a gang of criminals, led by Johnny Lee Miller. Having the most important guest star for the season being the innocent victim and not the main killer / prey helps add a lot to the show. I'm also impressed the show can get five seasons into its run with no sign of jumping the shark. The show has all of the strengths of season four, including an award-worthy guest performance (I don't know if Julia Stiles will win the Emmy, but if she does, it won't be a shock). There's enough time devoted to relationships, other cases, police politics, etc. to help character evolution move along. The balance between the dark subject matter and the humor is still there, with a lot of the latter coming from, or at the expense of Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee).

That's not to say the season was perfect and there were three problems that bugged me. Firstly, unless I'm mistaken, at least some people know how Harry Morgan found Dexter as a child. If someone would have told Quinn what had happened, there would have been no reason for him to suspect Dexter's involvement in the death. The initial suspicion felt artificial. Secondly, as I've already mentioned, having the kids go to their grandparents place seemed like a weak excuse to get them away from the show, because the writers didn't know how to integrate them into the main plot. Hopefully that won't be a problem next season, because Dexter's interactions with Astor do help humanize the character and that helps with his growth. (The best example of this is when she returns midseason in Teenage Wasteland and Dexter puts himself at risk to help Astor's friend.) Finally, I wasn't fully satisfied with the end of the Lumen Pierce arc and it would have been really nice if she could have stayed on the show. With her leaving, the season has less growth than it would otherwise have. To reuse a phrase, it was like the writers were hitting the rest button.

Overall, the complaints are minor compared to the strengths and I can recommend the season, and do so enthusiastically.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD / Blu-ray are weak / annoying. There are four bonus episodes for unrelated shows, which I consider nothing more than advertising. There are also text-based bios and an image gallery. That's pretty weak. You can also download a couple additional episodes of unrelated shows, plus interviews with the cast. That's highly annoying. There's no way they couldn't fit the interviews on the DVD, especially if they stripped out half the bonus episodes.

I don't have the Blu-ray to compare directly, but it costs and additional $10, or 36% more than the DVD. That's not unreasonably more expensive, but it's also not a bargain.

The Verdict

Dexter: Season Five is still one of the best shows on TV, but the home market releases continue to irritate me with episodes from unrelated shows and by forcing me to download content that should be on the discs. It's still worth picking up, and considering how slow the home market is right now, either the DVD or the Blu-ray are in contention for Pick of the Week.

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