Hey, where’s Dexter Douglas, nerd computer ace?
With the huge cliffhanger at the end of Dexter‘s sixth season, fans were left salivating as to what could possibly happen next. That day has come, with Dexter: The Seventh Season on Blu-ray.
Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under) is a serial killer, but one who only kills other murderers. Dexter gets through each day living by a specific code, which includes the all-important “don’t get caught.” Now, though, the day Dexter has worked so hard to prevent has come to pass—he’s been caught in the act.
Meanwhile, Dexter, his sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter, Quarantine), and his police pals in Miami Metro Homicide investigate the double murder of a cop and a stripper, which places them directly in the path of some ruthless Ukrainian gangsters.
There’s no way to write about this season without spoiling the crap out of it, so let’s do a quick non-spoiler review before we get to the good stuff.
This season continues the streak of excellence that has been with Dexter since the start. The acting and production values are top notch. The fallout of the previous season’s cliffhanger tests Dexter and other characters in exciting new ways, so it never seems as if the series is just going through the motions. The many outrageous plot twists might stretch credulity, but the heightened reality is all part of the fun of the show. Excellent audio and video, practically no extras.
Now for the SPOILERS!!!
A while back, when Dexter’s wife Rita was written out of the series, a lot of us were disappointed, because it meant that we were robbed—we never got to see that big moment when Rita finally learns Dexter’s secret. The show then paid us back big time last year by having Debra be the one who discovers the real Dexter. This, then, puts the emphasis of this season on the Dexter/Debra relationship. Dexter is quick to talk his way out of the initial cliffhanger, and then she’s just as quick to sort out holes in his explanation, so she uncovers the real truth. Now that she’s in charge of her department, arresting Dexter and revealing the truth would bring her down with him, so the two characters are stuck with this new knowledge, and neither knows what to do. That, of course, leads to drama and lots of it.
I’m told that a lot of viewers dislike Jennifer Carpenter on this show, that they consider her the annoying one. I’ve always liked her, though, in that her acerbic, vulgar attitude was a nice contrast with Dexter’s quieter, reserved public persona. Her spunky attitude was also a fitting mix with the other quirky characters populating the police station. If you’re not a fan of her, you’d best become one, because she’s all about this season. Deb struggles with knowing what Dexter is, and what to do about it. First, she tries to “cure” him. When that doesn’t work, she tries to work alongside him, but that goes badly as well. Then she tries to ignore Dexter’s “dark passenger,” only to find that she cannot. It builds to this year’s big finale, in which Debra must decide what to do about Dexter. She’s constantly being faced with an unknown quantity hanging over her head, never knowing what to make of it. You could argue that she too often goes into “nagging wife” mode when insisting that Dexter fight his urges or not keep secrets from her, but it’s all part of her processing this huge change in what she knows to be true.
If all this wasn’t enough, Dexter and Debra’s relationship is strained even more by the arrival of Hanna McKay (Yvonne Strahovski, Chuck), a suspected murderer. At first, she’s merely a target for both Debra, who seeks justice, and Dexter, who seeks a kill. Things get complicated, though, as they so often do. Hanna ends up being the big complication this season, increasing the rift between Debra and Dexter. Hanna exists as an agent of change and an element of danger throughout. By introducing this character, brother and sister have a plot-based reason to be at odds, rather than merely an emotional/philosophical one.
Having Deb over his shoulder means Dexter has to take some responsibility and accountability for his actions. We all know how Dexter is a serial killer, but this season all his other little naughty acts come to the fore, such as stealing evidence, tweaking police records, and so on. All these too-small-to-notice crimes finally get noticed, and now Dexter has a new challenge, having to find new ways to do what he does. It could be argued that Dexter has lost his meticulous nature, as we’ve seen in the past the ridiculous lengths he goes to cover his tracks. The fact there’s not as much of this attention to detail, though, shows how the world is closing in on Dexter, and he cannot go about his killing ways as comfortably as he once did.
As far as the main crime plotline goes, it’s an interesting decision to make the “big bad” of the season a mobster, Isaak (Ray Stevenson, Punisher War Zone). Some might balk at the ordinariness of this, but I think it’s a good choice. Dexter kills because he is compelled to, while Isaak kills for profit, and/or to protect his criminal empire. As these two go about their cat and mouse game, they compare notes on their differing attitudes on what it means to take a human life, and these is some of the more surprising and compelling scenes of the season. Strangely, the Isaak story ends earlier in the season than expected, leaving the final few episodes to tie up the other subplots, and even introduce a few new ones. This doesn’t ruin the ending, but makes it feel a little anticlimactic without the seemingly-unstoppable Isaak threatening to jump out from any corner.
Speaking of subplots, the writers have done a much better job of keeping the rest of the lead characters involved in the main plot, or at least keeping them interesting. Quinn (Desmond Harrington, Rescue Me) falls for a girl working in the mobsters’ club, Batista (David Zayas, The Expendables) frets over whether to retire, and LaGuerta (Lauren Velez, New York Undercover) is compelled to investigate some old unsolved cases. This season has no “let’s have these two characters randomly start a romance so the actors can have something to do” subplots, for which we should all be grateful.
Is the show too over-the-top for its own good? The one-off villains include a mad arsonist and a maniac who makes his victims run through an elaborate maze. As in past seasons, there are wild plot twists every few minutes, and when Dexter gets called to a crime scene, you never know what bizarre, grotesque tableau the show’s creators have dreamed up this time. Dexter takes place in a heightened reality, everything that happens in exaggerated to some degree. This heightened nature, and its accompanying gallows humor, allows for the darker, murderous aspects of the show to be presented in full force, but without constantly drenching the viewers in pure, murderous misery.
The sunshine-rich Miami vistas are bright and vivid on Blu-ray, and so are the dreary blood-soaked crime scenes, all of which are captured on disc with vivid detail and clarity. Audio is clean and clear as well. There’s a moment where Dexter shockingly shouts at a victim, and the sound of his shout starts in the left speakers and then roars across the room to the right speakers, for an amazing immersive effect. The only bonus feature is streaming access to the first episode of Showtime’s newest original series, Ray Donovan.
Fans like to debate which season of Dexter is/was the best, but the high quality has been consistent since day one, and it continues in this season. Recommended.