Blu-Ray Review: Stunning Fourth Season of Showtime’s ‘Dexter’

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CHICAGO – Very, very few programs hit their creative peak in their fourth season but that was the surprising turn of events that took place on Showtime last fall with the amazing “senior year” of “Dexter,” a dark horse to win the upcoming Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Series. The fourth season is now available on Blu-ray and it’s a must-see for everyone, even if you haven’t kept up with this award-winning program over the years. It’s spectacular, riveting drama. Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 4.5/5.0

The fourth season of “Dexter” features all of the regular actors and guest-star John Lithgow at their absolute peak and the writing was never stronger. The second half of this season, as Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) draws closer to a disturbingly similar serial murderer in the form of The Trinity Killer (Lithgow), is one of the most remarkable string of television episodes in the history of the form. Try and not watch them consecutively. I dare you.

Dexter: The Fourth Season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 17th, 2010
Dexter: The Fourth Season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 17th, 2010
Photo credit: Paramount/Showtime

The season opens with Dexter trying to manage suburban life with Rita (Julie Benz) and her children when The Trinity Killer enters his unique airspace. For decades, The Trinity Killer has been committing unique, hard-to-track murders with the most unusual motivation and techniques. When Dexter learns that the killer is also a religious, family man not unlike Dexter himself, he draws closer, knowing that Trinity is his ultimate target. For years, Dexter has been taking the law into his own hands by killing those who kill the innocent. But he sees something more than an enemy in Trinity. He sees a vision of his future.

Strengthened by one of the best performances of Lithgow’s career (a sure Emmy winner for Guest Actor, although one wonders why it wasn’t just a traditional Supporting Actor nomination), Trinity is a perfect representation of the duality of Dexter’s existence. He too is haunted by a tragic past. He too lives with a wife and children and pretends to be normal. He too needs to kill. But Dexter makes the tragic mistake of thinking that he’s significantly better than Trinity and that he could never be like him, but he pays in the end. The final episode of this season is not only stunningly risky from a writing perspective but a game-changer for the show. It will never be the same again.

Dexter: The Fourth Season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 17th, 2010
Dexter: The Fourth Season was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 17th, 2010
Photo credit: Paramount/Showtime

Dexter & Trinity may have been the driving plotline for the season but it wasn’t the only one. After facing serious tragedy after a near-deadly shooting, Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) spent most of the season around the periphery of the action but her investigation into her father’s past threatens to have long-term effects. Meanwhile, Angel (David Zayas) and Laguerta (Lauren Velez) begin a professionally dangerous affair, Rita tries to draw her new man into a traditional family, Quinn (Desmond Harrington) starts to date a prying-but-crazy-hot reporter (Courtney Ford), and Masuka (C.S. Lee) has his funniest season.

The twists and turns of season four of “Dexter” are so great that I wouldn’t dare ruin any of them but the season is about the impact of loss of focus on our poor anti-hero. It takes concentration to maintain multiple lives as a family man, investigator, and vengeance killer and the inability to keep all of those plates spinning leads to some deadly crashes. “Dexter” has always been something of a ticking timebomb in that we always knew that Mr. Morgan couldn’t keep it up forever. Season four of “Dexter” isn’t the complete collapse but it’s the beginning. And it’s brilliant.

The Paramount/Showtime Blu-ray release of “Dexter” doesn’t quite live up to the quality of the show. There should be multiple commentaries and behind-the-scenes featurettes, but Showtime seems more interested in using these releases to promote their other programming instead of offering insight into how great shows like “Dexter” get made. To that end, they include BD-Live accessibility to episodes of “Californication” and “The Tudors” along with a few interviews related to Showtime’s best show.

Television doesn’t get much better than “Dexter.” The rollercoaster of black comedy, intense thrills, character-driven drama, and honest tragedy in just this season alone would make “Dexter” one of the best shows of the last ten years. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that it’s entirely possible that the show could top even this installment in seasons to come.

‘Dexter: The Fourth Season’ stars Michael C. Hall, Julie Benz, Jennifer Carpenter, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, C.S. Lee, James Remar, Desmond Harrington, Keith Carradine, and John Lithgow. It was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 17th, 2010. It is not rated and runs 632 minutes. content director Brian Tallerico

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