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Dexter: The Fifth Season

(2011) *** Unrated
618 min. Showtime. Director: John Dahl. Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, James Remar, Julia Stiles, Jonny Lee Miller, Shawn Hatosy.

/content/films/4160/2.jpgDexter Morgan's parenting neuroses reached a new level in Season Five of Showtime's serial-killer thriller Dexter. The antiheroic vigilante of the title still carries his "Dark Passenger" that compels him to kill, and he continues to try to live by the code instilled in him by his policeman father (James Remar). Since Dexter has never been too good at handling feelings, he's in particularly uncharted waters after the Season Four murder of his wife Rita (Julie Benz) by his rival The Trinity Killer, eliminated by Dexter just before discovering his wife's body.

Season Five finds guilt-ridden Miami Metro Police blood analyst Dexter under suspicion yet again, this time by colleague Det. Quinn (Desmond Harrington). Partnered with Dex's sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), Quinn doggedly pursues the Trinity Killer, all the while expecting to uncover dark secrets about Dexter himself. Meanwhile, Dexter finds a potential victim in serial rapist and killer Boyd Fowler (Shawn Hatosy). Turns out one of his victims—the traumatized Lumen Pierce (Julia Stiles)—has survived, and very inconveniently catches Dexter in a criminal act. This event fashions one of the season's core questions: can Dexter trust anyone with his secret? He's been burned before (most notably by Jimmy Smits' Miguel Prado in Season Three), but Lumen seems to be on the side of the angels or at least, perhaps, on the side of the Dark Passenger. Lumen wants revenge on those who violated her, and she wants Dexter's help to exact it.

Season Five's twelve episodes unfortunately retrace some of the steps of earlier seasons when the show should be focused on breaking new ground, but Dexter remains entertaining in its complications, many of them provided by two effective new villains. Peter Weller masterfully steals scenes as corrupt cop Stan Liddy, who forms a troubling alliance with Quinn, while Jonny Lee Miller infuses the show with his own brand of sleek menace as popular motivational speaker Jordan Chase, who finds himself in the sights of Dexter and Lumen and won't go down without a fight. helping to keep Dexter sharp is a roster of feature directors that includes John Dahl (The Last Seduction, Rounders), Ernest Dickerson (Juice, Bulletproof) and Keith Gordon (Mother Night, The Singing Detective).

Dexter lost longtime showrunner Clyde Phillips and series-long head writer Melissa Rosenberg at the end of Season Four, so the show had some footing-finding to do, and the recent departure of Season Five showrunner Chip Johannessen (24)—to be replaced by Scott Buck (Six Feet Under)—raises concerns about storytelling consistency. Hopefully the upcoming Season Six will take some more chances (it's long past time for Debra to learn Dex's secret, fer gosh sakes, especially after a preposterous Season Five tease). What Dexter continues to do right is casting strong foils for rock-steady star Hall: Stiles brought an intriguing dynamic to the show as Dexter's unlikely partner-in-crime, and Season Six looks poised for fun with Edward James Olmos, Colin Hanks, and Mos Def joining up.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 3

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Street date: 8/16/2011

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment


Like the previous Blu-ray season sets of Dexter, The Fifth Season offers strong A/V and slim, BD-Live-only extras. The hi-def picture quality is colorful and detailed, with little evidence (see what I did there?) of compression artifacts. Twelve episodes fit neatly on the three discs with no sign of strain. Mild softness intrudes at times, but on the whole, these are impeccable transfers. The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio is equally strong, especially for a TV series, with frequent, active use of surrounds for ambience and immersion, as well as clear, crisp dialogue and robust music. BD-Live users can access Episodes 1 & 2 of Showtime series The Borgias and Episodes, as well as Interviews with Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, C.S. Lee, Lauren Vélez, Julia Stiles, James Remar, Desmond Harrington, Chip Johannessen, and David Zayas and "Reflecting on Season Five: Julia Stiles."

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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