DVD Review: Dexter: The Complete Fifth Season

Series Developed By James Manos, Jr
Starring Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Desmond Harrington, David Zayas, Julia Stiles and Jonny Lee Miller



(This review contains spoilers for Dexter: Season Four)

While last season ended with a shocking cliffhanger and what seemed like the beginning of major change for the show, it’s unfortunate how quickly Dexter’s fifth season slips into the old routine with familiar stories and a handful of uninteresting, time-consuming sub-plots with supporting characters. Thankfully Michael C. Hall continues to deliver phenomenal work and is impressively assisted by a revelatory Julia Stiles. Though season five is a sometimes rushed, formulaic and disappointingly inconsequential year for the show, it’s still an incredibly well acted and engrossing series that’s far more entertaining than most shows on TV.

When we last left vigilante avenger/serial killer Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) in the fourth season finale, he was still reeling from the shock of finding his wife Rita murdered and left in their bathtub by the Trinity Killer. Now a single parent and struggling to deal with the guilt of her death, Dexter’s on the hunt for a group of killers who prey on young blondes, brutally raping, torturing and murdering them before dumping them in sealed barrels. But guilt-ridden Dexter’s usually calculated and methodical approach to killing has started slipping, resulting in careless, emotional outbursts of violence that risk exposing his dark secret.
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The worst happens when surviving abductee Lumen (Julia Stiles) witnesses him in the act, but when she enlists his help in seeking revenge on those responsible for her torment, Dexter seems to have found an unlikely kindred spirit as he begins teaching her the art of his trade. Elsewhere, Dex’s sister Deborah (Jennifer Carpenter) is starting to fall for bad boy detective Quinn (Desmond Harrington), who is beginning to suspect that Dexter killed his wife and had ties to the Trinity Killer. His suspicions lead him to call in sleazy corrupt Stan Liddy (Peter Weller), who soon starts to uncover Dexter’s secret life.

Sadly, while the core story for this year is great, the supporting stuff is less than gripping. A tonne of screen time is devoted to the relationship drama of Detective Sergeant Angel Batista (David Zayas) and his now public marriage to supervisor Lieutenant Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Vélez), which is a laborious story that serves little purpose but eating up space. Add to that the go-nowhere plot about the Santa Muerte killer, which is completely unresolved and forgotten about by season’s end. Some strands of story feel a tad too familiar (Deb gets a new boyfriend and requisite relationship drama, Dexter’s secret is exposed to a newcomer, who becomes an apparently understanding ally, while a grudge-bearing detective suspects their colleague Dex is a murderer, but nobody believes him), which wouldn’t be quite as frustrating if the writers would have the guts to introduce a little game-changing follow-through with those ideas.
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Unfortunately the show’s rigid refusal to break from its usual formula means that some threads of plot become instantly predictable. Sadly, any time a newcomer learns Dexter’s secret, we know they’ll be quickly rushed out the door by the season finale one way or another. There’s also the usual ‘series regular might be about to discover the serial killer in their midst, but wait, nope, they won’t’ moment in a rather laughable and ridiculous Deb scene. By the time the season’s over, some plots are hurriedly resolved or entirely forgotten about and everything’s back to the old status quo. The show likes to toy with the idea of changing things up and having Dexter being outed to Deb or the public, but never does, and the constant fake-outs quickly grow repetitive and ultimately make the supporting characters look like clueless morons.

But what the season lacks in supporting material and forward progression, it more than makes up for with its guest actors and larger story. The hunt for those responsible for the murder of blonde girls dumped in barrels leads to a twisted rape, torture and murder club led by self-help guru Jordan Chase (Jonny Lee Miller), which proves to be a riveting story, especially when it intertwines with the revenge plot of Lumen, who acts as unlikely partner-in-crime to Dexter. Last season’s Trinity Killer left some huge shoes to fill in terms of story and performance, with John Lithgow exceptional as the family man murderer. While that role is almost impossible for any subsequent actor to live up to, the acting on show this year does a commendably close job at competing.
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Julia Stiles delivers a revelatory performance as tortured survivor Lumen, and she makes such a fantastic addition to the cast as Dexter’s partner in crime, with her story such an involving one and her character so eminently likeable that it’s hard not to futilely hope that she becomes a permanent fixture on the show. Jonny Lee Miller does a great job too, and while he doesn’t rival Lithgow, he does bring a different kind of chilling energy to the show as the charismatic corporate guru/sadistic murderer. Then there’s RoboCop himself, Peter Weller, who makes a welcome appearance and relishes the opportunity to play the slimy, morally bankrupt disgraced cop on Dexter’s trail. Again, he’s such a great actor and so immensely watchable that it’s hard not to wish he had more time on the series. And, naturally, the fantastic James Remar is back as Harry Morgan.

Sadly, the formulaic structure combined with some lazy storytelling means that the show is starting to wear slightly thin, with season five feeling more than ever like writers spinning their wheels until they’re allowed to change things up. Problems aside, though, a thrilling and engrossing major plot fuelled by amazing performances and interesting characters results in a hugely entertaining season for Dexter.
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Paramount Home Entertainment’s DVD release brings the show to home video with a clear, crisp and fantastic looking transfer and an impressive 5.1 track. Sadly the extras on offer don’t go too in-depth concerning the show, but there’s a decent selection of behind-the-scenes features:

  • ‘Making of a Scene’ Featurette (15 minutes, 39 seconds)
  • A selection of writers, editors, directors and crew members walk us step-by-step through the making of the show, from the writer’s room, through to scouting locations, production meetings, filming, editing, foley recording and sound editing, visual tweaks and colour correction.

  • ‘Sounds of Splatter’ Featurette (7 Minutes, 12 Seconds)
  • A closer look at the sound supervisor’s job, recording foley which recreates sound effects to add to the final soundtrack.

  • ‘Dexter’s Kill Room’ Featurette (3 minutes, 23 minutes)
  • Interviews with Michael C. Hall and the creative crew as they talk about the concept of Dexter’s ritual kill room and the handiwork that goes into preparing those sets.

  • ‘Interview With Ty Mattson’ Featurette (4 minutes, 59 seconds)
  • A chat with the artist who created a set of visually impressive minimalist print posters for the show.

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  • ’20 Questions’ Feature
  • 20 questions posed to the cast and crew about various aspects of seasons four and five, from the decision towards Rita’s death to the direction of the show afterwards. Awkwardly, it’s split up so you have to scroll, pick and click each one from an odd, slow-rolling animated selection screen, when just editing them all into one longer feature would’ve been much easier.

  • Photo Gallery
  • A gallery of various promotional stills from the season.

  • Get Connected
  • A rather pointless static screen extra which gives the links for the show’s Twitter and Facebook pages.


The Show:

The DVD:




Dexter: The Complete Fifth Season is out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK now.
Click here to order the DVD from Amazon.co.uk.