Videophiled TV on Disc: ‘Dexter’ Denouement and ‘Farscape’ at Fifteen

DexterFinalSeason
Dexter: The Final Season (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD) – Showtime’s black-humored series about a serial killer with a code (he only kills killers) was never as nuanced as Breaking Bad, as flamboyant as True Blood, or developed as dark and elaborate a mythology as such network shows as Hannibal or The Following, but for eight seasons it did what it did just fine.

Michael C. Hall plays Dexter, blood spatter expert for Miami PD and TV’s favorite serial-killer hero, and Jennifer Carpenter is his adoptive sister Debra, a police detective who learned Dexter’s secret the previous season. Dexter couldn’t be in better shape but Deb spirals into a self-destructive binge when the contradictions become too much to handle. So this season is all about reconciling the past and present and coming to terms with family history, which comes back in the form of psychopathologist Dr. Evelyn Vogel (Charlotte Rampling), the woman who helped Dexter’s adoptive father Harry (James Remar) create Dexter’s code and now consults for Miami PD in the case of a serial killer nicknamed The Brain Surgeon (for reasons obvious after you see the first victim). There’s a family connection of sorts there, as well, and a potential apprentice for Dexter to mentor, and maybe even a chance at a real family life of his own. At least that’s his dream between the bodies.

The final seasons of Sopranos and Breaking Bad set the bar for ending dark dramas with a satisfying sense of completion. Clearly there can be no happy ending for a man who spent his life as a serial killer, even one who targeted only the guilty, because so many innocents have been killed along the way, the collateral damage of a life of secrets. So the end of Dexter plays with the idea of Dexter aspiring to a normal life, of overcoming his need to kill, and why such a dream is unattainable for a man who has both a past and a conscience, or at least a primal instinct to protect those he loves. If there is anything Dexter has learned, it’s that your actions and your enemies come back with a vengeance.

13 episodes plus six featurettes and the first two episodes of the Showtime series Ray Donovan. The DVD also features bonus episodes of the Showtime series House of Lies, The Borgias and Californication via E-Bridge technology (which requires an internet connection).

Also available this week is the box set Dexter: The Complete Series (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD), which collects all eight seasons in a paperboard box that looks suspiciously like Dexter’s slide box. Only instead of blood samples of victims, this one files discs (25 on Blu-ray, 33 on DVD).

Farscape
Farscape: The Complete Series – 15h Anniversary Edition (Flatiron, Blu-ray, DVD) is technically “complete” but practically speaking not quite: it features all four seasons of the wild made-for-cable science fiction series but not the mini-series finale, which was produced after the series was cancelled and belongs to Lionsgate. The show was the first real trademark hit for the SciFi channel, an original series filled with exotic aliens, marbled worlds, and spacescapes that look ripped from the cover of “Amazing Stories.” But it was more than just space opera and pulp adventure. Our heroes are essentially outlaws, escaped from an authoritarian regime and on the run from pretty much everybody out there. The totalitarian worlds and mercenary survivors of this hostile universe are a far cry from the Federation friendly universe of “Star Trek,” and the dark art direction and wild, often grotesque creatures (courtesy of Jim Henson studios) made this the most imaginative and unpredictable science fiction show on TV in its day. This series knew how to make an epic on a budget.

Continue reading at Cinephiled

TV on DVD 11/17/09 – Far away to Farscape, on the road to Rome

The first trademark hit for the Sci Fi channel (long before they rebranded themselves SyFy), Farscape spanned four seasons (1999-2003) plus a mini-series to wrap the story that should have been the fifth and final season (fans were close to revolt when the Sci-Fi Channel abruptly cancelled their cult space opera). ADV, a home video label that otherwise specialized in Japanese anime and a smattering of live action Japanese genre cinema, has released the show in any number incarnations, constantly repackaging the episodes in larger and larger sets but never pulling it all together. Farscape: The Complete Series (A&E) finally does just that. If you missed the trip through the wormhole, here’s the gist of it: Ben Browder is John Crichton, an American astronaut flung to the far side of the galaxy through a wormhole and into a living ship filled with fugitives from a Fascist authoritarian force ironically named Peacekeepers.

Farscape, circa Season Two
Farscape, circa Season Two

There’s the usual panoply of exotic aliens, marbled worlds, and spacescapes that look ripped from the cover of Amazing Stories, but Farscape was more than space opera and pulp adventure. There’s huge cultural gap between the crew of six motley fugitives who band together to survive, all with their own (often clashing) agendas, and they are desperate: in one episode in the first season, DNA Mad Scientist, they’re offered a way home in exchange for a sample of their DNA and one of Pilot’s arms. They hack the appendage off with mercenary efficiency and then turn on each other. The crew is filled out by former peacekeeper soldier Aeryn Sun (Claudia Black), the blue-skinned plant woman and priestess Zhaan (Virginia Hey), lion-maned, hot-tempered warrior Anthony Simcoe (D’Argo), overthrown emperor Rygel (a furry, self-involved Muppet), the giant mantis-like Pilot (another impressive Muppet, this one a huge creature whose scale we only discover in the above-mentioned episode DNA Mad Scientist) and, joining late in the first season, wild-child Chiana (Gigi Edgley). That’s right around the time that Scorpius, the ash white half-breed alien with an SS streak in him and the best villain on sci-fi TV of the past 20 years, starts his obsessive hunt for Crichton and the wormhole technology that is hidden somewhere in his brain, and their wanted status makes them a target any time they try to land. As you can guess, the totalitarian worlds and mercenary survivors they meet are a far cry from the Federation friendly universe of Star Trek and the dark art direction and wild, often grotesque creatures (courtesy of Jim Henson studios) made this the most imaginative and unpredictable science fiction show on TV in its pre-Battlestar Galactica day.

Continue reading “TV on DVD 11/17/09 – Far away to Farscape, on the road to Rome”