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Brotherhood

Showtime • Sunday, Sept. 30 (10 p.m.)

Showtime returns to the streets of Providence, R.I., for a second helping of Brotherhood. The shot-on-location drama continues to deliver the goods in terms of strong performances, solid scripting, and top-notch production values. But after last season's high-octane finale, the season-two opener (directed by big-screen helmer Phillip Noyce) may disappoint returning viewers expecting another similarly adrenaline-pumped outing. And the predominantly somber tone in the initial pick-up-where-it-left-off chapters could turn off potential new viewers.

The series still centers around the Caffee brothers — politico Tommy (Jason Clarke) and street hood Michael (Jason Isaacs) — and their extended clan. While Tommy dodges political bullets and keeps up appearances despite a troubled marriage, Michael has to contend with injuries sustained from a brutal beating and tries to regain his mob standing.

Brotherhood will continue to draw the inevitable comparisons with HBO's The Sopranos. But the series' distinct take on matters of family, crime and the pursuit of happiness is rewarding in its own right.

— George Vernadakis

Dexter

Showtime • Sunday, Sept. 30 (9 p.m.)

Showtime's critically-acclaimed series Dexter returns for a second season of drama, suspense … and blood.

In the second-season premiere, Michael C. Hall returns as America's favorite serial killer, nearly two months after killing his brother — a ruthless serial murderer in his own right, dubbed the “Ice Truck Killer” — in the season-one finale. The episode sets the stage for what would seem to be a season-long traverse for Dexter, who will be hard-pressed to keep his twisted world from crashing in on him.

The already emotionally tortured Miami P.D. forensics officer is further tormented by his inability to satiate his vigilante killing habit, due in part to his failure to shake the constant tail of a suspicious co-worker (Erik King). Dexter's biggest ally on the force, Lt. Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) also begins to have her suspicions about Dexter's unusual extracurricular activities.

Meanwhile Dexter's girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz) is beginning to question Dexter's possible involvement in setting up her jailed ex-husband. On top of all of that, the underwater remains of Dexter's victims are accidentally discovered by divers, launching a massive police hunt.

If Showtime can keep the number of precarious scenarios facing Dexter fresh and interesting through 11 more season-two episodes, it should bode well for Dexter's overall fortunes.

— R. Thomas Umstead

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