Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Darkly Dreaming Dexter

I've just finished watching the first season of Dexter, which is a show I've wanted to get into for the longest time and just didn't, for various reasons. But happily, Showtime seems to be looking at Dexter as its flagship show and has the entire series available OnDemand. So I checked it out.

Holy shit. I am so in love with this show.

Dexter Morgan, our protagonist, is a forensic analyst for the Miami Police Department. In his free time, he's a serial killer. Moral relativism is the name of Dexter's game - yeah, he's a serial killer, but he only knocks off other serial killers. Traumatized as a young child, he lives by a code imparted to him by his foster father Harry which basically boils down to don't kill people unless they really deserve it. Season 1 follows the Miami PD as they attempt to track down the Ice Truck Killer, a serial killer who preys upon and dismembers prostitutes. The Ice Truck Killer plays a twisted game of cat and mouse with Dexter, ultimately revealing himself to be far more entangled in Dexter's life than Dexter ever could have imagined.

Dexter seems to be part of a growing trend on pay-cable shows where audiences are asked to sympathize with a seemingly despicable character - the most obvious being the mobster at the heart of The Sopranos, but the Travellers at the heart of The Riches (FX, which is kind of HBO/Showtime-lite) also fit the bill. Dexter does some nasty stuff, but the show never judges him. It lets you think what you want about him and his pastime, although I have to say that Dex is probably a bit more likable than Tony Soprano. Of course, your opinion may vary - which is kind of the beauty of it.

Oh, also, it's really pretty funny. Darkly funny, and ironic, not unlike the tone of a Coen Brothers movie. A huge part of what makes that work is Michael C. Hall, who does a bang-up job of being cold-bloodedly evil, immensely charming, and really funny. To say the role is different than the one he played on Six Feet Under is beyond an understatement. Other than a touch of OCD, Dexter Morgan and David Fisher have nothing in common. Including the fact that in five years of watching Six Feet Under, I never once found myself attracted to Hall but damn if I didn't want to jump Dexter's bones within the first ten minutes of the pilot. The tousled hair, sideburns (oh man am I a sucker for a nice set of sideburns), and perpetual stubble are a good look for him.

I'm just beginning season 2 of Dexter, and I was skeptical that the writers would be able to craft a season-long storyline that would be as engaging and revealing as the Ice Truck Killer. But as evidenced by the number of times I uttered "holy shit" and "fuck me, no way!" as I watched the first few episodes, I don't think it's going to disappoint. 

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