Sean Guard analyses the hit US TV drama Dexter...
A woman is walking out of her usual coffee spot while taking a small sip of a vanilla latte that she has just purchased. She climbs into her car and drives not very far to her empty apartment. She notices a couple holding hands walking along the sidewalk that leads past her building and pauses in the night air to appreciate this moment that she yearns she had in her life. What she doesn’t notice is the man that has stepped out of his car parked in the shadows who has followed her from the coffee shop. He waits impatiently beside his vehicle until she has finished admiring the couple to begin the climb of stairs to her apartment. His palms begin to sweat with anticipation as devious thoughts tip-toe through his demented mind.
He checks to make sure that the coast is clear and takes one step in the direction of her building. His second step is interrupted by a sudden sharp pain in his neck. Before he is able to formulate even a guess on what might have caused it, he begins to fall unconsciously to the ground. But before he hits the hard pavement, he’s carefully and swiftly caught by another unknown gentleman of the night. What seems like mere minutes later, the first man awakens to find himself strapped to a table restrained by layer upon layer of plastic. He attempts to move but soon discovers that it is useless, the plastic binding him down has been tightly fastened.
All of a sudden, an unfamiliar voice speaks from a dark corner. Our tied-up victim begins to breathe heavily and asks where he is. Just then a light flicks on and he is able to see several pictures of beautiful females that he has preyed on before. If he wasn’t stopped earlier that night, the woman sipping her coffee and watching the couple would have been among them. The mystery voice comes into the light, his red hair seeming to be on fire. He stands by our victims’ head and makes a small cut into his cheek before collecting the blood that drips out and placing it on a glass slide; a trophy. Our victim screams in pain still asking demanding to know what is going on. Suddenly the questions stop as a knife is plunged into his chest. Soon thereafter all is quiet and the red-haired man standing over him releases a sigh of much needed satisfaction.
This lovely night out, or in, happens to be the basic and on-going premise of Showtime’s hit show, Dexter. Simply labeling it as a hit might be somewhat of an understatement. It is freaking awesome. Based on a series of crime novels written by author Jeff Lindsay, Dexter’s first season began in October of 2006 with the fifth and most recent season ending this past fall.
Dexter, if you haven’t figured out by my mood-setting intro, is a crime/serial drama mixed with suspense, baked in mystery and topped off with a vigilante twist. Basically it’s about a serial killer who kills serial killers. Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a forensic blood spatter analyst. Think CSI:anything (there are so many nowadays) combined with buckets of blood, in-depth psychological narration, some nudity and a pinch of mild, dark humor.
He works for the Miami-Dade County Police department in the homicide unit. Within his division are other officers/characters whose lives the show takes time to dive into including his ambitious yet emotional foul-mouthed sister, Deborah Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter). Deborah’s father, Harry (James Remar) adopted Dexter as a young child and made him a part of their family. As of the beginning of the show, both of their parents are deceased but the audience is shown several flashbacks helping to explain the “Dark Passenger” origins of Dexter. Our anti-hero is also visited by many visions of his father, especially while he is planning and stalking his next bad guy victim.
Some series regulars are that of Rita (Julie Benz), Dexter’s timid and damaged girlfriend who is trying to recover from her own troubled past during the first season. Lt. Maria Laguerta (Lauren Velez) is the head of the homicide division and a hero in the Cuban community of Miami. Det. Angel Batista (David Zayas), Sgt. James Doakes (Erik King), who has a serious issue and suspicion of Dexter, and fellow-forensic analyst Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee) round out recurring characters on the show who also work with Dexter trying to catch the criminals of Miami. Det. Joseph Quinn (Desmond Harrington) is introduced later on in the series.
Of course we have plenty of guest stars; Keith Carradine as FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy, John Lithgow as the “Trinity Killer”, Jimmy Smits as ADA Miguel Prado and Julia Stiles as Lumen Pierce, a victim of one of the men Dexter kills during the fifth season. Even Malcolm Jamal Warner plays a lawyer assisting Rita in a family court case concerning her two children.
Episodes of the series have been written and directed by a team of different people. James Manos Jr., who developed the series, is among the main writers as well as Jeff Lindsay of course who penned the novels. Keith Gordon and Marcos Siega have directed the majority of the episodes. Daniel Cerone, Clyde Phillips and Melissa Rosenberg were the main executive producers, all of whom have by now departed the production altogether. Chip Johanssen, who co-executive produced 24, took over for Phillips and Michael C. Hall is pulling double duty by also executive producing as well as bringing the very popular lead character to life.
I first stumbled onto Dexter around 2008 but didn’t really give it a chance. Since taking the time to go back and watch the series from the beginning, I have been kicking myself in the rear end. I haven’t seen every television drama there is (who has that kind of time anyway) but I would put Dexter within the top 10% of T.V. series ever made. If you think about how many shows there are out there, that’s saying a lot. If you narrow it down to just dramas, that’s saying even more and even you go further and only consider cop/forensic/crime dramas, that’s saying just about everything.
Michael C. Hall is tremendous as Dexter, being able to transform from a dull seemingly plain scientist to a delightful, intelligent killer who claims his victims with spot-on precision. Dexter certainly deserves all of the awards that it has received including a 2008 Scream Award for best show. Altogether it has been nominated 109 times for different awards and won 33 of them. Not too shabby at all. Its fourth season finale was Showtime’s highest rated telecast in over a decade when 2.6 million viewers tuned in to watch.
The five seasons are somewhat tweaked to be slightly different from their respective book number counterpart. The differences range from small character details to massive opposite storylines altogether. Despite the changes in plot progressions, both remain high on fans lists within their own industries. Season 6 is hopefully going to mark the return of our scalpel-toting blood spatter vigilante this fall on Showtime.
Only finding small aspects here and there that I would have done differently and one major detail that I wished never happened, I see nothing wrong with this complete and well put-together drama. It not only holds your attention and keeps you guessing but also digs into the mind of a serial killer who is actually not such a bad guy. Trust me, once you begin watching, you won’t be able to stop. It’s like crack but with blood and suspense. I give Dexter “5 air-conditioner trophy hiding places out of 5”.
“Tonight's the night”
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