Dissecting the First Half Dexter

Dexter is unlike any show I’ve seen before.

This is coming from the guy who can cruise through any television series just to catch up to its latest (or final) episode. I’ve gotten a great look at the system via The Wire and gray areas of morality and righteousness through Deadwood.

But the near-horror element of this Showtime program provides something fresh to the run of shows I’ve torn through.

***Anyone who has not read Dexter should not read further.

Season One

It didn’t take long for me to fall for this show, and I’m guessing that’s the intention Dexter’s creators. The opening scene is haunting and somewhat disturbing, but thrusts the viewer into the world and moral code of the titular character. Plus the credits are absolutely amazing and so perfect for the plot (as all credits should be).

The characters are nothing too new: the sister, counterpart main character in Deb, the archenemy of the main character in (James) Doakes, the love interest via Rita, and the likeable comic-relief characters provided through Angel and (Vince) Masuka. There’s also a maternal-ish type in (Maria) LaGuerta, but she’s sometimes all over the place in what her role should be.

Led by his father’s guidance or “Harry’s Code,” we get introduced to Dexter’s methodology for killing serial killers. Somehow, as viewers, we’re desensitized to Dexter’s killings because he’s essentially acting as karma: taking out those who deserve justice.

This is the basic formula for the next two seasons, but as I’ll comment on later, each season provides a nice new twist.

And of course, the season introduces us to probably the most exciting element to the show: the serial-killer-of-the-year. Each season has a new, interesting killer, which provides for most of the show’s momentum and plotlines.

Through three, I must say that the first season had the most compelling one. The twist that the Ice Truck killer was Dexter’s brother legitimately surprised me. (This coming from someone who predicted the end of The Usual Suspects.)

What made this season great was how the serial killer was introduced and, well, fleshed-out. He was compelling, fascinating, mysterious, and once we got to know him, actually kind of charming,

Plus Doakes:

Season Two

Enter Keith Carradine as Frank Lundy, who has now played some great supporting roles in TV shows I love (Wild Bill Hickok in Deadwood being the other). Oddly enough, there are similarities between his two characters, the most noticeable being that they’re legends who are revered – and loathed – by those in the worlds they enter.

Loved the way Lundy operated, not through force, but in a paternal way, much like how LaGuerta operated in the first season. But this was creepier only because of Deb’s infatuation with him and the lack of notice she received from Harry.

There’s also the crazy lady who I loved at first, Dexter’s “sponsor” Lila. Some of the foreshadowing was pretty clear, though, to be honest while “explainabragging,” few movies/television shows take me by complete and total surprise. (Well done, Memento.)

Anyways, the absence of Dexter’s killer instincts and his struggle with it throughout the season adds a nice twist to the first season’s formula, though it makes the first episodes sluggish without the all-out focus on the Bay Harbor Butcher.

Dexter/Doakes as the serial-killer-of-the-year was disappointing at first, but then really grew on me, to the point of me thinking it was great to get the “Dexter being caught” dilemma out of the way early in the show’s run.

Then season three happened…

Season Three

…and so continued the “Dexter being caught” dilemma. However, it wasn’t all that bad, and having Miguel essentially replace Doakes was at least a new twist on the past two seasons’ arcs.

My friends were divided on the season, one describing the first seasons as “good, better, worse,” and the other claiming the third and fifth seasons were his favorite. I’m a bit in between, thinking that the third was up to the standard of the second season, but not quite as good as the first.

Why it’s good. Jimm Smits crushed his role as Miguel. His dark turn was fantastic and he was really compelling and cunning. His chemistry with Michael C. Hall is fantastic and their back-and-forth makes for some of the most entertaining moments in Dexter. Doakes left some big mothafuckin’ shoes to fill, but Miguel kicked them away for some nice polished Italian loafers.

Why it’s not as good. The skinner is the worst arc serial killer, even though you could argue that’s Miguel’s role. But the skinner isn’t interesting. Plus Anton as Deb’s love interest can’t even hold a candle to Lundy of the Ice Truck Killer. Plus, dropping in random romances for Angel and Masuka, as well as not having any clue what to really do with LaGuerta makes for some eye-roll-worthy moments.

But it’s all building up to the season I’m pumped for…the Trinity Killer….


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