Recurring Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Julie Benz, Erik King, Lauren Velez, David Zayas and James Remar
Dexter was always going to be the kind of show I would instantly lap up. It is fresh and original, yet at the same time falls back enough on suitable cliché and comfortable setting that it doesn’t take any time at all to get up to speed. I think I fell in love with Dexter faster than I have any other series and that is saying a lot.
Based on the novels by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter tells the story of a boy adopted by a legendary police officer, after that cop found him crying next to his mother’s bloody body. The scene was so horrific that Dexter took something dark away from the traumatic experience, giving him the urge to kill things. His father, knowing how serial killers work and realising there is no way to control these feelings, mentors him to take out his need to kill only on people who deserve it. Fast forward to Dexter’s adult years and we find him working in the same station his father (now deceased), did as a blood splatter analysis alongside his adoptive sister, who is a rookie Homicide Detective. While he helps the police catch killers, he also has a habit of tracking down the ones who slip through the system and delivering his own brand of justice. However, being so close to all of these detectives means that Dexter has to use every inch of his cunning to stay ahead of them. That is when a curveball is thrown into the mix, when a new serial killer, the Ice Truck Killer, who bleeds his victims dry, starts communicating with Dexter via clues at the crime scene, seemingly sensing a connection between his own murders and Dexter’s. Intrigued, Dexter allows this killer to get close to him, with horrific consequences.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that one of my favourite genres is Noir. I love the idea of an anti-hero, who wants to do good, but is unable to shake off corruption and darkness. Dexter is pretty much the epitome of this idea. He is a man who wants to make the world a better place, even if he struggles to connect emotionally with friends and family, but is held back by this inner need to kill things in a ritualistic way. The show often tackles the idea that Dexter is pretty much the villain of his own show, yet we never lose touch with Dexter. In fact, with some of the supporting characters looking slightly dim with this serial killer working under all of their noses, Dexter becomes the most likeable person in this show by a long mile. We don’t want him caught and the second his goals conflict with the more generic good guys, the other homicide detectives, we instantly side with him. Dexter is one of the most intriguing characters on television and he is a great hero to get behind and support.
All of the little details of Noir make Dexter so easy for me to get into. Michael C. Hall keeps us riveted with a constant narrative, helping us easily get an insight into the thought process of this killer. It is very Noir, echoing Sin City and the pulp stories where the Noir genre was born. I also enjoy his connection to all of the other characters. Debra, his sister, and Rita, his girlfriend, make very good Noir heroines, appearing helpless in their ignorance that Dexter is a killer, yet coming off as dependent enough that they aren’t irritating or useless as characters. In particular, Dexter’s relationship with Rita is a very interesting one to dissect and I love how the writers portray that side of the show. There is also the thin dark layers of humour. While the show wallows in the disturbing story of serial killers and bloody murders, it is extremely funny. We end up sharing Dexter’s mind frame, eerily disconnecting from the gruesome side of the show and somehow managing to see the funny side of it all. In fact, sometimes Dexter’s unique style of humour makes it one of the funnier programmes on television.
There is also a pretty neat twist at the end of the Ice Truck Killer storyline. The story unfolds brilliantly, keeping the pace just right. It is moderately easy to figure out who the killer secretly is, especially if you are used to these sorts of shows. However, realising that the direction the plot is heading could come across as predictable, the writers make the killer’s identity a little more complicated than a simple whodunit. I had it spoilt for me before it was revealed, yet I still had to admire the genius of the set-up. And if even that twist is too simple for a certain viewer, Dexter becomes the real unpredictable character. Bearing in mind, this is Season One and we have no idea of how evil Dexter truly is, when all of the twists have been laid out for the viewer to digest, we still have no idea how Dexter will take the information. After all, he is a serial killer deep down and as the series constantly suggests, he has no idea where he truly belongs.
Final Verdict: A little dark for some, yet if you can appreciate the Noir tones and black humour, then Dexter is a great show to throw yourself into.