Recurring Cast: Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Carpenter, Julie Benz, Desmond Harrington, Lauren Velez, David Zayas, with Jimmy Smits and James Remar
Dexter, as ever, finds himself getting roped into impossible situations and only his killer smarts can help him get out of it. His next target seems as easy as any other. Freebo is a murderous drug dealer, wanted by most police departments, but always able to slip through the net, making him the ideal candidate for some of Dexter’s justice. However, when he breaks into Freebo’s flat, he finds someone else trying to murder him over a deal gone wrong. Freebo flees and Dexter is forced to kill the other guy in self-defence. It turns out that Freebo’s client was actually the brother of an important District Attorney, Miguel Prado. Prado is distraught and broken at the death of his brother and finds himself drawn to Dexter, who he believes is the one man who can bring Freebo down. However, Prado gets so close to Dexter’s life that Dexter needs to be on his guard to make sure that the District Attorney doesn’t get too wrapped up in revenge and Dexter’s secret lifestyle.
Dexter’s third season doesn’t really do a lot wrong. It is still that same enjoyable show that weaves a very interesting story, but also keeps on that even balance between darkness and subtle humour, usually personified by Michael C. Hall, who has the tricky character of Dexter perfected by now. Season Three rarely disappoints as an overall season, but we can see the flame behind this show dwindling just slightly. Dexter was always going to be a tricky show to keep running, because most of the key things we needed to develop had been done in the very first season. Sure, the second season pulled a rabbit out of the hat and gave us a fantastic story to keep us hooked, but this requires every season doing something similar. This makes Dexter only as good as its last season. While Season Three is good television, it’s not quite as impressive as the first two seasons. The little details confirm this. James Remar doesn’t have a lot of reason to show up anymore. Debra begins to slip into annoying territory. The formula of Dexter’s kills get a little too routine. It is hard for me to truly criticise this show, as I enjoyed all of this season, but it is important to reference that the originality is losing its footing in this show.
I think this is because the main storyline of Season Three is a little slower than the other two seasons. The hook for this storyline is the introduction of Miguel Prada, a District Attorney who eventually gets obsessed by the death of his brother and how to perform true justice. It is an important and interesting comparison to Dexter’s own life and, on paper, it must have seemed like a good idea to throw this chemistry into the mix. However, it just feels a little plodding for the mid-season points. Dexter and Prada bounce philosophies off of each other and, after a while, we can see where the story is going, so we end up waiting for the show to catch up with our own train of thought. It is a good story, but it lacks the sharp pace that last season’s race against time always had. I think the show also gets a little star-struck over Jimmy Smits, who plays Prada. It is a great performance and Smits is an actor I hadn’t fully experienced (his bit-role in the Star Wars prequels does not count). Hall and Smits have a great acting relationship and, yes, it is fun to watch them do their stuff. I just need a little more of a hook to get into Dexter.
In fairness, maybe I am placing blame in the wrong place. Dexter’s first genre is not a thriller, but a character piece. This slow exploration of morals and whether Dexter Morgan is a hero or a villain is the content that we originally signed up for. Can we truly blame the writers for giving us what we thought we wanted? Season One did this, but the difference was that their sub-plots brought the tension and excitement. Dexter could do his thing in peace, while the audience were transfixed on what the other characters were doing. Here, Rita gets pregnant and Dexter needs to spend more time at home. It is, again, an important part of Dexter’s storyline and it needs to be brought up, but it does get boring for long stretches of time. Better is the investigation into the Skinner. He is a creepy side villain and I like how this story breaks into Prada’s own. It makes the finale a really cracking piece of television and brings us back to the Dexter we all know and love. A good season, but compared to the last two, we must note a dip in quality.
Final Verdict: A slower entry in the Dexter canon, but it still brings the thrills we want, especially nearer to the end.