Murder took on a whole new meaning in 2006 when Showtime aired its new hit series Dexter. The television show captured audiences everywhere with its first season, and then brought them in for the kill in 2007 with its second season, recently released on DVD August 19.
In the show, Dexter (Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under), the main character, appears to be the perfect man; a thoughtful, intelligent, responsible, and funny man. His only flaw is that he is a serial killer; a thoughtful, intelligent, responsible, and funny serial killer.
Dexter is like no television show out there, and comparable only in its murderous qualities to American Psycho (2000). Yet, the tone and mood of both mediums are completely different. American Psycho is absolutely sinister; whereas Dexter’s darkness is broken up by humor and the lighter influences of the show’s other characters, who bring love, compassion, and other emotions into the unfeeling sociopath’s life.
The show was adapted from Jeff Lindsay’s baleful book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but takes the story far beyond where the book ends. In the first season the screenplay writer, James Manos Jr. (a producer for The Shield and The Sopranos) showed us, as well as the character Dexter, where Dexter came from and the reasons why he is our favorite serial killer. He then followed the first season’s explanation with a question in the second season; where does Dexter go from here? If a person’s perception of their past changes does this change the person?
This is the dilemma constructed in the second season. Before, Dexter was a confident blood splatter analyst for the Miami police by day, and by night a man who splatters blood to be analyzed. But in the second season he becomes unsure. He is a serial killer with self-esteem issues … which is simply marvelous.
Each episode of Dexter is like opening the mail to find a ticking bomb inside (oh wait, that’s the method of that other killer). They all end with a surprise that either explodes around Dexter or implodes within him. Whether he is confessing his sins to the devil herself, or trying to hide them from a suspicious cop, Dexter is continuously trying to keep everything, his life, his exploits, and his secrets from erupting.
It is this suspense that keeps you coming back. Each event, whether devastatingly catastrophic or humorously minuscule, is planned and timed perfectly within the series. The writing, especially Dexter’s monologues, is like that of a play or novel. It is eloquent, surprising, and wonderfully dark.
It’s just one of those shows that confuse and challenge you. You know what Dexter does is wrong, but he’s so likable that you find yourself justifying his actions just so you can continue watching with a clear conscience.
Dexter, on the other hand, has no conscience. Well, he mostly has no conscience. But, conscience or no, good or bad, he has procured some feeling, if not in himself then certainly in his audience. Because, no matter how deep or how far he goes, we are going with him; and we are feeling everything.