There’s a lot of TV out there, and some of it declines really quickly in terms of quality. After a promising first season, there’s some good stuff, and then BOOM, it’s just bad.
Yup. I mean Dexter.
What’s the premise?
Serial killer Dexter Morgan can’t stop his “dark passenger” from urging him to kill, so his adopted father, a cop, trained him to hide what he was by killing other serial killers. Dexter gets much of what he needs from his job as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro homicide division.
What’s the appeal?
This show began as a very dark show, where the main character didn’t seem to have any emotions at all. In point of fact, he routinely had to fake emotions. Dark antiheroes can be all the rage, so having one on premium cable channel Showtime seemed like a natural way to go. It was a very popular show for much of its run.
Anything stand out?
Lead actor Michael C. Hall was great as Dexter. He could do creepy and weird very well. Looking like a normal guy who happened to have a knife collection and blood samples from all his kills, Hall was that serial killer than blended into the background, and no matter how silly the material got, he always managed to make it somehow mostly work.
The series also made good use out of some of the various guest stars who often portrayed the season Big Bads. John Lithgow in particular was a very memorable bad guy, the Trinity Killer, an elusive killer that Dexter believes he can sort of use as a role model. There’s a reason many people say season 4 was a standout year for the show.
Not only do many people say season 4 was a standout for the show, they likewise say to stop watching after that one!
Season 4 ends on a very dark note, but it would have been thematically a very appropriate note to end Dexter on. Instead, the show just kept chugging along for a few more years. Hall continued to be fine, but the problem with Dexter is the show is only as good as its villain any given year. Heck, I wasn’t overly fond of season three with Jimmy Smits as the villain, especially since I wasn’t sure where that accent came from. I don’t think its his normal accent since I’ve never heard it used anywhere else, but there it was.
And the less said about Colin Hanks, the better. I know a lot of folks who were pleasantly surprised at that year’s surprise plot twist, but I wasn’t one of them. My wife and I predicted that twist after two episodes, and were mostly just waiting for the show to reveal it, and not in a “wouldn’t that be cool!” kind of way. More like a “just tell us already, its kinda obvious!” kind of way.
Essentially, without a good, strong actor as a guest star for the season, like Lithgow in season 4 or even season 7’s gone-too-soon Ray Stevenson, it was really hard not to notice the show’s flaws. The universe of Dexter seemed to operate on the fact that everyone in the Miami Metro police department that wasn’t Dexter was a moron. One cop found him suspicious in the early years, but that didn’t last too long and that character’s fate actually worked in Dexter’s favor for a long time. Another cop hired a detective to follow Dexter, but when the detective disappeared, that cop decided not to look into it any more. Dexter was able to hide evidence from crime scenes other cops hadn’t found yet for some reason, use his work computer to research anything he needed to find, and seemed to have the ability to stay one step ahead of anyone that might be out to get him that wasn’t the season’s big bad.
Meanwhile, dialogue spoken by Dexter and other characters would insist the Miami Metro cops were really good at their jobs. This was especially true of Dexter’s adopted sister Deb, who only got to become a homicide detective when Dexter was feeding her clues. I never bought her as the good detective everyone claimed she was. I mean, she didn’t notice her own brother was a serial killer for the longest time…
Really, the world of Dexter existed only to make sure Dexter could kill the bad guys and not get caught. The network may have insisted the series not end with Dexter’s death or punishment for his crimes, which may be why the show’s controversial ending was made at all. Trust me, when this show ended, even its biggest diehard fans were hating on it.