Monday, October 02, 2006

Dexter

Dexter is Showtime's new TV series about a cop who is also a serial killer. After years of movies and television shows playing though the theme of the link between the cop and the killer, this kind of a show is somewhat inevitable, and its high concept a little exhausting. If you don't like plots about serial killers Dexter will get on your nerves, as it is such a desperate attempt to keep a tired genre alive; if you do like serial killer plots -- or if, like me, you don't care that much one way or the other -- its hard not to admit that, in spite of the transparent premise, the first episode of Dexter is a pretty good piece of craftsmanship: the acting, the structure, the tone, the characters and their conflicts are surprisingly well thought out and engaging. Though nowhere near the brilliance of Joss Whedon, it has this in common with his shows -- a dumb idea executed well enough to rise above the dumbness (Whedon soars above the dumbness).

Dexter, played by Michael C. Hall (from Six Feet Under), is a CSI style blood spatter forensic expert by day. By night he hunts the rapists and child molesters that escape the system by getting off on technicalities or what not. What separates him from the more violent superhero vigilantes is the imagery and tone of his killings; Dexter conceives of himself as a serial killer. His foster father, Harry, was a cop; when Dexter began showing signs of having been born a serial killer at a young age Harry helped him channel his darkness in the service of something good, killing monsters. Now his city, Miami, has a new genius serial killer in town, one that is clearly challenging Dexter both as cop (catch him) and fellow killer (Dexter is amazed at this new guy's skills).

What really saves the show is the tone, which, while dark, is pulpy, fun, and a little bit silly at times (not unlike CSI). Dexter has a dumb, insecure but very cute sister on the force trying to make it as a homicide cop, even though no one will take her seriously; he does his best to help her by giving her access to his insights about the new killer. Like Patrick Bateman, from American Psycho, Dexter is completely empty inside and has to mimic, as best he can, normal social and emotional interactions. Rather than play up the horror of this isolation, Dexter uses it to earn our sympathy for this character who cannot understand simple things like sex, but kind of wants to. His girlfriend, Julie Benz from Buffy, never has sex with him because of past trauma in her life; when she tries, he tries with her, but is clearly relieved when they are interrupted. It's kind of sweet actually. I can only hope it holds its own for a while until the penultimate episode's inevitable reveal that the new serial killer in town is Dexter's biological father.

Dexter premiered Sunday night, but the first episode will be replayed many times; if you don't have Showtime it will play during the free Showtime preview later this week (October 6 - 13).

6 comments:

Pat Moler said...

That actually sounds very interesting.

Pat Moler said...

Okay I justlooked it up on wiki. Sounds a lot like the Punisher, Garth ennis's depiction of him. He's a homocidal maniac, but justifies it by killing only "those who deserve to die".

Baxter said...

Hoy crap they made a TV series about this? I've got the first two novels (the second still being unread) and it sounds like they've managed to capture the tone of the book fairly well. As long as they're going along with the plot of the first book for season 1 then its not his father Geoff.

Marc Caputo said...

I dropped premium cable because the programming was becoming crap. This sounds interesting (and it had a great poster - although thanks to the MTA's decision to go "one car, one ad campaign" with many of the subway lines, I was totally creeped out one cool morning last week before other people started getting on the train. But I digress.), but I'll go DVD with it.
But where's the blog for "Studio 60"? Killer episode last night; this show's getting better and better (and so, actually is "Heroes" - well, maybe just better.) - best new show, hands down. I have one nagging reservation - I'm not sure the scenario of the show is weighty enough to support episodes like the 2nd season Christmas episode for West Wing, or the last 4 episodes of season 4 (some of the best TV you, I or any damn body will EVER see). Also, have you noticed the similarities of Jordan, Matt and Danny to Dana, Casey and Dan from "Sports Night" (Christmas vacation is coming - time for my semi-annual SN marathon!)

Geoff Klock said...

Baxter: that is great news, thanks. I retract my earlier snarky comment about the killer being his biological father.

Marc: I have written several blogs about Studio 60 and they will be posted as soon as there is room for them. With itsallinyourhands out this week I think the Studio 60 blogs will start next week.

And yes, Sorkin likes to reuse stuff. A lot of stuff. I know it bothers some people but I think it's fun.

alex said...

So it doesn't linger too much on a procedural side? I like procedurals well enough, but there are quite a few of them, and they often have an at best casual relationship with actual science.

I'd be curious about how it will go if it is attempting to make the lead sympathetic, so he's "our monster" instead of an sociopathic lead outright, how monstrous he can be at all. More of a The Talented Mr. Ripley (book, not the movie), where Ripley is sympathetic because of how unsympathetic the rest of the world seems to be.

There's also the Monster manga, which is about a doctor who rescued a child who later grows up into a serial killer.