I have a long history of being too cheap for premium cable. As a kid, the only pay channel we had was the Disney Channel. I remember relishing the days when HBO, Showtime or Cinemax would have those free weekends (I remember staying up REAL late one night to see Striptease and being pretty disappointed). In college we got HBO on our cable plan at some point and that was fun, but aside from that, the movie channels have not been a part of my life. So, I watch all the premium channel stuff (like Weeds, Sopranos and Big Love) after the fact. Luckily, Showtime seems to be slowly making their original shows available on NetBox. And, being the horror junkie I’ve turned into this October, I just couldn’t resist a 12-episode show about a serial killer killer.
Here’s the basic premise of the show. Dexter is a blood splatter expert for the cops. I think he’s part of the CSI team essentially, working in the same office as the cops. Is that how it actually works? I have no idea. Dex’s sister is a cop who moves from vice to homicide, while a killer keeps murdering prostitutes, draining their blood and leaving their bodies chopped up for the cops to find. He’s also playing games with Dexter. Why? Because Dexter is also a killer himself. See, his foster pops saw the darkness inside of Dexter and trained him to only kill animals or people who needed killing, bad people. And Dexter, to this day, still follows the rules that Harry set in place. Harry, interestingly enough, is played by James Remar who was also in The Warriors and Band of the Hand.
Overall, I dug the first season of Dexter. There’s a few characters that really got on my nerves and seemed fairly one-note. You’ve got Doakes, the detective who hates Dexter. The dude’s kind of a meathead and if you take away an affair he has with a cop’s wife, all he does is give Dexter shit. There’s also Laguerta, a lady cop who’s in charge of the precinct (or whatever it is), but keeps giving Dexter’s sister Debra shit for no actual reason. With little else to them besides this “we’re badass” vibe they have, these characters get to be pretty annoying and boring.
Aside from them, though, I found the rest of the characters really engaging. Dexter definitely has elements of Patrick Bateman, but isn’t a complete nut. In the flashbacks we see Harry explaining the rules to Dexter and Dexter reflecting on the rules in the present. He also talks about the urges he used to have. What I found a little curious is that we don’t really get a sense of his urge to kill in the present day. Yes he kills a lot of people, but you don’t get the sense that it’s something he’s drawn to, just something he likes to do. Maybe that’s something that gets addressed in later seasons. Speaking of the flashbacks though, Remar does kind of oversell the role, spreading on a bit too heavy while the writers also have him showing up every single time young Dexter is about to lose control. It just comes off as a little too coincidental.
I mentioned Dexter’s fellow serial killer who’s playing with him earlier. That’s the overarching story for the season and I found it to be a fascinating one even though I called the culprit before the reveal (though not WAY before). See, not only is this other killer playing a game with Dexter, but it’s a game that opens up doors to Dexter’s youth and we find out even more about him. It’s a fascinating look at what it would take to create someone who is constantly presenting a mask to the world and doesn’t feel anything when he’s not killing.
I also really liked the character of his foster sister Deb. She just seems so real and charming and it’s rough watching what happens to her towards the end of the season. I’m also a big fan of the goofy forensic examiner Masuka who’s awesomely lude and inappropriate. And Angel, another cop, balances things out by being just a rad dude.
The season finale was an intense one that not only brought an exciting end to the ongoing story, but also put Dexter in a reasonable amount of danger. It also changes the status quo a bit as Doakes is keeping an eye on Dexter after he shows up at several crime scenes unannounced. That should definitely put a damper on his extra curricular activities.
One other thing I want to note is how amazing the set designers make the blood look. You’ve got it spewing from people, on walls, carpets and even turned into art in Dexter’s office. There’s even a cool way that Dexter sets up an aparatus that looks like red straws to demonstrate how people were attacked and how their blood sprayed out. It’s really interesting and gross stuff.
I can see how the show might get a little Weeds-ish where the writers just start wrapping sidestories up into nice little packages that are way too neat and air-tight, but I hope not. We shall see, I’m starting the second season tonight!