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By Bert Ehrmann
August 17, 2007

DexterUp until last year, it seemed as if the HBO had the market cornered on quality pay-cable drama and comedy series. Beginning with shows like Sex and the City, The Sopranos and continuing with Six Feet Under it appeared as if the cable giant could do no wrong as each new show became a bigger hit than the previous. Even series like The Wire and Deadwood that didn't garner as many viewers as shows like The Sopranos did manage to bring the channel lots of positive "buzz" from the critics and overall good word of mouth to HBO.

All this held true until last Fall when I discovered a little dramatic series on Showtime; Dexter. With excellent writing and quality acting, Dexter somehow managed to unseat the "hit maker" HBO as the only pay-cable channel with any original programming worth watching.

The series Dexter follows Miami Police Department blood spatter analyst Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a modern day Jekyll and Hyde that spends his day investigating crime scenes and nights moonlighting as a serial killer. But Dexter's not just any serial killer, he only preys on other serial killers or mass murders who haven't been brought in by the justice system.

The first season of Dexter mostly dealt with the "Ice Truck Killer" (ITK), another serial killer who also stalks Miami but has decidedly different needs when it comes to the people he murders. The ITK prefers to drain his victims of blood, store them cold (hence the ice truck) and then leaves body parts around the city for police to discover.

DexterThough Dexter idolizes a killer who's skillful enough to spend time arranging body parts around the city and yet not leave any real evidence behind, he's also quite disturbed when he finds that the ITK apparently knows who Dexter is what he does at night. Dexter realizes that unless he stops him, the ITK will go on killing with no end in sight. 

What's odd is that on his surface Dexter Morgan is a likable, abet distant, fellow. He's the guy in the office who brings donuts for all and never fails to remember his girlfriend's birthday. Dexter's also a ruthless murderer who knocks his victims unconscious via a hypodermic injection before taping them down and surrounding them with photos and other evidence of the errors of their ways before delivering the fatal blow.

In the series, based on the of novels by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is involved in a relationship with a woman named Rita (Julie Benz) who is so damaged by an ex-husband that the two are unable to have a "normal" relationship – which works for Dexter who gets his real kicks from stalking and murder. Sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter), also a police officer, is willing to look past Dexter's quirks and odd knowledge of crime as long as he helps her get closer to becoming a detective.

What I find most interesting is that within 20 minutes of the pilot episode of Dexter, actor Michael C. Hall somehow erases the thought of him as homosexual and codependent David Fisher in his previous series Six Feet Under and instead completely inhabits the role of the seemingly innocent yet dangerous-as-heck Dexter Morgan. It takes a fine actor and a well-written script to pull this transformation off.

DexterIn the second season of the Dexter, set to begin airing on Showtime this Fall, it's a month after the events of the first season and Dexter's in trouble. His sister's a little more screwed up from the events surrounding the Ice Truck Killer than anyone realizes, Dexter's having problems with his girlfriend and he can't quite bring himself to kill anyone, no matter how much they might deserve it. To make matters worse, his bulletproof bottom of the ocean body dumping ground has been uncovered by treasure seekers who've stumbled across Dexter's underwater secret, though not his identity – yet.

If you like well acted and well written dramas then Dexter is certainly for you. The first season of Dexter is available on DVD August 21 and the second season of the show kicks off September 30.