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Detoxing Determined Demented Dexter

By Bert Ehrmann
September 19, 2008

DexterI’m not sure what’s up with HBO, the channel that once proclaimed of itself, “It’s not TV, it’s HBO.” Other than the mini-series Generation Kill that ended a few weeks back, there hasn’t been any drama series of note on that channel since the end of The Sopranos more than a year ago.

The same doesn’t hold true for Showtime, which has been out “HBO-ing” HBO in the drama department for some time now, especially with their series Dexter.

If you’re unfamiliar with Dexter, the show follows the title character Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) as nice-guy Miami P.D. blood spatter expert by day and dark serial killer by night. But the catch here is that Dexter’s the one serial killer that’s “on our side” and only dispatches criminals that have escaped punishment.

The first season dealt with Dexter tracking down another serial killer dubbed the “Ice Truck Killer” (ITK) that was terrorizing Miami. The ITK seemed to know Dexter’s dual identity and enjoyed taunting him. The second season focused on Dexter’s undersea body dump being discovered by the authorities, Dexter being dubbed “The Bay Harbor Butcher,” being tracked by the police and FBI and the introduction of his slightly psychotic new girlfriend Lila (Jaime Murray).

DexterWhat’s interesting with the series is that, essentially, Dexter is the villain of any other show. Put him on Law and Order and he’s the secret killer living and working amongst the police who is caught and confesses in the last ten minutes of the episode. CSI would present him as some sort of diabolical genius that only a character like Gil Grissom could fathom and, of course, capture and get to confess by the end of the show.

Except on Dexter, the bad guy escapes punishment time and time again. In fact, by the end of the second season Dexter convinces the police that ANOTHER officer is responsible for his murders and escapes the dragnet searching for him. Dexter doesn’t see this turn of events as being wrong or out of the ordinary. In fact, he wonders if some sort of higher power might be responsible for keeping him out of the hands of law enforcement. 

Then again, if the police were to look hard enough at Dexter there are signs that things aren’t quite right with him.

Dexter is a bit of an alien, missing many elements that make a person normal. He experiences life from the outside and describes himself as being “emotionally color blind” lacking feelings and relying instead on impulses. Most of the emotions he does display are by observing others. He survives by mimicry, an “I cry at funerals because others cry” chameleon.

DexterDexter was raised by cop dad Harry (James Remar) who recognized what he really was and worked to push him towards something of a normal life. In fact, Dexter lives by the “Code of Harry” that drives him to do everything in his power to keep his true “self” secret and to only kill those who he deems to deserve it. Without Harry’s code, Dexter is just another serial killer preying on the weak. With Harry’s code, Dexter is a functioning member of society who sees himself as providing a service to the community.

Dexter is a man that’s successfully able to live a dual life by hiding who he really is even from those closest to him; namely his sister Deb (Jennifer Carpenter) and girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz). He also sometimes fantasizes himself as a kind of twisted superhero that he dubs the “Dark Defender.” A sort of twisted Batman that leaves his enemies sliced and diced rather than bruised and bloodied. 

DexterAnd yet for all the good Dexter sees himself doing, he is unable to see all the pain and misery he brings to those around him. The psychological scars on Dexter’s sister who was kidnapped and nearly killed by the ITK and the partner of the office wrongly convicted as the “Bay Harbor Butcher” will affect them their whole lives.

And that’s not counting what would happen to everyone else around Dexter if they were ever to learn how he really spends his nights.

Season three of Dexter begins Sunday, September 28 at 9:00 P.M. (EST) on Showtime. The first two season of Dexter are available on DVD, Amazon Unbox and iTunes.