Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dexter: A Review

I was planning on writing about TV shows that stood out for me this year. I also thought of writing a season review of Heroes, but I felt I could hold back on it till the finale of the show in India, which I believe is end of June, so that it would be right to post it then on DesiDabba and cross posting it here. Darn Indian channels, how slow can you be?!


Anyway, Dexter I am sure, would certainly not air in India, so I though I might as well do a season review on this new show. Dexter is a psychological thriller that debuted on Showtime this season. Show deals with Dexter Morgan, a forensic blood splatter expert who leads a secret life as a serial killer. The story is narrated by Dexter and we see it unfold from his perspective.

Now serial killer dramas generally don't amuse me much. Yes, serial killers in themselves are intriguing characters that make good subjects for interesting plots in movies and TV shows. But the American obsession with serial killers and their glorification gets onto my nerves at times. I personally didn't like American Psycho much although lot of people ranted raved about it, because committing senseless murders and getting away with them doesn't gel well with my moral fabric (however tenuous it may be). Of course there are exceptions with those like Silence of the Lambs and Saw, which were helped by brilliant acting and taut screenplay respectively. So my expectations before watching Dexter weren't high either.

The premise of a show, from the viewpoint of a serial killer, intrigued me in the sense that I was curious as to how one might go about justifying or redeeming a serial killer. As it turned out, I was hooked onto it from the very beginning and watched the first season in a couple of days. As I mentioned, the lead character Dexter Morgan (Michael C Hall), is a serial killer whose day job is at the forensics. He has a foster sister, Deborah, who is a cop. His ability to think like a killer helps him get those hunches that help solve a lot of murder cases. The story revolves around hunting a certain other serial killer who goes on a rampage killing common whores, and how that killer affects Dexter's life. Frequent flashbacks take us to Dexter's childhood and the role of his foster father (who was also a cop) in shaping the person that he was. His serial killing of course, follows a code: that he kills people who 'deserve to die'. As in, the guilty ones that got away due to loopholes in the judicial system. He clearly says that in the outside world, every single moment of interaction with people, is a struggle, where he needs to wear a mask. He tries to be a normal human being. He avoids relationships: both emotional and sexual, due to chances that people who come close to him might get to know the monster that he is. He just tries to fit in - like a passive observer.

The best part of the show was the way it played with my ideas of morals. I observed the change, from a feeling of repulsion towards the guy to a state where I rooted for him to a point where I actually felt sympathy towards him. It is interesting, because Dexter is the stereotypical killer: troubled childhood, crazy urges to kill, follows a pattern/code that serial killers live by. But eventually, it is the intentions that mattered. However, on another day I would say, no man has the right to take another man's life, whatever the reason.

Which brings us to this: Does that make him some kind of a super hero? He has a secret identity, as a serial killer killing off bad guys. He tries to lead a normal life, doing his day job. He fears revealing his secret to anyone including his sister and his girlfriend. And he pines for the chance to meet anyone who feels the same about the world like he does. A flawed hero maybe. A gripping story nonetheless.

The show, apart from some good writing (although adapted from the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter), has a brilliant cast. Michael C Hall seamlessly moves from the nice and friendly guy to the dark and emotionless serial killer at night, with his fetish for blood keeping him interested in his day job as a blood splatter expert in forensics. Showtime has announced the second season which will have more of an original storyline, and will divert a lot from the novel.

Although, I hope for a decent second season and a permanent end to the show after that. Because, at the moment, I wonder if it does have scope for a third season. I honestly believe it is a two season show at the maximum and I don't want what happened to Prison Break.


  1. There this anime called "Monster" similar to this... This story is so cliched!

  2. As I said, this story is everything that you can expect from a stereotypical serial killer, yet its treatment of a cliched storyline is intriguing. The performances were great.

    Thankfully I don't enjoy anime. So I don't have much of an idea of Monster.

    Yes of course, the idea of a serial killer who goes around looking for vigilante justice is the stuff of comic books and robin hood stories.