In the US: Showtime, Sundays, 10pm
In the UK: Acquired by FX for showing in early 2007.
You've got to hand it to Showtime. For years, the ITV1 to HBO's BBC1, it's finally got its groove back and is putting out some great stuff, like Weeds, Brotherhood, Sleeper Cell, The L Word and now Dexter.
All the same, you'd have thought serial killer dramas like Dexter would be a bit passé . They're unrealistic and pretty much all the same: bad man who attacks women gets chased by nice police people, who build up clues and an idea of the killer's mind until he's apprehended or killed.
So Dexter, if it's possible to feel welcoming towards a gory serial killer drama, is indeed welcome for providing a new twist. The eponymous 'hero', Dexter, is indeed a serial killer. But he's a member of the police - a CSI in fact. And get this: he only kills other killers.
The plot. Where do you live?
Based on a series of books by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter is darkly comic, gory and bleak. Dexter, played by that nice Michael C Hall from Six Feet Under, has been harbouring homicidal thoughts from an early age. But his dad (James Remar) spots his son's fatal flaw early on and works with him to keep it under control. When it becomes apparent that Dexter's going to start killing people sooner or later, daddy suggests channelling all those bad thoughts into good works: punishing those who would do evil acts themselves.
Fast forward to today and Dexter has quietly been filling his collection of slides with blood samples of serial killers he's murdered. He's a well respected CSI with the uncanny ability to get into the head of violent killers: he just knows when a knife has been used as a mere object of violence rather than an object of passionate hate.
He's got a girlfriend of sorts (Julie Benz), who was beaten and repeatedly raped by her ex- so thankfully has gone right off that icky sex thing that Dexter just can't get into unless it's accompanied by a beheading. He's also helping his policewoman sister work her way out of vice and into homicide, despite the untalented lieutenant's animosity towards her.
Into his life comes someone whom Dexter can only admire. A fellow practitioner of the murdering arts, this 'genius' is slicing and dicing his way around Miami and seems to know that Dexter would like to play his game, too.
Is it any good? I can see you, you know
Dexter is a quietly mesmerising character study, a sort of Henry: A Portrait of a Serial Killer for the small screen. Narrated by 'our hero', we get an insight into a man who has to fake almost every human interaction because of the dark emptiness inside him.
Hall is great, with a sly humour that emerges when Dexter is a little too unguarded with his insights. Benz is worlds away from her Buffy/Angel fave, Darla, and is convincing as a woman as damaged in her own way as Dexter.
Most of the gore is implied, rather than shown, and the direction is equally clever. Compared to the ostensible accuracy of shows like Profiler and Criminal Minds, Dexter is far more recognisable as a sociopath, despite some liberties taken in order to get the plot hook in place, making this a far more interesting study than shows typical of the genre.
All in all, excellent. A definite thumbs up from me.
- May 8, 2009: Showtime's free content weekend
Free Showtime content available on Yahoo! this weekend.
- October 12, 2006: Third-episode verdict: Dexter
My third-episode verdict on Dexter.