If you haven’t heard of Showtime’s series DEXTER, I’d be surprised. Since 2006, the show has been a mainstay of horror and genre fiction in general. Since it involves blood, murder, more blood, serial killers and then a little blood, it’s the ideal show for me to review.
You may ask yourself, “why the hell is he reviewing this show now?” Well, two reasons.
First, Dexter: The Sixth Season hits on DVD on August 14, plenty of time for you to lose hundreds of irreplacable hours of your life watching two-dimensional people act out made-up stories. Not that any of us would ever do that, of course, but you know how people are. If you’re made of money, you can buy Dexter: Seasons 1-5 and veg out to the whole thing if you’re not a NetFlix kinda person.
The second reason is a promotional company sent me Season Five over a year ago, because I told them I would review it in this blog. Then, I proceeded to not review it for a long, long time. It’s been in my to-dos for, like, forever. They only gave Season Five out to a limited number of reviewers, I took one then failed to do what I promised to do, which means they were (possibly) robbed of another review. Some of these promotional companies get paid based on how many reviews they generate, which means I suck.
So now it’s too late to help them, but that damn to-do is still in my RememberTheMilk app and will be there for always mocking me and calling me a loser so I must purge this demon from my life! I still failed to keep my promise, but this puts a little positive karma back my way. I’ll feel a touch better about it, so back off!
Ahhh, I feel better!
Without a doubt, the series is some of the best televsion ever. Like, in history. And for all genres, not just scifi/horror/fantasy. The series stars Michael C. Hall, also known for his whoop-ass work in SIX FEET UNDER. The DEXTER series is based on the novels of Jeff Lindsay, who hit the f-ing literary lottery when he came up with the concept of a serial killer that kills other serial killers. Seriously, folks, this is the kind of high-concept, franchise-character story that pop-culture authors fantasize about. The idea is so interesting and compelling it damn near doesn’t matter if the books are any good (which they are, I’ve read the first two), because some TV exec is going to hear it and hallucinate dollar signs. It’s called “the slugline,” that one sentence that instantly tells everyone what your book or series is about. Jeff Lindsay? Best slugline evah.
The character of Dexter loses his parents to violence. He is adopted by a police officer. As Dexter hits his pre-teens and teens and starts to show the classic indicators of a serial killer, the cop recognizes it immediately. Here’s where the real brilliance of the series comes in: the cop loves his son so much, he knows he has to protect him, but he also knows that you can’t “cure” serial-killer tendencies. Dexter has to act out, so what does the Cop Daddy do? He teaches Dexter how to find other serial killers, allowing his son to both satisfy that “dark passenger” while simultaneously making the world a better place.
I’m not going to review all five seasons here, so I’ll try to summarize for you. First, Hall is fantastic in the role. He plays a man trying to fly under society’s radar, just another face in the crowd. He slow-plays the role so much that when he finally shows serial-killer rage, I found myself leaning away from the TV. Dude blows me away, particularly in the first three seasons. After that he’s still fantastic, but there’s only so much “new” he can bring to the role to surprise you.
I also love the supporting cast. I have a huge crush on Jennifer Carpenter, who plays Dexter’s adoptive sister Deb. She’s a detective in the same police department where Dex is a blood-splatter analyst. Deb is a foul-mouthed tomboy cop who is always looking for recognition and validation. She didn’t get enough attention from her father, because her father was spending all of his time trying to mold the monster that was Dexter. David Zayas plays Angel Batista, a smiling, kind-hearted detective that is an excellent counter-balance to the channeled insanity of Dexter. C.S Lee plays Vince Masuka, who could easily slide into the role of Pookie Chang should NOCTURNAL ever be made into a movie.
For me, the first three seasons of DEXTER are the best television ever. That’s all-inclusive, hands-down, even better than the first season of the re-imagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, which is high up on my Shelf of Awesome. Each season is a twelve-hour-long movie, and the writers know exactly how each season will end (translation: you don’t get the bullshit endings of GALACTICA or LOST). These thriller-based plots are tight and build to satisfying conclusions. I’m not only a fan of the acting, I think the writers and show-runners are some of the best in the biz.
Season IV brings a lights-out performance by a serial-killing John Lithgow, and that alone makes it worth your time. Season V brings us Julia Stiles as a femme fatal (in this case pronounced FAY-tal, not fah-TAL). I wasn’t a fan of hers and wasn’t expecting much from her performance, but she delivered the acting equivalent of a pimp-slap to my face and really rocked it. The bad guys were a little weak, but still an excellent season full of drama and heartache.
As for Season VI, I hope to get to that in a few weeks. Many people didn’t like it, and in the final episode six years of careful character development goes completely off the rails, but Commander Adama — I mean, Edward James Olmos — is in it, so it can’t be all bad.