Late to the Party

I’ve been so busy over the last few months that I’ve missed a lot of    TV crime shows. Today I indulged myself and caught up on the first four episodes of DEXTER. Wow. What a great series. It’s wonderfully directed, well-written, and pitch-perfect in tone.

That’s not to say there aren’t problems (the mean, overly political lieutenant, the angry black cop, and the Asian lab guy are drawn way too broadly, past cliche and into caricature), but the pluses far outweigh the minuses. Michael Hall is amazing in the role, walking a very delicate balance and pulling it off every time.

I’ve read DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER, the book that inspired the series, and I admire showrunner Clyde Phillips’ shrewd decision to stretch the novel’s central plot over the entire first season while still doing nearly standalone episodes. You’ll notice I said nearly. Although there’s a strong, narrative arc, the individual episodes are still satisfying on their own, while still largely open-ended story-wise. (The series is very loyal to the book and yet its one of the rare cases in which the TV series is far better than the original work that inspired it).

Although DEXTER is on Showtime, it could easily be mistaken for a USA Network series..if it wasn’t so bloody and dark. It’s got the quirky, socially-awkward, single-lead detective with psychological problems and a keen eye for detail (MONK, PSYCH) who had a strange childhood (MONK, PSYCH) that strongly shaped who he is…memories of which are revealed in flashbacks with his father (PSYCH). It’s also got a sunny, beachy locale (MONK, PSYCH, BURN NOTICE).

I hope the rest of the episodes are as great as the first four. If the first season ends the way the book did, I’ll be curious to see if they can find their creative footing again in the second season. 

6 thoughts on “Late to the Party”

  1. Just gorged myself on the Dexter season 1 DVDs and loved it, despite some of the issues you note. Like The Sopranos, it achieves the tricky feat of making a sociopathic killer the hero, getting the audience to root for Dexter’s success. Of course, he only kills killers, making his moral code that little bit more palated than that of Tony S.

  2. Initially, I had some concerns about DEXTER; the serial killer is THE HERO? Ummm, yeah, okay, sure.
    I’m now unashamed to say I won’t miss it. A Dexter Devotee, as it were. The only thing that bothered me this past week is how many times they worked “fuck” into the script. I know it’s fuckin’ Showtime, I know it’s not a fuckin’ network, I know all fuckin’ that, blah blah blah, but using “fuck” like it’s a new toy is getting a little fuckin’ tiresome. Come up with some new fuckin’ dialogue, okay?

  3. I also enjoy Dexter and had commented to my partner, Isaac, that the show reminded me a great deal of “Burn Notice” on USA – maybe it is the Miami local and the dark(ish) hero as well as some overlapping actors but I view them as very similiar in feel. Of course Dexter is much darker but on Burn Notice “Michael” is always voicing over to tell “us” how to make a bomb, a phone tap etc….

  4. I loved all three of the “Dexter” novels and am disappointed that I don’t have cable and therefore cannot watch the series. I look forward to getting the DVDs to watch, though.

  5. Lee,
    You’ve just hit on my favorite series.
    Solid writing and the nuanced performance of Michael C. Hall portraying a man who can’t feel emotion…without appearing wooden. Hell, they even get the Miami light right…even in scenes not shot there!
    For ATAS members, the entire cast of the show will appear at the Academy in North Hollywood on Wednesday November 7 for a screening and Q&A.


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