Sunday, September 30, 2007

"I guess that's what happens when your fiance tries to slice you into small, bloodless pieces.":Dexter

(Previously on Dexter: After discovering that his adopted sister's fiancee was the Ice Truck Killer, Dexter saves her when she is kidnapped. He murders the killer, who happens to be his own long-lost brother. Oh yeah, and he frames his girlfriend's abusive ex-husband for various crimes and gets him thrown back into jail.)

When Dexter's first season aired on Showtime last year I was quite pleasantly surprised. Not only was it something of a quality not seen on Showtime before in a drama series, but it was new and fresh: something different. It was an almost perfect mix of brooding darkness, mystery, and black comedy. The show was shot quite beautifully and Michael C. Hall gave a fantastic lead performance, for which he was robbed of an Emmy nomination this year. The one major complaint I have heard is that there is not enough supporting ammunition on this show, and this is true (although I disagree a little bit, I happen to enjoy the character of Dexter's sister Deb quite a bit), but I don't really mind because Dexter is pretty much interesting enough to carry a good series on his own.

After watching the series, I went back and read the two books (Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Departed Dexter) and was quite surprised to find out that the series is actually much better than the books are, especially the second. While the first season was largely based on the first book, it added a lot of depth to the series by making it extremely dark and focusing less on the black comedy which is the main focus of the book. In fact the second book goes even further in that direction, to the point where I thought the book was quite ridiculous and almost turned Dexter into a bad joke or parody. So I had my worries about this season, and I was really hoping that the second season would not be based on it. We are all lucky as viewers because Dexter has gone off into a new direction.

This season opens roughly forty days after the events of the last season. Dexter has not killed since his brother because he is under constant surveillance from the suspicious Seargant Dokes, his sister Deb is undergoing some kind of mild post traumatic stress disorder (understandable seeing as she was kidnapped and almost chopped up by her boyfriend), and his girlfriend Rita is free since her ex-husband is now in jail. So how should things begin? Well, with a retribution murder, of course.

Since Dokes is following Dexter he has taken up bowling as a hobby, a perhaps effective tool in order to bore his tailer out of his mind in order to break free to satisfy his psychotic urges. It finally works and Dexter is ready to kill someone when , surprisingly, he has a crisis of conscience and decides to let his victim go free. This is an interesting development, in the least, since Dexter has never felt any remorse before it will be enlightening to see how this affects him. Will he be able to resist the urge to kill? I think not, and it could plunge him further into the depths of darkness we saw towards the end of the last season. Later in the episode he attempts to make a kill again, only this time his victim escapes. What happens to a killer who needs to feed an urge when it is denied to him?

The other developments going on are that Dexter's girlfriend Rita now knows that Dexter set up her ex-husband to go to jail. Will she blame him for it? Based on what I've seen in the previews I am guessing no, but hopefully this will be a chance to give Julie Benz some more interesting material. Especially since, towards the episode, we find out that the ex-husband is killed in prison. That is one plot thread that I am glad is gone, every second the character was on screen felt wasted. Besides this, Dexter's sister has now gained some notoriety as being the girlfriend of the Ice Truck Killer. She punches out someone who recognizes her in a bar; we're obviously going to have to see her struggle with her demons. Finally there is Dokes, who will probably keep following Dexter until one of them dies. Well the show isn't called Dokes so I am pretty sure how that one will end eventually: Dokes does, after all, probably have some dark secret somewhere.

Most important, though, is the discovery of Dexter's cache of dead bodies in the sea around Miami at the end of the episode. Over thirty bodies were discovered, making him perhaps the most dangerous serial killer of all. It seems that one of , if not the, major plot lines of this season will be the investigation into Dexter himself. Now this may dismay some people, but I think it is an interesting take on things and certainly more original than just having Dexter after another heinous serial killer. Besides, it is a little difficult to top the killer from last season, and I doubt Dexter has any other long-lost relatives lying around. Also, from the previews we see that Dexter will be meeting a mysterious woman who it seems will be playing a large part in the episodes to come. My guess is that there actually will be another major plot thread involving another killer who is connected to her in some way.

I think this was a good opening episode. It was immediately interesting on its own terms, and it set up some potentially good plot arcs for things to come. My main worries about the shows are that the extraneous plot threads could end up being boring, and that maybe there isn't a whole lot of Dexter's traumatic past left to explore. It seems like we may have seen everything that made him into who he is last season; although I think we'll get to see in flashback how his father helped him control it. Some of the best moments of last season were the reveals (like the "Blood Room") of the past and I'm not completely sure there is new ground to explore here. Nevertheless, I'll definitely be tuning in to see what is going to happen next. Hopefully Dexter will not remain incapacitated for very long, after all it would be less fun if our favorite serial killer didn't get to complete a job every once in awhile.


Todd said...

Dexter's at his best when he's backed into a corner (my favorite episode of season one was when he was forced to distract from himself when someone discovered one of his bodies), so I kind of hope that he's kept from doing any major killing for a while, actually. The show's also better when it plays with Dexter's morality and doesn't make the audience's sympathy for him come easily. The show's, after all, about a vigilante (at best) and a bloodthirsty sociopath (at worst). This isn't the sort of thing we should applaud, so it's nice when the show acknowledges this.

Justin said...

Yeah. One of the best parts of season one was when he almost got caught.

Like I said, I think the promise of him having to struggle against himself; not only getting caught for what he has done already, but what he cannot seem to do at the moment, will be interesting.

However I think they need to get him back on some kind of track at some point or the show loses its entire premise. This is part of what happened in the second book when he became "Dexter, dectective!" If we don't get to see the dark side of Dexter the show loses something.

Ben A. said...

I really enjoyed this episode. Dokes is a great character. Lets not forget that he too killed a man in cold blood last season. Dokes has some shady, military, government past; is it possible that he is killer like Dexter too, he just does it for the government? Dokes is the only other cop that suspects what Dexter might be, possibly because he is the same as him.