'The Dexter 2012/2013 Rewatch Project'Ep.101: 'DEXTER' (Pilot)
By dad1153, AVSForum.com
- Jan. 8, 2012Plot Summary: Dexter takes part in the investigation of a serial killer who drains his victims of blood. He also takes care of a couple of criminals, and his romantic relationship may be going to the next level (Source: IMDB)
Premiere Dates: 10/01/06 (SHO), 2/17/08 (CBS)
Writer: James Manos, Jr. (Teleplay)
Director: Michael Cuesta
AVS Comments: jabbathespud got the ball rolling (click link and scroll down to read first-ever reactions to a new "Dexter" show from... us!).• • • • • • • • • • • •
So, tonight's the night... I picked a date, and I pick you!•
One of the reasons I wanted to review both the first and second episode of "Dexter" together (see post below) is that I strongly believe you need to watch both to get the full impact of the new series. The pilot does a good job establishing/setting-up the characters & premise (especially the Dexter and Harry backgrounds) and pretty much creating a tone of dark humor that is largely sustained for the rest of the series. "Crocodile" is where the opening credit sequence is first shown (an inseparable part of the show's myth, IMO), the geography of the locations (Dex's apartment and lab, Miami Metro squad, Rita's home, etc.) is firmly established and the regular writers/producers match and expand on what the pilot started. Watched together "Dexter" and "Crocodile" establish, in a movie's length, the foundations on which the entire series has been built. While the pilot is strong-enough on its own, with the added heft of "Crocodile" its a killer (no pun intended) one-two punch.•
Only episode of "Dexter" to date that starts without the now-classic opening credits sequence and title song. We instead get the show's name over black, then a red-tinted water reflection of the moon and the 'main title' song from the soundtrack. The 'SHOWTIME Presents' credit is the only one that's been featured in every single episode.•
Dexter's first words, 'Tonight's the night...'
, became an instant catch-phrase. The show has managed to insert 'tonight's the night'
somewhere in every "Dexter" season premiere since except for S5 (because of the shock of what came at the end of S4 not making it possible... would have been totally out of character).•
"Dexter" premiered on 10/1/06 on Showtime and got 'more than a million viewers,' Showtime's highest-rated premiere in two years. Over the course of the first season the show averaged 733,000 viewers per episode, one of Showtime's highest-rated original shows at the time (Source: Variety
This episode also aired (edited for network TV) on CBS at 10 p.m. on Sunday, 2/17/98, as part of CBS' contingency plan because of a 2007 Writer's Strike depriving the network of new episodes of its own shows. It got 8.1 million, the most viewers "Dexter" got during its CBS run (Source: Variety
). Between the Showtime and CBS airings this remains the most watched "Dexter" episode of all time (and likely to remain that since CBS has expressed no interest in continuing to air the show on network TV since the Writer's Strike ended).•
C.S. Lee (Mazuka) is the only actor from the main cast that isn't a 'regular' (name in the opening titles). At this point (and for the rest of the season) Lee is listed as a 'Guest Star' along with other actors (like Christina Robinson's Astor and Daniel Goldman's Cody) that don't appear on-camera often enough or have enough lines to merit 'regular' status.•
Yes, that's Mags Bennett her own self, Margo Martindale
, as Camilla the friendly clerk that Dex brings doughnuts to. She was a semi-regular character on the show until the middle of Season 3.•
Michael Cuesta directed the first three episodes and five episodes total during the first season. His direction gives the first three episodes a consistent look/feel. Mr. Cuesta cut his teeth directing "Six Feet Under" episodes (where he worked with Michael C. Hall before) and has since directed episodes of "True Blood," "Blue Bloods" and (last year) four episodes of Showtime's new hit series "Homeland."•
"Dexter" is the only episode written (as a teleplay adaptation of Jeff Lindsay's novel) by James Manos, Jr., who wasn't part of the show after it was picked to series (though he kept an 'Executive Producer' credit for S1 and retains the title 'Developed for Television by' credit in every episode... the same way Bryan Singer gets an EP credit in every "House" episode for directing the pilot but hasn't had anything to do with the show for years).•
In a premium cable series that has lacked the singular-vision creator hand of a David Chase ("The Sopranos") or David Milch ("Deadwood") James Manos, Jr. and Jeff Lindsay are as close to original father figures as "Dexter" has. Jeff wrote the original book and established the rules of this particular world (which the pilot and first season are pretty faithful to), James gave color and personalities to supporting characters that were undefined in the written page (as seen through Dex's tunnel-vision POV) and both established the macabre-but-playful dark humor tone that has been the franchise's hallmark. Every episode after the pilot follows the leads/patterns set up by these two 'father figures.'•"Sopranos" connection:
James Manos, Jr. worked for one season (its first) on "The Sopranos," where he also co-wrote one episode ("College," regarded as one of the better episodes in that show's history). Something else "Dexter" has in common with "The Sopranos" (besides Manos, Jr. and being their network's highest-rated original programs)? Both have self-titled pilot episodes named after the programs' name, instead of the traditional 'Pilot' moniker for the first episode before going to series.•Personal anecdote:
a couple of years ago, while working with a client on a TV project we were putting together at the TV Production company I work for, the topic of "Dexter" came up. I mentioned James Manos, Jr.'s name and this client says he knows him and if I wanted to talk to him. I'm not a star-struck type of person so I turned down the offer but the client still pulled out his cellphone, dialed it and said 'James, I'm sitting here with the world's biggest "Dexter" fan.'
He handed me the phone and on the other side was Manos, Jr. I apologized for taking his busy time and exchanged pleasentries for a couple of minutes ('So, why can't you last more than one season on these great shows you work on?'
I asked in jist) and handed the phone back. Except for a small guest-appearance by an old college friend on a S2 episode this has been the only contact with a "Dexter" cast/crew member I've ever had.•
We learn Dex's favorite food: pork sandwiches.•
Dexter's first-ever on-camera victim, Mike Donovan (who molested and killed choir children), is taken hostage by Dex in a very similar way that Dex took Travis hostage this past season (wire around the neck from behind the driver's seat). Guess S6 had a lot more shout-outs to S1 than just the mentions/inclusion of the Ice Truck Killer sub-plots.•
Later in the episode there's an almost-throwaway scene where Dex sees the "widow" (though she doesn't know it) of Mike Donovan showing up at Miami Metro asking about her missing husband. It's a not-so-little detail (the victims/family members that Dex leaves behind by taking justice in his hands) that the show would pretty much forget/put behind as it went along.•
When stalking Jamie Jaworski at his valet work Dex mentions that, because of the former's killing of a woman, two kids are left without their mother and their lives are utterly destroyed. Excuse me, but isn't that what Dexter ended up doing to Astor and Cody because of his careless pursuit or Arthur Mitchell in S4? Of course Dex doesn't know that, but still! •
It goes without saying, but six years removed from present time everybody in the cast (except for David Zayas, James Remar and Lauren Vélez) looks so young and baby-like. Jennifer Carpenter looks 10 years younger as a Vice/Homicide cop than what she looked like on the show last year!•
I love how the show makes it obvious (without outright coming out and saying it) that murdering criminals is an aphrodisiac substitute for Dexter. When he mentions that the ritual of setting up a kill room is 'intoxicating'
Dex's face is practically orgasmic.•
The notion of a sex-free Dexter (he calls the ritual 'empty... undignified'
) is an interesting notion the show quickly abandoned when, soon after, Rita's repressed affection starts coming out. An asexual serial killer without desires would have been an interesting concept because, without attraction, maybe his interactions with the likes of Miguel or Lumen would have been darker/different/less obvious. By making sure Dexter is heterosexual (because of who he's been intimate with) there's a whole different Jeffrey Dahmer aspect to Dexter's personality that the show totally abandons... not that the network/writers of the show would have liked to 'go there' since the show was a hit from the start.•
In retrospect, Dex wrapping his face with plastic when taking down Jaworski smacks of (a) Dex being a little bored (why else would he cover his face when he was going to get rid of his victim), (b) the writer/director being a little 'artsy' (ala "S7ven") or (c) the crew/actor still not sure how much blood would splatter from a victim and making Dex wear protection to be safe. Neat image though.•
Harry's flashbacks, dramatically, are what keep the pilot's narrative grounded and makes as sympathize with the murderous lead. James Remar invests his 'father knows best' scenes with enough heart and conviction that we totally buy something that, in reality, is pretty unbelievable. Without these Harry flashback moments present-day Dex would be too smart-ass and unpleasant to be around with. It's a credit to the show's economy of words/scenes and the acting/directing that, even without fleshing out the entirety of the season's story arc, the flashbacks tell us enough about Dexter's background to keep us invested in him even though the things he says/does are monstruous.•
The flashback when teenage Dexter is confronted with Harry about the bloody knives he used to kill animals is the turning point of the show's myth. It's the moment Harry decides to channel Dexter's urges into killing bad people that have escaped the law. The scenes in Seasons 5 and 6 when Dex confronts Harry (i.e. himself) for what was done to young Dex are referencing this scene when Harry mentions, casually, that what got into Dex was too soon and messed him up too much.•Early storyline mistake the show quickly backed away from:
Maria LaGuerta's infatuation with Dex. Even not knowing how Maria evolved (not much really) into S6 there's just something so icky and wrong with the idea of Dex and LaGuerta together. This leads to one of the funniest scenes in the pilot when, because he hasn't quite mastered the social skills thingie, Dex doesn't deny quick-enough that he isn't 'boning'
LaGuerta. This sends sister Deb screaming out of the room. •Best character introduction:
they're all well-introduced (although Batista is just there doing his thing) but Doakes' entrance, first words with Dex and easy establishment of their animosity ('I'm watching you'
) and mutual respect (Dex's 'why in a building full of cops...?'
line) are all classic. You could say Erik King's days on the show were numbered from the moment they shot the pilot because the animosity between Dex and Doakes had to come to a head.•
Speaking of Doakes, there's a scene in this episode where Dex takes Rita on a date and she and other Miami partygoers are smashing crabs on a table. Dex mentions (and the camera shows) that it's ironic how civilized and normal people can engage on such savage but socially-accepted behavior while he has to keep his 'monster' (i.e. his true self) hidden in plain sight. It dawns on me now that, up until the last few episodes of Season 2 when Doakes is in the cage on the cabin, almost the entirety of the first two seasons of "Dexter" is us (the audience) being seduced by Dexter's actions, explanations and soothing narration into seeing our normal everyday world through Dex's eyes. In theory the kill room scenes are where we're supposed to see 'the real Dexter' and find him as grotesque and monstruous as the people he's killing. Early on S1, because the baddies Dex snatched were so evil and/or because Michael C. Hall is just so damn good at making Dexter sympathetic, audiences (myself included) fell in love with the romance/thrill of a vigilante serial killer killing only other, worse killers. The crab-smashing scene in the pilot is the first time I realized 'hey, the show wants me to see normal things through Dexter's twisted perception... and it's working.'
And this precious spell would last, uninterrupted, until the end of S2 when Doakes (technically an innocent person) saw Dexter worried, out of control and troubled as he would look like to a normal person... basically, like the insane lunatic monster that he always was, is and likely will be until the end of his life. Don't know, saw the crab-smashing scene this time and it rang clear as a bell to me.•
Miami Metro's squadroom, Dexter's lab and the door to his apartment (door opens outward instead of inward) look different than the rest of the series.•Cute moment during the credits:
a Latin dance song plays during the first part of the credits (mostly the cast, who still don't have an opening for their names to appear in front of) but, when it says 'Music: Daniel Licht,' the playful song ends and the spooky closing credits theme ('Blood') begins. Neat.•DEBism of the episode:
(about LaGuerta not listening to Deb's ideas about catching the blood-less killer): 'She's dumber than the boat people. Throw her a f***ing raft'•DEX's favorite quip: 'The problem with eating and driving, which I love to do, is not being able to employ the 10-2 hand position on the wheel. It's a matter of public safety. But there's always a sacrifice.' Runner-up: 'My parents are dead. I didn't kill them... honest!' (Pics courtesy of this website)