Here's a Friday NY Times article (from this forum's "HOTP") about "Dexter." I highlighted a paragraph in which I think the Times writer absolutely nails dead-on why we (those of us here and elsewhere 'round the net and the world) love this show to death, no pun intended! TV NotebookSympathy for the Devil:
The Nice-Guy Serial Killer Next Door
By Gina Bellafante, The New York Times
- November 23, 2007
During the past two years Showtime has made its mark with series that ostentatiously demand our sympathy for narcissists, wrongdoers, the egregiously misbehaved. At the center of “Californication” is a wounded philanderer. “Brotherhood” delivers a thug with brain trauma. On “Weeds” a widowed mother, her options foreclosed, turns to drug dealing and parental neglect. What does it say that Dexter Morgan, a forensics expert and serial killer, is the most likable character in this assembly?
Two-thirds of the way into its second season “Dexter,” Showtime’s highest-rated series, is better than ever, deriving its suspense from our fear that its hero’s peculiar exercises in paternalism will fall under the harsh judgments of the law.
Killing gives Dexter a rush. But he exercises his criminal impulses according to strict protocol — which he refers to explicitly as “the code” — a method of conduct handed down to him by his foster father, a policeman bent on psychological control whose secrets “Dexter” has been slowly but punctually revealing. The series (shown on Sunday nights) has a great asset in Michael C. Hall, an actor particularly adept at portraying repressives. His Dexter is all taut jaw and rigid gait, as if any expression of agility or appetite would set the universe off kilter.
“Dexter” — which has among its producers John Goldwyn, one of the team behind “I’m Not There,” the new Todd Haynes film about Bob Dylan, and Clyde Phillips, a mystery novelist and comedy writer — remains in some sense a tease, operating under only the pretense of moral ambiguity. (The show is based on “Darkly Dreaming Dexter,” a novel by Jeff Lindsay.) Dexter’s hobby is the ritual chopping up, or even chainsawing, of human flesh, but he banishes from this world only those who have killed, the murderers his employers in Florida law enforcement have failed to contain or sufficiently punish. It is one of the show’s feats that it manages to achieve a complexity and intelligence while immersed in this kind of old-fashioned absolutism.
Because of his inherited code, Dexter doesn’t harm the decent and good. Two weeks ago it seemed as if he might send an innocent man to prison to entrap a colleague intent on fingering Dexter for suspected atrocities. But Dexter’s self-interest never extends beyond what he needs to do to further his civic mission. There are no real collateral victims. The first image we typically get of his chic and tidy apartment are the black and white tiles of his kitchen. Quite literally Dexter doesn’t feed or dwell in shades of gray.
The show relishes these kinds of broad contrasts: the neon and pastels of Miami, the jovial plasticity of Dexter’s comportment, all up against his grim and horrid preoccupations. “Dexter” seems to play up its essential simplicity as it transcends it. What’s currently driving the tension, on the surface at least, is the matter of Dexter’s possible apprehension.
Is he going to be discovered as the Bay Harbor Butcher now that the limbs of so many of the people he has dismembered have turned up on the ocean floor? Though we wonder how Dexter will evade capture, we don’t worry that he will actually get caught. What is at stake is something deeper: the matter of whether his secret, once revealed to his devoted few, will serve to dissolve their affections for him.
“Dexter” finds both its murk and its muscle in explorations of intimacy rather than aberration. Can we be loved once we are really known? Are we to form our closest attachments with those who see and accept the darkest aspects of our nature or the people who prop us up to dull but honorable displays of decency?
“Dexter” is, at heart, a relationship drama, obsessed with the notions of what constitutes family and where our loyalties should ultimately lie. It constantly sets in opposition biological and adoptive connections. Dexter is caregiver not only to his gangly and insecure foster sister Debra (played with an appealing awkwardness by Jennifer Carpenter) but also to the young children of his ex-girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz), who depend on him for doughnuts and a levity otherwise absent from their lives. Chosen families soften and humanize, and of the rest we ought to be wary.
Dexter’s brother, with whom he witnessed their mother’s murder as a young boy, also turned out to be a serial killer, but without Dexter’s perversely grounding altruism. The father of Rita’s children was an addict and a wife beater; her mother is a battle-ax. That Dexter’s specific assignment within the Miami-Dade police department is to analyze blood patterns serves both as gimmick and poetry, a correlate of his lust for violence and a symbol of the close watch he keeps on his own genealogy.
Perhaps the only thing on “Dexter” scarier than the river of blood that runs through it is the depiction of so much sex resulting in physical and psychic peril. If the series had arrived 10 or 15 years ago, it would likely have been received as a disturbing and possibly even pernicious AIDS allegory. This season has introduced the psychotically unbalanced Lila (Jaime Murray), a young British woman with whom Dexter has been tossing about in dark satin sheets on a bed whose headboard casts shadows of spider webs on his back. With her Dexter has experienced passion for the first time, but there have been no home-baked scones in the morning. The implications have been as gothic as all that imagery implied. In addition to evening walks and baby-doll dresses, Lila, Dexter has learned, also enjoys arson, stalking and beyond-code-orange adventures in emotional terrorism.
The conservative strain of “Dexter” lurks elsewhere as well. Like all vigilante narratives, it is the expression of a certain stylized libertarianism that sees institutional failure wherever it looks. Police departments don’t work on “Dexter”; neither do prisons, psychiatric hospitals, courts, public schools or recovery movements. A few weeks ago viewers were treated to a sidebar lecture on the ways in which an emphasis on mediocrity is ruining modern education. Dexter, we are meant to understand, isn’t half as dangerous as the system that would hack him up. And he is great with kids.http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/23/ar...ref=television