When talking about my favorite shows, it’s Dexter that comes to mind first after the heavy-hitters like Six Feet Under and Breaking Bad, both of which are beyond pale. I still remember how I first got wind of the show too.
My teacher in 12th grade AP English brought it up in casual conversation one day and I made a personal note to look it up when I got home. Same as when a professor of mine would recommend to the class that they watch this or that. From my experiences, few people ever even give those a second thought, let alone write them down for future reference, but the media whore in me drinks them all up like they’re Eli’s milkshake and I’m Daniel Plainview.
It was the books that served as my introduction to the character known as Dexter Morgan. In highschool, you’d never find me without a book tucked away in my backpack, meaning Jeff Lindsay’s book series was the more appealing of the two options to me at the time. There’s also this bizarre problem of mine where I can’t read the book once I’ve seen the movie or show it was based upon, not until I’ve forgotten all but the most inconsequential of plot details. As far as I can recall, I’ve only made one exception. For my Gothic Imagination course we had to read The Shining, and I knew Kubrick’s movie was too different to base anything off of. I had no other option.
That is why, to avoid missing out on a good read, I made an immediate trek to the public library to pick up the first book in the series. Then the second and then the third. With those books began my love affair with the vigilante killer known as Dexter. While I disapproved of the death penalty, I also had a morbid fascination that bordered on obsession with the mind of a killer and the moral ambiguities brought about by vigilantism. Masuka’s comical perversion helped matters, admittedly. As did my similarly burgeoning attachment to the darker side of comedy that the series exploited on the regular. But it was getting inside the mind of the maniac, something Lindsay’s series excels at, that interested me to the greatest degree.
Next, with the show, it was seeing that maniac in the flesh that drew me in. That he was played by Michael C. Hall, who I knew only as the emotionally repressed homosexual from Six Feet Under, just added another layer of intrigue. It turned out Hall, and the writers, proved more than able at capturing the character I’d come to have a queer (pun intended) sort of affection for. Maybe even more capable than his creator himself, as its continued excellence and the somewhat diminishing returns of Lindsay’s series led me to believe.
Season after season, I heard rumblings of disappointment from fans, yet you heard none from me. For the first four years of the shows lifespan, I’d argue it got better with each passing season. If I’m going to be honest, the fifth season wasn’t quite up to the standards they’d set, but there was nowhere to go but down after season four and John Lithgow’s Trinity Killer, and I think much of the disappointment stems from that fact. Was I let down? To an extent, yes, but I thought it did well enough to remain, in my eyes, one of the best shows currently running.
Then came last season, with the Fight Club-twist, obvious from the start, and the sickening prospect of Debra and Dexter becoming a couple at some point in the future. Finally, I was right in line with the detractors, barely able to take solace in the show finally delivering on what it’d teased for seasons, and blatantly wimped out on in the season prior, Debra catching Dexter in the act. My confidence in the writers and the show was shattered. Though there were two seasons yet on the horizon, it might as well have already been over the way I was mourning it.
But then the previews did the miraculous, managing to instill in me some small sense of cautious optimism. The writers wouldn’t do the infuriating and unceremoniously sweep this under the rug, as they did in the season five finale. They were all in on this, not shying away from it one bit, something they proved by releasing a clip of Dexter and Debra’s exchange following her discovery. Now if only they could sweep under the rug what needs sweeping, the love angle between the two, I thought.
By now you’re probably just wondering what my thoughts on the premiere were, so it’s time I answer the question of whether or not Dexter lived up to that promise. Short answer? Yes. Long answer? I need a couple more episodes before I can say anything with certainty.
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