Sunday, September 28, 2008

He's Back... and Bloody as Ever...

At the end of season 1 of Showtime's grisly and disturbing drama Dexter, I remember thinking, "Where can they go from here?" (Then my brain began humming the song from Buffy, and I lost my train of thought. It happens a little too often. Ahem.) Spoilers for anyone who hasn't yet watched Dexter's first two seasons: In season 1, we discover that his mother had been killed and Dexter had watched it happen, that her being chopped into chunky bloody bits by a chainsaw probably turned him into the sociopath he is today, that his adopted father realized his son was a sociopath so he "honed his skills" to use his powers for good, rather than evil.

And by good, that meant hacking the baddies into tiny little pieces. So, Dexter is a blood spatter expert in the forensics department of the Miami Police Department by day, doing his job but also checking records of cases where the perp got off, then by night hunting down said perp and slaughtering him. And remarkably, you actually end up cheering for Dexter. In season 1, by day he's after the Ice Truck Killer, who appears to be leaving him personal messages in his own serial killing, and Dexter eventually realizes it's his brother, who he kills at the end of the season. The problem is, his brother, like him, was also witness to their mother's murder, and also turned out like Dexter, but he didn't have Harry the dad to hone those "talents." So the problem became, how could he kill the guy who was just like him, in fact, the ONLY person who could possibly understand him, when it's not his brother's fault that he turned out like this?

In season 2, the police discover the bags of bodies that Dexter has been hiding in the Bay, and he becomes known as the Bay Harbour Butcher. By day he's actually doing the work on the case where he's the killer, and by night he's being REALLY careful about how he disposes of those bodies. Doakes, a detective on the force, knows Dex is up to no good, but his obsession with pinning the cases on Dexter eventually puts him in the spotlight, and he dies with the world believing HE was the Bay Harbour Butcher.

This series has a definite psychoanalytic feel about it, and if in season 1 Dexter mined his psyche to realize what Harry did for him, discover the brother who could have been him if not for Harry, and killed him, that's psychotherapy gold. I thought, there's no way they can have a season 2. And then season 2 was even better, with Dexter beginning to get hints that maybe Harry had had an affair with his mother, and... could Dexter have actually been his real son? The audience is given those clues, but Dex doesn't seem to have made that connection yet. He comes close to being found out, hooks up with a looney pyromaniac who discovers who he really is and eggs him on, and then pulls back at the end, killing her, Doakes, and covering up who he is once again. How could they have a season 3?

I've seen the first two episodes, and they're bloody brilliant (pun intended). Season 3 is shaping up to be my favourite one so far. If season 1 is us realizing who he is, and season 2 is Dexter maybe seeing who he's not and beginning to question Harry's methods, season 3 is looking at what Dexter's life might be like if he acted outside Harry's code. As Dexter hunts down one of his victims, things go slightly awry and he accidentally kills an innocent. Desperate to find out SOMETHING this guy has done wrong so he can tell himself that he really didn't do a terrible thing, Dexter begins crossing lines that put him once again in danger of being found out. The Rita storyline moves in an inevitable direction (I called it back in season 2), and this season's guest star is Jimmy Smits, one of those actors who could just sit on a chair staring at the wall and I'd be riveted. At the end of the second episode, the suspense builds in one scene to the point where I had both feet up on the couch and my hands over my mouth, suppressing a scream. It was awesome.

THIS is my new show that I can't wait to see week after week. Sorry, Heroes. So far you're just not cutting it.


Robbie said...

Just a nitpick, Dexter didn't kill Doakes, Lilah did.

Anonymous said...

I agree with ya! Dexter is total MUST SEE tv :)

Keeps my brain at work while LOST isn't on.

Nikki Stafford said...

rob: you're absolutely right! I have no idea why I said that, since who could forget how Lilah killed him?