To kill or not to kill? No, I am not trying to be cute and write a play on words using Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which is arguably the greatest piece of fiction ever written; I am merely contemplating the question. Please don’t reach for your cell phones to call 911 or the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s VICAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) in Quantico, Virginia, I am merely thinking. What, you might ask has put me onto this morbid train of thought? The answer is Showtime’s hit series “Dexter,” based originally on the novel “Darkly Dreaming Dexter,” the first in a series of books written by best selling author, Jeff Lindsay.
The primary catalyst, in this blogger’s opinion, that has enabled Dexter to stand head and shoulders, no pun intended, above the rest of the voluminous number of serial killer movies, books, and short stories is that since its debut on October 1, 2006, the character of Dexter Morgan, portrayed by Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under), has a unique twist to the disgusting proclivities he engages in. Dexter’s intent is to only kill other murderers. He’s not going to go after the babysitter who is barely making above minimum wage while watching after 2.5 children, or the kind old lady who will naively let the nice man with the disarming smile in to use her telephone, or the unfortunate person who happens to find him or herself with a flat tire on a sparsely traveled road. No, Dexter takes out the trash, quite literally, and removes from society those dregs that we can all do without.
But, before one even gets to enter Dexter’s world of an eye for an eye, one is literally dazzled by the opening title sequence of the show, which was created by the production company Digital Kitchen whose work won an Emmy Award in 2007 for “Outstanding Main Title Design.” Morning rituals that you and I don’t give a second thought to, such as shaving, dressing, and the preparation of freshly squeezed orange juice (blood oranges in Dexter’s case), because they are such engrained habits, are transformed into a montage which is a warning. A stop sign to the viewer, if you will, that lets those who are about to watch the show know that it deals with an individual who has a very disturbing side to his nature.
When most people think of Miami, I am willing to assume that the phrase blood splatter analyst does not usually enter their minds. I would seriously doubt that a profession which requires one to have a strong stomach overrides thoughts of palm trees, beaches, and trendy nightclubs; but that’s the part of south Florida that serves both as the place where Dexter works his day job for the Miami Metro Police Department, and as his macabre playground where he carries out his decapitating moonlighting activities. But, Dexter didn’t just develop a sudden yearning to champion those whose families and friends can’t fight back or those who can no longer cry out for help because they have been permanently silenced by one of his ilk — no, such is not the case. Ever since a cataclysmic episode from his childhood, he’s always had dark urges compelling him to kill. If not for the policeman who discovered Dexter in a literal river of blood, took him home, and adopted him as his own son, Dexter most likely would have been put behind bars or in a padded cell in a mental hospital a long time ago. Dexter, however, thanks to his very caring adoptive father, who recognizing that his son was not quite right, constructed a code for Dexter to live by as he was growing up called “The Code of Harry.”
Guiding Dexter through his life, the code focuses on several tenets that Dexter diligently tries to follow. The first and most obvious is that he not get caught. Another important rule, which I have previously mentioned, is that he never kills the innocent among us, only murderers who deserve it. Thirdly, that Dexter is painstakingly prepared before he kills. He always confirms that his targets have already committed murder, and that they have the capacity and or desire to keep on killing in the future. Once this has been established, a location in which the kill will transpire is set up in advance. The ‘kill site’ is equipped with both the tools to carry out the deed and the necessary supplies to make it look as if nothing ever happened. In addition, something Dexter must always be cognizant of is blending in with people, thus: If asked a question, give the opposite answer from what he is thinking; get involved in activities and comport himself in a way that is not so overly extroverted as to bring undue attention to himself, but nor is it so standoffish as to make people wonder what is really going on with him; when someone engages him in trivial chitchat or wants to tell him about their plans for the weekend, politely listen even though he could care less. The examples of him adhering to the code are numerous and played out over the course of the first four seasons of Dexter.
Dexter is not the only cog in the machine that keeps this ratings hit and critically lauded show moving along. Among the series regulars are Jennifer Carpenter, (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) who was Michael C. Hall’s wife in real life, but plays his sister, Detective Debra Morgan, on the show; “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” alumni Julie Benz, who started out as Dexter’s girlfriend, Rita, and wound up becoming his wife, bore him a son, and served as someone who bolstered Dexter’s image of normalcy to the world-at-large during seasons one through four; HBO’s “OZ” mainstays Lauren Valez as Lt. Maria LaGuerta and David Zavas as Sergeant Angel Batista; as well as veteran actor James Remar, (The Warriors) who plays the recurring role of Dexter’s father Harry in flashback scenes and dream sequences, all of whom, along with others, make for a stellar cast. Notable guest stars have also found themselves immersed in season long story arcs. These notables have included: Jimmy Smitts (NYPD Blue), Keith Carradine (Wild Bill) and John Lithgow (3rd Rock From the Sun).
Dexter’s popularity is hard to miss. The show’s Facebook page has 3,875,917 fans as of the writing of this blog. The character’s likeness and the show’s name is featured on everything from action figures, bobble heads, and t-shirts to a variety of posters; there is even a Dexter game that fans can play on their iphones, ipod touches, and ipads. For the die hard who can’t wait for the new season of episodes to begin and needs a Dexter ‘fix’ right now, the first four seasons are currently available on both Blu-ray and standard DVD. If you’re not quite sure if the show is the right material for your viewing pleasure, the seasons are also available from Netflix.
He is always teetering on the brink of getting caught and revealed for what he truly is: an inadvertent slip of the tongue could happen at any minute or a co-worker who is suspicious of him, and is trailing his every move, could discover his secrets; it’s all part of the intensely emotional roller coaster ride you’ll experience if you begin to view the show with regularity. Dexter will take you to some truly dark places and implant some haunting imagery in your mind. But if you’re like me, you will find yourself compelled to continue on the journey with him as your guide to see just where he will go and what he will do next. If you have yet to see the show and are a fan of well crafted drama that mixes in heavy amounts of true crime as well as some dark humor, check it out because once you start, I have a feeling that, just like Dexter, you’re not going to be able to stop. The fifth season of Dexter premiers this Sunday, September 26th at 9:00PM on Showtime.