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Review: Dexter

30 June 2009

My co-worker turned me on to “Dexter”, the Showtime series. I’m neither a big fan of horror nor true crime, so I looked askance at it, but decided to give it a try after another esteemed work pal came in bleary-eyed from watching it all night.

I was quite surprised at how much I grew to like the show. By day, our protagonist Dexter Morgan is a blood spatter analyst for the Miami police. By night, he is a cold-blooded serial killer.

Not having an internal compass to speak of, Dexter relies the Code of Harry to guide him, which was instilled into him by his adoptive father, the now-deceased homicide detective Harry Morgan. Harry taught Dexter only to prey upon the most heinous villains in society, thereby moulding Dexter into a ritualistic and gruesome vigilante who knows how to cover his tracks.

The only family Dexter knows is his sister Deborah, who followed in her father’s footsteps and became a cop. She and the rest of Miami are unaware of Dexter’s brand of clandestine justice.

To blend in, Dexter spends a lot of time faking emotions, for he doesn’t feel much on his own. He dates a woman named Rita, who is great for him because she has emotional wounds of her own. I found myself become immersed in the relationship arc between Dexter and Rita, though the other characters are compelling in their own rite.

The series grapples with the moral question of whether Dexter is a good person doing bad things, or a bad person doing good things. Dexter is portrayed as morally ambiguous, and the subplots reinforce this theme. It’s hard to express an opinion without spoilers, but while I want to believe in the good in Dexter’s heart, he does terrible things over the course of the series that give me pause.

Fair warning: Dexter is violent and very much adult in nature, but I did not find it gratuitously so. Season 1 was riveting; Season 2 was less so for me but still well worth watching. I’m eagerly awaiting Season 3 on DVD.

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