Thursday, December 14, 2006

first place to Dexter

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[Updated December 17, 2006, after Season 1 finale.]

Dexter concluded on Showtime this weekend. I think it is easily the best new show on cable or network this season.

Nothing else is easy about the show, and that is what makes it so powerful and appealing. Dexter works for the Miami police. His specialty is bloodwork. He's a master at his job. That's because he really loves his work. And he gives the people of Florida a little something extra: he moonlights as a serial killer of sociopaths and psychopaths.

We have seen serial killers and vigilante killers before, but none mixed into the puzzle that is Dexter, played to subtle and intricate perfection by Michael C. Hall, who received a much-deserved Golden Globe nomination for his acting on the show. On the one hand, it's hard to identify with a character who gets such satisfaction from killing people and cutting them up - even if they are bad people. On the other hand, there is almost a lovable, irresistible quality about Dexter. He has a gentleness, and his cool detachment from life often makes him a perfect gentlemen, and even an oddly considerate and protective boyfriend.

This first season had lots of good trimmings. Excellent cop details and intra-squad rivalries. Deep background on what makes Dexter tick, including a father who recognized Dexter's problem, and taught him how to sublimate his urges into something that is at least helpful to society. And a great evil adversary, in a serial killer who is Dexter's equal or better in his craft, but has none of Dexter's redeeming qualities. The finale wrapped it all up just as we might have hoped in a story that excels in double-edged swords and deeply amibiguous heroes. Evil was dispatched, heroes were confirmed, yet we shudder for their future even as we breathe a ragged sigh of relief. Season 2 in 2007 should be some piece of work.

Showtime is really starting to give HBO a run for its money in the original drama niche. Brotherhood, which Dexter replaced on Showtime, was far and away the best drama on tv in the Summer and early Fall. Sleeper Cell just finished a fine week-long season of intense television on Showtime a few hours ago.

All part of our platinum age of television.







5-minute podcast of this review

See also my preview review of Dexter, Season Two: Dexter's Back!
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