As messy as crime can be, the pilot of Showtime’s “Dexter” (which first aired in October 2006) seems unbelievably contrived — packaged as artificially as the frozen and bloodless limbs Miami blood splatter specialist Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) finds at multiple crime scenes.
Morgan’s character, based on Jeff Lindsay’s 288-page paperback “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” (2004), stars as an extremely high-functioning sociopath who kills killers. His post with the Miami forensics department positions him like a double agent. His “pet projects” make him a vigilante. But while his morally ambiguous behaviors seem almost admirable, the dark and disturbing sentiments behind them are repulsive. Blood turns him on whereas sex doesn’t.
Written by James Manos Jr. and directed by Michael Cuesta, “Dexter” takes you inside the fanscinating mind of a T.V. serial killer, billing itself as an edgy Showtime show. But it’s more more sensational than cerebral.
“Most true crime really is pretty trashy,” Salon‘s Laura Miller tells NPR’s “On the Media’s” Bob Garfield last week. “I mean, it’s voyeuristic. It’s lurid…. Given how much of a factor crime is in all the entertainment that we consume — “Law and Order” or you’re reading detective fiction, which is pretty much the most popular form of genre fiction there is — you’re just consuming a huge number of narratives that are not necessarily representative of what crime and justice and detection are in real life.”
Brimming with qualifiers (a killer who kills killers), that’s what “Dexter” is — a safe and acceptable way to be a voyeur, giving us false and artificial insight into a world we can even begin to fathom.
“Dexter” was written by James Manos Jr. and directed by Michael Cuesta, starring Michael C. Hall. The show went on for eight season (2006-2013), winning two Golden Globes and four Primetime Emmys.