Romy Shiller

Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

Dexter -The Dark-Side: A Sneak-Peek

In review, TV on October 1, 2013 at 8:29 am

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About: Dexter is an American television drama series. The series centers on Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall), a blood spatter pattern analyst for a fictional Miami Metro Police Department (based on the real life Miami-Dade Police Department) who also leads a secret life as a serial killer. Set in Miami, the show’s first season was largely based on the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), the first of the Dexter series novels by Jeff Lindsay. It was adapted for television by screenwriter James Manos, J., who wrote the first episode. Subsequent seasons have evolved independently of Lindsay’s works.

In February 2008, reruns (edited down to a TV-14 rating) began to air on CBS, although the reruns on CBS ended after one run of the first season. The series has enjoyed wide critical acclaim and popularity. Season 4 aired its season finale on December 13, 2009 to a record-breaking audience of 2.6 million viewers, making it the most-watched original series episode ever on Showtime. Michael C. Hall has received several awards and nominations for his portrayal of Dexter, including a Golden Globe. On November 18, 2011, it was announced that Dexter had been renewed for two more seasons. Season 7 premiered on September 30, 2012. The Season 8 premiere was the most watched Dexter episode ever with over 3 million viewers.

In January 2013, Showtime announced that season 8 premiere of Dexter was moved up from its originally planned airing in the fall to June 30. In April 2013, following ongoing fan speculations, Showtime announced that season eight would be the final season of Dexter.

I’ve been thinking – again. I was re-watching the entire Dexter series and wondered at our fascination with serial killers and meth cooks [Breaking Bad]. Dexter, a blood spatter analyst for Miami metro, often shares his dark thoughts with viewers, allowing fans of the show to delve deeper into the mind of the meticulous serial killer played by Michael C. Hall. Because Dexter only chooses to kill other psychopaths, he has good characteristics as well as the obvious negative characteristic of being a psychopath himself.

We watch horror films, ride on roller-coasters, bungee-jump… We get scared but we are safe – maybe that’s it. We can sneak a peek at the dark-side but we are not implicated. The rush of adrenaline or a racing heart is real but the threat is not. Glorifying darkness is certainly not ideal but it is far from unusual. Good vs. bad is a staple in film or television and while rooting for the ‘bad’ to win might feel suspect, it is common.

Halloween is itself a celebration of the dark – with lots of candy. We have created a scary day. Costumes run the gamut – from witches, ghosts, bandits etc. but these are pretend and we take part in the pretense. It isn’t as though we need to negotiate real witches and ghosts, right?

Dexter says, “I just know there’s something dark in me and I hide it. I certainly don’t talk about it, but it’s there always, this Dark Passenger. And when he’s driving, I feel alive, half sick with the thrill of complete wrongness. I don’t fight him, I don’t want to. He’s all I’ve got.

Initially, there seems to be a good reason and motive for Walter in Breaking Bad and Dexter’s dark deeds. Walter discovers he has cancer and does not want medical bills to be a burden on his family. Eventually he has more than enough money but he chooses to keep cooking. Dexter witnessed his mother’s bloody murder and only kills murderous criminals who slip through the penal system. While he does not experience a sense of conflict, he is cast as an avenging angel and the show suggests that he is righting a wrong.

Lately, a theme I‘ve noticed is the ‘family.’ Dexter and Walter have families: wife and kids – so there is an attempt to neutralize the darkness. The darkness does not go away but it is couched, normalized. Making the darkness palatable and taking it away from gritty reality keeps the viewer identifying with an unsavory character. His deeds might be foreign but his life is familiar, even utopian.

Walt in Breaking Bad loses his family and the show becomes even darker and Walt extremely dark. Dexter wants to create a new family and the show becomes lighter.

At the start of the show, Dexter marries Rita who has 2 kids from a previous marriage. Together they have Harrison but the serial killer, Trinity, kills Rita. Eventually, Dexter finds a mate and mother for Harrison in serial killer, Hannah. She is a stronger draw than his ‘Dark Passenger’ or urge to kill. He is apparently cured from darkness by a blond [read: light] murderess and mother figure. He always said that his Dark Passenger was born with his mother’s murder so it is fitting that a mother figure cures him. He also has a surrogate mother in therapist, Vogel who is murdered by her actual son who calls Dexter ‘the wrong son’ chosen by his mother. Maybe the entire final season should be called ‘Mother.’

The final season of Dexter puts obstacles in the way of his and Hannah’s being together – a Marshall is searching for her and a big storm is approaching – but that is the main focus, the obstacles are necessary dramatic devices.

[ending alert – I give nothing away but…] The series finale gets all moral. Dexter pays big time. Darkness is karma here. This ending seems uber-contrary to the entire series. A show that celebrates a serial killer needs to satisfy it’s fan-base by maintaining focus and consistency. The series finale did neither. Yes, it was shocking but it was hardly consistent.

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