Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bloody Good Time

Showtime appears to be giving HBO a run for its money in the adult drama category. I just finished up the first season of Showtime's "Dexter". While not quite on par with some HBO fare, this is still one very good television series. Starring Michael C. Hall (David from "Six Feet Under"), "Dexter" follows the very dark story of a Miami forensics lab expert who nighthawks as a serial killer, dispensing his own brand of vigilante justice while at the same time cooling the internal clickings that drive him to commit murder. It's an odd choice for a protagonist, but once America falls under the charms of an overweight hit man and his jovial bunch in the guise of Tony Soprano, I guess the sky's the limit for conflicted anti-heroes. And, honestly, while "Dexter" takes a couple of episodes to process its uneven tone and bleak Bret Easton Ellis style of empty voice-over, the show really begins to grow on one. Not only does it illuminate itself as a wrenching and funny black comedy, but its a police drama that works as well. Just when you feel the series is drawing itself into a corner, there a plausible side alley that opens up and fits neatly into the story. What at first appears like a plot hole, soon evolves into an intelligently constructed exit device. But there's more than one character at work here. The supporting characters (like in all great series) are just as fleshed out as Dexter himself. There's his police sister (a character played with exuberance and sensitivity by Jennifer Carpenter, mrs. "Exorcism of Emily Rose" herself, I role I didn't even pick up on until checking out IMDB) and girlfriend (Julie Benz), both important and influential figures in Dexter's life. Not only does he constantly worry about controlling his homicidal impulses, but forces himself to lead a normal life and tuck away his dark side. If that wasn't enough, a majority of the first season details his cat-and-mouse relationship with a fellow serial killer who drains his victim's blood and leaves neatly severed pieces in unique figures around Miami. This killer opens up a game with Dexter, challenging him as each new victim turns up. This all sounds very CSI-induced, but there's an extreme charm to the morbid affairs. Hall plays Dexter perfectly, eventually inviting us to sympathize with a character forced to manipulate his world and cover up an unnatural side. Anyone who's ever smiled when they didn't feel like it or forced to conform in a room where they certainly don't want to be can identify (partially) with the show's theme of Jekyll and Hyde emotions. "Dexter" is now out on DVD and for the more adventurous (beware, the blood in this show is quite shocking), I think you won't be disappointed in Showtime's attempt to expand the character driven series into new realms.

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