I’m not a fan of binge-anything. I don’t overeat at Thanksgiving, I’ll have about one drink per hour at the bar; I could go through an entire calculus textbook in a day, but I don’t know how much I’d really learn. I honestly think that we’re built to discover something, let that something sink in, and then move on to the next thing.
Because I’ve been up to my nipples in kids and houses, I’ve missed out on a couple of cultural milestones over the past half-decade (did you know there is a woman who has a very popular iPhone app about shopping and who was able to accomplish making the app popular because she got famous by having sex with a football player and she was able to do that because she was already sort-of famous because her mom used to be married to OJ’s lawyer, then later married a Wheaties decathlete who then became a woman?). Case in point: Dexter.
I watched all eight seasons this summer. I can see what all the hype’s about. It’s very good. Unless you watch all eight seasons in one summer.
It looked to me like the writers had an entire season outlined before they started writing anything. If you look at season one, everything is perfectly timed, perfectly scripted, and perfectly executed (puns are hilarious). The writers don’t start it off by giving us a Dexter on his first kill; he’s been at it pretty steadily for about 15 years. Instead, they start off by giving us his fascination with another killer who kills better and cleaner than he can. We then see flashbacks of him as a kid where his dad is showing Dexter how (and who) to kill without getting caught. We also have a voiceover where Dexter is constantly talking about how he has no emotions and how he doesn’t understand how people deal with them and about how killing is the one thing that might fill this void that others seem to fill with emotions (by the way, I’m not a big fan of voice-overs, but it’s really the only way that we could see that Dexter is constantly second-guessing himself as he’s interacting with normal people in everyday situations). We discover who the Ice Truck Killer is along with the other characters; we discover more about Dexter’s past along with Dexter. It feels like it’s happening in real time – like a novel told in present tense. But then, I think, because the show got so popular, it turned more and more into a police-procedural show.
If you’ve ever seen Law and Order or any show with a the word “Blue” in the title, you’ll immediately see that all people are interchangeable and they react to things based on what’s convenient for the writers, not what’s true to the characters.
- In season one, Batista gives Dexter some advice that basically amounts to, “Don’t bother with emotions. That’s a woman’s territory. You should deal with the sex.” It might be crude, but if that’s how Batista thinks, we now have a character trait. In the next season, his M.O. for dating is to be as caring as possible.
- In season 1, Dexter describes Rita as someone who is just as damaged as he is because of her abusive ex-husband. After an unsuccessful hump-attempt later on, Rita basically says, “I’m just being silly. You would never hurt me like my ex-husband did. Let’s screw” and shrugs it off.
- In season six there’s a character named Louis who is so scared because of an implied threat that he breaks up with his girlfriend. In the very next season, Dexter breaks into Louis’ apartment with a knife and Louis responds with, “No one messes with me.”
- At the end of season six, Debra is seeing a psychologist to talk about the stress she’s been under. It comes to light that she might be in love with her adopted brother. Season seven picks up that night: the psychologist never comes up again and this love revelation is mentioned twice more, once in a hackneyed dream-sequence and the other where Dexter replies with, “Oh. What do you want me to say?”
When the series started, it was pretty clear that the writers were just going, “What if Dexter never had a code” and then we get a season about the Ice Truck Killer. Or “What if Dexter had a wife and kids” and then we get the Trinity Killer. As the series progresses, it’s almost like they change their philosophy to, “Well. We haven’t done a split-personality yet” and we get the Doomsday Killer. Or “Maybe this season, we could have a female serial killer” and we get Lumen.
Eventually, as we get to the end of the series, all the bad actors are killed off (which I love. They pretty much die in order of how bad they act) and all the good actors are trapped saying lines like “We’ll canvas the neighborhood. Get a couple unis to tail that bastard.” Instead of discovering things with Dexter, we watch a crime and then watch the detectives figure out whodunit. Instead of flashbacks that inform us how it is Dexter came to be, we watch as Dexter bounces ideas off his imaginary father. Even the series-wide focus of Dexter learning to understand feelings is torpedoed by the series finale.
Here’s the breakdown: season 1-3:
Lose a half-star for every season after that.
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