The Life & Times of an Auteur.

Commentary on Pop Culture, and maybe creating some of my own.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dexter - Some Spoiler Free Thoughts

Like "Weeds," I was a late comer to "Dexter." It had been on my list for a while, but I just, somehow, managed to miss it. Eventually, several people I respect raved about it, so I decided to check it out. I watched the first four seasons over the course of a month, and then got up to the penultimate episode of season five the night before the finale aired, and I loved it.

The first season fired on all cylinders. I loved the cast, loved the characters, and loved the plot. The revelations were stunning without ever feeling forced and contrived. We were introduced to this abnormal protagonist and his city. A Miami that makes Gotham City look like Candy Land in comparison. As the season slowly unfolded, we learned just who Dexter Morgan was, and the elements and tragedies that made him what he is.

The second season is, arguably better, arguably not as good. It depends on when you ask me. Personally, I loved it, and I flip flop often on which of the two opening seasons I think is stronger. This is a season about Dexter seeking a soul mate, and understanding. The first season ends with the one person who would understand him dead, but along comes someone new. Someone who can make him feel like a person. This, as can be expected, also ends badly. But that's a theme of the series, Dexter looking for someone to open up to.

Season three is about Dexter making his first real friend. Yes, he has his sister; he has his co-workers; and he has his fiance and future stepchildren; but he's never had an actual friend. In this season, he finds a friend and someone to mentor just as he was once mentored by his adoptive father. But power corrupts, and this all goes badly. At the same time, Dexter learns that life is worth living when he finds out he's going to be a father. I enjoyed this season, but not as much as the first two.

Season four is my personal favorite season, it was just perfect. In the fourth season, Dexter meets another serial killer who is a town hero, a family man, a pastor, and seemingly well adjusted. Under an alias, Dexter gets close to him, but doesn't kill him in order to learn how to balance his life as a killer and his life as a family man. He pays for this. Dearly.

Season five, well, I almost feel like I am being unfairly harsh. Nothing following up the fourth season could live up to that. I liked it, don't get me wrong, but it was easily the weakest of the series. But even weak "Dexter" is stronger than almost anything else on television. I can't really discuss this season without spoiling the previous one. But Dexter pays for his biggest mistake of the previous season, and learns to deal with the great tragedy of his life.

I think what is the most brilliant thing about "Dexter" is that it makes us, the viewer, wrestle with our own morality. We root for Dexter. We want him to win. Most of his victims are terrible, evil people. Murders and killers. The worst society has to offer. Creatures the world would be better off without. We take a perverse glee every time Dexter cuts one of them up, and we feel that justice has been done. Then, afterwards, we calm down and ask ourselves if this is actually justice. Should we be rooting for this guy? We all have our own inner savage, our own dark passenger, to one extent or another. Is this a good thing? Probably not.

What is morality? What is justice? What is revenge? What is evil? "Dexter" asks all these questions and lets us answer for ourselves. And that's good television.

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