He’s tall, blonde, smart, sweet and funny. He works in forensics at the police department, well-known and well-liked by his friends. He’s great with kids, neat, organized.
He’s also a serial killer.
And yet, America loves Dexter. In its second season premier, the show set Showtime records: it was the first time one of their shows had a debut that topped 1 million.
Now beginning its fourth season, Dexter has even more admiring fans, garnering 1.5 million fans in late September 2009.
So how has the show captured so many hearts?
Part of it must be the dark humor. The double entendres are rife but sometimes under the radar. For instance, the name of Dex’s boat, from which he dumps his severed, carefully wrapped victims, is the Slice of Life. In season 3, the emotionless Dexter searches for a way to propose to his girlfriend and ends up taking the words of a distressed woman whose fiancé has been killed. The title of one episode reflects the Ice Truck Killer’s desire to contact Dexter by leaving body parts behind: “Let’s Give the Boy a Hand.”
And the plot twists are really great. The first season revealed the Ice Truck Killer to be Dexter’s long-lost brother. The second season (the best so far) dealt with Dexter’s attempt to get a rabid detective off his trail. The way Dexter set the man up was classic.
Of course, Dexter does have his good characteristics. Besides those listed above, he kills only criminals who’ve slipped through the system, those who “need killin’,” as Judge Roy Bean would say. He has his code, and only those who he can prove have committed such crimes can be his victims. He races to save his sister Deb when he learns the Ice Truck Killer has her, and he refuses the chance to reconnect with his brother who is so like him because he would have to kill her. We learn why Dexter is a sociopath, unlikely story though it may be, and the horror of it makes the audience feel for him.
The well-rounded other characters certainly help draw the viewer in, as well. One wonders how raunchy Deb’s next comment will be or if Masuka can top his previous disgusting metaphor. There are the nice guys (Angel), the not-so-nice guys (Doakes), and the we’re-not-so-sure-about guys (Quinn). Jimmy Smits played a great character in season 3, and John Lithgow’s character in season 4 is shaping up to be pretty interesting, as well; even the guest stars are intriguing.
Rooting for a sociopath and hoping he doesn’t get caught as he kills and dismembers his victims doesn’t happen very often. But Dexter gives us that opportunity.
Lucky for us.
Note: This show is not intended for children. Besides the obvious violence, there is sometimes gore, adult situations, nudity, and sexual situations.
LaFayette, Jon. “In Depth” TV Week .tvweek.com.
Slezak, Michael. “News Briefs” EW.com http://news-briefs.ew.com/2009/09/30/dexter-californication-premieres-ratings/.