Dexter, a new drama on the Showtime Network, staring Michael C. Hall as the titled character, is about a forensics expert working for the Miami Police Department who had a particular hobby. That hobby involves Dexter hunting down vicious murderers who have, for one reason or another, escaped justice, and killing them in extremely horrific ways.
It’s not that Dexter is a crusading vigilante who burns with the desire to rid his town of evil doers. Dexter Morgan is a soulless monster who derives pleasure from the act of murder. He is a pure predator, taking meticulous time and attention to detail in hunting his prey, as well as covering his tracks. But he also lacks the capacity for feeling what we would call normal emotions. He understands emotions and can even pretend to feel them as part of his protective coloring, but there is nothing inside but a black, emptiness and an urge to take lives.
Dexter is not indiscriminate in his choice of victims, however. It was fortunate for Dexter and every innocent person whom he would ever come in contact with that his foster father, a police officer named Harry, played by James Remar, noticed the signs of his boy’s condition. Rather than put him in an institution or shoot him, Harry Morgan taught his foster son to orient his urge to kill toward people who deserve it. In effect, Dexter has become something unique in the annals of crime-an ethical serial killer.
For example, the start of the premier episode finds Dexter hunting down and killing a choir director who indulges in the rape/torture/murder of some of his young boy charges. As part of his ritual, Dexter explains to his victim why he is about to die a horrible, twitching death. “Children! I would never do that. I have standards.” Just as Hannibal Lecter only eats the rude, Dexter only kills the evil.
Dexter has a day job, however, in the forensics department of the Miami Police Department. He analyses blood splatter patterns to ascertain how people are killed. He is really good at his work and very enthusiastic about it. So enthusiastic, in fact, that he sometimes goes beyond the grave humor patter that is evident in other forensic police procedure shows. One would wonder, in fact, what Horatio Caine, Jordan Cavannaugh, or especially Temperance Brennan would think of him.
Dexter is well liked by most people in his department. He is able to simulate affability, albeit with a kind of creepy bland smile, to blend in. His sister Debra, played by Jennifer Carpenter, is a vice cop desperate to get out of her under cover hooker togs and get into homicide. If there were anyone he could have feelings for, Dexter admits, it is her, so he tries to help her. He is respected by his slightly sleazy superior, Lt. Laguerta, played by Lauren Valez, whom everyone assumes he is sleeping with, but who ridicules Debra without mercy.
The one person in the department who hates Dexter is Sgt Doakes, played by Erik King. Doakes seems to be the stereotype African American cop who will eventually become Chief of Police and will spend his time yelling, “If you violate procedure again, I’ll have your badge!” In the words of the Oracle of Arlen, Texas, Hank Hill, Dexter “aint right” and Doakes seems to be the only person in the department to sense it.
Dexter even has a girl friend, as part of his protective coloring. She is a woman, Rita Bennett, played by Julie Benz, who has been so battered and raped by her now ex husband that she is completely uninterested in sex. This is fine with Dexter because even though he is curious about the act, it really doesn’t interest him all that much.
In the pilot episode, Dexter encounters a serial killer who carves up prostitutes and leaves their perfectly dismembered bodies out to be found. The problem is that the killer knows Dexter and indeed seems to know about him. This really excites Dexter, as it means that the hunt is going to be all the more exciting.
Dexter is creepy and funny at the same time. We know that Dexter is a monster who really needs to be blown out of his socks with a shot gun. Yet we can’t help but liking him. If there is a vicious serial killer out there doing horrible things to innocent people, we can only hope that Dexter gets to him before he gets to another victim. It is just what they deserve. The show is not for everyone, but if one thinks of Dexter as a freak force of nature, than one can better enjoy him. There is nothing really human there to identify with, after all. It is all a façade.