Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dexter: Return to normalcy

Spoilers for the "Dexter" season premiere coming up just as soon as I use more tape...

"Dexter" is a hard show for me to blog regularly. Obviously, as detailed in Friday's column, I love it, but Showtime PR also sends out the episodes in chunks (I've seen seen the first four of this season). Given that there are so many twists and turns to the main story arc -- even moreso than at this time last season, where the Ice Truck Killer case didn't really get bendy until Rudy started dating Deb -- I'm reluctant to write too much for fear of it being colored by what I know is to come.

But I'll try. Season two opens with Dexter -- the man who always insists he has no emotions -- suffering from ennui and performance anxiety. Doakes is now actively tailing him at night, making stalking and killing difficult activities to pull off. So instead, he tries being as agressively, boringly normal as possible -- which, of course, means he joins the precinct bowling team. (And because Dexter is always so good at faking the normal stuff, it means he's a heck of a bowler.) But even when he manages to elude Doakes long enough to get ahold of his first target, a blind voodoo priest who's either cursing or poisoning people to death, Dexter can't bring himself to close the deal and let's the scared man go.

And from there, it's all downhill. He can't get it up with Rita (a joke that was maybe too obvious, but saved -- as so much of the show's over the edge material is -- by Michael C. Hall's deadpan narration), and completely botches the hit on the ginormous gang assassin Little Chino. His oh-so-clever plan to send Rita's ex-husband Paul back to prison goes awry when Paul gets fatally shanked -- and after Paul had convinced Rita of Dexter's role in framing him.

Worst of all -- or maybe best, since Dexter seems to thrive most when his life is in danger (fear is the one emotion even he might admit that he still has) -- his nifty dumping site for the bodies of his many victims turns out to be not so nifty, as a pair of treasure hunters stumble across all those garbage bags while looking for a deep-sea wreck. This one kicks off the big arc of the season, and there's a lot of good stuff coming.

I like this glimpse of Dexter out of sorts. If he were the perfect killing machine all the time, that would get dull. And since we know he's capable of feelings, even if he denies it, he needed to be affected in some way by killing his brother to save Deb. Hall has a lot of fun playing a flawed Dexter, and he's going to have even more soon.

A few other brief thoughts:
  • As was the case last year, I could not care less about the office politics of the Miami PD, and I can never decide whether the Laguerta stuff is there to relieve what I'm sure is a huge workload on Hall or whether it's there because someone in production feels the audience needs some more relatable material to counterbalance the mass-murdering title character. I think there's value in showing the ordinary human beings surrounding the inhuman Dexter, but only the ones who directly affect him: Deb, Rita, Doakes and even Angel (who's sort of Dexter's best friend). Laguerta and the captain and the new lieutenant essentially exist in a parallel narrative, and there's no need for all their constant maneuvering.
  • In keeping with my above criteria, the scenes where Deb struggles to get over being engaged to a serial killer were good. I really fear for her sanity that this season will climax with her identifying Dexter as their new target.
  • I remain enthralled by the opening titles, which are among my favorite credits sequences of all time. They look amazing (especially in high-def), and the idea of making regular morning activities all resemble acts of horrible violence is brilliant.
  • Why was Max Gail there as the tour boat operator Deb interviewed? Usually, when you cast a recognizable TV face, he's going to turn out to be far more important to the plot, but Gail had only the one scene.
  • The more we see of the flashbacks to Harry teaching his code to young Dexter, the more I realize how lacking the actor playing teen Dexter is.
What did everybody else think?

20 comments:

Chris Littmann said...

Just finished the episode, and evidently a YouTube vid I'd seen had also shown a little bit of episode two. (Won't say anything, knowing the no-spoiler rules.)

Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and it certainly appears this season is based around the hunt for the "Bay Harbor Butcher" aka our boy Dex. I can't even imagine how they'd resolve Deb ID'ing Dex as the BHB. Also, I wonder what he admits to needing rehab for based on that "later this season" trailer.

Good to have Dexter back, because Michael C. Hall is great.

bebe said...

Loved it.

Rita especially at the end, when she was telling Dexter that Paul was dead...she was brilliant. I love getting a glimpse at her harder side, because the actor does both sides so well that it's hard to believe it's the same person.

I love the supporting cast, even Laguerta's growing on me. I guess I'll wait and see where they're going with that part of it.

DonBoy said...

I remain enthralled by the opening titles, which are among my favorite credits sequences of all time. They look amazing (especially in high-def), and the idea of making regular morning activities all resemble acts of horrible violence is brilliant.

That sequence just won the Emmy for "Main Title Design", in fact. So this is probably the wrong time to point out that it features Dexter shaving and yet having a day's growth of beard when he pulls his undershirt over his head later.

Anonymous said...

Normality. Normalcy isn't really a word.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Normality. Normalcy isn't really a word.

I know that. But if it's good enough for our 29th president, then by gum it's good enough for me.

dez said...

"Normalcy" isn't my favorite word, but it's still in the dictionary.

I love "Dexter." I also loved seeing Max Gail show up. Maybe he'll show up again later in the season?

Thought it was a pretty good opener. Seeing all those bags under water was spooky as hell and drove home how much of a monster Dexter really is. Is it sick that I can hardly wait until Dexter is back on his game?

Anonymous said...

hey does anyone in here watch "Brotherhood" ?

drake leLane said...

I think Wojo has to come back at some point... the banana boat tours Bay Harbor, Dexter's discovered dumping grounds.

Good work not spoiling anything coming up... these first four episodes are tied together pretty well.

drake leLane said...

yes on the Brotherhood front.... still coming to grips with the 'back from the near dead' thing with Michael, but glad that Declan's got a bigger role.

and also glad that they now have a great theme song and intro (The Constantine's "Draw Us Lines").

dez said...

I gave up on "Brotherhood" after the promised payoff of the season finale didn't materialize (at least, not for me--I didn't give a flip what happened to anyone). I completely forgot it was coming on as I switched over after "Dexter" to "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Speaking of which, I need to go challenge someone to a colon contest....

Susan said...

dez - if you're sick, I'm right there with you. When Dexter was about to kill the gang member, I was rooting for him to do it. And not even because I wanted him to kill someone so evil, but because I wanted Dexter to do what he needed to do to regain his balance.

The Rita/Dexter scene at the end was brilliant. Hall was great in the moment when he hears Paul is dead and almost smiles... but contains it. And that doubt in Rita's eyes... can't wait to see where that goes.

Anonymous said...

"Normality. Normalcy isn't really a word.

I know that. But if it's good enough for our 29th president, then by gum it's good enough for me."


Good Warren G. Harding reference. Maybe you should name your next son Gamaliel.

jim treacher said...

Um, guys? Pretty sure it's normalishness? Duh!

I don't have Showtime, but I just Netflixed the first season of Brotherhood and loved it. Better than the last season of The Sopranos, I thought.

Bill said...

Because Showtime was having a free weekend, my stupid dvr did not record Dexter! Those bas*****s better be glad it gets rerun tonight!

Somehow it did manage to record a rerun of ANTM, though. Yippee.

dez said...

And not even because I wanted him to kill someone so evil, but because I wanted Dexter to do what he needed to do to regain his balance.

I think Dexter needs his balance if he's going to elude being outed as the "Bay Harbor Butcher." He seemed pretty close to getting it back without killing, though, based on that whole heartbeat motif.

I wonder if he could kill Rita and Deb if he had to? I imagine he'd have no problem getting rid of Doakes since Doakes has done enough "bad things" in his life to fit into Harry's code as Dexter appears to be still applying it. If he's done any of this in the books, I don't know since I haven't been able to get either one yet to read.

And ITA, Susan--that last scene with Rita was amazingly acted by both of them.

Alan Sepinwall said...

If he's done any of this in the books, I don't know since I haven't been able to get either one yet to read.

The producers bought the rights to the character and the first book only; from this season going forward, the TV show and the books will feature entirely different plots.

Rahul said...

Hey Alan - I don't watch Dexter (the narration and pacing of the show always really got to me), but could you tell us what other opening sequences you love? I'm wondering about ones that aren't as well known as The Sopranos or Freaks & Geeks. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Alan said:

The producers bought the rights to the character and the first book only; from this season going forward, the TV show and the books will feature entirely different plots.


That's good to know. I loved the first season, even though I knew what was going to happen, having read both the first two books. I didn't recognize this first episode of Season 2 as being from the second book. And since you say they will have separate plots, I can buy the new 3rd book without spoiling anything! Woo-hoo!

drake leLane said...

The plot of Doakes trailing Dexter boils over in the 2nd book, which made me think they were seemlessly moving right into that plotline at the end of last season. The second book isn't nearly as good, but they did such a good job of building on the first one I was actually hoping to see them try and make it work.

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