Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dexter, "Living the Dream": Family guy

"Dexter" season four premiered tonight, and after the jump, I'm going to offer some spoiler-minimal thoughts on why I'm probably not going to be writing as much about the new season as I did in years past, followed (with fair warning) by a few specific thoughts about the premiere itself. All that coming up just as soon as I TiVo Jon Stewart...

I've seen the first four episodes of this season, and while they're definitely an improvement over season three, they weren't enough to shake me of my belief that this isn't a show that should be having a fourth season. The longer "Dexter" is on, the more diluted the concept feels, and the cuddlier he becomes. Dexter as reluctant husband and father leads to some funny moments in the premiere, and in the other episodes I've seen. But it also keeps sanding off the character's edge, in the same way the writers did by making Miguel Prado(*) a monster whose crimes pre-dated his involvement with Dexter, and who had become so loathsome that even his estranged wife wasn't upset he was dead. A Dexter who kills a once-decent guy whose soul he destroyed is morally gray; a Dexter who puts down this mad dog is a hero. Similarly, Dexter wanting to maintain his secret identity to avoid hurting his new family and "killing for two now" makes him seem a bit more noble, and the audience more complicit in wanting him to stay free.

(*) And I couldn't help noticing how far we got into the "Previously, on Dexter..." sequence before Miguel was mentioned, and how quickly the montage dispensed with his story.

Michael C. Hall is still great, and the season's story arcs are unfolding more clearly and confidently than last year's muddled plots. But there came a point in an upcoming episode where I jotted down the following note: "I care so much more about Lundy and Trinity than I do about Dexter."

Hall is good enough, and the show well-made enough, that I'm going to keep watching, but I don't feel particularly invested in it. And since I've learned it's no fun for me or for my readers for me to keep writing at length about a show where I've reached that point, these weekly reviews will be much briefer - or, in some weeks, simply opportunities for you to offer up your own thoughts on the latest episode.

And if you've made it this far without having watched the episode yet, now's the time to turn away, as I'm going to get more specific with a few bullet points about "Living the Dream," in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

• As that Lundy note suggested, I'm really glad to see Keith Carradine back, and to see how Lundy's presence so disturbs both the unflappable Dexter and the very flappable Deb. Carradine has this great relaxed charm, and it's easy to understand why half the shows on television (like "Damages," where he'll appear in the next season) are trying to engage his services.

• Angel and LaGuerta are together? Sigh... I like the supporting actors on "Dexter," David Zayas as Angel in particular, but their non-Dexter-related subplots are never very compelling, and just there to lighten Hall's workload. The one plus of this is that it means instead of having to slog through a boring romance story for Angel and one for LaGuerta, we only have to see one for the two of them.

• Because John Lithgow's most notable role of the last 15 years is Dick Solomon on "3rd Rock from the Sun," it's easy to forget that he spent much of his early career playing a series of creeps and killers. Go rent Brian DePalma's "Blow Out" for a fine example of how well he could do it then, and he still can get uber-creepy when he wants, as he did with the bathtub killing.

• I still love love love the show's opening credits, and was therefore amused by the parody of them featuring a Dexter too sleep-deprived to do his morning routine properly.

Anyway, that's me. You may be feeling more enthusiastic about the show being back, and this new story direction. What did everybody else think?

42 comments:

Ophelia said...

That's how I've seen Dexter since season three: usually enjoyable to watch, no longer anything to write home about.

I do love seeing Lundy again though.

Carson said...

Alan,

I think you're right that the longer this show stays, the less sustainable the concept becomes.

I was quite annoyed by the Laguerta-Angel romance, but it did set up at least one funny Masuka line, about what Angel could have done to the stripper.

I wasn't sure whether I liked the scene where Dexter confessed to his baby son that he kills people. Very similar to the Breaking Bad scene where hank shows his baby girl all the money he has. Hank seemed quite rightly delusional in that scene. Dexter seemed, as you suggest, kind of cuddly, which I found odd given what he was confessing.

domino87 said...

Agree very much with Mo Ryan about this showing needing an end date. I'll still watch because it's interesting enough, and there are only a few other drama's I like airing right now, but it's no longer must see TV.

dez said...

I was also thinking that it needed an end date as I watched tonight. I've never thought that before. Not a good start; am especially hating the Angel/LaGuerta relationship. I liked Angel's last GF and the way their relationship took time to develop; suddenly, it's over? WTF?

I'm very happy to see Lundy back, and Lithgow joining the fray. That and Hall's performance will keep me coming back every week.

Alan, do you know how many eps are in this season?

Hoof Hearted said...

The best Masuka lina was when he asked Angel about Laguerta "What got into her?"

The king of the blatant double entendre even comes up with them when he doesn't know it!

nutmeag said...

The boyf doesn't get why I lost interest with this show halfway through the 3rd season, but you've got it right on--Dexter has gotten too cuddly for me too. Thanks for backing me up on that.

Alyssa Myers said...

I agree. 1st season was excellent. The drive to find out his past, how he'd become the way he did, what happened to his real parents, etc. were all a great part of the show. The discovery of Dexter. We were figuring out who he was, seemingly along with himself. As the seasons progressed, it got less and less engaging.

I still like the show, but I have such fond memories of that first season. :)

Anonymous said...

I actually loved season three and despised season two (that damn Lila got on my nerves). But I enjoyed the premiere and I'm looking forward to more character development from Michael C Hall. The only thing that bugs me about this show: every season Dexter gets involved with a serial killer, nearly gets caught, but in the end he prevails. It's predictable.

Oh, and I really did not need to see John Lithgow naked in a bathtub.

ScottyG said...

man these serial killers LOVE Miami

Matter-Eater Lad said...

The Angel/LaGuerta pairing smacks of writers trying to come up with something to do with those characters that doesn't involve hiring new actors to interact with them.

Anonymous said...

I usually fall into the category of "less is more" but I'm not really sure an end date matters with this show. Unlike, say, Lost where the entire series is clearly building towards something, most of Dexter's seasons are fairly self-contained. Dexter is a great character, but, like with 24, I think the show is procedural enough that they're able to reinvent the show every year and they can probably keep it going for a few more seasons. Now, if you don't like what they've done in a particular season that's one thing, but I don't think the show has jumped the shark by any means. I do agree, however, that Dexter is a lot cuddlier than he was in the beginning of the series, but that's been the case for a long time, so I really don't find it all that jarring. Plus, I'd rather see the character evolve than be exactly the same season after season (*cough*House*cough*). Also, Dexter has been killing "bad guys" since the pilot, so he's always had the audience rooting for him to some degree and always had a "code" to justify the audience wanting him win.

SR said...

The Lithgow introduction brought back a real darkness that the show desperately needs to avoid being a parody of itself.

And it's nice to be reminded by the show that much of what motivates serial killers is a twisted form of sexuality. Let's remember that Dexter was virtually asexual before things got serious with Rita, and is still rather low in the libido department when it comes to normal sexual behavior.

I'm looking forward to seeing more of Trinity.

Fritz Novak said...

For those of you who feel that Dexter has gotten too "cuddly"...we have to remember that we constantly get his point of view on everything. Because the whole show is from his perspective, his own twisted views and justifications are basically forced on us. It is up to us, the viewer, to see through them. In Season 2, two characters explicitly tore these rationalizations to shreds: Lundy (with his speech about the worst killers in history being the ones who had a moral justification for their actions) and Doakes.

The Sopranos had a similar predicament, with each successive season having to show with more bludgeoning clarity that Tony is a hypocrite and a scumbag, giving him more chances for moral and spiritual growth that he completely blows.
In the case of Dexter, the writers seem to think that if the audience doesn't get the point, then the joke's on them.

In Dexter, the character who's gotten too cuddly is Rita. In seasons one and two she was an emotional basket case and as Dexter put it "damaged goods." Over the past two seasons, she's become a nagging suburban housewife with no depth. The comic element of Dexter as the put-upon husband and father is darkly ironic (in the true spirit of the show) because he's not being denied beers with the guys or watching football, but committing ritual murder. Had Rita's emotional scars not magically disappeared, her emasculating nagging would add an appropriate level of darkness to an otherwise trite domestic melodrama.

belinda said...

It still makes me wish season 3 didn't end up the way it did - Miguel was a promising 'student' before they turned him bad way too quickly to make Dexter sympathetic.

We have yet to see who Lithgow is, so I hope his backstory is more interesting than previous adversaries of Dexter.

I agree with the Angel/LaGuerta pairing was merely done because the writers didn't know what to do with them - and you're right, the writers have struggled with non Dexter related storylines ever since the beginning. I wonder if the show can ever achieve the level of greatness as it did season 2 (though, I'm now wishing that Dexter did indeed kill Doakes instead of Lila, because that might have been a more
interesting for last season, and perhaps this season's, and adds back the moral ambiguity that is lacking).

Cree said...

I've said this on here before, but now that Dexter is back I feel the need to repeat myself. The show had a great opportunity to raise the stakes in season two until Lila killed Doakes. Dexter's code remained in tact and at that point I knew the show was going to follow the same formula every year.

I still love the show, the characters, and the fun in trying to track down the "Big Bad" each season. But it's not ground breaking television any more.

I look forward to the day that Dexter's deeds get discovered and he has to go on the run. I want to see how this hurts his family and co-workers. I want to see how Dexter deals with it all...and if that never happens then this show will have missed a golden opportunity.

Ed O. said...

I loved Season 1, and still think season 2 was one of the most entertaining and riveting season of any show I can remember. This was my favorite show on TV after season 2.

I didn't hate season 3, but I had a lot of problems with it and didn't disagree with most of the criticisms. What I'm still most disappointed about from season 3 was the pre-season talk made it sound like "Dexter kills outside the code and opens up a new world of possibilities". Killing Oscar was a weak example of killing outside the code. He didn't do it for thrills, it was self-defense.

I get people's complaints about Dexter being too cuddly, but isn't his character allowed to evolve? In the first 2 seasons he was trying to explore what it felt to be "normal" or "human". He asks the human trafficking couple what makes their relationship work, he goes to counseling and gets something out of it (other than a body), etc...

I've looked at Dexter in some ways as a twisted Pinocchio - he's trying to become a "real boy". Some of the more interesting elements of season 3 to me was Dexter showing he genuinely cared for some people (not just acting like he cared to create a cover, like he said he was in early seasons). He kills a guy who is a threat to Astor. He genuinely wants to see his son born. He gets emotional proposing to Rita (even though he stole the speech from a psycho lady, he meant the words). These seem to me like natural character progressions.

Are people's criticisms that they don't want Dexter to evolve? They want to see him be more monstrous? I agree that I would like to see him kill someone legitimately "outside the code", but because I think that would be in such stark contrast to his quest to be a real person, and how he tried to reconcile it. I think the only way to extend the series is to have him grow and evolve, and think that is an interesting journey worth taking, to me at least. I don't think it neuters the character or lessens what came before. Really, its what Harry wanted in the end. He just didn't think Dexter was capable.

To me, season 4, as promising as it seems with Trinity and Lundy, has to have either Deb or Rita step closer to discovering who Dexter is. And I get the feeling that Deb's search for Harry's CI mistress (Dexter's mom) will push us in that direction. How far will Dexter go to protect his new life? Will he step outside the code? Would there be emotional ramifications on him if he had to kill an innocent who was close to finding out who he was? These were questions that, granted, season 2 could have addressed but copped out on by having Lila kill Doakes. But if they go that way this season, then to me they can redeem themselves for season 3.

christy said...

Oh man, I forgot to DVR, and so at first missed the first 15 minutes. Then I caught the beginning when it aired again later. That bathtub murder scene was creepy! Probably the most disturbing murder scene this show has done. That, and the idea of having Dexter discover that it was on the scene of a similar murder 30 years ago, shows some promise for the Trinity Killer.

I agree with Fritz that the change in Rita is the most disappointing, when it comes to Dexter's softening. I've always been skeptical of how quickly Rita and Dexter went from both so severely traumatized that it made sense that they'd have virtually no sex life (and that could serve them both in their own ways) to completely normal and boring in every way except that one of them kills people. I can only hope that Rita's transformation into an average everyday mom and wife is just setting up a darker turn for her character down the line.

The one thing I want to see before the series ends is Deb finding out the truth about Dexter, both about her father's relationship with his mom, and Dexter's own secret and Harry's role in it. Seems like they're moving in that direction with her delving into Harry's CIs (and I was glad to see the pixie-blonde records clerk come back, I liked her last season) but I hope they don't shy away from her eventually facing the truth. Not too soon, but at some point. That could bring something new to Dexter himself, whose stories are starting to feel House-esque in their repetition. Dexter finding a twisted soul he thinks he might be able to relate to is the new House's patient is suicidal!

JanieJones said...

The Angel/LaGuerta relationship threw me. I liked the woman he was involved with last season. It didn't have a linear connotation - the Angel/LaGuerta relationship.

I believe that the Lithgow Trinity storyline will be interesting. I enjoy Lithgow when he plays creepy.
I am also happy to see Carradine back as Lundy.

Hall, Lithgow and Carradine will definitely keep me coming back each week.

I also echo Fritz's sentiments regarding the show.

Hatfield said...

I was down on last season as well, but this seems like a promising start. Granted, the supporting characters' storylines are more or less dreadfully boring (and how dead is that hot new reporter who likes Quinn?), but the return of Lundy and the added wrinkles to Dexter's life should prove interesting. Disappointed you won't be writing as much, but I hope the show wins you back, because that would mean good things for everybody.

Sara said...

Scene at our house last night around 6pm:

Me: Did you order Showtime?

(We cancelled it in a fit of frugality earlier this year.)

Husband (eyes practically filling with tears at the thought of his beloved movie channels being welcomed back into the house): Not yet, I'll go do it now!

Me: Do it! I won't be able to read Alan's blog tomorrow if you don't!!!!

(He sprints upstairs.)

I'm sad to read that you won't be posting as much about Dexter as you have in the past, but I completely understand.

I am excited about the new season. I continue to love Michael C. Hall as Dexter (tho' I was bummed to see him so sloppy last night but I do remember the sleep deprivation days well), am eager to see Lithgow in the Trinity role, and was oh, so happy to see Lundy back! I really enjoyed his character and think his return offers up some great opportunities for Deb (whose work I've come to appreciate).

I'm not so put off by the Laguerta-Angel romance but time will tell.

Anonymous said...

THE LITHGOW BATHTUB MURDER WAS WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION, BUT I NEED A LITTLE MORE FROM DEXTER...LIKE MURDEROUS IMPULSES TOWARDS RITA, SINCE I HAVE THEM MYSELF. NOTHING COULD BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR KID'S EAR INFECTION, RITA? ARE WE SUPPOSED TO HATE HER?

Anonymous said...

I still enjoy the show, though I completely understand and agree with the common criticisms associated with it.

I thought Jimmy Smits did a terrific job in season three, and though his final confrontation with Dexter was extremely well-written and acted, I was disappointed that this promising arc ended the way it did.

I will be EXTREMELY disappointed if this season ends with John Lithgow saran-wrapped to Dexter's table. The writers won't be that lazy ... will they?

JamesG said...

My biggest gripe about this show has always been and will always be the portrayal of Dexter as a likable, sympathetic, noble vigilante. It irritates me when I talk to other fans of this show and they show such a reverence for his character, completely rationalizing the killing because it's just degenerates and criminals. I was disappointed to see that the show softened his character even more, making him a great father in addition to local superhero.

My favorite part of season 3, which was certainly the weakest season to date, was the mercy killing that Dexter committed. I thought this was a chance to really branch out and see Dexter exist in a world where the Code is not so black and white, or maybe non-existent at all. After all, it's hard to fathom that someone with such unquenchable desires to kill can wield them in such controlled ways forever. I think the only way this show can go on is if it dives into much darker territory -- Dexter disregards the Code and kills someone who's innocent or completely undeserving. Probably wishful thinking on my end.

As for this episode, I was incredibly bothered by the use of sleep deprivation as a plot device to such an extent. I can understand nodding off in the office, but surely the adrenaline of a stake out or uneasiness of having a dead body in the trunk would fend off any fatigue. That part just struck me as conveniently unrealistic.

I also had little regard for the LaGuerta/Angel pairing, as well as for the scene with Deb and the CI. For me, the show usually grinds to a halt during any Deb relationship scene, and I nod off as quickly as Dexter when they last more than a minute or two.

Overall, this season needs a real twist to sustain the show's premise. I think there are still plenty of promising avenues to explore, which include everything from Dexter raising his child to become a killer, to Rita finding out about Dexter's secrets and becoming conflicted, to Dexter having to kill someone in his own family who gets too close to his secrets. The darker the better in my eyes. My fingers are crossed.

Jill said...

What Ed O. said about Dexter being a Pinocchio story.

To me the most interesting thing about Dexter as a character is the way he "tries on" the trappings of normal life - "act as if", I think it's called. He tries them on the way a child tries on his first tux. they are the trappings of normal adulthood and he wants to see if there's any way he can make them fit.

Ditto the others on Angel/LaGuerta. That came out of left field and makes no sense.

Rita turning into a nagging housewife and mommy is really annoying and makes it easy to hate her, but it shows her own possibly malevolent narcissism. We liked her when she was meek and damaged, but I get the sense that when she does find out what Dexter does, she won't mind that he does it.

Based on ep. 1, however, it looks like Deb will have the most interesting storyline. I was happy to see Anton back; he is, as Lafayette would say on True Blood, "sex on a stick." Deb has serious father issues, which we've already seen with Lundy, and she is going on a sort of parallel mission to Dexter's while reliving her father's life -- getting involved with a C.I., even a not-really one.

Lots of Harry's voice this season so far, which is a departure from Dexter finding his own way and making his own rules in season 3.

I love this show. Michael C. Hall is unbelievably good, and for me the psychological journey compensates for all the plot holes. And I like it better without too many walk-on characters.

Gridlock said...

Absent some horrible Deus Ex Machina I'm struggling to see how Dexter escapes from a car crash where he has the dismembered body of someone he had motive to kill in the boot...

They have to work overtime to get him out of this one without breaking credibility.

darianna said...

@ mary mcmanus

sally is what, 9 or 10? i know a few gay/lesbian friends who distinctly remember having crushes on only members of the same sex as early as kindergarten. regardless, im not saying this means shes a lesbian, but i think we can agree that no word is spared on this show. sally's positive relationship with the teacher, a nurturing mother figure, is another reason don should stay away (but wont) foiling sally's pretty poisonous relationship with betty nicely, drawing don in in a way he might be able to justify to himself as wholesome. also i didnt read teach's lines to don as her being crazy--- just a pre-emptive strike, far more forthcoming than female objects of lust where allowed to be in '63 but a defence mechanism that i know i and my contemporaries use when being chatted up under thin veil of niceties.

Gridlock said...

Also, kudos to Lithgow for a fantastic role. Will never watch 3rd Rock the same way again..

Loved him in Cliffhanger :D

Jimmy Smits, now Lithgow - next season, Alan Alda as John Wayne Gacy?

WV: severmai, what the masochist said to Dexter.

Alex Mullane said...

That opening scene with Trinity was one of the most disturbing murders I have ever seen on television. Exceptionally creepy, and extremely dark.

I was hoping this would be a signal of the tone the show was taking this year, but the cute, family stuff with Rita undercuts that significantly. I get that it's a necessary part of the story, to show how Dexter evolves and has to cope with being a somewhat normal human being with a family, but happy Rita is far less interesting than damaged Rita.

And one thing, that I have thought since season 2, and has only become more abundantly clear as time has gone on... Dexter needs to be caught.

The threads need to be sown by the end of this season, and in the next he needs to be found out (I hope this is why Lundy has returned. He's worthy of catching our Dex). Whether we follow him on the run, maybe trying to kill as a fugitive, or in jail, or whatever. It would provide a hell of a drama for every other character (Deb, Rita, Angel) and remind the audience that they are infact watching a serial killer (which, hey! code or not, is kinda wrong), and not a clean-cut hero.

But as long as Hall's performance is this good, the show looks as fabulous (is it me, or did Miami look better this week?), and it keeps having fantastic supporting actors like Carradine, Smits and Lithgow, I will be watching.

Gridlock said...

Seconded about the disturbing murder, made me cringe to see where he was going with the straight razor. None of the 5 SAW films made me wince (well, not for that reason), but Lithgow made me cross my legs..

Anonymous said...

A weak Dexter is 90% better than most of television and this season "seems" delicious. I love the small touches....Dexter's kid is Harrison -- Harry's son, perhaps the son Harry always wanted? Is Dexter always going to really be a creation of his father, yearning to meet his hopes despite his pathologies?

Can Dexter ever really leave family life? Will the stresses of that -- how people you love so much can infuriate you -- cause this psycho to go psycho on them?

You gotta love how the story Hall still plays his emotionless role....A more normal person would have told Rita that the medicine could wait until morning, but Rita insists and Dexter reneges. He's really a pushover for her and that's what makes their union work....yikes.

Yes, the side character roles are puzzling....why the he?? did Angel quit on his last gf? LaGuerta is going from a promising but flawed female in command to something of a loon for falling for him.

Deb's character continues to be nailed by Carpenter and is excellently developed. You gotta like her response as to why she is searching for (something bad) about her father, because she HAS to know even if it won't make a difference.

Stick to the show!

Anonymous said...

Great post Ed.O. btw!

Hatfield said...

I just realized something: where's Undercover Asian Man?

Alan Sepinwall said...

There was some unpleasantness involving UAM (who could be eloquent but could also be extremely hostile) on a Chuck discussion last spring that led to me deleting some of his comments, and he hasn't been back since.

We'll have to muddle through without him, I guess.

Hatfield said...

Well, that's too bad. He always approached this show like it was classic literature, and usually came up with some good insight. I think we'll make it though

Alex Mullane said...

Something else that I forgot to mention just occurred to me.

Did it seem to anyone else like the character of Aster and/or the actress who plays her still seemed too young to be starting the whole teenage rebellion thing?

How old is she meant to be?

She seemed to be dressed more maturely, and was possibly wearing make up? (This may be a false memory, it's a few days since I saw it). But I definitely remember she seemed a bit young to be acting up like that, with the loud music and talking back to Rita.

Maybe it's just me, but I thought it stood out like a sore thumb.

Chrissie said...

The abruptness with which they addressed the end of Batista and his girlfriend makes me think that actress got cast in another series. Anyone know if that's the case?

I also thought the writers had moved past the bad puns and obvious voiceovers. "Sometimes a case falls right into my lap" and "Manny's going down for the count"? Stop it, Dex. You're killing ME.

Finally, how is it I have yet to see Michael C. Hall's ass, but have already seen John Lithgow's twice?

Joseph said...

A lot of good points made on both sides. I am personally enjoying Dexter as much as ever, and while I can see the complaints that the show has been consistently moving towards making Dexter more "hero" than "anti-hero" I am not sure there is any real way around it. His overall character arc needs to either move him towards darkness or towards light, and I don't know many who would stick around to follow the progression of a full blown serial killer. The show is basically stating (IMO) that if you pretend to have emotions and connections long enough you will start to actually develop them, and will Dexter continue to be able to justify his actions in light of this.

Comparing (negatively) Dexter to Shane and his arc in The Shield are valid, but Shane's self-destruction was built up over several seasons. The creators could have just as easily laid the groundwork for his redemption if they wanted to, and I believe that is what the writers of Dexter are doing for their character.

Fritz Novak said...

Alex...at one point in S3, Dexter referred to her as a "sullen preteen" in one incident. I'd put her in the 12-13 range at this point, (she was 8 or 9 in season one IIRC)putting adolescent rebellion well within the realm of possibility. Kids these days...

Joseph...I don't think they're setting him up for any kind of redemption, because he's absolutely beyond it. Though he is capable of doing good, the compulsion towards violent and horrific acts is intrinsic in his personality and inseparable from any such good.

"The show is basically stating (IMO) that if you pretend to have emotions and connections long enough you will start to actually develop them, and will Dexter continue to be able to justify his actions in light of this."

Yes, except he doesn't really try to "justify" his actions. He knows he's a monster, and he tries to do the best he can not to harm innocent people given his nature. When Doakes urges Dexter in Season 2 to turn himself in, on a certain level he knows it's the right thing to do and gives it serious consideration.

jim treacher said...

The books are still good, at least. The fourth one just came out, and it's the funniest serial-killer novel since his last one.

Cassie said...

I'm afraid that the show's creators are the biggest Dexter fanwanks of all. I don't think they have the guts to have Dexter do something that will leave viewers conflicted or upset with him.

The writing was on the wall back in Season 2 when they had Lila do the dirty work and kill Doakes to get Dexter off the hook.

Mike F said...

wow, the first few books were incredibly one dimensional and uninteresting...especially when compared to the series and the depth of Michael Hall's performance

I still think the big mystery of this show is what Dexter is...is he a vigilante good guy channeling his inner demons towards purposes of good...and yeah, I'm ok with him killing the people he kills...I root for them to die...while at the same time recognizing that nobody should have the power to decide who lives or dies...

Or is he actually just purely a monster?

In our every day lives, don't we play our roles as Dexter does his? we pretend to care about certain people that we don't, we have to show enthusiasm as parents or family members or co-workers even when all we give a darn about is our own selfish needs and wants

In that respect, Dexter is relatable...his needs are different than ours, and that's often the sick joke, the black humor...the fact that we can identify with a character like Dexter (and Tony Soprano for that matter), that we can relate to their sins and needs though ours are not as extreme or gross...that's partly what makes these shows interesting.

We all struggle with our humanity.

Fritz Novak said...

Cassie: "I'm afraid that the show's creators are the biggest Dexter fanwanks of all. I don't think they have the guts to have Dexter do something that will leave viewers conflicted or upset with him.

The writing was on the wall back in Season 2 when they had Lila do the dirty work and kill Doakes to get Dexter off the hook."

If you think having Lila resolve the Doakes conflict was a cop-out by the writers, I can't really argue with you. However, I have to take issue with your first claim. If the audience can accept a serial killer (however deserving his victims) without feeling conflicted or upset, then there's only so much the show can do. While he certainly can be defended from a utilitarian perspective, Dexter is unambiguously amoral and rotten to the core as a a human being. His crimes are not motivated by any higher social calling: he has a compulsive need to kill people in a sadistic, ritualistic fashion, and his adherence to "the code" is a form of self-preservation born of Harry's misguided, guilt-ridden moral compromise.
Shouldn't the audience have felt conflicted about how he set up Paul (Rita's ex-husband), killed his own brother, and guided Miguel Prado
down a path that could only lead to his death by Dexter's hands?

In the Sopranos, I'm sure there was a part of all of us that wanted Dr. Melfi to sic Tony on the guy who raped her. But in spite of her darker impulses, she knew where to draw the line. If the audience doesn't, that's their problem, not the writers'.

The ethical crux of the show is not the morality of Dexter's actions (which he can't fully control), but in whether Harry did the right thing when he recognized the path Dexter was on. Therefore, I will grant that if Dexter's flaws don't manifest themselves in the next generation in a serious way, then the writers will have dropped the ball. I have to believe that the heavy-handed irony of Dexter's "sins of the father" speech to Ramon Prado in the Season 3 finale is foreshadowing in that regard.