Had I seen it before: No. I’m pretty sure I’d seen Dexter’s Laboratory though. That’s sorta similar right?
What IMDb says: By day, mild-mannered Dexter is a blood-spatter analyst for the Miami police. But at night, he is a serial killer who only targets other murderers.
Why I picked it: It was actually surprisingly difficult to find mega-successful premium cable shows that weren’t HBO, and Dexter certainly fits that bill. It had a nice long run with consistent Emmy nods and might’ve even won some had its run not overlapped with Mad Men. I mean, it might’ve taken me 2-3 years to figure out people weren’t talking about Dexter’s Laboratory but that’s my problem.
What I liked: So I knew the show was about a serial killer who only killed other serial killers but I don’t think I was fully prepared for what I was getting myself into. I guess I assumed it was about someone who became a serial killer because they were frustrated with a justice system that was letting criminals run free. I didn’t even know I had made this assumption before watching, but I did, probably because “nice person becomes evil in a quest for justice” is a relatively common formula.
But no. Dexter turns that formula on its head. Dexter is a legitimate psychopath. Dexter just wants to kill people and has since childhood. He’s fascinated by the physical process of killing, and this is what drives him. The hatred he has for his victims is secondary to this bloodlust. That simple switch from “Protagonist kills in order to have justice” to “Protagonist uses justice as an excuse to kill” is what makes Dexter so fresh and fascinating.
The fact that it’s Dexter’s father that suggests this arrangement as a way for him to cope with his urge is another great choice. It makes me want to learn more about this father figure and the dynamic between him and Dexter. The flashback to this moment is probably my favorite scene in the whole pilot. It’s enough to make me want more flashbacks in future episodes exploring their relationship.
We also get a glimpse into how Dexter’s personality affects other aspects of his life. He’s in a relationship but has no desire for sex which sets up future drama. He also has kind of a weird relationship with his sister. She works in law enforcement as well but since she’s not a serial killer, she relies heavily on Dexter to help her figure out how villains think.
What I didn’t like: It’s such a predictable complaint from me, but did there really have to be that much voiceover? I commend them for at least committing to their choice to have voiceover, but I also feel like most of what Dexter says could be illustrated in either present time or through flashbacks.
And what Dexter actually says isn’t particularly memorable or funny the way that VO is in some other shows. Like the line “She’s tougher than a $2 steak” from House of Cards or “Now there has to be an us because now there is a them” from The Handmaid’s Tale. Or you know, anything the narrator says on Jane the Virgin. If you’re going to insist on VO or fourth wall breaks, I want the writing to be sort of thing I could put on a throw pillow or graphic tee or gif set. Here it’s just “yeah, here’s Dexter telling us how he thinks because we couldn’t think of any other way to reveal that info to you.”
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: I really want to use an over-the-top pun like “Ugh I’d kill to watch episode 2” but that’d be a little too much, wouldn’t it? Fine, I won’t do it. But it really was a killer pilot that absolutely sleighed me and yeah, I’m dying to watch ep. 2.