Saturday, 11 August 2007

DEXTER 1.1 - "Dexter"

Saturday, 11 August 2007
8 July 2007 - The FX Channel
Writer: James Manos Director: Michael Cuesta

Cast: Michael C. Hall (Dexter Morgan), Lauren Velez (Lt Maria LaGuerta), Julie Benz (Rita Bennett), Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan), David Zayas (Angel Batista), Erik King (Sgt Doakes), James Remar (Harry Morgan), C.S. Lee (Vince Masuka), Daniel Goldman (Cody), Renier J. Murillo (Concert-Goer/Vendor), Susie Taylor (Detective Sue), Devon Graye (Teenage Dexter), Marc Macaulay (Detective), Justin Kane (Officer Simon), Neeona Neel (Jane Saunders), Jeanne Tidwell (Mrs. Donovan), Roy Rutland (Desk Sergeant), Jacqueline Martinez (Concert-Goer/Dancer), Dennis Depew (County Jail Guard), Patrick Michael Buckley (Officer Oliver), Ethan Smith (Jaworski) & Christina Robinson (Astor)

Forensics expert and serial-killer Dexter Morgan becomes fascinated by the discovery of victims drained of blood...

If Hannibal Lecter and Claire Starling had a child, there's a good chance it would resemble Dexter Morgan; a forensics expert for the Miami-Metro Police Department who moonlights as a vigilante serial-killer.

Dexter's homicidal tendencies are kept in check by "The Codes Of Harry", a doctrine bestowed on him by his foster father Harry Morgan, a decorated Miami cop. Having noticed his adopted son cutting up animals, Harry took the unusual step to direct Dex's killing instinct towards punishing only those who "deserve to die" (child molesters, mob assassins, etc.) I suppose psychologists weren't around in the 70s?

Now grown-up, as portrayed by Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under), Dexter has found a workable balance in life. By day, he investigates city crime as the resident "bloodstain analyst"; by night, he takes unconventional means to clean up the streets: involving a steel table, yards of cling film, a scalpel and a bone-saw...

It's CSI: Miami, with Patrick Bateman as David Caruso. The series, based on Jeff Lindsay's 2004 novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, is also similar to Brett Easton Ellis' notorious book American Psycho, in that we get to experience Dex's world via his own darkly humorous narration.

Michael C. Hall is superb in the lead role, managing to make Dexter a tragic anti-hero with real depth. It's an overused cliché that serial-killers are extreme characters: feeble-minded weirdos or intelligent opera-fans, but Dex is more a regular guy (admittedly with serious issues). He may have an ironic job and certainly isn't an idiot, but he's nowhere near as sophisticated as Lecter or as sexually promiscuous as Bateman.

Being presented as an "everyman" figure; Dex is just a guy going about his daily business, faking human interactions and wondering why people have sex ("It's so undignified.") It's in his nature to kill and, fortunately for Miami, he's managed to target his depravity on city scum, disposing of evil-doers with more success than his pen-pushing work colleagues.

The Pilot episode does a fantastic job of setting up the pulpy concept and the stylized world Dexter inhabits. Miami is beautiful with its neon-soaked Art Deco buildings, while the production team find grisly beauty in "blood-spatter" wall paintings and dismembered limbs. At times the show almost becomes a work of art. It's certainly a refreshing change from the swelter of L.A and grim NYC.

Overall, Dexter is a stylish police procedural with a high-concept twist and note-perfect performance from Hall. There are a few intense moments that surprise, although the idea of the hero being a killer does take a bit of getting used to. Audiences have always relished watching villains be villainous, but Dexter commits heinous acts in a grey moral area.

On the evidence of this accomplished opening, I'm sure we'll soon be quietly cheering on this latest anti-hero... after all; we know it "takes a thief to catch a thief", so the same must go for serial-killers, right?