Friday, October 05, 2007

Dexter's Back. He's not Having a Good Day.
The first season of Dexter introduced us to a series unlike anything ever done before. It was dark in a smug sort of way, almost always witty and, let’s face it—funny. Dexter was like a fratboy prankster, inviting us along as he pulled his latest prank. Of course, his pranks inevitably ended up with some deserving soul being dismembered, but that was okay. After all, every one of his victims were vicious killers in their own right, and we felt a certain glee when Dexter sent them to their just rewards. In that first season, grisly details were implied about Dexter’s inclinations, but never explored for what they really were.

The subplots helped make Dexter work in the first season. The failed machinations of Lt. Guerta, the almost paranoiac obsessions of Sgt. Doakes, the familial bonds and the precarious relationships all meshed to make Dexter fascinating and engaging. Above all else, it tapped into our primordial retribution instinct and kept it all light and airy. It wasn’t until its final episodes that the first season of Dexter looked at the consequences of such escapades.

“It’s Alive” opens Season Two, and takes place five and a half weeks after Dexter had to “put down” his long-lost brother Rudy aka the Ice Truck Killer. It’s a trying time for Dexter. Doakes, convinced that Dexter is not the carefree blood splatter expert he appears to be, is shadowing him constantly. To throw Doakes off, Dexter has resorted to filling his nights bowling with some of the guys from the force, whose shirts ironically enough, are emblazoned with the motto “Bowl ‘til You Bleed.”

When he finally does get a chance to pursue his more morbid hobby (this time with a blind voodoo priest whose poisoned at least three people), he freezes, and eventually lets the priest live. Clearly, Dexter is having performance issues. And it’s not just a sudden aversion to killing. He’s blocked, and he has no idea why. When a naked Rita attempts to seduce him with quickie sex, he can’t perform in that arena either.

It could be in part due to sis Deb, recovering from the horror of dating Rudy, rooming with him now. Or perhaps he’s been unable to find a worthy challenge after dispensing with Rudy. If that’s the case, he finds a worthy opponent in Little Chino, a mountain of a man who’s a gang enforcer that appears to be untouchable—witnesses to his murders have a habit of disappearing. When Dexter gets his chance to rid the world of Little Chino, things go terribly awry.

Part of it may have to do with his blossoming relationship with Rita. Besides his intimacy issues, there’s the matter of his setting her ex-, Paul up for life in prison. That issue is resolved in this episode, but it only serves to set the stage for troubles down the line for Dexter and Rita.

To compound Dexter’s problems, sea-diving treasure hunters working off the coast of Florida inadvertently discover Dexter’s “burial ground” in the undersea ravine. Thirty bags (and counting) of dismembered bodies in heavy duty plastic bags tend to make the news, after all. Deb sees the discovery as a way for her to find some closure, and reinvent herself as a detective. Dexter, on the other hand, feels a weight dragging him deeper into an abyss from which there may be no escape.

If “It’s Alive” is any indication, Dexter’s second season looks to delve deeper into the psyches of its characters. It certainly sets up a number of plot complexities, some spilling over from the first season, and new devices that offer a myriad of new developments. This being Dexter, expect the unexpected. To get caught up to the ceremonies, view this episode here. New episodes air on Showtime Sundays @ 10PM EST/PT.

Expect a rollercoaster ride.

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