Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dexter in Decline?
Watching the season opener of Dexter, I couldn’t escape the feeling the series has settled into a state of complacency. In the first season of the series, we had a dark antihero dispensing unholy retribution to those who had escaped justice by slipping through cracks in the justice system. Dexter was almost a merry prankster of mayhem in those days, slicing and dicing evildoers with elfin abandon by night, and dispensing doughnuts to his coworkers at the Miami police department by day. We liked the guy, and it was all so deliciously silly, we didn’t mind a bit that he was a serial killer, albeit a serial killer who only preyed on other killers.

The second season of Dexter was a little more complex, as Dex realized that he wasn’t as emotionless as he thought he was, and he discovered that he liked girls after all. The fact that the pieces of his victims were inadvertently discovered by treasure seeking divers off the Miami coast complicated his dreamy world, of course, but only in the smallest way. Dexter was still operating under Harry’s Code, even after he realized that most of it was based on a lie his adopted father had perpetuated. Dexter emerged unscathed, though, as we knew he would all along. Sure, it cost some lives, most notably his nemesis Doakes, and it caused him to reexamine the Code. But what mattered was that Dexter had affirmed himself as no longer a student, but a master of dealing out death to the deserving.

“Our Father.” the season premiere of Dexter, is essentially Dexter telling his dentist how he spent his summer vacation. It’s darkly comic, of course—he went to the carnival, which was a secret killing ground for a child predator. His relationship with Rita has blossomed apparently, with sex being an overriding factor. In fact, most of the time we see Dexter and Rita together, they’re doing the nasty. He’s also settled into the role of surrogate father with Rita’s kids. It’s almost a Leave It to Beaver lifestyle they have, sans the June Cleever pearl necklace. (Come to think of it, nobody ever knew exactly what it was that Ward did when he left their cozy suburban home.)

We do know what happens when Dexter leaves the house. When he goes to delete a drug dealer who got away with murder years before, things go horribly wrong. The dealer gets away, and Dexter ends up in a struggle with a person who wasn’t supposed to be there. It’s a battle involving a knife, with predictable results. Dexter, in his very personal view of ethics, grapples with the fact he’s killed somebody without knowing if they met the criteria of Harry’s Code.
And in his twisted logic, he begins investigating his latest victim, mostly to justify his killing.

Complicating matters is the fact that his victim appeared to be a community activist, who also happened to be the brother of renowned prosecutor Cuban immigrant and ambitious Assistant District Attorney Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits). who also happens to be an old flame of Lt. LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) Thus is the cat and mouse game established for the season.

Admittedly, I’ve only seen the first episode of the new season, and I’ve been watching Dexter from the beginning. Maybe that’s part of the reason I can’t escape the feeling I’ve seen this before. Deb is vying for a promotion, and she’s involved with wrong guy once again (this time a fellow cop being investigated by IA), oh—and she got a haircut. Angel has been promoted to Detective Sergeant, filling the void left by Doaks’s death. The ghost of Harry is still influencing Dexter’s actions, regardless of how he proclaims himself the new master. And Dexter is still adhering to the first rule of Harry’s Code: don’t get caughet.

Dexter’s producers have said the first season represented Dexter’s birth, the second season his adolescence and the current season his adulthood, Umm, okay. My question is, does adulthood also represent a realization of mortality? All good things come to an end, and while I want to believe that Dexter has a lot of surprises in store, my gut feeling is that this will be its last season. And I’m hoping it goes out in a blaze of glory.

No comments: