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It's staberrific

So a while back I bittorrented all 5 seasons of Dexter. I had heard some vaguely good things about it but I don't have many links to tv/movie culture anymore so the radar is often wonky. Really, I guess the reason I snagged it is because I recalled Jesse raving about it a couple times when I went to her and Brian's place for poker. It seemed like it be interesting and at the time I was just stockpiling all sorts of media to fill the Raid array. It wasn't until today that I, lacking anything else interesting to do, decided to watch the first episode and I was hooked right from the start. To begin with, I was shocked at the amount of content they were able to cram into a single episode. It felt like 2 or even 3 eps worth of plot and all of it was incredibly well done. It wasn't even until I finished that I noticed they had 'cheated' sorta. Since it premiered on cable there are no commercials and theoretically a hour show could run for an actual hour. This almost never happens in reality from what I've seen. Even premium cable stations often cut shows a bit short so they can cram their own advertising in between programs. Whoever put Dexter together decided to really give people their money's worth though with each episode coming in at more than 55 minutes. So I guess, it's not really cheating but the exact opposite. They've actually given us bonus content that would normally go to previews of crap you didn't want to see anyway. That extra time is clear put to good use as the 12 episodes of the first season tell such an expansive story that I feel like I've watched an entire network's yearly run.



So for those of you who don't know, Dexter is a show about a serial killer. It's usually hard to have a blood thirsty murderer as your protagonist so Hollywood does what it always does with characters like this. It places restraints upon him so that the audience can work him into a gray area they feel comfortable with. In Dexter's case, the main restraint is that he only kills 'bad' people. That resolves most of the problem people might have with cheering on a serial killer right off the bat. After all, most of us will probably admit after a little goading that we don't really have anything against murder per se, it all depends on who is doing the murdering and who is getting murdered. Few people can honestly hold to the conviction that all killing is wrong because that often paints you into moral corners that the majority of us find uncomfortable. If nothing else, there's that old morality debate between Kantian and Utilitarian ethics. Would it be moral to flip a switch to divert a train from a set of tracks where it was set to crash into another train, killing hundreds, if to do so meant that it would instead run over a single person walking on the other set of tracks? Kantian ethics would tell us that killing is wrong and that's that while Utilitarianism follows the greatest good for the greatest number. You can push this sort of conundrum to ridiculous lengths, (Would you shoot Hitler? Would you put a banana peel on Stalin's staircase?) but at some point, most people will cross the line over to Utilitarianism, no matter how much they might be against the idea of murder.

This is what the producers of the show have done. Added enough counterbalancing factors that the audience no longer feels all that badly about rooting on a serial killer. In a way, it's like another show I absolutely loved, The Shield, which featured crooked gang cops who mostly screwed over drug dealers and gang bangers. Besides, who doesn't like the idea of Michael Chiklis kicking ass and taking names?



So in the first season of Dexter, we get to see the eponymous character knocking off murderers to protect the innocent (though really only as a side effect). He also obeys certain rules set down by his step-father Harry, who recognized Dexter's need to kill from when he was quite young and tried to channel it in a way he could do good. Think of it as one of those Batman-like dark avengers who come out of a twisted backstory to give evil a good thrashing. You get the clear impression that if one day there were no more evil to thrash, these are not the kind of guys who could just go into happy retirement. Chances are, they'd become the new bad guys.

I've actually paused before watching the last episode of the season to write this figuring I should get my thoughts down before seeing the climactic confrontation between Dexter and fellow worker of the craft without his restrictions. The show is wonderfully written and acted with Michael C. Hall doing a fantastic job as the quirky and disconnected Dexter. He's like a character who has read extensively about what colors are like but has always seen the world in black and white and tries his best to fake it so he can fit in. The one seen where he tries to 'reciprocate' as Rita is crying over Terms of Endearment is truly cringe inducing. You can't hate a character who is just that pathetic. Well, unless you or someone you know is lying on his table I guess.

All in all, I really enjoy the show and I'm shocked that it's still running. Good writing? Check. Show I enjoy? Check. Not canceled after a season? Err, how could that possibly be? I guess there's no reason to look a gift horse in the mouth. As soon as I finish writing this I'm going to watch the first season finale and then move on to season 2. The only downside about all of this is that I'll end up having to wait for season 6 when it starts this fall like all the other plebeians.

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