Don’t Watch: Dexter

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Dexter, since its 2006 inception, has been breaking Showtime records and entertaining millions of underdeveloped minds with its anticlimactic progression and willfully stagnant main character.

Let’s explore some of the elements that make this show not worth your time.

First off, the show is plagued by bad acting. Though the worst acting I’ve ever seen on television was displayed by Erik King, who played James Doakes in seasons 1 & 2, since his timely on-screen demise other “actors” like Desmond Harrington (Quinn), Lauren Vélez (LaGuerta), Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan), and pretty much everyone else in the show continue to plumb the depths of non-acting and have established themselves as accomplished hacks in their own right. Watching them stumble through their scenes is hard enough without taking into consideration things like character development, which is entirely absent. It’s like the show’s writers thought character development was something you only had to do BEFORE the show starts. 7 seasons in and no noticeable change in anyone.

Michael C. Hall, who actually has it in him to be a decent actor (though not a consistent one by any means), doesn’t really have the chance to do anything outstanding since any emotion Dexter is “able” to express is painstakingly described in dull monologues rather than displayed.

Which brings me to Dexter himself. From the very first season, which consisted mostly of monologues by Dexter describing how dead he is inside, we are constantly bombarded with instances during which this claim is resoundingly refuted.

Pretty much every quirk Dexter displays (aside from his murders) could be attributed to a mentally competent, non-psychopathic, socially awkward teenage boy. Dexter’s personality defect really boils down to simple immaturity… with a side of homicidal tendencies.

Still, we are meant to buy into Dexter’s dishonest self-description even though almost all evidence stands to the contrary. In fact, the only time that Dexter’s supposed universal apathy really seems apparent is when he’s confronted with the pleas of his victims. Every other circumstance seems to elicit an actual emotion, and more often than not it’s something that a normal human could empathize with. So there goes the myth of Dexter’s detachment and social alienation.

(SPOILERS BELOW)

In light of that, Dexter’s inability to change is inexplicable. If he were a real person, Dexter’s refusal to change despite devastating life changing occurrences would be frustrating and confounding. Fortunately, we don’t need to wrestle with this paradox; it’s wholly attributable to bad writing. Dexter’s wife Rita, who we know he has developed real feelings for, dies; and yet, instead of the show making an interesting and desperately needed paradigm shift where Dexter has to deal with that event and his guilt over it, the next season begins with Dexter back on the job like nothing ever happened. Not because Dexter is dead inside – we know he’s not – but because of the writers’ inability or unwillingness to follow up on a decent plot twist. Way to go guys.

Additionally, as the seasons go by, one of the most interesting parts of the mediocre show, Dexter’s kidnapping/murders of other serial killers, happen less and less frequently, and usually become just another excuse for the main character to monologue and soul search at the viewer’s expense. Dexter’s angsty pseudo-apathy was disingenuous in season one; now, approaching season 8, it’s positively farcical.

The show consistently fails to have an impact one way or the other. After having watched the entire series to date (don’t ask why, just be glad I did so I can tell you why not to), I can only single out a few episodes that I would consider “well done.” The show is a fluff series that avoids true introspection at any cost while still trying to keep the audience engaged and stimulated… not an approach that traditionally yields quality results.

The moral ambiguity inherent to vigilantism, and particularly Dexter’s unique brand of serial murder, is never more than perfunctorily explored. The side stories of the rest of the cast which frequently pop up so that the show can pretend to be multi-faceted are largely uninteresting and underdeveloped. The “Big Bad” foe of Dexter that has come to characterize each season of the show is usually overwrought and underwhelming. The whole thing is a mediocre mess.

So, season 8 is coming in a few weeks, and mercifully it’s the last season. Let’s see how the writers decide to limp their way across the finish line. I’m just glad it’s over; this show has been my Dark Passenger for far too long.

6 Replies to “Don’t Watch: Dexter”

  1. While I’ve never watched Dexter (based on your own deterrence from said course long ago), it is notable for the number of recommendations I have received for this show. Granted these recommendations did not necessarily come from reputable sources, but it makes me wonder (and I wish you would have touched on) what makes this show so popular? Is the problem that audiences are drawn in by the serial killer-on-serial killer violence gimmick? Do they like the monologues that spell out what they would otherwise have to intuit? Or maybe the other programs on Showtime are just that bad. It’s hard for me to say having never watched an episode, but to me I find myself concerned more and more with the seeming randomness of the viewing public’s aesthetic tastes.

    1. You touch on an interesting point Ryan. My wife and I actually thought we liked the show too for awhile. We were always conscious of the horrible acting but that made it more funny than anything else. The lead actor is the most interesting, but like alKhemist says, he never grows/changes/becomes more/less what he is at the beginning. John Lithgow actually plays a much more interesting compelling serial killer in one of the seasons and that’s what nailed it for me how uninteresting Dexter actually is. I think people like it because it is the darkest form of vigilante justice – almost like murder-porn for some people. There are some interesting elements to the story but the writing and acting is so consistently bad that it is hard to recommend it. You can still watch it. You can even still enjoy it. There are just so many things more worthwhile that it should be pretty far down your list.

  2. There is something deeply wrong with America’s television appetite when the viewers’ cravings for bloodlust and vigilante justice reaches it’s inevitable conclusion… a show about an avenging serial killer.

    The show was just sick and yet oddly banal. There is something wrong with people who enjoyed it; a deep lack of empathy and a sad pathetic glee in seeing others punished.

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