In the last couple of weeks I’ve been cheering for a serial killer. Not a real one but Dexter Morgan from Showtime’s Dexter series. I think I kinda have a crush on him. Is that wrong? Or is it so wrong that it’s right?
Bless the library and Netflix. Both have the Dexter series available. I binged on a Dexter marathon over the holiday weekend but now I’m hoarding episodes because I don’t want it to be over with. It’s that good. And I run away from people who have seen all 8 seasons, my hands over my ears, shouting “SPOILERS!”
This is how I sold the show to my mom when she sat down to watch a couple of episodes with me.
Me: Well, Dexter is a serial killer in Miami. But he’s a good serial killer.
Mom: He’s a good serial killer? Is that a thing?
Me: Yeah, he only goes after bad guys like pedophiles, murderers, and people who don’t recycle.
I threw that last part in there. I don’t think he’d kill someone who doesn’t recycle. Unless it’s a wife abusing psycho who constantly tosses his Pabst cans into the paper bin.
Dexter was 3 when Harry Morgan adopted him. Harry was a Miami cop and a good one. When he began to see signs of what Dexter was destined to become (animal corpses buried in the backyard and other behaviors that pointed to the fact that there was something not right with Dexter) he sat Dexter down and explained “the code”. Go after the bad people, Harry told him, do something good for those who are left grieving and whose lives are destroyed. Dexter can’t change what he truly is: a serial killer. Harry tells him he has to hide his true self, act normal, paste a smile on his face and pass as an everyday human being.
And Dexter passes. He joins the Miami Metro Police as a blood spatter analyst (how perfect, right?). Dexter even finds a girlfriend named Rita. She has two children and was repeatedly raped and beaten by her ex-husband. She’s in no rush to get serious with Dexter. Her idea of a perfect night is pizza, a movie, and nothing else. She feels safe with Dexter and he likes that what they have passes for normal. He’s attracted to Rita because she’s broken in a way that he can understand.
Miami looks like Hell’s waiting room. In every scene that’s shot outside there’s sweat. Most times Dexter (and everybody else) goes around wearing a sweat-soaked shirt. Sometimes it’s all I can concentrate on. Is Dexter going to kill that pervert who’s been diddling kids? I don’t know. Because all I can see is sweat: sweat like there will never be a cooling down period, sweat that melts your whole body and pushes a fever into delirious heights. Man, I could never be a serial killer in Florida. My DNA would be all over the place.
The first episode opens with Dexter kidnapping a man who has killed several children. Dexter injects him with a tranquilizer and takes him to an abandoned building. Dexter has covered the walls and floor with saran wrap (I wonder if he buys it in bulk at Costco?) and when the man wakes up the bodies of the children he killed and buried are laid out on the floor where he can see them. I’ll admit it: I was bouncing up and down in my chair saying “Cut that douchebag up!”
Dexter has a rival in a fellow serial killer dubbed The Ice Truck Killer who has been killing local prostitutes. He bleeds the bodies dry and then cuts them up while they’re frozen and displays them with a weird mix of taunting and flirting. The killer is sending Dexter a message: “I know what you are. Do you want to play?” Dexter sees artistry in the kills, how the victims are perfectly bled and cut up by someone who knows what he’s doing.
And Dexter answers “Yes, I want to play.”
There are nail-biting moments ( a couple of times I pulled a blanket over my head like an old world grandmother) when it seems that Dexter is going to get caught since he hasn’t been clever enough or cleaned up the crime scene well enough. I’m only on season 2. There are 8 seasons. I’m at work as I write this, sitting at my desk, doing my job and all I can think of is “How many episodes of Dexter can I watch tonight before I go to sleep?” And another thought: “Will he cross the line between killing bad guys, being a vigilante, and taking an innocent life?”
Well, just watch an episode. See how you feel at the end of it. Do you feel guilty for thinking of Dexter as a hero? Do you want to shut off the television because of your mixed feelings?
Or do you want to play?