So I finally finished all five seasons of Dexter. After having people tell me how good it is for so long, I’ve gotta admit I’m a bit disappointed. It’s an entertaining show for sure, but I can’t help but put it on a lesser tier than truly good shows like Mad Men, The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, etc.
The worst part about it is that the show has a lot of potential. It obviously has an interesting premise, Michael C. Hall is fantastic in the lead role, and it’s on a network where it can get away with pretty much anything. Unfortunately, there’s just so much wrong with the show that I can’t overlook all the downsides and enjoy it thoroughly.
- The supporting cast is awful. Deb eventually ends up as an interesting character, but besides her, Rita and (to some degree) Masuka, the series regulars are some of the most boring characters on TV. They all just play a single note and never evolve, and their B-plots are almost always trite procedural cop show material. And for real, LaGuerta is probably the worst television character of all time.
- The seasonal arcs are mind-numbingly repetitive. A guest star shows up, gets close to Dexter, and ends up being killed (or leaving in some other way). Dexter gets close to being caught but gets away just in time. And after the first two seasons, Dexter finds out he maybe does have emotions.
- The writers don’t understand what subtlety is. Dexter’s voice-overs started off as a great narrative device, but they ended up just spelling out even the simplest things that are going on on-screen. After the first two seasons, Harry joins in and the viewer is treated to a whole chorus of “no fucking kidding”. One recent episode had the same out of focus close-up on blood three times, complete with Dexter narrating the word in a dazed voice. Yeah, we know. The blood caught his fucking attention.
The first two seasons were definitely intriguing, and the show is usually pretty good as far as tension and suspense goes. But since then, it seems like the 2nd-7th episode of every season is dreadfully slow, and the pay-off doesn’t really come until the 8th-11th episodes. Strangely, the premieres and finales are almost always mediocre (save for season 4’s finale).
The guest star method that the show’s employed since season 3 has up and down sides. What works is that all the actors so far have been exceptional - Julia Styles and Jimmy Smits were both excellent, and the evolution of their characters were some of the best parts of the series. And obviously, John Lithgow put in one of the best performances ever as Trinity.
But even Trinity was poorly written. He was so.. unblended. The big twist with his character was that he was a family man, but they only made his character behave the way they needed him to at the time. Before that revelation occurs, we see him in public places (like a diner), and since he hasn’t been revealed as a family man yet, he’s a total creepy dick. Then with the revelation, we see him with his family, and since he hasn’t been revealed as a monstrous father/husband, they all love him even with no outside eyes watching. Lithgow was great with whatever he was supposed to be, but the writers through his character’s layers at him inconsistently as hell.
Season 5 was the most-watched season of the show yet, but it ended with possibly the worst episode of Dexter ever. The plot holes are abundant (the car that he stole to get to the factory flipped over but was never investigated; Deb apparently gave them enough time to dispose of the body so they could dump it in the ocean; Quinn’s cleared entirely just because of the blood test, with no regard to any of the other circumstantial evidence, etc.). The seasonal threads were full of dead-ends and “why the fuck”s (e.g. Santa Muerte murders). And they disposed of the guest star in a severely lame way, especially considering that her relationship with Dexter was the season’s only worthy asset.
I’ll still watch season 6, and for all of the show’s faults, it’s still entertaining and better than most of the garbage on TV. But it’s not “one of the best shows” and I’m sad that I was lead to believe it would be. I’ve learned that I don’t have to give Dexter my full attention like I do when I watch Mad Men or other truly excellent shows. Until Dexter has an end date, it’s just going to be him not getting caught, a guest star getting close to him, and Masuka being vile.
—James A. Janisse