Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

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The last day of summer, which I diligently passed in a futile attempt to finish up my summer tasks before school starts tomorrow. (Came close. So close.) I found time for a little TV, though, and the show of the week was Showtime’s Dexter, new to DVD. Easily surpassing Weeds as the best of Showtime’s lineup, most of you probably already know the basic setup: Dexter is a police procedural centered on a blood-splatter analyst who, in his spare time, is a serial killer himself. As schlocky as this sounds, the show is actually good, mostly credited to the strong performance of Michael C. Hall as the sociopathic title character and James Remar as Dexter’s deceased father Harry, a psychologically scarred police officer who recognized his foster son’s violent tendencies and trained him to safely kill only those who “deserve” it. In this respect Dexter joins Jack Bauer and McGarnagle (witty cultural reference cribbed from this spoiler-laden review) as the latest entry in the increasingly popular (at least in George Bush’s America) “breaking the law to save the law” genre.

But the true progenitor of Dexter, I think, is actually the superhero comic, from which it takes its damaged Dark Knight archetype, its moral universe, Dexter’s common ruminations on his secret identity, its flashback-laden form, and even its sense of Camp (see photo)—including Supermanesque winks to the camera at the end of a number of episodes. (The comics connection is made explicit by Julie Benz’s character in the yet-to-be-aired but deliciously-torrentable second season premiere, when she compares Dexter’s bizarre disappearances to “Clark Fucking Kent.”)

If the show suffers from anything, it’s surely this comic-book sense of character—the characterization seems to vary greatly depending on who is writing a particular episode. Even Dexter himself shifts pretty dramatically between the pilot and the later season one episodes—once a true sociopath, only miming his humanity to innoculate himself against suspicion, he very quickly devolves into a much more conventional, conflicted and relatable version of the character, with the early second season threatening to just go ahead and turn him into Angel altogether. Still, I’m hopeful, because the plotline they’ve chosen for the second season is just about the only worthy follow-up to the first season’s (spoilers, highlight to read): Whereas in the first season his nemesis is villainous—another, more brutal and indiscriminate serial killer—in the second season Dexter’s submerged stash of bodies is discovered and his nemesis is the FBI supercop brought in to take him down, that is, a traditional police hero. (Literary analysis cribbed from Jaimee.)

It’s a promising show. Keep an eye on it.

And now here’s McGarnagle.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 27, 2007 at 1:51 am

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