We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
How is it that one of the most clever, entertaining and morally thought-provoking television shows in history has managed to slip under the radar of so many fans of good shit? Is it the innocuous title? Is it because many still dismiss Showtime as an illegitimate network? Is it the lack of smoke monsters or D-list celebrities ballroom dancing? For whatever reason, Dexter has become the sleeper hit of television in just four seasons, and some would argue, this writer in particular, that it may even be in contention for the title of Greatest Television Show in the History of Ever. Join me, will you, as I expound on the brilliance of Dexter, and I hope, by the end of this article, those uninitiated will beg, borrow or steal to get your grubby hands on season one, episode one.
Are you a fan of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, and the subsequent film starring Christian Bale as the obsessively exfoliated, murderous yuppie Patrick Bateman? Do you often find yourself captivated by the miles of crime scene tape on the random episode of Law and Order or CSI? Have you ever wanted to right a wrong using a meat cleaver, with a wry smile on your face? That’s just the surface of the deliciously visceral onion of Dexter. Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall (Six Feet Under) plays the titular hero (or depending on your moral base, villain), Dexter Morgan, with a level of dryness that would make Tatooine seem like the lush, ultraviolet forests of Pandora. Dexter has a bit of a secret: He needs to kill. However, Dexter isn’t your run-of-the-mill Buffalo Bill. As a member of the Miami Metro Police Department (blood spatter is his expertise), and son of the late revered Detective Harry Morgan (James Remar), Dexter lives by a code: He painstakingly researches his prey and handpicks his candidates from the laundry list of Miami shit-stains, murderers and psychos who have beat their raps and continue to walk the South Beach streets. He’s an everyman superhero with the resources of the Miami PD at his fingertips, a rigid work ethic, and a taste for justice (and blood) that can only be quenched at the edge of his blade.
How, might you ask, does Dexter accomplish being a legit serial-killer, right under the nose of an entire precinct of cops, without someone getting suspicious? Besides his meticulous methods of choosing, capturing, killing and disposing of his victims, Dexter’s public face is what keeps his, as he calls it, “Dark Passenger,” just beneath the surface. This public face of Dexter is mainly supported by his personal and professional relationships with the show’s rich ensemble cast. Jennifer Carpenter (Quarantine), Michael C. Hall’s real-life wife, plays Debra Morgan, Dexter’s foul-mouthed kid sister, an up-and-comer in Miami Metro, and Dexter’s only living family. Julie Benz (Rambo) begins the series as the shrinking violet Rita, Dexter’s beard of a girlfriend, a single mother of two, part of Dexter’s master plan to seem normal and not the quiet, solitary, creepy guy who everyone suspects is chopping people up into tiny pieces. The cast (in the first season at least) is rounded out by Dexter’s coworkers and “friends” at Miami Metro, including Angel Batista (David Zayas), fellow lab-nerd Vince Masuka (C.S. Lee), and big-boss Maria LaGuerta (Lauren Velez), all seemingly unsuspecting of Dexter’s obsession with blood and his countless half-days at the office. As the series begins, however, there is one person at Miami Metro that smells the death on Dexter’s hands, and that’s the wonderfully hard-nosed bloodhound James Doakes (Erik King), who correctly identifies Dexter as a “fuckin’ freak” from Day One, yet can’t seem to put his finger on it.
From the beginning, Dexter has had a specific formula, but a formula that always finds a way to create fresh conflicts and stories for our favorite cold-blooded killer. Most every episode, he has to feed his hunger, but while he stalks his prey, he needs to find a way to juggle his personal relationships, his job, his “Dark Passenger” and whatever other outside interference is nagging at him on any given week. Each season presents a bigger problem for Dexter, keeping the story, the concept and the characters from ever becoming stale. The freshness of the show is emboldened by the superb guest stars that have graced the halls of Miami Metro, including Keith Carradine as F.B.I. Agent Frank Lundy; Jimmy Smits as Assistant District Attorney Miguel Prado; and most recently, the chilling John Lithgow as season four’s Trinity Killer, the role for which he most recently won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe.
I truly hope I’ve sold this incredible show for those of you yet to dive into the Dexter universe, because if I were to go any further, I’d risk spoiling some of the incredible story and character beats that have come from four spectacular seasons airing on Showtime. And on that token, I would stress to ANYONE at all interested in this show to acquire season one immediately, and make your way to the season four finale as soon as humanly possible before anyone has a chance to spoil it for you, which, without giving anything away, is one of the single greatest moments in television history. I can, however, turn this Outside the Longbox into an “Inside the Longbox.” Not only does Dexter’s alter-ego become adapted into a comic book character, The Dark Defender, in a season two storyline, but Dexter has his own line of action figures and bobbleheads available from Biff Bang Pow! To coincide with season four of the series, Showtime promoted an animated webcomic on its Web site featuring the infancy of Dexter’s killing career, titled Early Cuts.
I cannot recommend Dexter enough and will shout its praises to anyone within earshot. I was turned on to the series by PoP! Contributor Jose Guzman, and I, in turn, have paid it forward. SoulSwitch lead guitarist, Nic Allen, just recently concluded season four, upon which I immediately received a text message regarding its unbridled awesomeness, and PoP! Star Lee Rodriguez and his lovely wife have, as of this writing, torn through seasons one and two, on to season three, and Lee has been anxiously checking his mailbox for the season four DVDs I still have yet to put in the mail (SORRY, LEE!). Dexter could very well be the perfect show: action, intrigue, crime stories, a realistic depiction of family relationships, and a sense of humor that will have you crying. Watch Dexter now, or you might just find yourself saran-wrapped to table.
Filed Under: Outside the Longbox