[09/26/08 - 10:24 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "Dexter" (Showtime, Season Three)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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DEXTER (Showtime)
(Sundays at 9:00/8:00c beginning September 28)

The network's description: "Our Father" (September 28): "For Dexter, life seems to be going well. His relationship with Rita and her kids is back on track. He's no longer under scrutiny at his day job as a blood spatter analyst for Miami Metro Homicide. And his night job as a serial killer is operating on all cylinders. So when he sets his sights on Freebo, a dope dealer and killer, it looks to be just another night of Dexter's dark justice. But things don't go as planned and Dexter must find a way to extract himself from a pair of problems that he created, both in his home and night life. Dexter also finds himself inexorably drawn to Miguel Prado, an Assistant District Attorney, who has a very personal reason to bring Freebo to justice. Meanwhile, Debra is put in a difficult situation when someone from Internal Affairs wants her to inform on her new partner, Quinn."

Descriptions for "Finding Freebo" (October 5), "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (October 12) and "All In The Family" (October 19) weren't released.

What did they leave out? Wow. You'll just have to wait and see.

The plot in a nutshell: For the first time, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is living without a net. After learning his adopted father (James Remar) killed himself after discovering what he'd become, Dexter cast aside the "code" which Harry taught him to control his urge to kill. It's a decision that's left him with a newfound zeal for all aspects of his life - from his relationship with Rita (Julie Benz) to his "shadow self's" nighttime proclivities. Life is for lack of a better word - good. The same goes for Dexter's sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter), who's dialed down her drinking; Angel (David Zayas), who's just been promoted to Sergeant; and even Masuka (C.S. Lee), who's work on the Bay Harbor Butcher case has gotten him published. That all changes however with the introduction of Dexter's latest target - Freebo ("Everwood's" Mike Erwin), a drug dealer who just skated on the murder of two college girls due to a bad warrant. While trying to grab Freebo from his house, Dexter's interrupted by someone else - someone who's also after Freebo. And during the ensuing scuffle, Dexter inadvertently kills the mysterious man - not to mention leaves behind a major piece of evidence that he was there.

Making matters worse - it turns out the mysterious man was Oscar Prado, the youngest brother of Assistant District Attorney Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits). It seems Oscar was there to confront Freebo about selling drugs to the kids at his youth center. Boom. Harry's code has been broken - an innocent has been killed. And that's just the beginning - Miguel mistakes Dexter's interest in the case as compassion for the loss of his brother. He invites him to Oscar's wake, then to his house for dinner with his wife (Valerie Cruz) and even turns up on his doorstep in the middle of the night. He wants Dexter to be - gasp - his friend. It's a scenario that's fraught with peril - not only does Dexter have to find this Freebo character before the cops, he's got to give Miguel some sort of justice or he'll never be satisfied.

What works: I am genuinely stunned how the writers constantly manage to paint Dexter into corner after corner, only to sidestep each problem in a surprising (but not a cheating) way at the last minute. Such is the case here - there's an "oh shit" moment in episode two which may trump all previous "oh shit" moments - namely the resolution of the aforementioned problem, which in itself opens up a new corner to paint Dexter into. The plotting on this show is nothing short of genius - and we've barely scratched the surface. The true genius of the show is how it really is about the evolution of the title character and how his various problems feed in to that. The overarching plots each season somehow make us rethink who this character is - whether it be his brother in season one revealing Dexter's true origins or the search for him (a.k.a. the Bay Harbor Butcher) in season two opening up how he was raised. Each season - hell each episode - manages to add a new layer to Dexter we didn't see before. For instance, episode three asks - now that the code is gone, which said only murderers could be killed), is taking out a child molester off limits?

Unlike so many other dramas, Dexter isn't a cog in a case-of-the-week/plot-of-the-season machine - he's the machine the case-of-the-week/plot-of-the-season cogs run in. Dexter Morgan may turn out to be the most fully realized character in television history. Season three then posits that now that Dexter is free of Harry's code - what kind of man will he be? Have the lessons he's learned about himself through the tumultuous events since the pilot (even his wry observations about what it is to be normal) informed him to be something beyond his "shadow self?" And even more than that (for seasons I won't spoil here), what kind of legacy will he leave behind? Again, these are all questions that come as a result of the evolution of Dexter, not to mention the show itself. All of this and more is why "Dexter" is truly one of television's finest hours.

What doesn't: On the flip side, when the action shifts to the non-Dexter characters, things always seem to get a little murky. Whether it's Deb clashing with Internal Affairs over her new partner (Desmond Harrington), Angel getting mixed up in a vice cop's (Kristin Dattilo) sting or LaGuerta (Lauren Velez) rocking the political boat, it's all never quite as interesting as when Dexter's not on screen.

The bottom line: You need to be watching this show.

  [september 2008]  


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