October 1, 2007 Jill

Just a few quick thoughts on last night’s season premiere of Dexter written by Daniel Cerone.

There were five storylines — each belonging to a major character and two little runners — one of which is probably going to turn into the major season long arc:

A. Dexter and the fact that he hasn’t killed since he offed his brother at the end of last season.
B. Deb and her post-psycho-boyfriend trauma
C. Rita and her ex-husband’s plea’s for help
D. Doakes and how he’s going to get Dexter
E. Lt Maria and her struggles with Lt Pascal

The runners:
R1. Body bags
R2. Heart beat – mostly in flashback

What did you think of the opening that recapped last season? At first, I was annoyed that they were taking so much time reviewing something I watched attentively last year. I was itching to get to the main event. As they got closer and closer to last season’s climax, I started to enjoy the effect of the mounting tension in the story telling. Slamming together all those quick cuts of intense moments is”well”intense. And I like that.

I counted twenty sequences in the episode proper. It starts with a very long stretch of A story with a little dip into the whole Doakes-is-going-to-get-Dexter thread.

Is that really a story line or is it there just to up the stakes on Dexter? I don’t feel like Doakes is a full fledged character. We know little about him except that he senses Dexter is weird. And they certainly play his scenes for the comedy. Dexter is able to elude him when he wants to. So is he a real threat?

Dexter’s desire to kill takes us through the bowling scenes to his failed attempt to kill the blind chicken man to his return home. Finally we get to the B-Story that introduces Deb’s post traumatic stress syndrome.

But we never let go of Dexter’s thread. The way the need to kill is driving him is informed by the first flashback to visit young Dexter and his father. The flashback makes us wonder if Dexter is going to attack Deb — that would be excting, but that’s not where we’re going.

The flashback is the transition that drives us into the first sequence with Rita. Apparently psychopaths whose need to kill has been foiled can no longer pick delicious donuts.

There’s one more scene in this opening section: Doakes, Dexter and the titty sites.

Shouldn’t we be all tense by now? Shouldn’t we be sucked deep into the drama of a frustrated man driven to kill? The comedy seems to be taking the edge off of it, between bowling and Doakes and the donuts, it’s hard to fear Dexter as a killing machine coiled and ready to strike.

Was there too much narration through the opening? I found it an endless stream of voice-over and repetitive in content. Thinned out it would have been more effective.

Compare this opening to last season when Dexter sprang out from the back seat of the victim’s car and strangled him with piano wire. It was so scary I had to turn off the TV and wait for an adult to come watch the rest of the episode with me. The second? Well, it made me turn off the TV too. I’ve had this episode for months and couldn’t get through the whole thing till last night.

After this slow opening, we get into some police work and the various story lines become more prominent although Dexter’s need to kill is still the driving force. It felt like there was more forward momentum here as the various storylines become entwined: Deb dealing with her return to work, Maria learning to take orders and showing her human side, Rita faced with Paul’s pleas for help.

It’s only as we get to the final act that we get some adrenalin pumping action. Dexter fells and binds his huge victim with little difficulty, but the action comes when the victim wakes up and gets free. It’s such a short sequence when we’re used to last year’s agonizingly long sequences in which Dexter confronts, tortures and murders his victims. It’s kind of disappointing.

But then Dexter says he craves the cadence of Rita’s children’s breathing and you wonder — has killing his brother turned him. Is he human now? Is he beginning to feel? Are we going into virgin territory with this character as he begins to experience feelings and tries to align them with his carefully constructed killer’s code?

I don’t know if I’m that interested in spending another season inside the mind of killer and watching Dexter pick out and torture more victims. But I might be interested in hanging out if he’s dealing with something new. If last season has changed him and we’re into new psychological territory to underscore the new stories, maybe there will be compelling episodes ahead.

The two season storylines that look most intriguing to me are the body bags — which has huge enough stakes to get Dexter’s heart beating and Rita’s knowledge that Dexter framed Paul — which could have stakes if Rita becomes a stronger character. Right now, Rita, and all the woman in the show for that matter, seem to have a whiny edge that makes it hard to take them seriously. It feels like you could talk Rita in or out of anything. But if she gets stronger and has this compromising information about Dexter — just as he develops true feelings for her and her kids — we could be into some great story.

I’m hopeful for the rest of the season. We saw some terrific writing last year and there’s every reason to believe that there’s compelling entertainment left to come from this franchise.

Comments (2)

  1. It felt like too much of a ‘bring you up to speed’ show for all those new viewers the show might have garnished from the buzz generated after the first season ended. I hope ep 2 kicks into a higher gear.

  2. Jutratest

    I felt that killing his brother was really an act of love for his sister, and that this would have changed him by opening him up to his humanity.

    That’s how I approached my spec last year and I feel pretty good about my Dexter estimating skills that they are taking Dex down that road too.

    I loved the image of him feeling his heart at the end.

    I do feel they fail to milk some good dramatic moments in ep 2, but you haven’t seen that yet so we won’t discuss.

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