David and Darla shine in the brilliantly plotted, character driven, perfectly cast and uniquely toned first season of Dexter. The character of Dexter Morgan could not be further from Michael C. Hall’s famous role as David Fischer on Six Feet Under; while David was golden hearted yet socially awkward, Dexter is a charismatic sociopath. It’s a true testament to Hall’s genius that he masters the portrayal of both men.
Meanwhile, Dexter’s girlfriend Rita (a damaged and innocent victim of domestic abuse) is sympathetically played by none other than Julie Benz whose most famous role as Darla, the vampire vixen on Angel, couldn’t have been less detectable. Rita could have easily become a tedious chore of a character but the subtle strength that Benz brought to the role saved her.
Jennifer Carpenter is incredibly endearing as Dexter’s sister Deb. Carpenter strikes the perfect balance of tough edge and tender emotion, making Deb one of the series’ most intriguing characters.
In fact, the casting is only one of the perfect things about Dexter: the character writing is dead on, each character speaking in a unique voice and supporting all their actions with true motivations; the plotting is fantastic, the ice truck killer mystery was a very Dexter-ish combination of intriguing and disturbing; the direction and production of the show is flawless, everything from the opening credit sequence to the colour palette to the musical score to the detailed props, costumes and set dressing reflects the tone of the show perfectly.
With all this in mind, I would like to point out the one and only flaw in the whole first season… Was there anyone alive who didn’t know who the killer was the second we met him? I spent hours and hours shouting “he’s going to kill you” at the screen before the first really big twist was purposefully revealed to the audience. I still found the killer intriguing and liked how the plot unfolded but is it too much to ask that the identity of the killer not be obvious? Whether this problem existed because the writers dropped the ball on their subtle foreshadowing, because the director miscalculated the intelligence of the audience or because the actor simply gave off a “don’t trust me” vibe I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I’m officially tired of this growing trend of predictability (see the Lost finale: gee, I wonder how Sawyer will get off that helicopter. Wouldn’t it be romantic if he jumped to save Kate? Not before he whispers something cryptic in her ear though… duh). Smart shows should not let smart characters be stupider than the audience- it’s just not cool.
On all other counts, though, Dexteris the definition of cool and I forgave the aforementioned misstep when the season finale proved scintillating and surprising at every moment. The final ice truck killer twists shocked me yet didn’t seem out of the blue at all (like many of television’s “shocking’ twists) and made sense of the road that we’d been confusedly following the entire season.