I recently bought Season 1 of Dexter in an attempt to finally find a show worthy of replacing The Sopranos as my number one TV drama obsession. Boy, did I find it. Despite taking a few episodes to really get going, Dexter unfolds superbly, bringing its many plot twists together to form a tightly woven package with highly skilled performances and excellent writing.
The central performance of Michael C. Hall is always riveting, as this compelling actor enables us to understand, and even sympathize with, his many predicaments. His attempts to juggle his carefully-constructed, idyllic domestic life with his code-driven nightly stalkings and executions form the central interest of this enthralling series. This is one of the great many reasons why The Sopranos was so impressive; watching Tony struggle with the demands of fulfilling his dual familial role of father and mob boss was the essence of the series, and from this, other strands were allowed to develop. Dexter also has this quality, one of many qualities, it must be added.
The writing, as has been mentioned, is razor-sharp. The characters are rich and alive with personality, and as the first series develops so too do the character arcs. Lieutenant LaGuerta and Dexter's sister Deborah, in particular, are well-rounded, multi-dimensional creations, and they are played to perfection by Lauren Velez and Jennifer Carpenter, respectively. There is a palpable sense of tension and excitement as the walls begin to close in on Dexter, and this reaches boiling point in Season 2. The plot is never less than intriguing, and careful and intelligent use of flashbacks allow us to gradually learn more and more about the monster(?) that is Dexter. The editing and camera-work keep a good pace to proceedings, and the lighting is always excellent, especially in the disturbing night scenes.
The impressive opening sequence is particularly noteworthy in its use of extreme close-ups that show a man doing seemingly normal, everyday tasks to put himself together, but if one looks beyond these mundanities a much darker picture will be revealed. The music is eerily effective here, and maintains a high level of quality throughout - always tense, and evocative of the given situation.
So: uniformly excellent acting, sharp dialogue, well-developed characters, intelligent plotting, creative and absorbing camera-work, and a deliciously dark humour make Dexter one of the best shows on TV right now, and further proof that the last 10 years has been the golden age for dramatic television.
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