Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What a carve-up

In between oceans of self-regard, delusions as a serious writer and just plain good ol’ staring out the window, I occasionally deign to view some of the televisual efforts of our colonial cousins in a bid to give them a little encouragement and a patronising pat on the back for at least trying...

This week’s worthy eyefest that’s been on my monitor is the gloriously put-together DEXTER, and is truly, monumentally fabulous.

A riveting and compelling central performance by Six Feet Under’s Michael C Hall as the eponymous protagonist - an amiable Miami police forensics expert specialising in blood-spatter analysis, who also happens to be a spare-time serial killer. He has an uncanny knack for spotting those who are “like him” or who have slipped through the net of justice (other serial killers, child molesters, rapists) in society and has chosen to spend his time removing them from the gene pool in a spectacularly understated, yet chilling fashion. Having been adopted as a child and raised by an honourable cop who saw the potential in the young man for murder, Dexter works to a strict and well-defined code of rules. Without falling at any step into noticeable cliché, this makes for a truly fascinating character without portraying him as a monster. How bizarre...

Accompanying Hall are a great ensemble cast, who aren’t just there as backdrop material. Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter’s sister Debra (a homicide cop), lacking the confidence in her own abilities to take her up to the role of detective, is constantly tapping Dexter for clues and help with her cases.

Erik King’s powerful and intense Sergeant Doakes relies on the work of the forensics crew, but trusts Dexter about as far as he could spit a battleship. There are also some great revelations about and for him as the series progresses. Doakes doesn’t like Dexter one little bit, finding his fascination with his work more than a tad creepy.

Dexter’s complicated and multi-layered boss, Lt. Laguerta (Laren Veléz) has definitely got irons in fires she shouldn’t have. Politically ambitious, she has a touch of the David Aceveda from The Shield about her. Fascinating.

Another member of the forensics squad is Angel Batista, played by David Zayas who has the same magnetic watchability as Jean Reno, different in approach to the work from Dexter, yet thorough and played with a light, deft touch. Three episodes in and I already want to know as much about the “supporting” characters as I do about Dexter.

Though the show is narrated in great part by Hall, illuminating the workings of Dexter’s mind, this doesn’t have the intrusive feel of, say, Harrison Ford’s narration of Blade Runner.

Congratulations and kudos obviously go to Jeff Lindsay, the Florida-based crime writer who came up with the character in the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but a huge shout-out must also go to those people involved in the commissioning, screenwriting and production of the show. It’s got a distinct visual style of its own, without having to rely too heavily on style over content, it has a well-crafted narrative and some great moments of dark humour, it’s got some serenely understated performances from a great cast and it has the ability to reference other genre shows and films without ripping them off.

More than anything though, it has taken some chances and is more fuel for the theory that “no-one in this town knows anything” with regard to what will work and what won’t.
“Guys? I have a great idea for a show. The central character is a serial killer, but a kind of good one.”


“Guys? Hello?”

“Anyone there?”

Marvellous! And they’ve already commissioned Season Two - excellent! Trebles all round!


At 5:40 pm, Blogger wcdixon said...

Nice review. It is good, isn't it? As McGrath put so well last week...they've moved the goalposts with this one. But it all comes down to execution. Well I guess it starts with someone having the idea and then someone at a network (Showtime) hearing pitch and seeing something there. But I still don't know of any network who if they didn't just flat out pass, wouldn't say: "It depends on how it's executed."

At 2:51 am, Blogger Caroline said...

I just got the books the series was based on and they are going to be my treat for Christmas break. Apparently the storylines have been very faithful so all will be revealed to me soon! (evil laugh)

I feel vindicated since initially DMc mocked for saying I had a crush on Dexter. Harumph.


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