Dexter: Season 2 review by Matt Fuerst


I think most folks today that watch a lot of TV probably imagine we are in an era of television renaissance. I was actually going to start my review here by simply flat out stating that we were in an era of television renaissance, but then I reflected that every television "generation", if you will, probably thinks their offerings are pretty "hot stuff" compared to the last one and looks down through their librarian glasses at the fools who were entertained by the low brow stuff that "used to be on". Thinking back to my younger days, I certainly recall people being in awe of early ER, and other hot new shows of that era (I am sure there were many others, none come to mind, mostly because I look down on the end of my nose on all generations that watch a lot of television). But, before ER I can imagine 40-somethings sitting around and watching like Hill Street Blues and 30-something and thinking "Wow, television has never been this good or sophisticated". Well, anyway, my point being that, yes, there are some good offerings on television these days. My personal feeling isn't that viewers or even producers are far more discriminating and selective, but that quite simply, so much content has to be produced, that some of the good stuff may actually dribble out of development into production by mere happenstance.

I'm told stuff like The Sopranos and Deadwood is amazing, and would personally vouch for shows like The Wire and (most of) The Shield. So, there, there's a few hundred hours of programming that was created in our decade. Not too shabby. My impression of the television show Dexter is that it's the little brother to the big boys. It's a show I perceive to be semi-popular; plenty popular enough to stay on the air, rabidly followed by a loyal group of viewers, but if I showed a photo of the protagonist to my fellow midwestern computer programmers at work I'd probably get some dumb looks. Still, I view this "under the radar" level of popularity a bonus. Who doesn't like a little bit of media that is all theirs to covet, and watch eventually enter the eye of the public and gain popularity? We all love saying "Hey, I was there on the ground floor". Hat tip to buddy and fellow Jackass Tom Blain for trying to get me to rent this obscure British thing called "The Office" well before the US version was on the air.

So, with a small amount of Internet hub-bub and positive murmurs motivating me, and through the magic of my favorite online DVD rental service, Netflix, I watched the first season of Dexter. And I was..... marginally entertained. I do completely realize that such a phrase as "marginally entertained" comes off sounding pretty harsh, but it's not nearly as bad as you imagine. See, 98% of television, to me at least, is mind-numbingly awful and immediately ignored (there I go, looking down upon all you little people watching television again). So if I am actually willing to tolerate your show, you are actually amongst rare air. Dexter season 1 did lots of things well. It had an intriguing pilot episode was both entertaining in and of itself, yet set up an arc for the season quite nicely. The overall storyline progressed nicely, while each episode had it's own self contained, for the most part, cleverly written storyline. The character himself, Dexter, was given more body in terms of background and monologues sharing his motivations. Well done. I rarely sat down eager to find out what was going to happen next, but when I found myself with 50 minutes to spare I fired the next episode off. Great for sitting in front of the telly, eating a sandwich and relaxing.

So the fine folks at the Dexter publicity team asked me if I was interested in Season 2, I said yes with very little hesitation. The Season 2 set is spread out over 4 discs, I figured it would take me a bit to work through the season, but I had plenty of lead time to get a review out. Season 2 managed to, fairly quickly, take the wind out of my sails for the Dexter Season 2 review project. The initial episode, in my opinion, almost took the audience for granted. And heck, maybe if you are coming back for more, you are actually hooked, no need to keep working. But I certainly was hoping for something akin to the actual pilot episode, adding some intrigue and mystery that will last the whole season, yet provide an entertaining story unto itself. Thus, quickly entering my super sensitive reviewer field-of-vision, is my first major complaint: Dexter Season 2 seems to abandon an interesting, cohesive, season long story. Don't get me wrong, there are a few threads laid bare early in the first few episodes which are still going on later in the year. But these threads fail the test when it comes to the first adjective above: interesting. The seemingly most important storyline, Dexter's attempt to sell himself as an "addict" to his girlfriend (while Dexter, a serial killer, is actually addicted to killing, his girlfriend thinks he's addicted to drugs) is downright obnoxious. Dexter's sponsor in his recovery program, a woman named Lila, on paper makes perfect sense. Dexter has an odd relationship with his girlfriend, a woman he loves in a dispassionate way, and throwing another female in the middle of his social teeter totter seems to be a good move. But once off paper, onto virtual celluloid or onto my television screen, it simply irritates. Her character irritates, the storyline irritates, the character revelations and shifts that Dexter goes through irritates. It really will have you grabbing for the controller.

The end of season 1 featured some revelations about Dexter's past, so I guess it is to be expected that additional development will occur on Dexter's past. And, sure as clockwork, every episode we see a young Dexter. Watching a 2 year old Dexter cry in a flashback is about as much fun as watching a 2 year old cry in person: it's not freaking fun/interesting/revealing/pleasing at all. But, lucky for us, we will see this flashback in every single episode. Sure, he just so happens to be sitting in a literal pool of blood, which does by you some bonus points for flair, but it's still a toddler crying. When I come across 2 year olds crying I stuff them in potato sacks and fill the sack with packing peanuts. I make it go away. I don't buy DVD's containing minute and minute of this footage hoping there's additional crying baby outtakes in the deleted scenes, or a crying baby goof reel. Man! I know I am harping on the crying baby flashback, and to be fair, there are additional flashbacks and these various younger-Dexter flashbacks do inspire Dexter to go rooting around in his mysterious past (he's got a serious case of selective amnesia and thankfully chooses to have it uncovered episode by episode, bit by bit) but none of these stories are particularly interesting, which go ahead and make the flashback sequences all the more grating. If a crying baby led to something awesome, maybe I'd be willing to tolerate it.

Ah, so, where was I? I've covered my distaste for the lack of a real story arc, hated the flashbacks, got that one. Oh yeah, my last complaint. Even if you removed all the things that I personally found interesting in the first season, at least we could have had a show with a serial killer doing his thing - serial killing. The Dexter character is an interesting enough one, sort of a more prolix Patrick Bateman (from American Psycho). While I don't think the actual killing aspect is the main part of the show, it is traditionally interesting enough to be something to look forward to in the show. Yet, the producers for Season 2 decided to further test my patience by deciding to make Dexter impotent for the first third of the season. Yes, that's right ladies and gentlemen, a show about a serial killer, where the serial killer goes emo. Dexter, feeling pent up and awful inside, goes home after a hard days work, spins some Coldplay on his overpriced iPod, and sips from an expensive bottle of Merlot.

Ok, that's stretching it a bit, but I am not lying about the impotence part. Showing ramifications from the occurrences at the end of Season 1, Dexter finds himself unable to actually kill. Again, on the surface, this seems like a good decision. It shows ramifications, a tight knit universe where actions have consequences. But, then you film an episode about a serial killer, where he is depressed because he can't kill, he meets an irritating woman with a British accident who is written to act irrational as a crutch for being in recovery and then throw in some grainy crying baby flashbacks and I find myself simply bored on the couch. I don't care, I just don't care.

As you can probably tell, I can't give Dexter Season 2 my ringing endorsement. The show wasn't on a high pedestal to begin with for me, and it certainly has fallen hard from it for me. At this point I barely have a passing interest in the further exploits of Dexter. As usual, I heard wonderful things about how great the season opener of season 3 is, which revived a faint pulse of interest in my loins, but then I recalled crying babies and I once again flatlined for Dexter.

3 out of 10 Jackasses
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