Nomadreaderboy and I have finished season one of Dexter. It's absolutely worth watching, as it is unlike any other show on television. It's not brilliant, but it is certainly captivating. The show certainly has the potential to be brilliant, and I hope season two will prove my hunch.
Going in, I heard two things about the show: it's the best show on television and it's about a serial killer. It's not the best show on television. In fact, the first half of the season is better than the second half. The build-up and tension were delightful, but the answers to the questions were unsatisfying, partially mundane and a little silly. I'm more than willing to suspend my disbelief, but I was completely unprepared to do so. The first half of the season was hyper realistic, almost to the point of uncomfortability at times. (It is a realistic portrayal of a serial killer after all).
Dexter was based on a novel, now a series of novels, and the conclusion of the season-long case seemed like a mediocre first novel with promise. It was a compelling story, but it hit ridiculously close to home for the main character. It seems, in my mystery-reading experience, the first book of a series usually involves a very personal case where the main character's survival is in doubt. Except the reader knows it will become a franchise, and the plot device is predictable.
I'm curious to read the novels as a point of comparison as well as enjoyment. It seems plausible the twelve-episode season could have been a literal depiction of a novel. A novel is a beautiful inspiration for a television show rather than a movie, but I'd like to see the show's writers and producers transcend the novel's influence and fully utilize the genre of television. It's time to transform Dexter into what it could be.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of watching this at times brilliant series was its depiction of women. The show features three female characters: Lt. Laguerta, Dexter's girlfriend Rita, and his sister Debra. All three are incompetent and not nearly as intelligent as their male counterparts. Debra continuously turns to Dexter for advice as she adjusts to working homicide. She's almost comically emotional at times. Rita can't seem to do anything on her own for most of the season, although she starts to realize her own strength and intelligence by the season finale. Every decision she makes includes a call to Dexter. Lt. Laguerta seems to singlehandedly take the blame for police incompetence and exhibits a bizarre combination of media whoredom and unsavvyness; she is the antithesis of Dexter. I find it difficult to believe she is truly the only incompetent member of the Miami police force. I don't mind portrayals of incompetent and unintelligent women outright, but I definitely mind when all the female characters exhibit these traits when none of the men do.
The first season of Dexter lays the groundwork for a much improved and more satisfying season two. All of Dexter's secrets and background have been exposed for the viewer. The supporting cast of characters have been fleshed out. Michael C. Hall's performance was top-notch, and he gets this character in such a complete way I'm perhaps most eager to see his performance get even better.
Rating: 3 stars for the first half (loved it)/ 2 stars for the second half (liked it)
Bottom line: It's worth watching, both for the premise and Michael C. Hall's performance, but it's not the best show on television. Any program as original as Dexter is worth watching.