So, I'm in the midst of episode 6 of the latest season of Dexter and as I roll my eyes about yet another worthless subplot involving the even more worthless supporting characters or the narrative voiceover that is the complete and utter opposite of subtle, I still found that I was really into the show itself. It got me thinking...when this show is gone, I'm really going to miss it. For all the litany of reasons I could rattle off as far as what the show does poorly, what keeps me coming back? Why, despite all of its flaws, do I love this? I decided to make a Pros and Cons list to try and sort it out. At some point, the Cons may take over, but let's go into this with a positive mindset.
Pro: Michael C. Hall. That's an easy one. I can't say he is definitely the best actor working in dramatic television (he's up there for sure), but is there anyone more valuable to the quality of their show? I'm consistently convinced from season to season that Michael C. Hall single-handedly elevates this show to another level. Without him, Dexter would struggle just to attain mediocrity.
Con: Every other supporting character. I don't know of a show on television that has a more poorly written and poorly acted ensemble than Dexter. Not a single subplot is interesting and only serves to take time away from what we want to watch anyway and that is of course, Dexter himself. Do you care about Deb's love life? Angel and LaGuerta's marriage? This is banal crap culled directly from soap operas. Making matters worse, they kill off any interesting (or least, tolerable) supporting characters they've ever had. The main guest stars notwithstanding (ice truck killer, Lila, Miguel, Trinity), people like Doakes and Lundy were at least fun and added another element to the show. So they get killed, but we're stuck with Quinn? Gee, thanks guys.
Pro: Suspenseful, engaging narrative. I will never toss many accolades Dexter's way when it comes to the art of writing, but goddamn, they know how to keep you on the edge of your seat and keep you engaged. Even in scenarios where for instance, Dexter is at a crime scene before the police arrive and he has a body in his car, you see Deb and Masuka rounding the corner as Dexter tries to stay out of sight. Obviously, if you have half a brain, it's not as if this scenario is going to end with all of Miami P.D. including Deb catching Dexter red-handed chopping up a body, BUT the way the show is written and the way they wring suspense out of these scenarios makes the tension run high and is very effective, especially for something that is a blatant red herring and offensive to the audience's intelligence. That's a minor example, but the show on the whole does a terrific job of making the main narrative each season compelling, even if we generally know how it's going to end.
Con: Voiceover. While it's difficult to picture Dexter without Michael C. Hall's monotone/sometimes sardonic voiceover narration, that doesn't mean it's a not major writing crutch and one of the more egregious examples of how the writers/show-runners behind Dexter really don't think much of its audience's intelligence. If part of the point of any sort of filmic art is to "show, don't tell" as much as possible, the voiceover in Dexter is especially offensive as its sole purpose seems to be captain fucking obvious and make ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY SURE that you know what the fuck is happening right here!!!
Pro: The music. Maybe I'm starting to reach a little here, but one of the things that occurred to me when I thought of how I really would miss Dexter once it's gone is that I really like the musical cues in the show. They're one of the few more subtle elements of the show and the directors have used them to good effect throughout the show's run. Generally, aesthetic elements are the things you first think of when looking back on a show and I think the music is Dexter's strongest aesthetic representative.
Con: No balls. Killing Rita at the end of season 4 was bold, but midway through season 5 now, I see it less as a game-changer than just an excuse to have a "shocking" ending for the sake of shock value and also to get rid of a character who had become increasingly annoying over the years (although I'm sure January Jones was psyched when it happened as she could finally take her rightful place at the throne of "most loathesome wife on television"). The fact that the death of Rita didn't really alter anything drastically from a functionality standpoint is no surprise. My biggest disappointment with Dexter as a whole is that it started out as a show that actually asked interesting questions about morality and was a fascinating character study, but has gradually morphed into a gussied-up police procedural where all kinds of intense, exciting things may happen within a season, but rest assured, the big baddie will die at the hands of Dexter, he won't get caught, and everything will work out okay. It never lived up to its potential (as I saw it anyway) and it pisses me off. It still has a great lead and from a purely visceral standpoint, it's as entertaining as anything on television, but I can't help but wonder how it would have turned out if it had a main creative force behind it (instead of a team of hack tv writers, not to mention Showtime producers) guiding it with a singular vision and if it was on HBO (or AMC).
At the end of the day, Dexter is like that hot, dumb girlfriend you can't break up with because even though she has a brain the size of a walnut, she still looks awesome in tank tops and likes to make you sandwiches, so there's something to be said for that.
And now...TV Power Rankings (and these are not permanent overall rankings, to understand the elaborate Power Ranking algorithm, just go back a few entries where I break it down) just for grins!
12) Bored to Death
10) It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
8) Modern Family
7) Sons of Anarchy
6) The Office
5) Boardwalk Empire
4) 30 Rock
3) The League
2) The Walking Dead
1) Eastbound and Down