Dark knight

Dexter, darling, you're killing us softly with slaughter
Butcher beloved

TV EYED You know a show has gotten under your skin when it begins to trigger nightmares. That's the case with Showtime's Dexter, now winding up its third season after building, with frustrating slowness, its intertwined partnership narratives revolving around serial killer-turned-crime fighter Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall). Dexter was carefully trained by his adopted hero-cop father to blend in, closet his antisocial blood-thirsty desires, and channel those murderous impulses toward bad apples who slip the scales of justice. Sounds like another "post-racial," pro-assimilation narrative cluttered with Twilight and True Blood vampires looking for acceptance?

As developed from the 2004 novel by Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the series does wink at the unsavory secret history of superheroes: the difference between, say, Batman and Dexter is that the latter obviously gets off on his kills. Luckily the Miami Metro Police abounds with murderers within and without, although, Dexter, for all his sinister smarts, doesn't seem to be self-aware enough to realize that his redemptive retraining and repurposing could be applied to the evildoers he so methodically destroys.

The nightmares enter the picture by way of the crack writing and insinuating acting — particularly by Hall, the golden boy with dead eyes, who was also so adept at unpeeling his character's layers as Six Feet Under's dutiful gay conservative, and Jennifer Carpenter, who portrays his impulsive police officer sister, Debra, and rolled her cubist eyes to queasy effect in the title role of 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose. As for Dexter — so busy holding down a job as a blood-spatter forensic specialist at Miami Metro and solving crimes in order to satisfy his blood lust — is there a more untrustworthy narrator on television?

This season centers on Dexter's continuing trust issues in the form of two partnerships that threaten to rock his world: his upcoming nuptials to damaged but increasingly grounded, pregnant girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz) and his accelerating friendship with Miguel Prado (Jimmy Smits), an ambitious, charismatic assistant district attorney who thinks Dexter has done him the favor of stabbing his brother's murderer, and seems to understand his needs. Their closeness develops to the point where Dexter mentors Miguel in his first righteous kill, but there's more to Miguel than meets the eye — leave it to the cutthroat lawyer to really give it his so-called bleeding-heart-liberal public defender nemesis as the series teases out and critiques some of the politically conservative undertones of its quasi-pro-capital-punishment narrative. While the pregnant Rita satisfies her hunger pangs with chocolate at home, it appears that Dexter has created another monster of his own.


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