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Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Dexter seems nice enough. He’s got a nice job, a nice pad, a nice life. But it’s all a convenient cover for his not-so-nice hobby—killing people. Then he dismembers their bodies and dumps them in the harbor. He’s a serial killer driven by a hunger he can’t understand and a lust for blood he refuses to deny. So does it matter that he only kills other killers?

Born on the premium cable channel Showtime (and having occasionally aired over to CBS), Dexter has been among the most talked-about shows on television for its eight controversial seasons. The show probes the mind of a killer and checks for a pulse, too. And year after year, the questions are the same: Is the guy a human or a monster? Does he fill a societal need, or does he merely feed his own horrific impulses? Does he love, or does he only think he can?

And now that the Showtime show has entered its final season, another question comes into play: Will Dexter ultimately get away with murder? With 130 murders (and counting, according to

No matter the answer, TV is now awash in a multitude of other murderous TV programs (like  Hannibal and The Following) because of Dexter. It inspired a horde of charismatic killers on the small screen—and helped pry open the doors to a world of telegenic gore unheard of just a decade ago.

Not amused by such a proliferation, the Parents Television Council’s president, Tim Winter, said, “The broadcast industry must grasp the significance of the role it plays by desensitizing and validating violent and unlawful behavior.” And that’s not an overstatement. Dexter doesn’t just ask audiences to like a serial killer. It compels them to.

“Some people express a sense of guilt that they are drawn to the show,” Dexter star Michael C. Hall told USA Today. “Maybe the guilt is more intense because they find themselves identifying with and liking the guy.”

Why? Well, to start with, Dexter is instilled with a twisted sense of right and wrong in that he only kills folks who “deserve” it: rapists, pedophiles, drunk drivers who literally got away with murder. And he’s generally encouraged to do so—first by his father, then by Dr. Evelyn Vogel, who believes that he is a “perfect” psychopath. She encourages Dexter to embrace his talents and stop pretending to care for other people. He should leave his humanity behind, she tells him. And so Dexter, like a blood-soaked Pinocchio, seems torn between being a puppet to his own hungers and becoming a real boy, a real human.

It’s a provocative show, then, one that’s designed to make us question our own notions of good and evil. But take away the sharp writing and challenging moral ambiguity and Dexter turns out to be little more than a gussied up extension of the  Saw movies. The hero here does monstrous things. The fact that he thinks while he dispatches other monsters doesn’t change that.

Episode Reviews

Dexter: 7-14-2013

“What’s Eating Dexter Morgan?”

Dexter and Dr. Vogel continue to search for the Brain Surgeon, a serial killer who could destroy them both. Their next suspect is a mall fitness salesperson who butchers people and cooks them up for dinner. Dexter breaks into the man’s house and finds a finger-filled stew simmering in a Crock-pot, Tupperware containers full of organs and a brain marinating in garlic sauce. He’s not the Brain Surgeon, but Dexter captures him anyway, ties him down with cling wrap and reaches for a knife before the camera cuts away. (We hear the ensuing scream).

A corpse is found with the back of its head blown off. (We see the gaping hole.). Vogel is sent two pieces of the man’s brain.

Dexter’s sister Debra (who knows about his habits) has been a wreck from the guilt after she killed someone to protect Dexter’s identity (last season). She’s drinking a lot and is nearly arrested for DUI; Quinn helps her wriggle free. She again gets drunk and staggers into the police station to make a full confession. Dexter, with Vogel’s help, drugs Deb and whisks her away.

We see graphic images of a bare-breasted woman having sex with a man in a car. Pictures of the act are then shown to the man’s wife. Another couple has sex in bed. The f-word is uttered more than 20 times and the s-word four or five. We also hear “a‑‑” and “p‑‑‑y.” Jesus’ and God’s names get abused three or four times each.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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