Tuesday, December 21, 2010

TV on DVD: Dexter (Season One, Discs Three & Four)

Episodes covered:  Father Knows Best, Seeing Red, Truth Be Told, Born Free

I'm done with Dexter.

This isn't because I particularly disliked the last several episodes of season one.  On the contrary, these were probably the most compelling episodes of the show to this point.  I would even say that the season finale, "Born Free," in which Dexter races to free his sister from the Ice Truck Killer's clutches, is a very strong episode of television.  "Born Free" has a much stronger sense of momentum than the rest of season one's episodes, and the demands of the plot allow the series to play up its strengths (Michael C. Hall, the twisted superhero and supervillain origins of Dexter and the Ice Truck Killer) while downplaying its weaknesses (every character not named Dexter).

But the things that make "Born Free" and, to a lesser degree, the other episodes on these discs relatively effective don't give me any hope that the show is going to get better in later seasons.  The writers haven't addressed the series' many flaws so much as briefly hidden them while wrapping up season one's major storyline.  Looking back at my  review of disc one, I realize that the show hasn't done anything to change my mind about any aspect of the show.  A few of the characters are in superficially different places than they were at the beginning of the season, but none of them have become any more complicated or compelling.  If anything, the supporting characters have only become more boring as we've seen them each repeat their one or two character traits ad naseum.  Yes, Rita has finally started to suspect that Dexter may be too good to be true, and Doakes now appears to be actively stalking Dexter instead of just acting suspicious around him, and LaGuerta has been demoted, but these are all plot elements that could've explored during this season when the show was wasting time on generic police procedural plots.  All of these developments feel too little, too late.  The gulf between the daring, dark, ever-evolving series that Dexter could be and the timid, lightweight, formulaic show it actually is seems wider than ever.

Quick Thoughts:

- I realize that first seasons of TV shows tend to be a little rocky, and that virtually every long-running show improves from its humble beginnings.  But the consensus seems to be that Dexter's first season is the show at its best, and I just can't justify putting in the time commitment to continue watching a lengthy series that at its "best" is merely pretty good.

- For all of its flaws, Dexter is at least one of the best looking shows on television.  Romeo Tirone's eye-poppingly colorful cinematography, mixed with the photogenic Miami location, puts Dexter in the same league as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Boardwalk Empire visually, even if most of the other aspects of the show aren't nearly that strong.

- Early next year, I'll get back to watching The Shield, which will probably remain the focus of the TV on DVD posts through next summer.

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