I recently viewed the first four episodes of Showtime's Dexter, the show about a serial killer working as a forensics specialist in Miami. At first glance, this might seem like another attempt to tap into the American fascination with crime-scene dramas... there are so many (and too few are done well).
But the truth about Dexter is far more complex than a simple synopsis paragraph on the Netflix envelope. While not as groundbreaking as HBO's OZ, or as critically acclaimed as The Sopranos (a show I don't really like, or get), Dexter manages to bring a fresh, entertaining take on the world of crime, human instinct and depravity. Brilliantly brought to life by Michael C. Hall (IMDB here), Dexter is a complex, and yet somehow, still sympathetic main character. Despite the obvious character flaws (he kidnaps and then butchers his victims), Dexter manages to be easy to root for.
Michael C. Hall deftly brings layers and dimensions to the character making the ups and downs of the grisly (and sometimes sweet) storyline all that more believable. The supporting cast is outstanding, although not creatively cast - the cast of Dexteri is essentially the cast of HBO's OZ, reassembled. Hall devours every emotional morsel the script and situation call for, and is a little too believable as the serial killer next door. (And he looks great, finally free of the button-down, repressed look he sported on Six Feet Under.) I believe it says something about Hall's abilities and prowess as an actor, seeing the daring, deep roles he tackles.
The show features a voice-over narrative, which I'm not a big fan of - but it isn't the kind that makes the show unwatchable, like many episodes of Sex & The City. The show skillfully goes behind the masks we all wear in our day to day lives, and beneath the cool, calm exteriors protecting us and offering us the appearance of civility. I also feel the need to applaud the tasteful manner in which the guts and gore appear in the show. In the world of movies like Hostel and the Saw franchise, it would be easy (an unimaginative) to simply present a feast of blood and destruction. Instead, Dexter delicately and tastefully frames the violence and gore in a realistic, but never dry manner.