Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Vigilante with a Face

**Spoiler included**

I was first introduced to the world of Dexter by my brother who religiously tuned in every night at eleven to watch the opening credits of a TV serial where a man wakes up from his sleep after thwacking a mosquito, he shaves, a cut causes a drop of blood to fall on the sink, it then shifts to showing him prepare his breakfast as he slices pieces of meat and breaks an egg to make an omelet, he prepares coffee and cuts a blood orange with a knife, after which he flosses his teeth with the force exerted visible as his fingers turn pink. It might seem like a normal morning routine of an average Joe, at the end of which they introduce you to the average Joe, but as he slips on his t-shirt and looks back at you with a glare­– so nonchalant, so effortless, yet so hostile, you realize that this man is not any Joe Schmoe. Initially I never lasted beyond the opening credits, because I could never understand the mechanics behind Dexter’s functioning.

“So what is this Dexter guy?”

“He’s a serial killer.” My brother says.

“So he is the bad guy?”

 “He is not a bad guy, he only kills the bad guy”

 “The cops don’t find him?”
“They can’t because he works for the cops” he says

“What! He is a police officer too?”

“No, he is a blood splatter analyst.”

“So he is a Hero? Or a villain?”

“You need to watch it to understand it all” he says with a tone that was running out of patience answering my questions.

It was when another friend of mine coaxed me into watching Dexter did everything start making sense to me. I now realized why my brother had changed his display picture on Facebook to Dexter, on why he quoted random lines from the TV show and updated his Facebook status raving about Dexter’s genius. I much like my brother had slowly turned into a fanboy.

Based on Jeff Lindsay’s novel “Darkly Dreaming Dexter”, the T.V series shows us the life of Dexter Morgan, a man who works in the forensics team of the Miami Police Department by day and turns into a serial killer by night. He avenges those who have slipped through the system and have gotten away with their crime. The demons residing in him or the “Dark Passenger" as he likes to call the beast within him is hidden from public eye as he masquerades himself as a responsible family man.

With every passing season we see Miami the “Sunshine State” being terrorized by the “Big Bad”, a serial killer on the loose. With the Miami police hot on its heels chasing the bad guy, it is upto Dexter to strike before the police get to him. Why wouldn’t he let the police do their job you ask? It’s because Dexter believes in his own brand of justice for he is a Hero without a mask, a vigilante with a face. He wears no mask because the last image he wants his victim to see is that of Dexter chopping his limbs. He makes his victim lie on a board naked with the photos of those he terrorized hung on the walls as a reminder of the sins committed. His ritual calls for him to take a sample of blood from the victim’s cheek which he stores in a slide which is safely deposited in a box that is hidden within an LG air-conditioner in his home. There are some who curse and scream at him trying to intimidate him and then there are some who weep out of regret hoping Dexter changes his mind, but once you are on that board there is no going back.

When you check out the message board at Dexter’s IMDB page there have been accusations of the show following a same pattern.  You tend to ask yourself the same question when Dexter follows the same template somewhere between seasons. You wonder how come he gets so much time to snoop around for the killer? You ask how is it that every information of what he needs to know about a suspect is found by just punching some keys? How is it that he never gets caught whilst chopping down the Big Bad in some rundown storehouse? How is it that he gets away following the same modus operandi ? How come nobody notices a man dumping down severed body parts into the Gulf Stream in the dead of the night? Dexter by no means is the most perfect crime drama going around, when you read between the lines you would find flaws aplenty, but what it takes to believe in a Hero is the Suspension of disbelief.

We know that in the real world the good would not win over evil all the time, we have seen killers in real life walking free, rapists walk away with a gumption that they can strike back again and nobody can do anything about it, terror attacks occur with no one to diffuse the bomb at the last moment, planes are hijacked with no one inside to thwart the plans of the hijackers. There are times when the world is at the mercy of mad men, it is then when we wish for a Hero to live amidst us, we all look up to a Batman, but when we get one we end up questioning his methods. We question about his morals and his principles, because you see it is easy to be a villain, to function without any code. We accept them for what they are because they are the bad guys, and it is OK for them to do whatever they want. They can kill a child, they can rape a mother of two­–we accept it for they are villains with no code. But when a Hero delivers his vengeance by slaying the villain we question the Hero’s methods.

It is only in a fictional world that a Hero can beat the villain every time, for what good is a fiction where the Good does not prevail over Evil? No matter how battered or bruised the Hero is we know that deep within him there is still that ounce of energy for one knockout punch. The decisive one.  Dexter has his code–a set of rules laid down by his adopted father Harry, thus the name Harry’s code, a set of do’s and don’ts that differentiates Dexter from the villains. There comes a time when a hero loses faith in himself and begins to question the purpose of his fight against evil, it is during such times of mental distress do they turn to their guiding force. Much like Alfred who plays the father figure to Batman, or Aunt May / Uncle Ben to Spiderman, we have the wizened Harry play that Supernatural Aid to Dexter who gives him advice which helps him adhere to the code whenever his judgment is clouded.

On the outside Dexter may seem to follow the same pattern of catching the killer, it is that age old battle of good versus evil. But here the Hero you root for is someone who is incapable of displaying his emotions. He fakes his feelings to be accepted amidst his friends and colleagues as a normal human being, he shares doughnuts, listens to the problems of others, lives to be someone who he actually is not. He is not our regular fictional Hero for whom emotion is a driving force to fight evil, he works on a cold-blooded instinct to feed his need to kill, to quench his lust for blood. It is in this search for his prey does Dexter find new experiences and untapped feelings, those missing pieces of emotions when put together makes him feel human.

--------Here be the Spoilers-------

With every new season comes a new challenging adversary, the search for whom shapes up his beliefs and his principles. Every drop of blood shed from Dexter’s blade etches a new line of philosophy, his own ideology, if in Season 1 he kills his own estranged brother to protect his adopted sister–which shows his allegiance to his adopted family, in Season 2 we see him hunted down by his own department, in Season 3 he kills his own best friend, which makes him question if his dark secret is worth sharing at all. In Season 4 the most riveting of all seasons, he hunts down a serial killer named Trinity that ends up with bloody consequences. In Season 5 we see him get over the aftermath of losing his wife and in the process, learn to share his secret with Lumen whom he goes on to help exact her own revenge. And in the latest Season 6 we see his identity being revealed to his sister when he is caught in the act.

I find it hard to imagine anyone other than Michael C. Hall who could have played Dexter so convincingly. Be it playing a doting father or a ruthless serial killer Hall’s brooding intensity coupled with his likableness is what makes you feel connected to Dexter, you forget all those plotholes and jarring goof-ups for one hour and root for Dexter to evade his colleagues and get to the killer before they could. Being a movie junkie I would only be lying if I said that there are no characters in cinema to which I do not display a certain degree of partiality, the same goes with a television serial, you end up watching a TV series for long there comes a time when they cross those boundaries between real and reel life and create their own space within your mind. It could be those characters from Lost or that group of friends from that sitcom called Friends, all it takes for the line to blur between fiction and reality is some great writing.  And much like that bold caption in the Season 6 trailer I had turned into a believer in Dexter.


karthick r said...

Nice da.
I watch it just for Dexter's narrative. the rest of it - way too predicatable.
And what's with this Debra chick huh?
Either she cries all the time or she does this

standford said...

I loved that IE had all the various colored tabs! i would like that on chrome.

standford said...

loved that IE had all the various colored tabs! i would like that on chrome.

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Dr Roshan R said...

my personal fav seasons were season 1 and the trinity killer season.. I was frankly looking forward to the season 6 because of all the potential for religious overtures and Dexter, but I felt they underutilised it a lot.. was disappointed in the end..