Dexter: Season 4
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Dexter: Season 4

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A television series about a middle class family is nothing new. Shows of this basic theme have been a staple on the tube for just about half a century now. even if you add the little twist like a blended family consisting of a second husband, a couple of kids from the previous marriage and a new baby cementing the recent marriage there are still a plethora of examples of this type to draw upon. That is unless the family happens to be part of the line-up on the Showtime premium cable network. This network has built its reputation on being cutting edge, pushing the envelope past anything permissible on conventional broadcast stations. Considering this any show on this network may be about a family but hardly what most would consider family friendly. The case in point is the fourth season of Showtime’s flagship original series; ‘Dexter’. This series does have the hard working parents and occasionally difficult kids plus there are the usual scenes about the impact of a new baby but that is pretty much where the similarity ends. By day Dexter is a blood splatter forensic expert for the Miami Dade police department by at night he sneaks away from the wife and kids, not for some sordid affair but for a far more nefarious purpose. Dexter happens to be one of the most prolific serial killers in history. Naturally, his wife, sister and co-workers are clueless about Dexter’s little past time but the end result is yet another season of one of the best pieces of television you are likely to find. This show remains steadfast in its twisted goal to have you cheering for a psychopathic killer. I really don’t think that Jack the Ripper or the Son of Sam had to remember to bring home diapers after carving up a victim but for Dexter this season he had to face the usual concerns of being a serial killer such as detection with the far more identifiable problems facing a new husband and father.

The series is roughly based on the best selling series of novels by Jeff Lindsay but unlike the first season the story arcs depicted in the television rendition have diverged to a significant degree from the books. This is not to say the script writers have diminished the quality of these stories one iota. I’m a fan of both versions; print and TV and the only difference is in the method of presentation. Both are excellent crime thrillers that will keep you literally on the edge of your seat. The writing here is as fresh and suspenseful as the very first season. Even with a major change in the direction of the show and the situations for the characters there are absolutely no signs of this series slowing down. The central set of characters is the source of the amazing resiliency displayed here. Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall) is a man devoid of the normal human emotional responses. The etiology of this condition dates back to when he was an extremely young child and witnessed the brutal dismemberment of his mother by drug dealers. For days he sat in a transport container drenched in his mother’s blood. His older brother was also there and he too became a serial killer. The only thing that helped Dexter was being adopted by the police officer that found him, Harry Morgan (James Remar). Realizing he was powerless to stop Dexter’s deadly obsession Dexter was given the ‘code of Harry’; a set of rules to prevent being caught and most importantly to only murder those who have committed heinous crimes that the law cannot address. Now with a biological son of his own, Harrison, Dexter is forced to face the age old question of nature versus nurture. He worries that he will inherit the murderous family business. Dexter never thought that he was capable of love but he has developed feelings for his wife, Julie (Julie Benz) and her two kids; Astor (Christina Robinson) and Cody (Preston Bailey). Previously the closet he ever came to a human attachment was with his adopted sister Debbie (Jennifer Carpenter).

This season Dexter faces a particular nasty serial killer dubbed ‘The Trinity Killer’ by FBI field agent Frank Lundy (Keith Carradine). Lundy had a serious relationship with Debbie so when he gets too close and is murdered she picks up the hunt making it a personal vendetta. This conflicts with Dexter’s need to deal with him in his own special way. He find the Trinity Killer is Arthur Mitchell (John Lithgow) when Dexter discovers Arthur has been murdering all over the country for many years while holding down a job and family Dexter defers his execution in order to get close to him. He needs to find out how Arthur was able to kill, elude capture and work around his family for so long. Many may think of Lithgow primarily as a comedic actor but this season demonstrates the man is a superb actor who renders a chilling performance here. The fundamental story arc is a tightly crafted cat and mouse game between deadly adversaries with each needing the other dead. As Dexter probes deeper into the origins and methodology he discovers that they are uncomfortably a lot alike. Behind the scenes a lot went on this season. Series stars Hall and Carpenter got married and Hall successfully fought a bout with cancer. Fortunately the series has already begun production of season five which promises to continue the tradition of excellence. Hall is an incredible actor who can covey the change between the public, happy go lucky Dexter with the stone cold killer using only facial expressions and subtle alteration in the look of his eyes. He has a command of his body language and a commanding stage presence that is remarkable to watch. Even with Hall surrounded by this extremely talented cast he shines brightly.

Posted 08/08/2010

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