I almost want to leave it at that, but a) that wouldn’t really tell you very much about this episode, and b) that would rob me of the opportunity to have a damned good rant. So I’ll carry on.
If the first episode of Dexter threw the viewer in at the deep end by opening mid-slaughter, the second stands next to a life-saver, then points and laughs as its audience drowns in nonsense. There is a hell of a lot going on in this episode: the Ice Truck Killer storyline progresses as he makes it clear he knows who Dexter is (and where he lives); Dexter breaks up with his pseudo-girlfriend, then gets back together with her; Dexter goes to watch a horribly manipulative drink-driving court case; a Miami cop is murdered, as are the two prime suspects; Dexter’s sister has some kind of pointless crisis, and, oh yeah, did we manage to remember that Dexter’s a sociopath who kills bad guys? Because he is, you know.
Reading back over that paragraph, is there any reason at all that it all had to happen in the space of one episode? It’s not a lot of time to pack in as much as the writers seem to want to. Which is probably what’s at the root of the problem: everything is told to the viewer, rather than shown. There’s not enough time to do things properly, so instead they race through it all – making sure Dexter has enough of an expository voice-over that no-one gets left behind.
What does get left behind is the audience’s ability to sympathise with any of the characters, because we’re not given a chance to get to know them at all. There have been a couple of running jokes set up, but since we’re only on episode 2, you’d think they’d be emerging slowly. Nope – they’re labelled up in a couple of clunky bits of dialogue, so you know they’re going to become running jokes. It’s exasperating, the way this series is spoonfeeding itself to you; rather than showing you something and letting you figure out that it’s relevant, or letting you find out the relevance next week, they just go ahead and write a line telling you. Do they really think we’re that stupid?
My other gripe, thus far, is with Michael C. Hall himself. I’d seen pictures of him as Dexter before I read the book, so my mental image of Dexter isn’t vastly different – and I should stress, once again, that the book really isn’t very good at all – but there’s something wrong about the way Dexter is portrayed. He’s supposed to be this hyper-intelligent, cool, calm and collected type that charms his way through life despite never actually feeling anything for the people he’s charming, with a misplaced sense of justice and an ever-present barely-restrained urge to kill. I can just about deal with that, if Hall were trying in any way to portray him as such.
Instead, he shouts and fusses and says stupid things to the wrong people; shouts at his victims with enough feeling that his voice becomes a gutteral roar and – oh yeah, his voice. Michael C. Hall doesn’t have the right voice. He’s not smarmy enough, somehow. He’s too… rubbish. I just can’t buy that he’s persuasive enough that no-one has noticed what he’s up to. Instead, I seem to be being asked to believe that the Miami police force is comprised of a pack of idiots so incompetent they can’t spot the serial killer in their midst. Not quite the same thing, is it?
Hall is too deadpan, too. It is perfectly possible to be deadpan, to speak in a monotone voice, and still tell a joke. Hall isn’t doing that; he sucks the humour out of the few lines the writers managed to squeeze it into. The line about the search warrant is actually sort of funny, if you write it down and look at it, but the way Hall delivers it, it’s just throwaway dialogue. Which isn’t something this series is good at, at all.
Sigh. Same time next week?More Dexter on Den of Geek: