The original plan was to give you Dexter updates, slice by blood oozing slice, but other writing commitments precluded that, sadly. But as I’ve now seen the whole glorious intricate clockwork mechanism that was season two, I want to share some thoughts on this uniquely devious show. I’m going to keep it relatively spoiler free, because knowing various plot twists would certainly take away much of the edge, especially off the last four for five episodes.
In retrospect, the second Dexter story chain is essentially all about women, and their many wonderful and occasionally scary aspects. At one end of the spectrum with have the earnest Rita and the loyal but confused Maria. And at the other Rita’s control freak mother Gail, and the exceptionally frightening Lila, played by pouting British actress Jaime Murray. And somewhere in-between is Dexter‘s slightly dim and impulsive sister, Debra.
For at least the first six episodes it’s like Dexter becomes a human pinball, either brushing gently off cushioned edges, or being flipped violently into a full 180 degree change of course. Given how in control Dexter was through most of the first season, this wouldn’t have seemed plausible, if it hadn’t been for his distraction by the relentless pursuit of both Sergeant James Doakes and Special Agent Frank Lundy as they converge on his secret identity as the ‘Bay Harbour butcher’.
It’s only when Dexter tries to take back control that things get really out of hand, and he’s forced to confront the necessity of breaking his ‘code’ – only to kill bad people – or risk being exposed. Dexter’s not strong on ethics at the best of times, but a revelation about his adopted father Harry really complicates matters.
So who sells this tale of deception and dissection? The women are for the most part amazing, but special praise goes to Jaime Murray who pulls off the unhinged Lila in a deliciously bunny boiler fashion. I was very concerned her character would destabilise the show, but her appearance and the reactions of Rita and Debra’s characters to her injected some well needed tension.
But the total scene stealer of the season was a brilliant performance by Erik King as the tortured Doakes, who took a truly 2D character from season one and totally transformed him. It’s exactly this evolutionary dimension of this show that I most enjoy, because most TV programmes don’t develop their characters, as they’re scared they’ll take them places they’re not ready to go. In Dexter, all the major characters in season two are in a different place from where we found them (some in multiple places), nobody is allowed to remain untouched by events, even Dexter.
That gives me the impression that as a show, Dexter is certainly finite, so the writers are enjoying where it goes while it lasts. Yes, he’ll be carving his way through season three I’m told, but beyond that, who knows?
In terms of what came before, I think Dexter’s second outing tops the first. I just hope it isn’t one of those instances where in retrospect it might have been better to end on a high.
Season two rating: