Classic Intel: Dexter - Season One - DVD Review

'the cliffhangers are here but they're never faux-dramatic enough to pull the rug out from under you, just before the credits role'

Dexter encounters a conundrum a few episodes into its first season. Its a conundrum many a TV series and films have encountered before and the test of their quality, of their understanding of the Police and Whoodunit sub-genres, is how well they manage it. The conundrum is, of course, to do with the reveal of the villain. At what point can you let your audience know who it is, but not your characters? Should you do that at all? Can you maintain the mystery and suspense you've built up to this point without the need for overtly annoying cliffhangers and constantly twisting reveals?

The indicator to the first season's quality then is just how well Dexter answers all of those questions. The reveal of Season One's villain, The Ice Truck Killer, happens at about the half way point but manages to retain some questions until the very last episode; you come to know who he is but how much about him and his actions do you really understand before the finale? The cliffhangers are here but they're never faux-dramatic enough to pull the rug out from under you, just before the Showtime credits role. The typical-for-TV, ever-changing, Directors keep things uniform, with the presence of the man who kicked the series off, Michael Cuesta, returning at several moments in the twelve episode run.

The only non-uniform bits of the show are its use of colour, which moves from the jocular and comic-book like in the first episode (Dexter), to the mundane and drab by the time you get to, say, episode seven (Circle of Friends). The parallels with a superhero are clear but it looks like the production team couldn't decide whether to accentuate them or not; at times Dexter (Michael C. Hall) lives in a glowing colour bowl, at others he's just a guy with a weird secret. Elsewhere, there are some story wrinkles that grate too. A sub-plot between Dokes (Erik King) and a mob boss (Rudolf Martin) goes absolutely nowhere and the focus on the police politicking, mainly following LaGuerta (Lauren VĂ©lez) belongs in another series, one more concerned with traditional police work.

When the focus is back on serial killer/cop Dexter though, the series shines. There's imagery drawn from The Shining, amongst other Classic Horror, and the limits to which Dexter's first season goes, does push anything else on TV which claims it is looking at the genre, particularly given this first aired in 2006. The conclusion (which notably returns to cartoon colours during the final scene) is satisfying and closed; a wise move which enables viewers to leave everything here at the end of one single fine piece of work or pick up the next group of twelve episodes when they're ready. I know which I'll be doing, this is very entertaining, suitably risky, TV programming.

Look further...

'Michael, shows episode after episode what a talent he is, as he makes his take on Dexter simply irresistible' - High-Def Digest, 5/5

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