Sunday, October 01, 2006

Darkly dreaming.

A guy doing promotional work for Showtime e-mailed me a couple days ago, and he sent me a link to the unaired pilot for their new show DEXTER and asked me to review it for free on my blog to generate buzz for the show.

I wanted to watch the show because I read Jeff Lindsay's DARKLY DREAMING DEXTER, which was a pretty good book with a really great main character, so I didn't tell him that my blog is kaput. I figured that - what the heck - I'd watch the show and review it.

And so it goes that I watched the first episode of DEXTER, a Miami-based forensic crime drama starring SIX FEET UNDER's Michael C. Hall as Dexter, a charming, likable, sarcastic blood-splatter expert for the police. The twist of the show is that Dexter, whom the other characters notice has a keen sense for a killer's motivation, is actually an emotionless, psychologically damaged serial killer himself.

Of course, Dexter only slaughters other serial killers that the police can't seem to catch and is obsessed with cleanliness and attention-to-detail, so that makes him the sort of mass murderer you can root for. As Dexter states in the pilot, Miami only has a 20-percent arrest rate on its homicide cases, so it's pretty much an ideal place for him to work unnoticed.

The plot of the pilot focuses on a string of prostitute killings, much like the plot of the first book in the series does. The prostitute murders intrigue Dexter because the killer is precise and the crime scenes are bloodless. If the show's plot follows the first book's plot, and it looks like it will, the prostitute killer will eventually become as obsessed with Dexter's killings as Dexter is with his. If the identity of the prostitute killer remains the same, I hope the show fleshes it out more, though. I thought the book's ending and the solution to the key mystery of the first book was a bit implausible.

But the pilot for DEXTER is strong in establishing tone and character, which is the best that you can really hope for, and Hall - who wouldn't have been my first choice to play the role - is actually excellent as Dexter. His layered performance allows the audience to see how much of Dexter's life involves faked emotions, feigned sexual desire and empty warmth. The only thing that truly excites him is killing, which is how the character should be.

Also good in the pilot is former BUFFY and ANGEL star Julie Benz, who plays Dexter's "girlfriend" Rita. Rita, a survivor of a sexually-abusive marriage who appreciates how Dexter doesn't pressure her in such ways but has little understanding of why. As the show continues, Benz has an opportunity to really, really flesh out Rita in a way the first book of the series couldn't.

There's a second DEXTER book that I've not read yet, and the pilot episode made me want to pick it up. And it was good enough to blog about.

That's the strongest praise I can offer. DEXTER was worth reading, and DEXTER is worth watching.

The pilot airs on Showtime tonight at 10 and is available all this week.

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