Dexter season one gave us the search for the Ice Truck Killer and the truth about Dexter’s troubled childhood. Season two gave us the search for the Bay Harbor Butcher and one crazy chick named Lila. And season three gave us the search for the Skinner, the evolution of Dexter’s human relationships, and finally, Jimmy Smits as one twisted assistant DA. I realize that I am about a year behind on this show, since season four is about to begin, but I am one of “those people” who waits until the show is released on DVD to watch it, rather than shell out even more money to the cable company every month for a subscription to Showtime. So there you have it. And now, as many of you gear up for season four of this fascinating show, join me as I review season three.
First of all, I’d like to say how thoroughly I enjoyed this season. I was intrigued by all of the characters, from defense attorney Ellen Wolf to the Skinner to Debra’s “not a CI” Anton. I don’t know if it can beat season one, but it was certainly better than season two – with Lila and all her hysterical theatrics. (I still enjoyed season two, but season three worked well on all levels, whereas the sophomore season had some problems.)
Dexter’s voiceover narration was as witty, ironic, and darkly humorous as ever. I found myself laughing out loud on several occasions. But while Dexter continues to be led by his Dark Passenger, I am intrigued by the ways in which he is also becoming more human. (And his imaginary conversations with Harry as he contemplated these issues were enlightening for both Dexter and the viewers.)
At the beginning of the season he experiences the pangs of guilt when he kills someone without knowing, for the first time, whether he deserved it. That crime leads him into the unfamiliar territory of a close friendship, with the one person who has the most reason to hate him. But instead of hating him, Miguel Prado welcomes Dexter into his life like a brother, and suddenly Dexter finds himself trusting another person and opening up about matters that had previously been completely private.
Unfortunately, this friendship also introduces Dexter to the disappointment of betrayal and deceit, and he finds himself once again cleaning up messes to protect himself, his family, and the Code. Meanwhile, Dexter also finds himself contemplating fatherhood and marriage, and ultimately deciding that he is capable of succeeding at both. It is Dexter’s relationships with Rita, her children, and Debra that reveal to us his true nature, which as it turns out amounts to more than just the shell of a man. Somewhere beneath his cheerful disposition and dark tendencies lies a man with feelings of love and loyalty. I hope that as the show continues, we are moving toward a point where Dexter will be able to heal some of the wounds from his past. (Because it would stink if he just ends up going to prison or the electric chair…)
This season’s ongoing investigation by the Miami PD involved a killer who was leaving a trail of skinned victims, all who had ties to Freebo, the drug dealer who Dexter originally set out to kill in the season premiere. I liked how this investigation was secondary to Dexter’s relationships, rather than being center stage. If the search for the Skinner had been the main focus of the season, then this plot would have needed more oomph. (The Skinner’s motives were a bit shaky, some of the police work was sloppy, etc.) But since it was only a backdrop to the more interesting activities involving Dexter, Miguel, et al, I didn’t mind.
The Supporting Characters
Aside from the main plots involving Dexter’s growing, accidental friendship with Miguel Prado, and the subsequent complications, and Debra and Quinn’s investigation into the Skinner murders, I was pleased that the writers found an interesting subplot for each of the supporting characters.
- Angel was promoted to Sergeant and finally found some happiness with Gianna, a cop from vice. After all the drama Angel has had with his ex-wife and daughter, it was nice to see him in a better place.
- Debra once again found herself torn between doing what was necessary for her career and doing what she wanted in her love life. It was pretty obvious from the beginning that the writers were planning to put Debra and Anton together, but I was pleased with the way it was handled. Plus, it was much nicer to see her with a young, attractive musician than with last season’s old geezer detective guy. And while I wasn’t too thrilled with her new partner, Quinn, at the beginning of the season, I liked how they developed his character by the end.
- Rita had the double whammy of planning a wedding and dealing with pregnancy hormones, a combination which provided for some humorous conflicts with Dexter, who really did have much more important things on his mind than who was coming to the wedding and what kind of flowers they should choose.
- Lt. Laguerta was humanized (after her irritating behavior last season) when she struck up a friendship with Ellen Wolf and then had to deal with a second wave of grief, right on the heels of losing Sgt. Doakes. I felt really bad for her, but was very satisfied when she conducted her own investigation into Prado and when she gave Debra props instead of a scolding for not sacrificing her love life for her career.
- And even Vince Masuka had more to do than tell obscene jokes. I appreciated seeing his more sensitive side when no one went to his presentation at the conference, and when he met a woman who was actually interested in a relationship with him.
Jimmy Smits, I Applaud You
A review of season three wouldn’t be complete without praising Jimmy Smits for a job well done in his portrayal of Miguel Prado. I was skeptical when I first saw his name in the credits, but he certainly proved me wrong. I was completely impressed and convinced by his performance. He was terrific at playing a local hero with a dark passenger of his own, who manipulated both Dexter and the viewers to the very end. He is nominated for an Emmy, and I would be thrilled if he wins.
Dexter’s Season-by-Season Character Development
Each season of Dexter has advanced the title character’s understanding of himself and other people by putting a new, disruptive figure in the midst of his carefully crafted world.
- First it was Rudy, who made Dexter question what a real family was, among other things. (After dealing with Rudy, Dexter decided that his sibling bond with Debra was all the family he needed.)
- Then it was Lila, who made him question what a real relationship was, and whether he was capable of such a thing. (After dealing with Lila, Dexter decided that he had a good thing with Rita and that he would try his best to be faithful and protect her.)
- And this season it was Miguel, who made him question what a real friendship was, and whether he should let his guard down and let someone else into his dark world. (In the end, Dexter decided that he didn’t have room for the kind of friend that Miguel had tried to be.)
So while he has made room for family and love, he draws the line at BFFs.) For me, this third relationship was the most fascinating and well done. I wasn’t thrilled with the actor cast to play Rudy, and I thought Lila’s character was a bit too campy. On the other hand, Jimmy Smits was perfectly cast in the role of Miguel Prado, and his character was realistically developed, revealing his true nature a little at a time. So, for me, this series has continued to build on a strong foundation, and it hit its highest mark yet in season three. What has been your favorite season so far? What did you think of season three?
- Deliberately Dissecting Dexter: A Review of Jeff Lindsay’s Book Series – My review of the book series upon which the tv series is based
- Identify with Dexter – Looking for more Dexter-related posts to hold you over until the September 27 season four premiere? Here’s a whole blog devoted to the series, from a human development perspective.