Michael C. Hall is mesmerizing. He could be picking up trash on the side of the road and I would still watch him. There is something about his appearance, his voice, his movements, his nuanced emotions, his mysteriousness… I adored him on what I’ve seen of Six Feet Under and within a few minutes of watching the Dexter pilot I knew why he won that Golden Globe. The man is a genius. The role of Dexter Morgan is beyond complex—he’s a serial killer who adheres to a strict moral code, he feels nothing, he’s suffered incomprehensible childhood traumas, he’s got a secret to keep—and yet Hall’s portrayal is so believable. Dexter isn’t a scary person. In fact, I think I’d want to be friends with him. But he’s the type of character who makes you question your own moral code. Makes you think about yourself as much as you think about him. And that’s the beauty of Jeff Lindsay’s books, and of the screen adaptation here.
The rest of the cast is talented, but obviously pales in comparison to Hall. I might even go so far as to say that they’re interchangeable. Lauren Velez as Laguerta is pretty nuanced, as is David Zayas as Angel, but the rest are good, not great. I love Julie Benz, and Jennifer Carpenter is fine too, but I can’t help but think that other people could play those roles. That being said, major props to those two for making it work despite the odd circumstances. It’s not every day that a husband and wife work on the same show and play brother and sister, but it’s convincing when Hall and Carpenter do it. And it must be a little weird for Julie Benz to be in the middle of that shit, but more power to her.
I found that, while watching this show, I was overcome with its intensity. As a professional TV writer, I’d like to think that I have the stamina to get through several episodes of a show like this at once. I used to do it with The Sopranos. Four was my limit (as it is with all dramas). But I can’t watch more than two episodes of Dexter at a time, even with its peppering of dark humor and its much-appreciated Spanish music and dialogue. It’s too much. It’s a slow show, to be sure, but there’s something about it that’s so intricately sinister and heavy, that you need to think about it for awhile. The whole idea that Rudy is Dexter’s biological brother is brilliant but insanely hard to swallow. How two children could turn into such monsters after what they witnessed is depressing. How one kills for good and one for evil is depressing. How both are trapped and neither can live their lives openly. How Deb will be affected by this whole thing. It’s so intense, and it’s the other driving force behind the show. The intensity, the feelings you develop for a person you should be hating. But you can’t, because he’s Dexter.