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Dexter: Season 2 - It's Alive (Season premiere) - Review

Dexter: Season 2

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

INDIELONDON singles out notable episodes from current television series for stand-alone reviews. On this occasion we take a look at the first episode of season two of Dexter: Season 2 entitled It’s Alive.

What’s the story? Things are really beginning to heat up for Dexter (Michael C Hall). He’s no longer able to kill because Doakes’ (Erik King) suspicions about him are growing. And on the rare occasions he loses Doakes’ tail, he’s unable to finish off his victims. Paul (Mark Pellegrino), meanwhile, is troubling Rita (Julie Benz) about the missing shoe that might get him out of prison and sister Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) is going through trauma over the Ice Truck killer incident. To make matters even worse, the dumping site in the ocean that he uses to dispose of the bodies of his victim is discovered by divers…

Why so good? After the soaring highs of the first season finale, Dexter was always going to have to slow the pace as it entered its tricky second season. But the omens are good. The black humour that marked season 1 is still gleefully intact, characters appear to have grown stronger and more compelling, and there were some wonderful markers laid down for the remainder of the series. Dexter, it seems, is alive and well – even though the personal problems are stacking up for him.,

Digging a little deeper: The second season of Dexter has its work cut out in trying to surpass the overall enjoyment of its dazzling first season. But while the novelty factor has gone, It’s Alive competently ensured that there is plenty to sink our teeth into.

Michael C Hall’s central character remains an enigmatic presence and a genuinely troubled soul. For someone who professes not to care, the emotional fallout from season 1 is clearly taking its toll.

The opening moments of the episode cleverly played like a re-run of the opening moments of the pilot, with Dexter announcing that “tonight’s the night” and cruising the streets of Miami… only for the camera to pan back and reveal Doakes on his trail. Things have changed already… and Dexter was merely going bowling.

It’s this playful sense of fun that hooked you in from the outset. If Dexter is deprived of his murderous fix, how will he cope? Like a smoker addicted to nicotine, Dexter was a muted, even disorientated figure.

To make matters worse, when he was finally able to give Doakes the slip and line up his next target – a blind voodoo killer – his conscience got the better of him. He was unable to see through the act and, instead, let his victim go. Could it be that the ice man is melting?

Later on, an over-sized gang member who had macheted a rival to death was also in Dexter’s sights… only to be allowed to wriggle free from his bonds and escape near-certain death. Dexter’s sense of bewilderment and frustration was palpable… he was losing his grip and the repercussions for killer and viewer were mind-boggling.

And all this had happened before the discovery of Dexter’s dumping ground that will surely form the basis of much more turmoil throughout the series… as the hunter becomes the hunted.

It’s a tribute to the quality of the writing on this exceptional show that season two hasn’t settled into an easy routine. Rather, it’s shaking up the formula by trading on the familiar, before pulling the rug out from under you.

Characters have also changed. Doakes is much more of a threat and, as played by Erik King, a predator of a different sort sniffing out Dexter’s wrong-doing. Julie Benz’s Rita is also more feisty, having grown in confidence since bedding Dexter, to the extent that she’s now taking the lead in their relationship. Will she soon be another to question Dexter’s nocturnal activities?

And what of sister Debs? Clearly struggling to cope with the fallout from her ill-fated relationship with the Ice Truck Killer, will she also be a threat to Dexter’s dark secret? Certainly, she’s an unstable character whose volatility is growing.

Yet, for all of its darkness and violence, Dexter remains a highly amusing programme. The script is littered with gems, while even the situations that Dexter finds himself in are played out with a morbid humour (witness his decision to use two syringes to bring down the gang killer).

Hence, what could have become a sickening and even distasteful series about objectionable characters gleefully rises above such potential pitfalls to be a genuinely guilty pleasure. By keeping things so consistently entertaining, and so morally ambiguous, Dexter continues to appeal to that dark side in all of us.

Dexter: Season 2 is currently on F/X on Sunday nights at 10pm. The season premiere aired on July 6, 2008.

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