Thursday, December 06, 2007

If the Suspense is Killing you

If you're a fan of Showtime's Dexter, then you probably already know that we've gotten an early Christmas present because the two final episodes of the season have been leaked online. I have no self control, so of course I've already watched them both. I promise I won't put any spoilers in this post, other than to tell you that they are really high quality, both the downloads and the streams. And, of course, they were killer good!

I can't really believe that this was an accident. Which is to say, I've noticed that Showtime has been using the "It's not HBO, it's Showtime" line an awful lot in their promos. I guess HBO can be flattered, as it's always nice to be king. But should they also be worried? Uh, yah. While HBO tossed up the unwatchable "Tell Me You Love Me" this fall (yes, even with graphic sex, it was unwatchable) Showtime rode "Weeds" and "Dexter" for all they were worth. And they're worth a lot.

Dexter just racked up the highest single showing ratings for Showtime -- ever. The buzz around this season has been growing, and with just cause. It's a terrific series. Tightly written, wonderfully acted, with a deliciously evil premise, a catchy score, loads of suspense, and a riveting leading man.

With all the buzz building, and the fact that Showtime already has this show paid for by the subscribers, the pre-release of the penultimate episode and finale could only spur on holiday DVD sales so that people can get caught up on the series. Also a nice tie-in? Don't forget that the series is based on Jeff Lindsay's excellent novels, the first one titled "Darkly Dreaming Dexter." (the first season followed that book, but this season took a left turn from the second novel this year, so it's all new stuff)

The only possible problem with these being online? I really wouldn't have wanted to be spoiled on this season. The suspense was so intense and mounted each week so that it was almost unbearably good. And scene after scene, Michael C Hall was able to infuse Dex with alternating giddy joy, sly intelligence, and even sometimes monstrously frightening darkness and sickness.

I can't imagine how disappointing it would be to be a curious first time viewer and to go and watch those episodes now, only to then go back and watch the show from the start. Oh sure, it'll still be a great show. But this season turned the whole murder mystery idea inside out. We all know that Dex is the killer. But watching the cops buzz and feds close the loops, wondering if and how he'll wiggle out of each new problem, and trying to get a step ahead and dying to see how it would all pan out was just beautifully, nerve-wrackingly fun.

Premium cable channels like Showtime did have the way paved for them by HBO and the success of their original programming. Also, Dexter is a direct descendant of Tony Soprano, only taken to a much more stomach-turning extreme. Whereas Tony would kill, Dex lives to kill. But Dex is a whole different genre. From the opening credits, we knew this wouldn't be the heavy-weighty, sometimes depressing dramatic enterprise that The Sopranos could be. This series took the killing, moved it to sunny Miami, gave us a guy with a cheery disposition and made it all about thrills, chills, and suspense.

The opening credits tell you all you need to know about this show. The shaving looks repulsive, the cutting of the ham is menacing, the juicing of the blood orange is gross. Even Dexter's muscled arm tying his shoe could frighten you. It's those intense close-ups, paralleling what it'll be like to get so close and personal to the mind of this serial killer. And yet, there's that loopy, quirky theme overlaying it all to give it a skewed perspective.

As a longtime fan of Batman, I loved the little "Dark Avenger" angle that got played up this season, too. One of the things I always loved about Batman is that he always seemed like a bit of a crazy fuck -- and a dangerous crazy fuck at that. That's what Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale captured so well in Batman Begins. The hero doesn't just do away with the bad guys, he takes a bit of a perverse glee in fucking them up. And what allows us to root for Dexter is that he's a crazy fuck, alright. Cracked like an old teacup. But we can sleep easy -- sometimes happily -- knowing that he's not out there carving up us, he's out there gleefully carving up people who would fuck us up.

And you've just gotta admire someone who's so happy in his work. I love the flashbacks to a young Dexter when Michael has on the geek-face and bad wig and he's just flush with excitement about potential bloodletting. It's at once hilarious, disgusting, and heartbreaking.

This was a masterpiece of a season, everything you could want in top-notch entertainment. And having the final two eps sliced off early is the gleam on the cleaver.


Terri said...

Dexter is the show I look forward to each week and have never been disappointed. So, when I saw that the last two episodes were was like an early Christmas gift! I also loved these episodes and can't wait for next season!

I will be checking back to your blog after th finale airs to find out your comments on them.

trudi said...

What a season. What an ending. What a man.

Would it be a spoiler to say Dexter's finale doesn't fade out to "Don't Stop Believing" ?

SusanD said...

thanks Terri!

trudi -- ha ha! The Dexter team understand the importance of closure.