Hauling Like A Brooligan

Stephen Gallagher


ITV have begun running promos for Dexter, so pretty soon everyone in the UK will have a chance to see what all the fuss has been about. In the US, it’s already completed its second season. I referenced the show in a talk that I gave to the Forensic Science Society almost two years ago, and they must be starting to think that I made it up.

Dexter‘s great, and proof positive that the key to good drama is more in the tone and handling than the actual idea – on paper the entire premise looks like something dreamed up by the Columbine kids but in execution it’s sly, witty, morally sound* and very entertaining.

(*if you can get past what the protagonist does with his power tools)

For the uninitiated: the creation of novelist Jeff Lindsay, Dexter Morgan is a highly-functioning sociopath with an interior monologue relaying his observations of a world that he doesn’t feel part of, but in which he participates by faking human emotion.

By day Dexter works as a blood-spatter expert for the Miami PD. At night he tracks down those who’ve committed terrible crimes but somehow evaded justice, and offs them.

He was adopted by a policeman at a very early age after witnessing an unspecified atrocity, the exact nature of which is part of the unfolding story. His stepfather spotted his sociopathic tendencies when he was an adolescent and taught him to channel them away from the innocent, as well as teaching him the importance of appearing normal. It’s dark, dark humour, and one of the beauties of the show is the sight of Dexter gradually getting closer to the truth about himself and growing a soul.

I also think it’s one of the best-acted dramas around. Jennifer Carpenter, who plays Dexter’s gawky cop sister, is phenomenal.