“Hannibal the series”

Many of us suffer from compulsions—from smoking to drinking to promiscuity—some more self-destructive than others. We look at a character like Monk and see the bundle of neuroses that leads to him trying to control his reality by trying to maintain a strict sense of order to it. On the opposite end f the spectrum from Monk is Dexter.

Put simply, Dexter is a serial killer that preys on serial killers. Based on a crime novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, by Jeff Lindsay, Dexter Morgan (Michael C. Hall, Six Feet Under) is the kind of witty, intelligent, handsome, oddly charming brand of serial killer we’ve become fascinated with every since the popularization of serial killers with the advent of Hannibal Lecter. The self-aware monster. At an early age, his father, then a cop, recognized his son’s sociopathic tendencies and developed what he dubbed the “Code of Harry”* which would allow him to function in day-to-day circumstances.

He works as a blood splatter analyst for a crime lab in the Miami-Dade police department (yes, essentially tucked away within C.S.I. Miami). While the police track the various serial killers, Dexter is along playing cat and mouse with them. Thus combining our insatiable consumption of both serial killers and police procedurals, especially of the C.S.I. variety. Originally developed for Showtime, the show has been slightly edited so that it can be broadcast on network television.

“I don’t know what made me the way I am but whatever it was left a hollow place inside.” –Dexter

Our culture has a fascination with serial killers, having long mythologizing them. Whether caught up by the charming face evil often wears or a simple fascination with the brutality we are capable of inflicting upon one another, within them we seek dark reflections of ourselves. Call it sin or our nature, it’s like we realize that there is something fundamentally broken about us. Sometimes this brokenness evidences itself in ways both sick and criminal. Evil has many guises, yet there are those who have to figure out the pattern of brokenness.

“I’m a very neat monster.” –Dexter

Dexter clearly is psychotic, incapable of human interactions and feelings, but he fakes them well. He remains ever guarded beneath his façade of relative normalcy, controlling the chaos his urges dispose him to. For him, the blood tells the story of seeking justice, balancing the world’s books.

The Code of Harry are the tenets of his belief structure that provide his moral compass, such as it is. However, they do point to the reality of his life: there is real, undeniable evil; and it must be recognized as well as confronted. The laws help him fight his urges, to not only channel them, but use them ostensibly for good. Depicting the dark side to our nature, serial killers specifically remind us that evil death is all around us in the form of each other, lurking in the ordinary.

What we identify with is a damaged person struggling to do the right thing (as close to the right thing as he knows), despite his nature/inclinations to do otherwise. Since he kills only those who “deserve” it, we are allowed to root for him and for his victory in his struggle.

Considering the level of gross out currently seen on network television (see Bones or Criminal Minds), the graphic nature of Dexter isn’t nearly as shocking as it should be. A few things lost in translation, such as the occasional jarring epithet, “mother lover”. Watching Dexter juggle the relationships that give him the veneer of humanity—his love for his sister, Debra (Jennifer Carpenter) and his just as broken, except in a different way, girlfriend, Rita (Julie Benz)—makes for compelling television, both gruesome and gripping, with a leavening dose of dark humor.

* “Remember this forever: you are my son, you are not alone, and you are loved.”

The Code of Harry basically boils down to six points: 1. Killing must serve a purpose, otherwise it’s just murder. Killing innocents is never allowed. 2. Always take time and make sure you have the right person. Be sure. 3. Blend in — maintain appearances. Fake emotion and normality to fit in. 4. Control urges, and channel them. 5. Be extremely careful with the killing and more importantly the preparation. Preparation is vital, no detail can be overlooked 6. Most importantly, never get caught.

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