The main question going into the second season of Dexter was whether it could build on its central conceit or would it get crushed under the weight of its novelty. Michael C. Hall continues to bring authenticity and complexity as Dexter, our hero/serial killer, cast from the same endearing and charming mold as Mr. Ripley or Dr. Lecter.

The tension arises from two intriguing story arcs. One, his grisly handiwork has been unearthed and it is apparent that a serial killer of killers is on the loose. Suddenly there are two different portrayals of him: he’s either the Dark Defender, avenger of the innocent and protector of the greater good (because who among us hasn’t wished to do to criminals what they’ve done to us?) vs. the Bay Harbor Butcher, just another serial killer (because murder is still murder—a crime in need of investigating—and victims are still victims no matter how bad their sins of the past).

“I’m not the person I’m supposed to be. It’s like I’m hollow. I hide in plain sight, unable to reach out to people close to me. Afraid I’ll hurt them like I’ve hurt so many others.” –Dexter

The central thrust of his character development for the season: coming to terms with himself as either a hero or a monster, saint or sinner. As such, the other story arc involves Dexter in Narcotics Anonymous as he comes to terms with his addiction. He falls in lock step with his unconventional sponsor, Lila (Jaime Murray), who seems to understand his inner darkness. And he slowly starts to get to the root of his issues and moves to come to terms with the idea of re-defining himself outside of his “need.” And there’s something morbidly amusing about Dexter being on his way to being a self-realized sociopath.

Sometimes when we look in the mirror and are honest with ourselves, we may not like the person we see. But being honest with ourselves assumes seeing ourselves honestly and we’re too quick to see in black and white, either heroes in our own story of the villains. As is true most of the time, the truth is somewhere in between. This is true even in how we see ourselves spiritually and can infect the Gospel message.

“You decide who you are, who you want to be, and you hold onto that. And ride it out.” –Deb (Jennifer Carpenter)

The emphasis is on man’s “natural condition,” our fallen state that we’re born into and we see ourselves as slaves to sin. In so doing this points to God’s divine grace in saving us. It’s a Gospel message that begins with “the Fall,” but I can’t help but wonder that if the story begins with humans as sinners, it fails to deal with the “why would God care about us?”

With humanity created in the image of God and declared “good”, as image-bearers, we have inherent worth. The Fall becomes about not living up to that potential, what we were created to be. There are no short cuts or formulas to becoming the person we are meant to be.

“I’ve passed through the flames and risen from the ashes. Again. I’ve never been one to put much weight into the idea of a higher power, but if I didn’t know better, I’d have to believe that some force wants me to keep doing what I’m doing.” –Dexter

Thick with atmosphere, mixed with dark humor, Dexter continues its brand of rich and engrossing story-telling. This kind of show can’t run forever, but as long as Dexter keeps reinventing itself, it will continue to be Showtime’s best series.

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