A Dark Passenger

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t feel killing someone. My mind doesn’t go through the gruesome details of how my imagined murder would pan out – I’m not one for gore – but it pleases me enough to imagine the serial elbow-bumper beside me on the bus dropping dead (I like my personal space).

For one Dexter Morgan, such fantasised deaths aren’t directed towards petty offenders like public transport elbow-bumpers or music-blasters. Only serial killers have the honour of his attention, which marks a striking difference between this blood spatter analyst and us regular folk. Oh, and the fact that his fantasised murders are, in fact, actual murders.

Morgan isn’t a real person, of course. He’s the titular character of the US TV Series, Dexter, and a sociopath, traumatised by seeing his mother being sawed up at the age of 3 and trapped in a container with her remains for days, sitting in her blood.

It’s little wonder then that he develops a penchant for killing, and his adopted father, Harry, trains him to direct his murder tendencies towards the greater good – killing other killers.

As you settle in for your first sitting with Dexter, you aren’t sure what to think of it. Its premise is enough to set some cogs turning, igniting a debate dangerously close to the one on death sentences. Who is to say who deserves to die?

The series, adapted from a novel by Jeff Lindsay, tackles the issue delicately, making it clear that Morgan kills because of his animalistic instinct, or “dark passenger” as he calls it. Yet the undertone of justifying murder remains a predominant theme throughout.

Michael C. Hall plays the character with a dark, enigmatic charisma with the tiniest yet noticeable (perfect, really) amount of humanity that creates believable dynamics between him and the people around him. It’s no easy feat considering how Morgan, in spite of how hard his father tried to knock morality into him, is ultimately a sociopath who relishes each kill.

The writers cleverly play up audiences’ natural tendencies to root for a dark horse, injecting just the right amount of emotion into Morgan so you are convinced that, as murderous as he is, he’s a human being like you and I.

The supporting characters are hits and misses: a foul-mouthed sister, an abused girlfriend and her lovable kids, a flirty superior and a suspicious colleague. But they come together to create an assorted landscape of robust characters that bounce witty dialogue off each other.

Each episode is more gripping than the next, promising a minimum of one riveting murder per episode, and a main antagonist assigned to every season. While the mini murders are usually of the same mold (wife-killer, drug dealer, human trafficker, you get the drill), the main antagonists are always mind-blowingly awesome, and almost always hit you where it hurts.

While everything makes for a wonderfully dark, intelligent, and delightfully mindfucking psychological thriller, perhaps the most endearing thing about Dexter is how human the show is. Its about a man with a dark, possibly the darkest secret anyone could have, trying to lead a life as normal as he can upkeep. And to a person in the dark of his true nature, it’s mind-blowing how well he pulls it off.

That, of course, makes you think about the real world. The dark secrets each member of this 6, almost 7-billion member population holds and how we struggle to keep up appearances of a “normal” life.

Along the way, he struggles with expectations at home, loneliness, self-doubt, work responsibilities, maintaining a healthy social life even if he couldn’t care less, faking smiles and coughing out laughs. Do these sound familiar? But when the sunsets, and the shadows loom, a whole different side of him emerges. Perhaps something that’s all too familiar to me too.


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